Politics,Economics and The Struggle To Survive In America

The time is now, the revolution is upon us. Our childrens, children need our resolve in this fight. Take the blinders off and get out of the"Matrix". By JJP 

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2016 Land Report 100

Posted by Jerrald J President on May 2, 2017 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

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Of all private U.S. agricultural land, Whites account for 96 percent of the owners, 97 percent of the value, and 98 percent of the acres. Nonetheless, four minority groups (Blacks, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics) own over 25 million acres of agricultural land, valued at over $44 billion, which has wide-ranging consequences for the social, economic, cultural, and political life of minority communities in rural America. This article presents the most recent national data available on the racial and ethnic dimensions of agricultural land ownership in the United States, based largely on USDA’s Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey of 1999. 


2016 Land Report 100

 

No. 1 John Malone

 

2,200,000 acres

 

THE FULL LIST: AMERICA’S 100 LARGEST LANDOWNERS 2016

 

1. John Malone

2. Ted Turner (down 43,000 acres)

3. Emmerson Family (up 35,000 acres)

4. Stan Kroenke (up 522,000 acres)

5. Reed Family

6. Irving Family (down 4,000 acres)

7. Singleton Family

8. Brad Kelley (down 500,000 acres)

9. King Ranch Heirs

10. Pingree Heirs

11. Wilks Brothers (up 172,000 acres)

12. Briscoe Family (up 80,000 acres)

13. Ford Family

14. Lykes Heirs

15. O’Connor Heirs (up 80,000 acres)

16. Martin Family – NEW TO LIST

17. D.R. Horton (up 131,195 acres)

18. Stimson Family – NEW TO LIST

19. Westervelt Heirs – NEW TO LIST

20. Simplot Family

21. Fisher Family – NEW TO LIST

22. Philip Anschutz

23. Drummond Family

24. McDonald Family – NEW TO LIST

25. Jeff Bezos (up 110,000 acres)

25. Holding Family

27. Hughes Family

28. Malone Mitchell 3rd

29. Collins Family (up 923 acres)

30. Nunley Brothers

31. Llano Partners Ltd. (up 30,000 acres)

32. Bass Family (up 135,000 acres)

33. Mike Smith (down 2,472 acres)

34. Collier Family

35. Kokernot Heirs

36. Killam Family (up 22,000 acres)

37. Lee Family – NEW TO LIST

37. Anne Marion

39. Babbitt Heirs

40. Shannon Kizer – NEW TO LIST

41. Galt Family – NEW TO LIST

42. Lyda Family

43. Fasken Family (up 95,000 acres)

44. Coffee Family – NEW TO LIST

45. Jones Family

45. True Family

47. Reynolds Family

47. Sanders Family – NEW TO LIST

49. Paul Fireman

50. Barta Family – NEW TO LIST

51. D.K. Boyd

52. Koch Family

53. Riggs Family

54. Stefan Soloviev (up 93,949 acres)

55. Kenedy Memorial Foundation

56. Louis Bacon (up 6,769 acres)

57. Bidegain Family

58. Yates Family (up 121,500 acres)

59. Cassidy Heirs (up 7,195 acres)

60. Scott Family

61. East Wildlife Foundation

62. T.R. Miller Family – NEW TO LIST

63. Hearst Family

64. Gage Heirs

65. Cocanougher Family – NEW TO LIST

66. Eugene Gabrych

66. Hunt Family

66. Langdale Family

69. Skiles Family – NEW TO LIST

70. Williams Family (up 1,450 acres)

71. Bogle Family

71. Durrett Family – NEW TO LIST

73. Kennedy Family – NEW TO LIST

74. Robert Funk

75. McCoy Remme Ranches

76. Mike Mechenbier (up 8,123 acres)

77. Broadbent Family

77. Irwin Heirs

79. Sugg Family

80. Jones Sisters – NEW TO LIST

81. Cogdell Family

81. Fanjul Family

83. JA Ranch Heirs

84. Ellison Family

85. Boswell Family

85. Eddy Family

85. Green Heirs

88. David Murdock

89. Wells Family

90. L-A-D Foundation (up 13 acres)

91. Don Oppliger

92. Benjy Griffith III

92. Walker Family – NEW TO LIST

94. Gerald J. Ford

95. Arthur Nicholas

96. Friedkin Family – NEW TO LIST

97. Patrick Broe

98. Harrison Family

99. Lane Family

100. Walker Heirs – NEW TO LIST


Who Owns The Land? Agricultural Land Ownership by Race/Ethnicity

Posted by Jerrald J President on May 2, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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  "Of all private U.S. agricultural land, Whites account for 96 percent of the owners, 97 percent of the value, and 98 percent of the acres". This should explain why Black people in America have nothing. From 1604-1865 we where "SLAVES". From 1865-1965 legal slavery(13th Amendment+Jim Crow). Yet you ask why "Can't we do better". Ownership of land equals "EQUITY" or "WEALTH". Under the scheme called capitalism... By JJP

   Who Owns The Land? Agricultural Land Ownership by Race/Ethnicity


 Of all private U.S. agricultural land, Whites account for 96 percent of the owners, 97 percent of the value, and 98 percent of the acres. Nonetheless, four minority groups (Blacks, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics) own over 25 million acres of agricultural land, valued at over $44 billion, which has wide-ranging consequences for the social, economic, cultural, and political life of minority communities in rural America. This article presents the most recent national data available on the racial and ethnic dimensions of agricultural land ownership in the United States, based largely on USDA’s Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey of 1999.

Global debt explodes at 'eye-watering' pace to hit 170 trillion

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 29, 2017 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

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 The question that should be on your mind is; if the world's entire GDP is only worth $90-Trillion dollars. How can the debt be paid off, there's not enough currency in circulation to pay it off. It's key strokes on a computer! By JJP

 Global debt explodes at 'eye-watering' pace to hit £170 trillion

  Global debt has climbed at an "eye-watering" pace over the past decade, soaring to a fresh high of £170 trillion last year, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

 

The IIF said total debt levels, including household, government and corporate debt, climbed by more than $70 trillion over the last 10 years to a record high of $215 trillion (£173 trillion) in 2016 - or the equivalent of 325pc of global gross domestic product (GDP).

 

It said emerging markets posed "a growing source of concern" to financial stability and the global economy as debt burdens in these countries climb at a rapid pace.

 

 

Growing vulnerabilities

 

The IIF data showed the increase was partly driven by a "spectacular rise" in emerging markets, where total debt stood at $55 trillion at the end of 2016, or 215pc of total emerging market GDP.

 

Debt has risen from $16 trillion in 2006 and $7.4 trillion in 1996.

 

The body, which represents the world's top financial institutions, said a wave of maturing debt this year presented a "growing refinancing risk".

 

It estimates that more than $1.1 trillion of emerging market bonds and loans will mature this year, with dollar-denominated debt accounting for a fifth of all redemptions.

 

 

It said China faced around $40bn of dollar-denominated redemptions this year, while Russia faced redemptions of $20bn.

 

 

International bodies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have warned that rising interest rates in the US could bring an end to an emerging market corporate debt binge as companies in these countries see their debt servicing costs rise in local currency terms.

 

"While risks associated with currency mismatches may not be as acute as during past emerging market debt crises, the overall emerging market debt burden - particularly as global interest rates head higher - is a growing source of concern," the IIF said in a note.

 

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee (FPC) said on Tuesday that credit in China continued to grow at a "rapid" pace.

 

Corporate credit in the world's second largest economy has climbed to 166pc of nominal GDP.

 

The IMF at the end of last year warned of broader risks to the global economy.

 

While the global economy appears to be turning a corner, the Fund said there was a risk that low growth, high debt and weak banks could push the world in a dangerous direction.

 

It said the "sheer size of debt could set the stage for an unprecedented private deleveraging process that could thwart the fragile economic recovery".

 

Governments lead advanced economy debt rise

 

The increase in debt in advanced economies has been led by rising public sector debt, according to the IIF.

 

Outstanding government debt in the US and UK has more than doubled since 2006, data shows, while Japan and the eurozone have seen a 50pc increase.

 

By contrast, households and businesses in advanced economies embarked on a period of "substantial deleveraging" in the decade after the crisis, compared with growth of $72 trillion in the ten years to 2016.

 

Private debt as a share of GDP fell by almost 30 percentage points in the UK between 2008 and 2015, according to the IMF, representing the biggest reduction in the advanced world.

 

Emerging market debt boom

 

The "substantial rise" in emerging market debt over the past decade has been driven by the development of local currency bond markets.

 

Total local currency debt stood at $48.5 trillion in 2016, while foreign currency debt stood at $7.2 trillion.

 

The IIF said foreign currency debt was below the peak seen in the second quarter of 2014, though this drop was driven by Chinese companies repaying dollar-denominated debt, and a loan restructuring programme in Hungary.

 

It said Latin American countries had seen much sharper increases in foreign currency debt, including Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, as well as Turkey and South Africa.

 

Corporate debt burdens are also much higher. The IIF said increases had been "concentrated in non-financial corporates, where debt-to-GDP has risen from 68pc in 2006 to 100pc in 2016", even though the pace of growth has slowed in recent quarters.


Barack Obama to be paid $400,000 for speech at Cantor Fitzgerald event

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 28, 2017 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

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  This is why you have to follow the money! Wall Street get's bailed out by "OUR" governement with interest free money. The  banks own the Insurance companies, which in turn bank roll Senator Barack Obama presidential campaign. Senator Obama becomes President. ObamaCare get's passed Insurance companies get rich. Banks get America! By JJP

 

Barack Obama to be paid $400,000 for speech at Cantor Fitzgerald event

Former US president criticised over role at Wall Street firm’s conference after he previously vowed crackdown on ‘fat cats’

 

Last modified on Wednesday 26 April 2017 19.40 EDT

 

Barack Obama is to be paid $400,000 (£312,000) to speak at a healthcare conference organised by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, despite his criticism of the finance sector when he was US president.

 

The fee is nearly double that received by Hillary Clinton, who had hoped to succeed him as president, for speeches at Goldman Sachs and indicates the scale of the potential earnings of the former US president.

 

Neither his representatives nor Cantor Fitzgerald could be reached to comment on the reports from the US, where he is facing criticism for his decision to accept the engagement.

 

In 2010, Obama was credited with pushing through legislation that was intended to clamp down on Wall Street. A year earlier he said that he did not run for office to help out “a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street”.

 

Since the end of his second term he has started to write his memoir – he and his wife, Michelle, are reportedly receiving $60m for separate accounts – and took a holiday with the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

 

 

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‘So what’s been going on?’: Barack Obama returns to public stage

But Obama, 55, returned to the public stage this week to speak at the University of Chicago, where he said he would support future leaders. He told the audience that economic inequality and lack of opportunity, a skewed criminal justice system and climate change must be confronted.

 

 

“All those problems are serious, they’re daunting, but they’re not insoluble. What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and civic life,” he said.

 

The Cantor Fitzgerald event is scheduled for September, with Obama being described as the keynote speaker at a lunch during the healthcare conference. The firm, which had offices in the World Trade Center and lost two-thirds of its staff in the September 11 attacks, is not known for its Democratic links: Howard Lutnick, Cantor’s chairman and chief executive, is reported to have backed Jeb Bush, the Republican who lost out to Donald Trump for the party’s presidential nomination.

 

Fox News, which first reported the speaking engagement, quoted Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant, as saying: “He went on the attack against Wall Street and now he’s being fed by those same people he called fat cats. It’s more hypocritical than ironic.”

 

However, Obama is joining a long line of former senior politicians to be paid for speeches. Bill Clinton was reportedly paid $750,000 for a speech in Hong Kong to the telecoms company Ericsson. His wife, Hillary, disclosed during her presidential campaign that they had been paid more than $25m in speaking fees since January 2014.

 

 

Politico has reported that George W Bush is paid up to $175,000 for every speech while the former presidential candidate Sarah Palin is said to have received $115,000 for one speech.

 

UK politicians also command hefty fees for speeches. The former chancellor George Osborne – who is not standing for re-election in June – disclosed that he had received more than £500,000 from speeches in the US, including two events for JP Morgan at £81,174 and £60,578 each, last year.

 

In 2009 Tony Blair received £390,000 for two half-hour speeches in the Philippines, while Gordon Brown has donated fees of about £70,000 for speaking engagements to his charitable foundation.


18 Big Companies That Paid Zero in Taxes? Here's the Deal

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 26, 2017 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

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  If you think this bad, wait until the Trump tax cut's go into effect! By JJP

 

18 Big Companies That Paid Zero in Taxes? Here’s the Deal

 

A flawed tax code couples a high top rate with big deductions—you might even call them loopholes. GE calls report “deeply flawed and misleading.”



 

Once health care is tamed, President Donald Trump and Congress will turn to other bears, such as the byzantine U.S. tax code. Conveniently, a new report has come out on legal tax avoidance.

 

The report, from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, says 18 of America’s biggest corporations paid zero federal income tax from 2008 to 2015.

 

Feel free at this point to bang your head on the tax forms strewn across your kitchen table. After that, consider these points:

 

 

1. General Electric Co., International Paper Co., Priceline Group, and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. were among the companies that the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy says had no net tax liability at all over the period.

 

2. These are not simple calculations. They involve complicated assumptions and choices, such as what bits to put in the numerator (the tax) and what bits to put in the denominator (the profit). General Electric called the report “deeply flawed and misleading” and added: “Over the last decade, GE paid $32.9 billion in cash income taxes worldwide, including in the U.S.”

 

3. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy and its sister organization, Citizens for Tax Justice, lean left. Sample blog headline: “Bernie Sanders Is a Champion for Tax Fairness.” That said, CTJ's corporate-tax studies have been cited even by neutral experts.

 

4. Note the word “legal” in “legal tax avoidance.” These companies obeyed the law, as far as anyone knows. If you have a problem with their actions, blame Congress, not the companies and their highly skilled tax attorneys and accountants.

 

5. ITEP cites the 18 companies to reinforce its larger point: that corporate taxes are lower than they appear to be. One of President Trump's familiar talking points is that the U.S. has just about the world's highest corporate tax rate. The ITEP report is titled The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth. It says that of the 258 companies in its sample that had profits every year from 2008 to 2015, the average “effective” tax rate was 21.2 percent.

 

 

6. It's pretty well accepted by now that while the U.S. has one of the very highest top rates on corporate income, its average rate isn’t unusually high because there are lots of allowable deductions. So the new report, the latest in a series going back to the 1980s, isn’t breaking any conceptual ground.

 

7. Most of the 18 companies on the list are electric utilities. That’s no coincidence. During the financial crisis, Congress enacted a policy called “bonus depreciation” intended to stimulate economic growth. It allowed companies to write off new investments right away. Because they do a lot of investment, utilities enjoyed some of the biggest benefits. The downside? Because the investments are already fully written off, the companies won’t be able to get a tax benefit from depreciating them in future years, notes PG&E spokesman Brian Hertzog. International Paper also cited bonus depreciation, along with the impact of the recession and pension fund contributions. A spokeswoman for Priceline disputed the report, citing filings showing it did pay federal income taxes.

 

8. Just about everyone agrees that the U.S. corporate income tax system is a mess. That includes GE, which said in a statement, “The tax code is complex and outdated, which is exactly why tax reform must happen this year. GE has long been advocating to simplify and modernize the tax system—even if it means we pay more in taxes.”

 

9. Even if 35 percent isn’t what companies pay, the top rate does matter. As every student of intro econ learns, decisions are made at the margin, not on the average. If the government grabs 35 percent of the last dollar of income you earn, you'll be at least a bit discouraged from earning that last dollar. “There’s a good argument for coming up with some broader business tax with a lower rate that doesn’t allow so many deductions,” said Alan Cole, an economist at the Tax Foundation, which describes itself as nonpartisan and which Cole called more “market-leaning” than ITEP and Citizens for Tax Justice.

 

10. The report urges Congress to stop allowing U.S. companies to defer federal taxes on offshore profits. More than $1 trillion in cash has piled up abroad because companies don’t want to pay U.S. tax on it. That may be a good idea, but only if it’s coupled with a cut in the top rate. Otherwise U.S. companies would have an even stronger incentive to shift their headquarters overseas to escape U.S. taxation, Cole said.

 

Now go pay your taxes.


Special report: America's perpetual state of emergency

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 24, 2017 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)


https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/10/22/president-obama-states-of-emergency/16851775/

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  Special report: America's perpetual state of emergency


 

WASHINGTON — The United States is in a perpetual state of national emergency.

 

Thirty separate emergencies, in fact.

 

An emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter on the 10th day of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 remains in effect almost 35 years later.

 

A post-9/11 state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush — and renewed six times by President Obama — forms the legal basis for much of the war on terror.

 

Tuesday, President Obama informed Congress he was extending another Bush-era emergency for another year, saying "widespread violence and atrocities" in the Democratic Republic of Congo "pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States."

 

Those emergencies, declared by the president by proclamation or executive order, give the president extraordinary powers — to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.

 

"What the National Emergencies Act does is like a toggle switch, and when the president flips it, he gets new powers. It's like a magic wand. and there are very few constraints about how he turns it on," said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University.

 

If invoked during a public health emergency, a presidential emergency declaration could allow hospitals more flexibility to treat Ebola cases. The Obama administration has said declaring a national emergency for Ebola is unnecessary.

 

In his six years in office, President Obama has declared nine emergencies, allowed one to expire and extended 22 emergencies enacted by his predecessors.

 

Since 1976, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, presidents have declared at least 53 states of emergency — not counting disaster declarations for events such as tornadoes and floods, according to a USA TODAY review of presidential documents. Most of those emergencies remain in effect.

 

Even as Congress has delegated emergency powers to the president, it has provided almost no oversight. The 1976 law requires each house of Congress to meet within six months of an emergency to vote it up or down. That's never happened.

United States of Emergency

 

U.S. presidents have declared 52 states of emergency since Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Thirty are still in effect. A breakdown by president:


 

Instead, many emergencies linger for years or even decades.

 

Last week, Obama renewed a state of national emergency declared in 1995 to deal with Colombia drug trafficking, saying drug lords "continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States and to cause an extreme level of violence, corruption and harm in the United States and abroad."

 

In May, President Obama rescinded a Bush-era executive order that protected Iraqi oil interests and their contractors from legal liability. Even as he did so, he left the state of emergency declared in that executive order intact — because at least two other executive orders rely on it.

 

Invoking those emergencies can give presidents broad and virtually unchecked powers. In an article published last year in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, attorney Patrick Thronson identified 160 laws giving the president emergency powers, including the authority to:

 

• Reshape the military, putting members of the armed forces under foreign command, conscripting veterans, overturning sentences issued by courts-martial and taking over weather satellites for military use.

 

• Suspend environmental laws, including a law forbidding the dumping of toxic and infectious medical waste at sea.

 

• Bypass federal contracting laws, allowing the government to buy and sell property without competitive bidding.

 

• Allow unlimited secret patents for Army, Navy and Air Force scientists.

 

All these provisions come from laws passed by Congress, giving the president the power to invoke them with the stroke of a pen. "A lot of laws are passed like that. So if a president is hunting around for additional authority, declaring an emergency is pretty easy," Scheppele said.

 

In 2009, Obama declared a state of national emergency for the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. That emergency, which quietly expired a year later, allowed for waivers of some Medicare and Medicaid regulations — for example, permitting hospitals to screen or treat an infectious illness off-site — and to waive medical privacy laws.

 

Unlike the Ebola crisis, the swine flu had hospitalized 20,000 people and killed 1,000 when Obama declared an emergency.

 

At a congressional hearing last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said another emergency power — the ability to waive procurement regulations — may be helpful in responding to Ebola.

 

The White House said an Ebola emergency isn't necessary. "I'm not aware of any consideration that currently is underway (for) any sort of national medical emergency," spokesman Josh Earnest said last week. "I wouldn't rule it out, but frankly ... that's not something that we're actively considering right now."

 

Presidential emergency powers are hardly new. The Militia Acts of 1792 gave the president the authority to take over state militias to put down an insurrection, which is what President George Washington did two years later during the Whiskey Rebellion. President Abraham Lincoln commandeered ships, raised armies and suspended habeas corpus — all without approval from Congress.

 

President Franklin Roosevelt declared a state of emergency in 1933 to prevent a run on banks, and President Harry Truman declared one in 1950 at the beginning of the Korean War. After President Richard Nixon declared two states of emergency in 17 months, Congress became alarmed by four simultaneous states of emergency.

 

It passed the National Emergencies Act by an overwhelming majority, requiring the president to cite a legal basis for the emergency and say which emergency powers he would exercise. All emergencies would expire after one year if not renewed by the president.

 

Three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush issued Proclamation 7463. It allowed him to call up the National Guard and appoint and fire military officers under the rank of lieutenant general.

President George W. Bush sits with his National Security

 

 

That proclamation has been renewed every year since 2001, including by Obama last month.

 

As of Sept. 30, about 25,700 guard and reserve troops remain involuntarily called up to federal service on the authority of Bush's proclamation, the Pentagon says. Canceling the state of emergency would allow them to go home.

 

Eight generals and admirals have been appointed to their positions despite laws limiting the number of general officers in each service. That's because the state of emergency allows the president to bypass the law and appoint an unlimited number of one- and two-star generals.

 

Those numbers are down significantly from their peaks over the past decade. There were 202,750 guard and reserves called up involuntarily in 2003. In 2009, the military had 89 more generals and admirals than Congress allowed for in a non-emergency situation.

 

The Department of Defense is conducting a review of how it would meet staffing needs if the president fails to renew the state of emergency, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman. That review has been going on quietly for years, and the emergency has been extended each time.

 

Bush's Proclamation 7463 provides much of the legal underpinning for the war on terror. Bush cited that state of emergency, for example, in his military order allowing the detention of al-Qaeda combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and their trial by military commission.

 

The post-9/11 emergency declaration is in its 13th year. Eleven emergencies are even older.

 

OLDEST EMERGENCY

 

The oldest operational emergency was issued by President Carter in 1979. For Mohamad Nazemzadeh, that state of emergency isn't an academic debate. He's on trial because of it and could get up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

 

Nazemzadeh, an Iranian-born Ph.D. biochemical engineer, was a research fellow at the University of Michigan where he did research on new radiation therapies to cure cancer and epilepsy. In 2011, he attempted to broker the sale of a $21,400 refurbished MRI coil to an Iranian hospital.

Mohamad Nazemzadeh

 

 

That's illegal under a string of executive orders dating back to the Carter administration. Carter, invoking his emergency powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, imposed an embargo on trade with Iran in 1979. That emergency has been renewed every year since.

 

In its current form, the executive order has an exception for medicine — but not medical equipment.

 

In 2010, Congress passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestiture Act. The law tightened sanctions against Iran but included broader exceptions, including for medical equipment such as the MRI coil.

 

Nazemzadeh's lawyer, Shereen Charlick, argued that Congress delegated the emergency powers to the president and intended to take part of them back with the 2010 law.

 

"The congressional exemptions trump the executive order. Since Congress is the lawmaking body and gave the president the emergency powers in the first place, it can remove the authority it delegated to the president. That's my argument," Charlick said. "I did not prevail on that argument. I still think I'm completely right."

 

Judge James Lorenz rejected that argument. "It is undisputed that the plain language of IEEPA vests authority to the president to declare an emergency and implement economic sanctions," he said in his ruling in January. Even though Congress made it legal to send medical equipment, the president can use his emergency powers under the old law to require a license, the judge ruled.

 

Nazemzadeh didn't have a license. Such licenses are routine but expensive.

 

"If you look at the history of IEEPA, it was to give the president extra powers in times of emergency. It wasn't intended to permanently expand the powers of the executive branch. It's all on fairly shaky ground," said Clif Burns, a Washington sanctions lawyer.

 

The president uses that emergency power because it's the only tool he has to enforce sanctions. Congress has twice allowed the Export Administration Act to lapse — first from 1994 to 2000 and again since 2001 — because of a dispute over anti-boycott provisions involving Israel.

 

"The president, as well as his predecessors, have declared a number of national emergencies in the context of IEEPA in order to impose economic sanctions, including with respect to the situations in Iran, Syria and in order to address terrorism and proliferation concerns," said Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council. He declined to discuss the internal deliberations around the declaration or renewal of national emergencies.

 

OVERTURNING EMERGENCIES

 

The National Emergencies Act allows Congress to overturn an emergency by a resolution passed by both houses — which could then be vetoed by the president. In 38 years, only one resolution has ever been introduced to cancel an emergency.

 

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, President Bush declared a state of emergency allowing him to waive federal wage laws. Contractors rebuilding after the hurricane would not have to abide by the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires workers to be paid the local prevailing wage.

An aerial view shows the flooded area in the northern

 

(Photo: Menahem Kahana, AFP/Getty Images)

 

Democrats — and some Republicans from union-friendly states such as Ohio and West Virginia — cried foul. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., introduced a resolution that would have terminated the emergency. Bush, under pressure from Congress, revoked it himself two months later, and Miller's resolution was moot.

 

"The history here is so clear. The Congress hasn't done much of anything," said Harold Relyea, who studied national emergencies during a 37-year career at the Congressional Research Service. "Congress has not been the watchdog. It's very toothless, and the partisanship hasn't particularly helped."

 

If anything, Congress may be inclined to give the president additional emergency powers. Legislation pending in Congress would allow the president to invoke an emergency to waive liability for health care providers and to sanction banks that do business with Hezbollah.

 

Scheppele, the Princeton professor, said emergencies have become so routine that they are "declared and undeclared often without a single headline."

 

"If we had to break the glass and flip the switch in order to do it ... it would be helpful for the alarm to go off at least. It's a sign that normal law isn't set up right," she said. "States of emergency always bypass something else. So what we need to look at is what's being bypassed, and should that be fixed."


Obama extends post-9/11 state of national emergency for 16th year

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 24, 2017 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)


https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/09/09/obama-extends-post-911-state-national-emergency-16th-year/90004960/

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Surprise.... By JJP



Obama extends post-9/11 state of national emergency for 16th year

 

WASHINGTON — The post-9/11 state of national emergency — declared by President George W. Bush three days after the 2001 terrorist attacks — will continue through the end of the Obama presidency.

 

President Obama has extended Bush's Proclamation 7463 for the 16th consecutive year, giving him broad powers over the organization of the military for at least another year.

 

Among them: the ability to call up the national guard and deploy those troops overseas. As of last week, 16,345 guardsmen remain called up under the legal authority involved by that proclamation, the Pentagon said.

 

The emergency also gives the president — and his successor — the authority to "suspend the operation of any provision of law relating to the promotion, involuntary retirement, or separation of commissioned officers" of the armed forces. And he can appoint an unlimited number of new one- or two-star generals, waiving promotion requirements and legal limits on the number of officers.

 

Wednesday, GOP candidate Donald Trump suggested he would use his authority as president to replace top generals, saying he would seek the advice of generals on the Islamic State, but "they’d probably be different generals, to be honest with you."

 

Under the National Emergencies Act, national emergencies expire after a year, unless the president renews them by notifying Congress.

 

Obama did just that last week. "The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues," he said. "For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in after September 14, 2016, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat."

 

Congress is also required to meet every six months to consider whether to revoke each state of emergency. In 40 years of the National Emergencies Act, Congress has never done so — and only seriously threatened it once.

 

There are now 32 states of national emergency pending in the United States, with the oldest being a 1979 emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter to impose sanctions during the Iran hostage crisis. Most are used to impose economic sanctions — mostly as a formality, because Congress requires it under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

 

Special report: America's perpetual state of emergency

 

In his term in office, Obama has declared 13 new emergencies, continued 21 declared by his predecessors and revoked just two, which imposed sanctions on Liberia and Russia.

 

But Proclamation 7463 is unique among those national emergencies. Along with a use-of-military-force authorization by Congress signed by President Bush four days later, it gives the president the power to call up the national guard and to alter the size and shape of the military's top officers. It also gives him the power to hire and fire commissioned officers — even ordering them out of retirement if necessary.

 

As of 2014, there were 10 generals serving in such positions, but the Pentagon could not determine what that number is currently.


Trump Lays Groundwork for Federal Government Reorganization

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 24, 2017 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

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https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/trackers/2017-04-12/trump-lays-groundwork-for-widespread-government-reorganization

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  Problem Reaction Solution, is coming to a city and town near you! By JJP

  Trump Lays Groundwork for Federal Government Reorganization

 

President Donald Trump is issuing a presidential memorandum that will call for a rethinking of the entire structure of the federal government, a move that could eventually lead to a downsizing of the overall workforce and changes to the basic functions and responsibilities of many agencies.

 

The order, which will go into effect Thursday, also will lift a blanket federal hiring freeze that has been in place since Trump’s first day in office almost three months ago and replace it with hiring targets in line with the spending priorities the administration laid out in March, said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

 

The move is a part of Trump’s campaign pledge to "drain the swamp" and get rid of what the administration views as inefficiencies in the federal government, Mulvaney said. It comes as the White House also is trying to curb the size of many government agencies through a proposed budget that calls for historically deep spending cuts to everything from medical research to clean-energy programs.

 

The push to reshape the government as well as the budget cuts are almost certain to draw opposition from Congress.

 

"We think at the end of the day this leads to a government that is dramatically more accountable, dramatically more efficient, and dramatically more effective, following through on the very promises the president made during the campaign and that he put into place on day one," Mulvaney said.

‘Blank Sheet’

 

He said the administration is starting with a "blank sheet of paper" as to how the government should operate and has set up a website to solicit ideas.

 

One solution may be to organize it by function, like putting all areas that deal with trade under one department, or to break up large departments into a number of smaller agencies. As an example, Mulvaney said there are 43 different workforce-training programs across at least 13 agencies -- without a single point person in charge of them -- that could be brought under one roof.

 

“We’re now transitioning into the smarter, more surgical plans of running the government,” Mulvaney said in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning.

 

The adjustments will then be included in the fiscal 2019 budget, which the administration will start putting together this September.

 

Changes to federal hiring, though, will begin immediately. Once the hiring freeze is lifted as of Thursday, the heads of federal agencies will have the discretion to start filling positions in line with the proposed budget the administration released last month. That budget, for fiscal 2018, would slash or eliminate many of the Great Society programs that Republicans have for decades tried to peel back while showering the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security with new resources.

 

That budget already is facing opposition in Congress, and many programs the administration would like to target could only be eliminated through legislation.

 

"Congress’s priorities may be a little different. Any of you who follow the appropriations process understand there are certain things that Congress can actually make us do," Mulvaney said. "We’ll follow the law when it comes to that. To the extent we have discretion under the law, then the discretion will be exercised in the method best possible to effectuate the president’s policies."


Trump's Cabinet dubbed 'Goldman, generals and gazillionaires'

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 24, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

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https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/11/trumps-cabinet-goldman-generals-and-gazillionaires/95299216/

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Did you really think he was "DIFFERENT"? By JJP

  


  Trump's Cabinet dubbed 'Goldman, generals and gazillionaires'


 

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump ran for the White House as an outsider and a pragmatist. But he's quickly putting together an administration that will be the most fiercely conservative of any in decades.

 

After campaigning as the least ideological presidential contender in modern times, Trump is naming a Cabinet and senior White House staff that is dominated by retired military leaders, wealthy business executives and partisan activists who oppose the historic mission of the departments they are poised to head. While the president-elect issued few policy blueprints while he was seeking the job, his nominees for key posts already have been leading the charge to dismantle President Obama's initiatives on health care and climate change.

 

"I call it the three 'G' Cabinet: Goldman, generals and gazillionaires," Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said mockingly Sunday on ABC's This Week, a reference to multiple Trump appointees who have worked at the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs.

 

On Fox News Sunday, Trump said he was "very, very close" to naming his pick for the Cabinet's biggest prize, secretary of State, speaking favorably of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. "He's much more than a business executive," Trump said of Tillerson, reported to be the frontrunner for the job. "I mean, he's a world-class player." The president-elect also favorably mentioned two other prospects, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker.

 

Trump's unorthodox campaign, dominated by a promise to "make America great again" and attacks on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, gave limited insights about what a Trump administration would look like. But in the past four weeks, he has reassured Republicans and alarmed Democrats by appointments that largely reflect GOP orthodoxy — from a Labor secretary-designate who opposes raising the minimum wage to a Housing and Urban Development secretary-designate who warns that subsidized housing fosters dependency.

 

His domestic team would have been a good fit for just about any of his Republican primary rivals, though Trump's friendly stance toward Russia and its provocative president, Vladimir Putin, is at odds with GOP tradition and the party's leading congressional voices on foreign policy.

 

So far, Trump's choices — including top jobs for a trio of veterans of Goldman Sachs, a firm he blasted at campaign rallies — haven't reflected the populist impulses that fueled his appeal to some white working-class voters or his vow to "drain the swamp" in Washington of donors and other insiders.

 

"I think we're going to have one of the great Cabinets ever put together," Trump boasted. The nominations, announced via Twitter and at campaign-style rallies, provide clues about how he will operate and what he will do after the Inauguration.

 

Here are some things we're learning:

 

'I like generals'

 

"I think generals are terrific, you know?" Trump said in Sunday's interview on Fox News. "They go through schools and they sort of end up at the top of the pyramid, and it's like a test. They passed the test of life." He's picked three of them to top jobs: retired Marine Corps Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis as secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as secretary of Homeland Security, and retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

 

He's also met at Trump Tower with retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis as he weighed the possibilities for secretary of State.

 

Corporate command

 

Not since the Eisenhower administration have so many business executives landed top government jobs, making Trump's Cabinet the wealthiest in American history. "I want people that made a fortune because now they're negotiating with you," he told supporters in Des Moines Thursday during his "thank you" tour. "It's not different than a great baseball player or a great golfer."

 

He has designated former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Bannon as his senior White House strategist, Goldman veteran Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary and billionaire activist Betsy DeVos as Education secretary. Another billionaire, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, has been named deputy Commerce secretary.

 

Linda McMahon, a former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, has been chosen to head the Small Business Administration. A millionaire who is married to a billionaire, she contributed $7 million to pro-Trump super PACs this fall.

 

Climate-change campaign in the crosshairs

 

Last week, environmental activists were encouraged when Trump met with former vice president Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, both activists on climate change. Then the president-elect selected as head of the Environmental Protection Agency Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt — a skeptic of climate change who repeatedly has sued the EPA to push back regulations aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants.

 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), an ally of the fossil-fuel industry, is reported to be Trump's choice to lead the Interior Department. She has supported legislation to open the Atlantic Ocean to drilling and prevent the Interior Department from regulating hydraulic fracturing.

 

Trump, who during the campaign called climate change "a big scam," now says it's up for debate and decries the burden of regulations on businesses. (Mainstream scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate is changing, in part due to human activity.) "I'm still open-minded," Trump said Sunday. "Nobody really knows."

 

He complained that China, Mexico and other countries were "eating our lunch" because of environmental regulations. ""We can't let all of these permits, that take forever to get, stop our jobs," he said, adding that he was studying whether to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. "I don't want that agreement to put us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries."

 

Russian roulette

 

Trump's stance on Russia, including his call for more cooperation with Putin, puts him at odds with many of the Republicans allied with him on other fronts. Some of the top appointments he has made or is considering are aligned with his views. Flynn sat next to Putin last year during a paid appearance in Moscow for Russia Today, a TV network financed by the Kremlin. Tillerson, who has negotiated business deals with Putin for years, was awarded Russia's Order of Friendship in 2013.

 

Trump disputed the conclusion in an unpublished CIA report that Russia tried to intervene in the election to boost his prospects. "I think it's ridiculous," he said. "I don't believe it."

 

Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) disagreed. "It's clear the Russians interfered," he said on CBS' Face the Nation. He called for a select congressional committee to investigate Russia's efforts and expressed concern about Tillerson's ties to Moscow. "It's a matter of concern to me that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, and obviously they've done enormous deals together," McCain said. "That would color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat."

 

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of Trump's primary rivals who happens to be on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider his nomination for secretary of State, on Sunday signaled his concern in a Trump-like way — on Twitter. "Being a "friend of Vladimir" is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryofState," he posted.


New York State Just Passed a $163 Billion Budget and a Free College Tuition Plan

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 10, 2017 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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 This just show's all American's education should be "FREE"! This is how you maintain your "CIVILIZATION". It's not a commodity. By JJP

 New York State Just Passed a $163 Billion Budget and a Free College Tuition Plan


 

Travelers across New York state will get the chance to summon ride-sharing cars under a $163 billion state budget passed on Sunday that includes a free public college tuition program and ends imprisoning people younger than 18 with adults.

The passage completed a deal struck between lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Friday, nine days after the fiscal year began.

Key components – raising the age of criminal responsibility and free tuition for students from families earning less than $120,000 a year – were pushed by Cuomo and led to the longest budget delay since the Democrat took office in 2011.

To be phased in through October 2019, people under the age of 18 will no longer be housed in adult jails and prisons.

The measure, strongly embraced by Assembly Democrats, will leave North Carolina as the only state to automatically prosecute and imprison 16 and 17-year-olds as adults regardless of the crime.

Cuomo, considered a possible 2020 presidential contender, said in a radio interview that raising the age - along with increasing the state's minimum wage last year and legalizing same-sex marriages in 2011 - are "really great lasting legacies."

Republican lawmakers complained Cuomo incorporated social policy into the budget , but ultimately compromised.

"There's a lot of things you like, a lot things you don't like," Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, a Republican, said from the Senate floor.

State residents with household incomes under $100,000 will be able to enroll in state public colleges tuition-free. The income limit rises to $125,000 in three years.

The budget revives a tax cut program for New York City affordable housing developers and funds $2.5 billion of clean water infrastructure projects.

The spending plan won overwhelming support in the Assembly and Senate.

Legislators hailed the provision to permit Uber (UBER), Lyft (LYFT) and similar ride-hailing services to operate beyond New York City.

Sen. Timothy Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, said upstate New York can now join the 21st Century.

Brooklyn Grange is finding ways to farm in an urban setting.

The $163 billion package also includes federal disaster aid for people impacted by 2012's Superstorm Sandy hurricane and funds for health care reform.

The pact gives Cuomo's budget director authority to plan spending cuts if the federal government slashes more than $850 million of funding to New York this fiscal year.

Cuomo called New York "a target for hostile federal actions" under Republican President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress, which could cut billions of Medicaid dollars to New York and other states by replacing the Affordable Care Act.

To help offset the state's $3.5 billion deficit and fund income tax cuts for people making under $300,000, the budget extends for two years an 8.82 percent tax rate on individuals making more than $1 million a year.Cuomo failed in his quest to compel giant online marketplaces such as Amazon to collect taxes on third-party transactions.


Wage Statistics for 2015 April 8, 2017

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 8, 2017 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

html/https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2015

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"50 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage, which is estimated to be $29,930.13 for 2015." Which means 80-Million people in America makes less than $29k or less per year. By JJP

Wage Statistics for 2015

April 8, 2017

The national average wage index (AWI) is based on compensation (wages, tips, and the like) subject to Federal income taxes, as reported by employers on Forms W-2. Beginning with the AWI for 1991, compensation includes contributions to deferred compensation plans, but excludes certain distributions from plans where the distributions are included in the reported compensation subject to income taxes. We call the result of including contributions, and excluding certain distributions, net compensation. The table below summarizes the components of net compensation for 2015.

 

Net compensation components for 2015

Compensation subject to Federal income taxes $7,144,666,448,113.06

Deferred compensation plan Contributions

Distributionsb+ 273,726,425,786.92

- 2,576,877,886.08

Net compensation 7,415,815,996,013.90

 Wages on which contributions were paid by 55,844,233 workers.

Distributions, to the extent included in reported wages (see text above), paid to 60,716 workers.

 

The "raw" average wage, computed as net compensation divided by the number of wage earners, is $7,415,815,996,013.90 divided by 160,794,699, or $46,119.78. Based on data in the table below, about 67.4 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the $46,119.78 raw average wage. By definition, 50 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage, which is estimated to be $29,930.13 for 2015.


Debt Exceeds $100 Trillion as Governments Binge

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 8, 2017 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

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 This debt can never be repaid. Why? Because the interest was never created. The only way to pay back debt is to create more debt! By JJP

 Debt Exceeds $100 Trillion as Governments Binge


  The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record low interest rates.

 

The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion, according to the Bank for International Settlements and data compiled by Bloomberg. The jump in debt as measured by the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS in its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S. economy.

 

Borrowing has soared as central banks suppress benchmark interest rates to spur growth after the U.S. subprime mortgage market collapsed and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy sent the world into its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Yields on all types of bonds, from governments to corporates and mortgages, average about 2 percent, down from more than 4.8 percent in 2007, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Index.

 

“Given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers,” said Branimir Gruic, an analyst, and Andreas Schrimpf, an economist at the BIS. The organization is owned by central banks and hosts the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which sets global capital standards.

 

In the six-year period to mid-2007 global debt outstanding doubled from $35 trillion, according to data compiled by BIS.

 

Austerity Measures

 

Marketable U.S. government debt outstanding has soared to a record $12 trillion, from $4.5 trillion in 2007, according to U.S. Treasury data compiled by Bloomberg. Corporate bond sales globally surged during the period, with issuance totaling more than $21 trillion, Bloomberg data show.

 

Concerned that high debt loads would cause international investors to avoid their markets, many nations resorted to austerity measures of reduced spending and increased taxes, sacrificing their economies as they tried to restore the fiscal order they abandoned to fight the worldwide recession.

 

“To get out of debt, you need prudence and you need pro-growth structural reforms,” said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London. “Those are long-term processes. You can’t get out of debt too quickly or your economy collapses, as we saw in Greece.”

 

Bond Returns

 

Adjusting budgets to ignore interest payments, the International Monetary Fund said late last year that the so-called primary deficit in the Group of Seven countries reached an average 5.1 percent in 2010 when also smoothed to ignore large economic swings. The measure will fall to 1.2 percent this year, the IMF predicted.

 

The unprecedented retrenchments between 2010 and 2013 amounted to 3.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and 3.3 percent of euro-area GDP, according to Julian Callow, chief international economist at Barclays Plc in London.

 

Rising debt did little to diminish demand for fixed-income assets. Bonds worldwide have returned 31 percent since 2007, including reinvested interest, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data. Treasury and agency debt handed investors gains of 27 percent, while corporate bonds returned more than 40 percent, the indexes show.

 

Rating Downgrades

 

“Total debt levels, the sum of household, government and corporate debt, haven’t declined at all in recent years,” said Ben Bennett, a credit strategist in London at Legal & General Investment Management, which oversees the equivalent of about $120 billion of corporate bonds. “Each time there’s a wobble, the central banks turn on the taps. Either that works by creating growth with asset prices eventually coming into line with fundamentals, or it doesn’t and we’re in for a massive fall.”

 

Bond investors haven’t penalized sovereign issuers such as the U.S., U.K., Japan and France for losing their top credit ratings. While Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its AAA ranking in August 2011, Treasuries moved in the opposite direction from what the downgrade suggested and yields touched a record low of 1.38 percent in 2012.

 

In the U.K., where ratings were cut one level to Aa1 from Aaa in February 2013 by Moody’s Investors Service, 10-year Gilt yields fell 26 basis points to 1.85 percent in the month after the downgrade.

 

Increasing Indebtedness

 

Yields on U.S. government bonds have dropped 2.3 percentage points since 2007 to an average 1.6 percent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch bond index data. Corporate yields have declined 2.6 percentage points to 2.9 percent.

 

Faster growth is deflecting concern about high debt loads. In the U.S., the government will borrow less money this year than at any time since 2008, validating the nation’s decision to go deeper into debt to combat the financial crisis as a stronger economy shrinks the deficit, based on a January survey of the Wall Street’s biggest bond dealers.

 

The government will sell $717 billion of notes and bonds on a net basis, 14 percent less than last year, according to a survey of primary dealers which are obligated to bid at Treasury auctions. Issuance has fallen every year since the U.S. borrowed a record $1.607 trillion in 2010, data compiled by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association show.

 

Unprecedented Stimulus

 

Helped by the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented stimulus, the Obama administration’s deficit spending has enabled the American economy to recover faster from the first global recession since World War II than European countries that chose austerity.

 

Faster economic growth and falling unemployment in the U.S. has slowed the build-up of debt as a proportion of GDP to 70 percent, less than two-thirds of the 24 developed nations tracked by Bloomberg. The jobless rate was 6.7 percent in February, government data showed last week, down from 7.7 percent a year earlier.

 

Higher corporate and individual tax receipts have prompted dealers in the Bloomberg survey to predict the U.S. budget deficit will decline by about $50 billion to $629 billion, the least since 2008.

 

Smaller deficits may be short-lived because government costs for retirement and health care are poised to surge in the coming decade. Spending on Social Security will rise 67 percent to $1.414 trillion in 2023 from $848 billion this year, while spending on programs including Medicare and Medicaid will almost double to $1.808 trillion in 2023, estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released in May show.

 

Debt Recovery

 

Bonds in Europe’s most indebted nations are recovering from the region’s sovereign debt crisis, with 10-year yields from Greece to Ireland sinking last week to the lowest since at least 2010.

 

The average yield to maturity on bonds from Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain fell to an average 2.44 percent on March 5, the lowest in the history of the euro area, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. That’s down from more than 9.5 percent in 2011, when the region was rocked by concern nations may struggle to service their debt.


Big Risk: $1.2 Quadrillion Derivatives Market Dwarfs World GDP

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 8, 2017 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

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 Do you really believe our government is worried about a $20-Trillion dollar deficit? Stop drinking the kool-aid. By JJP


Big Risk: $1.2 Quadrillion Derivatives Market Dwarfs World GDP


  One of the biggest risks to the world's financial health is the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market. It's complex, it's unregulated, and it ought to be of concern to world leaders that its notional value is 20 times the size of the world economy. But traders rule the roost -- and as much as risk managers and regulators might want to limit that risk, they lack the power or knowledge to do so.

 

A quadrillion is a big number: 1,000 times a trillion. Yet according to one of the world's leading derivatives experts, Paul Wilmott, who holds a doctorate in applied mathematics from Oxford University (and whose speaking voice sounds eerily like John Lennon's), $1.2 quadrillion is the so-called notional value of the worldwide derivatives market. To put that in perspective, the world's annual gross domestic product is between $50 trillion and $60 trillion.

 

To understand the concept of "notional value," it's useful to have an example. Let's say you borrow $1 million to buy an apartment and the interest rate on that loan gets reset every six months. Meanwhile, you turn around and rent that apartment out at a monthly fixed rate. If all your expenses including interest are less than the rent, you make money. But if the interest and expenses get bigger than the rent, you lose.

 

You might be able to hedge this risk of a spike in interest rates by swapping that variable rate of interest for a fixed one. To do that you'd need to find a counterparty who has an asset with a fixed rate of return who believed that interest rates were going to fall and was willing to swap his fixed rate for your variable one.

 

The actual cash amount of the interest rates swaps might be 1% of the $1 million debt, while that $1 million is the "notional" amount. Applying that same 1% to the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market would leave a cash amount of the derivatives market of $12 trillion -- far smaller, but still 20% of the world economy.

 

Getting a Handle on Derivatives Risk

 

How big is the risk to the world economy from these derivatives? According to Wilmott, it's impossible to know unless you understand the details of the derivatives contracts. But since they're unregulated and likely to remain so, it is hard to gauge the risk.

 

But Wilmott gives an example of an over-the-counter "customized" derivative that could be very risky indeed, and could also put its practitioners in a position of what he called "moral hazard." Suppose Bank 1 (B1) and Bank 2 (B2) decide to hedge against the risk that Bank 3 (B3) and Bank 4 (B4) might fail to repay their debt to B1 and B2. To guard against that, B1 and B2 might hedge the risk through derivatives.

 

In so doing, B1 and B2 might buy a credit default swap (CDS) on B3 and B4 debt. The CDS would pay B1 and B2 if B3 and B4 failed to repay their loan. B1 and B2 might also bet on the decline in shares of B3 and B4 through a short sale.

 

At that point, any action that B1 and B2 might take to boost the odds that B3 and B4 might default would increase the value of their derivatives. That possibility might tempt B1 and B2 to take actions that would boost the odds of failure for B3 and B4. As I wrote back in September 2008 on DailyFinance's sister site, BloggingStocks, this kind of behavior -- in which hedge funds pulled their money out of banks whose stock they were shorting -- may have contributed to the failures of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

 

It's also the sort of conduct that makes it extremely difficult to estimate the risk of the derivatives market.

 

How Positive Feedback Loops Crash Markets

 

Another kind of market conduct that makes markets volatile is what Wilmott calls positive and negative feedback loops. These relatively bland-sounding terms mask some really scary behavior for investors who are not clued into it. Wilmott argues that a positive feedback loop contributed to the 22.6% crash in the Dow back in October 1987.

 

In the 1980s, a firm run by some former academics came up with the idea of portfolio insurance.

 

Their idea was that if investors are worried about their assets losing value, they can buy puts -- the option to sell their investments at pre-determined prices. They can sell everything -- which would be embarrassing if the market then started to rise -- or they could sell a fixed proportion of their portfolio depending on the percentage decline in a particular stock market index.

 

This latter idea is portfolio insurance. If the Dow, for example, fell 3%; it might suggest that investors should sell 20% of their portfolio. And if the Dow fell 20%, it would indicate that investors should sell 100% of their portfolio.

 

That positive feedback loop -- in which a stock price decline leads to more selling -- boosts market volatility. Portfolio insurance causes more investors to sell as the market declines by, say 3%, which causes an even deeper plunge in the value of investors' holdings. And that deeper decline leads to more selling. Before you know it, many investors are selling everything.

 

The portfolio insurance firm started off with $5 billion, but as its reputation spread, it ended up managing $50 billion. In 1987, that was a lot of money. So when that positive feedback loop got going, it took the Dow down 22.6% in a day.

 

The big problem back then was the absence of a sufficient number of traders using a negative feedback loop strategy. With a negative feedback loop, a trader would sell stocks as they rose and buy them as they declined. With a negative feedback loop strategy, volatility would be far lower.

 

Unfortunately, data on how much money has been going into negative and positive feedback loop strategies is not available. Therefore, it's hard to know how the positive feedback loops have gained such a hold on the market.

 

But it is not hard to imagine that if a particular investor made huge amounts of money following a positive feedback loop strategy, other investors would hear about it and copy it. Moreover, the way traders get compensated suggests that it's better for them to take more and more risk to replicate what their peers are doing.

 

Traders Make More Money By Following the Pack

 

There is a clear economic incentive for traders to follow what their peers are doing. According to Wilmott, to understand why, it helps to imagine a simplified example of a trading floor. Picture yourself as a new college graduate joining a bank's trading floor with 100 traders. Those 100 traders each trade $10 million: They "win" if a coin toss lands on heads and "lose" if it lands on tails. But now imagine you've come up with a magic coin that has a 75% chance of landing on heads -- you can make a better bet than the other 100 traders with their 50-50 coin.

 

You might think that the best strategy for you would be to bet your $10 million on that magic coin. But you'd be wrong. According to Wilmott, if the magic coin lands on a head but the other 100 traders flip tails, the bank loses $1 billion while you get a relatively paltry $10 million.

 

The best possible outcome for you is a 37.5% chance that everyone makes money (the 75% chance of you tossing heads multiplied by the 50% chance of the other traders getting a head). If instead, you use the same coin as everyone else on the floor, the probability of everyone getting a bonus rises to 50%.

 

When Traders Say 'Jump,' Risk Managers Ask 'How High?'

 

Traders are a huge source of profit on Wall Street these days and they have an incentive to bet together and to bet big. According to Wilmott, traders get a bonus based on the one-year profits of those on their trading floor. If the trading floor makes big money, all the traders get a big bonus. And if it loses money, they get no bonus -- but at least they don't have to repay their capital providers for the losses.

 

Given that bonus structure, a trader is always better off risking $1 billion than $1 million. So if the trader, who is the king of the hill at the bank, asks a lowly risk manager to analyze how much risk the trader is taking, that risk manager is on the spot. If the risk manager comes back with a risk level that limits how big a bet the trader can take, the trader will demand that the risk manager recalculate the risk level lower so the trader can take the bigger bet.

 

Traders also manipulate their bonuses by assuming the existence of trading profits before they are actually realized. This happens when traders get involved with derivatives that will not unwind for 20 years.

 

Although the profits or losses on that trade have not been realized at the end of the first year, the bank will make an assumption about whether that trade made or lost money each year. Given the power traders wield, they can make the number come out positive so they can receive a hefty bonus -- even though it is too early to tell what the real outcome of the trade will be.

 

How Trader Incentives Caused the CDO Bubble

 

Wilmott imagines that this greater incentive to follow the pack is what happened when many traders were piling into collateralized debt obligations. In Wilmott's view, CDO risk managers who had analyzed a future scenario in which housing prices fell and interest rates rose would have concluded that the CDOs would become worthless under that scenario. He imagines that when notified of that possible outcome, CDO traders would have demanded that the risk managers shred that nasty scenario so they could keep trading more CDOs.

 

Incidentally, the traders who profited by going against the CDO crowd were lone wolves whose compensation did not depend on following the trading floor pack. This reinforces the idea that big bank compensation policies drive dangerous behavior that boosts market volatility.

 

What You Don't Understand, You Can't Properly Regulate

 

Wilmott believes that derivatives represent a risk of unknown proportions. But unless there is a change to trader compensation policies -- one which would force traders to put their compensation at risk for the life of the derivative -- then this risk could remain difficult to manage.

 

Unfortunately, he thinks that regulators aren't in a good position to assess the risks of derivatives because they don't understand them. Wilmott offers training in risk management. While traders and risk managers at banks and hedge funds have taken his course, regulators so far have not.

 

And if regulators don't understand the risks in derivatives, chances are great that Congress does not understand them either.


Overthrowing other people's governments: The Master List

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 8, 2017 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

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  This is the American way. By JJP

 

Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List

By William Blum – Published February 2013


 

China 1949 to early 1960s

Albania 1949-53

East Germany 1950s

Iran 1953 *

Guatemala 1954 *

Costa Rica mid-1950s

Syria 1956-7

Egypt 1957

Indonesia 1957-8

British Guiana 1953-64 *

Iraq 1963 *

North Vietnam 1945-73

Cambodia 1955-70 *

Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *

Ecuador 1960-63 *

Congo 1960 *

France 1965

Brazil 1962-64 *

Dominican Republic 1963 *

Cuba 1959 to present

Bolivia 1964 *

Indonesia 1965 *

Ghana 1966 *

Chile 1964-73 *

Greece 1967 *

Costa Rica 1970-71

Bolivia 1971 *

Australia 1973-75 *

Angola 1975, 1980s

Zaire 1975

Portugal 1974-76 *

Jamaica 1976-80 *

Seychelles 1979-81

Chad 1981-82 *

Grenada 1983 *

South Yemen 1982-84

Suriname 1982-84

Fiji 1987 *

Libya 1980s

Nicaragua 1981-90 *

Panama 1989 *

Bulgaria 1990 *

Albania 1991 *

Iraq 1991

Afghanistan 1980s *

Somalia 1993

Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *

Ecuador 2000 *

Afghanistan 2001 *

Venezuela 2002 *

Iraq 2003 *

Haiti 2004 *

Somalia 2007 to present

Honduras 2009

Libya 2011 *

Syria 2012

Ukraine 2014 *

 


The American Dream That's Not Backed Up by History

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

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 It was always a myth, the American Dream was never real. It was built out of the government creating the FHA(Federal Housing Administration), G.I Bill, The Interstate Highway system and "Credit" from the privately owned "Federal Reserve Bank". By  JJP

 The American Dream That's Not Backed Up by History


 

Last week brought the news that home ownership rates continue to slide, with over half the nation’s largest cities now dominated by renters. The decline is particularly pronounced among millennials: Only 31 percent of adults under the age of 35 own their own homes, with further declines likely in coming years.

 

It’s tempting, perhaps, to read this trend as yet another sign of national decline. Home ownership, after all, is arguably the most visible symbol of the American dream.

 

But dreams don’t necessarily reflect historical reality. In the U.S., renting has long been an acceptable, and in some cases, preferred alternative. In fact homeowners did not eclipse renters until after World War II.

 

It’s difficult to know with any precision exactly how many Americans owned their homes before the U.S. Census began asking citizens about it in 1890.

 

But estimates from some historians yield an approximate home ownership rate of around fifty percent in 1860. That sounds high until one factors in that approximately 80 percent of Americans lived in rural areas at this time, and many owned land because it was the source of farming income. That they owned a house, too, was almost an afterthought, not the result of some dream. They weren’t homeowners first and foremost; they were landowners running a small business.

 

Those who didn’t need land, like city dwellers, rarely bothered to purchase a home. In 1860, only 11 percent of Philadelphia residents owned their homes; other cities had higher rates, but none topped 31 percent. That number would rise very slowly over the remainder of the nineteenth century, but it still remained stuck at relatively low levels.

 

The degree to which renters dominated cities became apparent on what was sometimes described as “Moving Day.” On this fateful date, those who wanted to move to a better apartment (or who couldn’t afford a hike in the rent) would schlep their stuff to new digs.

 

New York City was particularly infamous for this ritual. In the 1840s, the diarist George Templeton Strong recoiled in horror at the “chaotic state” of the city as it began its annual game of musical chairs. “Every other house seems to be disgorging itself into the street,” he observed, likening nomadic New Yorkers to “the pastoral cow feeders of the Tartar Steppes.”

 

Given these headaches, why didn’t more people buy a house? One obvious obstacle was financing: most mortgages required a significant down payment with the balance due -- a so-called “balloon payment” -- at the end of five or ten years. Assuming that was the case, people with greater financial resources should have had higher rates of home ownership.

 

But that’s not what happened. Historians who have looked into the issue have found that rates of home ownership varied little from class to class. One study in Detroit in 1900 discovered that 34 percent of unskilled laborers owned homes. Nearly the same number -- 37 percent -- of high-status, white-collar workers owned homes.

 

It seems that the white-collar, affluent professionals who now put such stock in home ownership didn’t at this time. As one historian has put it, “employing servants was a higher priority than owning a home.” If anything, working-class families held home ownership in higher esteem than the middle and upper classes.

 

While home ownership became increasingly popular in the early twentieth century, the U.S. was still a majority-renter nation in 1930, though by this time homeowners numbered 48 percent of the total population. But the Great Depression knocked that figure back down to 43 percent, roughly on par with late nineteenth century levels.

 

Things changed dramatically in the 1940s, when home ownership levels began moving toward unprecedented highs, hitting 66 percent by 1980. Economists are still arguing over why that happened, but the most compelling explanations are pretty banal and do little to support the sentimental blather associated with home ownership.

 

Government intervention in the housing markets was the driving force behind this change. This began in the 1930s, when the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation dispensed with the balloon payments by more or less inventing the modern-day, fixed-rate long-term mortgage. Eventually, the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans’ Administration (via the GI Bill) guaranteed and insured mortgages, making financing relative easy.

 

Taxes played a role, too. While the mortgage interest deduction had been around since the birth of the income tax, it wasn’t until marginal tax rates ticked upward during World War II that home ownership began paying significant dividends to middle and upper-class households.

 

All these changes made home ownership the norm in the postwar era. In the late twentieth century, creative financing helped drive the home ownership rate even higher. It topped out at close almost 70 percent in 2006 before beginning a slow, inexorable decline that continues to this day.

 

Stagnant incomes and the aftershocks of the housing bust are driving some of the recent trend back to renting. But the slide may also reflect a growing awareness that investing most of your wealth in a single, immovable, illiquid asset isn’t such a good idea after all. Renting, by contrast, permits far greater flexibility and geographical mobility, particularly when it comes time to change jobs.

 

The U.S. was once a nation of renters. It could be again.

 

 


Business groups try to quash federal equal pay project

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

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  Making America Great Again? By JJP

 Business groups try to quash federal equal pay project

  Business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pressuring the Trump administration to kill an Obama-era initiative designed to reduce wage disparities by requiring big employers to report pay data based on race, gender and ethnicity.

 

The Obama administration had proposed the new requirement to bolster federal investigations of possible pay discrimination and encourage employers to evaluate their own pay practices as women’s salaries continue to lag behind those of men.

 

But an ad-hoc coalition of business associations asked President Trump’s budget office to review and reject the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s requirement, saying the data collection is too onerous and expensive.

 

STORY FROM LA QUINTA

Pro travel tips you haven’t tried yet

 

“If ever there was a regulation that imposed an incredible amount of burden with no utility ... it’s this one,” said Randy Johnson, a senior vice president with the Chamber. “It was pushed through under the prior administration because it met a political goal. But as far as the substance and merits, there just isn’t any that would justify it being kept on the books.”

 

Johnson said the Office of Management and Budget hasn’t responded to a March 20 letter the Chamber sent with 26 other business associations to the director, Mick Mulvaney, requesting the review. But he said the issue is among the Chamber’s top labor priorities.

 

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“I think the agency will take care of this,” he said. “It’s such a gross abuse of regulatory power on the part of the EEOC.”

 

Trump’s stance on pay equity has been somewhat murky.

 

He has said he supports pay based on performance, but he expressed concerns in 2015 about equal pay legislation if “everybody ends up making the same pay,” likening such a result to “a socialist society.” His daughter Ivanka, however, pledged during the campaign that her father would fight for “equal pay for equal work” and has said she, herself, is “very passionate" about fighting for wage equality.

 

“Ivanka Trump during the campaign said her father was going to be a champion for equal pay,” said Emily Martin, with the National Women’s Law Center. “So here’s a real choice to be made — whether you’re going to go forward with this important initiative to close the wage gap or whether you’re going to stop this progress in its tracks.”

 

In this Feb. 1, 2017 file photo, President Trump and

In this Feb. 1, 2017 file photo, President Trump and his daughter Ivanka walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)

Lisa Maatz, with the American Association of University Women, said, “We would like to see this be a place where they take a stand. All you have to do is look at the Women’s March to know that people care about these issues, they’re watching and we’re not going away”

 

The White House and EEOC did not respond to requests for comment, and in a statement, the Office of Management and Budget said only, “OMB is reviewing the request.”

 

Women working full time in the U.S. were typically paid 80% of what men were paid in 2015, and the pay gap was worse for women of color, according to a 2017 AAUW study. Part of the reason may be a concentration of women in lower paying jobs or women working fewer hours, but experts also point to discrimination and bias as contributing factors.

 

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the initiative to collect pay data was one of the most important things he worked on to address the pay equity gap for women when he served as President Obama’s Labor secretary.

 

“I don’t understand why any company who wants to retain their workforce and recruit the best and brightest talent wouldn’t want to keep this data so that they understand, ‘Do we have a problem?” Perez said in an interview with USA TODAY. “This is not rocket science. This is about fundamental fairness.”

 

Read more:

 

EMILY's List begins 'most aggressive' female recruitment effort

No, equal rights for women aren’t in the Constitution. Could Rep. Speier change that?

Employers have long reported data about numbers of employees by job category, gender and ethnicity or race. The new annual requirement, announced in September, calls for private employers and federal contractors with more than 100 employees to also report the pay data by March 31, 2018. The Obama administration estimated it would cover 63 million employees.

 

As of December, more than one hundred companies and organizations, including AT&T, eBay, Mastercard and Yahoo, had signed Obama’s “White House Equal Pay Pledge,” voluntarily committing to conducting annual company-wide gender pay analyses across occupations.

 

After a public comment period, the EEOC gave employers additional time to comply, allowing them to reduce costs by using W-2 wage data.

 

But the Chamber and other groups argued in their letter to that OMB that the new survey forces companies to take on “huge additional costs” for “no accompanying benefit, or protections for the confidentiality of the information.”

 

“We’ve heard from companies that are saying, ‘Look, this is ridiculous, get this off the books,’” Johnson said.

 

Legislation including a provision to codify the data-collection requirement will be reintroduced on Tuesday — a day that is called “Equal Pay Day” to raise awareness on the gender pay gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act aims to strengthen an aggrieved worker’s position in court, prohibit retaliation against workers and improve federal enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. It passed the House twice in prior Congresses under Democratic control, but it is unlikely to moving in this Congress.

 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who has introduced the bill every Congress since 1997, said the Chamber’s attempts to repeal the data-collection requirement are “shameful.”

 

“We should enact the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that the EEOC will collect this critical data, rather than leaving it as a political bargaining point between the Chamber of Commerce and the Administration,” she said in a statement.


Monsanto meets its match as Hindu nationalists assert power in India

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

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 It's about time nations around the planet are fighting back. The old East-India company(Brittish Empire) must come to an end for the planet survive. By JJP

 Monsanto meets its match as Hindu nationalists assert power in India

  Tens of millions of dollars were within reach for M. Prabhakara Rao as he prepared in April 2015 to take his Indian cotton seed company public.

 

The Indian businessman already had $54 million in initial funding from an American private equity investor. Rao had also locked in a long-term licensing agreement with Monsanto Co (MON.N), the world's largest seed company, for the technology used in genetically modified cotton seeds that made up the majority of his annual sales.

 

Two months after publishing his initial public offering plan, Rao gambled. He sent one of his executives to negotiate a 10 percent cut in royalties with Monsanto. The multinational said no.

 

The outcome of that meeting ignited a corporate battle that has left Rao's IPO plans in tatters and drawn in the Indian and U.S. governments. More ominously, the fight has disrupted India's $1.8 billion-a-year seed industry, with Monsanto saying it may abandon the market.

 

Monsanto's Indian joint venture last July withdrew its application to introduce a new generation of cotton seed technology to India. The existing version, in India for a decade, is losing effectiveness against bollworms, which can wipe out crops. If another company doesn't step into the breach, agricultural economists warn the dispute could damage India's cotton-growing sector - which recently surpassed China's as the world's biggest and last year accounted for more than a quarter of global output, with a value of over $8.5 billion.

 

To an outsider, Rao's decision to take on Monsanto in a David-and-Goliath battle may seem hard to fathom. But the rules of doing business in India have changed. With the rise to power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 on a groundswell of Hindu nationalism, newly assertive right-wing groups, suspicious of foreign influence and particularly outspoken against large multinationals like Monsanto, now hold sway in the government.

 

The leaders of these groups operate under the umbrella of the powerful Hindu nationalist group known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, Hindi for "national volunteer organization." They speak of returning India to an ancient, Hindu glory that was ravaged by foreign imperial powers. More pragmatically, they're amassing power.

 

Modi himself first attended RSS meetings at the age of 8 and was propelled to power with the group's help. A series of crucial ministries, including agriculture, are now run by ministers who are members of the RSS and its affiliates. Members of these Hindu nationalist groups also form a network of influential mandarins who seldom surface in public. They have the ear of the prime minister and those around him.

 

ANTI-MONSANTO MEASURES

 

A lean, moustachioed man, Rao denies seeking the support of the RSS or working in tandem with the group, which wants indigenous varieties of cotton seed to replace Monsanto's products. But RSS powerbrokers - including the agriculture minister himself - told Reuters that Rao approached them for help in his battle with Monsanto. And they say they were happy to weigh in.

 

RELATED COVERAGE

 

Monsanto loses legal battle with Indian seed producer

The agriculture minister, longtime RSS member Radha Mohan Singh, says his decision to intervene in the dispute was driven by the need to serve the interests of all Indian farmers, not just Rao.

 

The timing of Singh's actions, though, was telling. In the months after the meeting between Monsanto and Rao's man in Mumbai, the agriculture ministry first challenged and then slashed the royalties Monsanto is able to charge in India. The ministry called for an antitrust investigation into alleged monopolistic practices by the company. It also floated the idea of a compulsory licensing regime that would all but force Monsanto and other firms to hand over their proprietary technology to major Indian seed companies that applied for licenses.

 

Prime Minister Modi hasn't publicly commented on the matter. After the U.S. ambassador intervened last year, according to two people familiar with the dispute, the Indian government suspended the compulsory licensing proposal. The other measures remain in place.

 

After years of seeking more leverage with Monsanto, Rao found in the rise of Modi and the RSS an opportunity to challenge the company's domination of the Indian market. It was against this backdrop that he dispatched senior company executive P. Sateesh Kumar, a Ph.D. in agricultural genetics, to Monsanto's Mumbai headquarters in 2015.

 

At the time, Rao's company, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, was behind on royalty payments to Monsanto and on its way to racking up, by Monsanto's calculations, more than $20 million in debt. And its American investor, Blackstone Group LP (BX.N), was waiting for the IPO to go through. Nonetheless, Kumar sat down in a corner conference room on the fifth floor and conveyed Rao's demand for a reduction in royalties. Monsanto delivered its answer there and then: That wasn't going to happen.

 

Before Kumar left the meeting on that hot June day, he paused. He told the executives from Monsanto and its Indian joint venture that there would be "consequences" for refusing Rao a discount, according to a letter Monsanto sent to the government and which was reviewed by Reuters. Kumar says he did not use such language.

 

'FIGHTING A BATTLE'

 

In an interview in which he let loose peals of laughter, Rao pointed out that the first item under "Risk Factors" in the IPO prospectus for his company, of which he controls more than 80 percent of shares, was the possibility of his contract with Monsanto being disrupted. Still, he said, Monsanto made a mistake in thinking it had the upper hand.

 

Monsanto declined to answer questions on the role of the RSS in Rao's campaign. "We conduct our business in an honest, transparent and respectful manner and continue to engage with stakeholders across the spectrum," the company said.

 

Monsanto is backed in the dispute by chemical giant Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE), which is in the process of buying the seed company for $66 billion. It also has the support of the local units of other seed heavyweights, including Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N) and Syngenta AG (SYNN.S). In August, these multinationals held a news conference in which they called for transparency in government regulation and licensing. Failure to do so, they warned, would endanger future investment in India.

 

An RSS spokesman referred queries about Rao and Monsanto to the RSS farmers' union, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. Its vice president, a man named Prabhakar Kelkar, said the union was working with Rao, who had approached it to complain about Monsanto's seed pricing.

 

"It is important for all of us to unite to wage a war against Monsanto. No one can do it alone, be it Rao or the" farmers' union, Kelkar told Reuters. "We are cooperating with him because he is fighting a battle that is meant for greater good."

 

Monsanto and Rao are now locked in a series of government complaints, litigation and arbitration.

 

Citing an Indian law that excludes seeds from being patented, Rao says Monsanto should never have been allowed to collect royalties after an initial payment to use its technology. Or, at the very least, he adds, prices should have been set by the government.

 

The technology currently licensed out by Monsanto is known as Bollgard II. The company received a patent in 2009 in India for Bollgard II's ability to modify cotton seeds to include a microbe called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which fortifies cotton plants against bollworms.

 

Monsanto says Rao and a small group of other seed companies demanding a reduction in royalties are simply trying to renege on contracts and money owed. Dhiraj Pant, who oversees tech development for Monsanto across Asia, said it would have been preferable if the Indian seed companies had not pushed for the government to step in. "It is unfortunate that these disputing companies sought policy interventions to address a bilateral matter," said Pant.

 

HINDU NATIONALIST VISION

 

The RSS, which has its own farmer and labor unions, was formed in 1925 to campaign against British colonial rule. It seeks to instill a nationalist vision of India as a Hindu nation, despite large minority populations that include Muslims and Christians.

 

The group nurtured Modi's rise – in his early days in the RSS he cleaned floors at a local chapter office. And the RSS helped form the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

 

But Modi and his RSS backers have differing views about the role of foreign multinationals. In his 13 years as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, Modi was an early supporter of genetically modified cotton. His administration there allowed farmers to plant Monsanto-modified seeds, known as Bt cotton, before the technology received official approval in New Delhi.

 

His approach contradicted the RSS stance against multinationals operating in the agricultural sector, particularly when it comes to genetically modified crops.

 

The tension simmered for years. After Modi's election in 2014, the RSS began its push.

 

A senior leader in the RSS farmers' union, a man named Mohini Mohan Mishra, began holding study sessions with leaders in the ruling party and the Modi administration to argue against genetically modified crops. One of Mishra's presentation slides pointed to the rise in popularity of organic food in the West.

 

Another slide said of Monsanto: "It created seed monopoly, a threat to seed sovereignty."

 

Monsanto's mistake was that it did not approach the RSS to plead its case, said Mishra in an interview at his office in central Delhi, which has peeling paint, dirty rugs and, in summer months, mosquitoes buzzing inside.

 

"It was the overconfidence of Monsanto that has destroyed their chances to do business in India," said Mishra. "They failed to study and understand the RSS."

 

'NOT GOOD FOR INDIA'

 

Rao, meanwhile, was lobbying Modi's government. Sometime in 2015, he met with Singh, the agriculture minister and RSS member.

 

The powerbrokers and officials of the Congress party that ruled India for most of its independent history tended to espouse secular ideology in clipped English accents that hinted at elite schooling at home and abroad. The RSS leadership speaks of rural roots and the virtues of the homegrown.

 

Singh is cut from that cloth. At the beginning of one interview he paused to fold a small wad of snuff in his left cheek as an attendant brought a metal spittoon.

 

He was not hard to convince that Monsanto was in the wrong, said Rao.

 

"The truth is that Monsanto was dominating the market, and that is not good for India’s farming practices," said Singh. "We should have our own seeds to compete with them."

 

After Monsanto declared Rao's company in breach of payment obligations and terminated its contract in November 2015, Singh's agriculture ministry moved swiftly.

 

The next month, the ministry established a panel to fix the price of genetically modified cotton seeds and the royalties Monsanto was allowed to collect.

 

Less than two weeks later, a junior minister under Singh's command told parliament that the ministry had asked India's antitrust regulator to consider investigating whether Monsanto abused its dominance in the marketplace. He said the National Seed Association of India, of which Rao is the president, had asked his ministry to intervene in the dispute. An antitrust investigation was formally launched in February last year.

 

On March 4, 2016, Monsanto's chief executive for India put out a statement threatening to leave the country. Four days later, Singh's ministry slashed the royalty paid by local firms to sellers of genetically modified cotton seed technology, a market dominated by Monsanto, by about 70 percent.

 

Two months later, the agriculture ministry proposed compulsory licensing for Monsanto's technology. It was this move that prompted the U.S. ambassador to India at the time, Richard Verma, to approach Modi's office. People familiar with the matter said Verma wrote to Modi's principal secretary, Nripendra Misra, after the agriculture ministry did not respond to two previous letters. After the ambassador and Misra met, the government suspended the licensing measure.

 

A COMMON AGENDA

 

During a visit to India last year, the U.S. commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, said she had raised the Monsanto dispute with the government. "Companies will look to see how this is resolved because it sends a message about the seriousness of the current government to protect intellectual property," said Pritzker, who stepped down this January.

 

An aide close to Modi declined to discuss whether the prime minister had personally intervened in the licensing dispute. He said the issue would "remain open" for the foreseeable future. "Sometimes the best decision is not to take a decision," the aide said. The prime minister's office did not answer questions from Reuters.

 

Asked about Rao and his fight with Monsanto, Singh denied granting the businessman any favors.

 

Kelkar, from the RSS farmers' union, said the RSS had pushed for Singh to act against Monsanto. "In the previous regime we had to stand on the streets to launch anti-Monsanto protests," Kelkar said. "But with this government we can sit and talk in a room – it's because we all believe in the same agenda."

 

The impact of the dispute on Monsanto's bottom line became clear late last year when the company released its results: Sales of seeds and genetic traits for cotton dropped 16 percent, or $83 million, in the fiscal year ending August. That was "primarily due to lower average net selling price in India as a result of new government pricing policies," the report said.

 

The dispute's fallout could have grave implications, says Ashok Gulati, an agricultural economist who has advised the government on crop support prices in the past.

 

"The whole fiasco will dissuade global seed or technology companies from investing in India," Gulati said. In the short term, he said, India might get by with a local alternative to genetically modified cotton. "But in the long-term, say beyond five years or so, we need a technology that can propel India's cotton output. But then, political masters don't look beyond immediate gains."

 

Rao says that Monsanto and others deserve a return on their investment. But he wants royalty rates to be determined by government rules. In an interview, he pointed to the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, which gives the regulator the power to fix royalty rates. The government fails, however, to exercise that authority, enabling Monsanto to dictate terms, says Rao.

 

In October, the government announced a change in the board that oversees the plant varieties act. A new member had been added: M. Prabhakara Rao.


Pension Crisis Too Big for Markets to Ignore

Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

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Pension Crisis Too Big for Markets to Ignore


 

In late 2006, Aaron Krowne, a computer scientist and mathematician, started a website that documented the real-time destruction of the subprime mortgage lending industry. The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter caught on like wildfire with financial market voyeurs, regularly reaching 100,000 visitors. West Coast lenders, some may recall, were the first to fall in what eventually totaled 388 casualties.

 

A year earlier, to much less fanfare, Jack Dean launched another website in anticipation of the different kind of wave washing up on the California coastline. Called the Pension Tsunami, the website was originally conceived to provide Golden State taxpayers with a one-stop resource to track news stories on the state’s mammoth and numerous underfunded public pensions.

 

Dean came about his inspiration honestly: “I started tracking this issue in 2004 after the Orange County Board of Supervisors gave a retroactive pension formula increase of 62 percent to county employees,” he said. “I was stunned. It’s the main reason Orange County has a $4.5 billion underfunded liability today.”

 

As the years have passed, though, the site has become a font of information for states and municipalities nationwide as well as corporate pensions. In all, over 40,000 headlines have been posted to the website to date. On a recent Friday, Dean posted multiple stories on the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the country’s largest pension program, as well as a budget cliff facing San Francisco, six Los Angeles public safety officers who collected over $1 million apiece last year in pensions, and eight cities that could face bankruptcy when the next recession hits. But the day’s headlines also included the latest on the fiasco unfolding in Dallas, an update on Houston’s less awful situation and features on states that have become the site's other usual suspects -- Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey. And that was a slow news day.

 

The question is why haven’t the headlines presaged pension implosions? As was the case with the subprime crisis, the writing appears to be on the wall. And yet calamity has yet to strike. How so? Call it the triumvirate of conspirators – the actuaries, accountants and their accomplices in office. Throw in the law of big numbers, very big numbers, and you get to a disaster in a seemingly permanent state of making. Unfunded pension obligations have risen to $1.9 trillion from $292 billion since 2007.

 

 

 

Credit rating firms have begun downgrading states and municipalities whose pensions risk overwhelming their budgets. New Jersey and the cities of Chicago, Houston and Dallas are some of the issuers in the crosshairs. Morgan Stanley says municipal bond issuance is down this year in part because of borrowers are wary of running up new debts to effectively service pensions.

 

 

 

Federal Reserve data show that in 1952, the average public pension had 96 percent of its portfolio invested in bonds and cash equivalents. Assets matched future liabilities. But a loosening of state laws in the 1980s opened the door to riskier investments. In 1992, fixed income and cash had fallen to an average of 47 percent of holdings. By 2016, these safe investments had declined to 27 percent.

 

It’s no coincidence that pensions’ flight from safety has coincided with the drop in interest rates. That said, unlike their private peers, public pensions discount their liabilities using the rate of returns they assume their overall portfolio will generate. In fiscal 2016, which ended June 30th, the average return for public pensions was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 percent.

 

Corporations’ accounting rules dictate the use of more realistic bond yields to discount their pensions’ future liabilities. Put differently, companies have been forced to set aside something closer to what it will really cost to service their obligations as opposed to the fantasy figures allowed among public pensions.

 

So why not just flip the switch and require truth and honesty in public pension math? Too many cities and potentially states would buckle under the weight of more realistic assumed rates of return. By some estimates, unfunded liabilities would triple to upwards of $6 trillion if the prevailing yields on Treasuries were used. That would translate into much steeper funding requirements at a time when budgets are already severely constrained. Pockets of the country would face essential public service budgets being slashed to dangerous levels.

 

What’s a pension to do? Increasingly, the answer is swing for the fences. Forget the fact that just under half of pension assets are in the second-most overvalued stock market in history. Even as Fed officials publicly fret about commercial real estate valuations, pensions have socked away eight percent of their portfolios into this less than liquid asset class. Even further out on the risk and liquidity spectrum is the 10 percent that pensions have allocated to private equity and limited partnerships. For the better part of a decade, New Albion Partners Chief Market Strategist Brian Reynolds has tracked pensions’ allocations to these so-called alternative investments, and the total is approaching $350 billion.

 

The working assumption is that the Pension Tsunami will never make land fall, but the next time you take comfort in the sanctity of pensions given they have yet to self-destruct, ask yourself instead how they are hedged in the event of a correction. Will it be their bond, stock, real estate or private equity holdings that shield their portfolios? Or will it be none of the above?


Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic: A Look at America's Opioid Crisis

Posted by Jerrald J President on March 27, 2017 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

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  Still wonder why President Bush invaded Afganistan? The is reminds me of the Iran-Contra scheme! By JJP

 

Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic: A Look at America’s Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic killed more than 33,000 people in 2015. What follows are stories of a national affliction that has swept the country, from cities on the West Coast to bedroom communities in the Northeast.

 

 



 

Opioid addiction is America’s 50-state epidemic. It courses along Interstate highways in the form of cheap smuggled heroin, and flows out of “pill mill” clinics where pain medicine is handed out like candy. It has ripped through New England towns, where people overdose in the aisles of dollar stores, and it has ravaged coal country, where addicts speed-dial the sole doctor in town licensed to prescribe a medication.

 

Public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history, killing more than 33,000 people in 2015. Overdose deaths were nearly equal to the number of deaths from car crashes. In 2015, for the first time, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides.

 

And there’s no sign it’s letting up, a team of New York Times reporters found as they examined the epidemic on the ground in states across the country. From New England to “safe injection” areas in the Pacific Northwest, communities are searching for a way out of a problem that can feel inescapable.

 

Addicted to heroin, Katie Harvey decided to enter a detox program. Once a popular honors student, she has been in and out of detox eight times and in 2015, wrote a public online apology to her family and friends. Credit M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

MARBLEHEAD, MASS.

 

In Suburbia, ‘Tired of Everything’

 

Katie Harvey walked out of the house where she lived with friends, shoved her duffel bag into her mother’s car and burst into tears.

 

“I need to go to detox,” she told her mother, Maureen Cavanagh. “I’m just tired of everything.”

 

Ms. Harvey, 24, had been shooting heroin for three years. She had been in and out of detox — eight times altogether. But it had always been someone else’s idea.

 

This time, Ms. Harvey made the arrangements herself. She had come to loathe her life. “I haven’t even been doing enough to get really high,” she said. “I’m just maintaining myself so I don’t get sick.”

 

Before she left for detox, Ms. Harvey curled up on the couch in her mother’s living room in this well-to-do suburb north of Boston and reflected on her life: her low self-esteem despite model-worthy good looks; her many lies to her family; how she had pawned her mother’s jewelry and had sex with strange men for money to pay for drugs.

 

As she spoke, tears spilled from her eyes. She wiped them with the cuff of her sweater, which covered track marks and a tattoo that said “freedom” — her goal, to be unshackled from the prison of addiction.

 

Ms. Harvey had been a popular honors student. But she developed anorexia. Alcohol was next. By 21, she was hooked on heroin.

 

In 2015, she was arrested on charges of prostitution. In an extraordinary act of contrition, she wrote a public apology online to her friends and family.

 

Still, she plunged in deeper. She estimated that at her worst, she was shooting up a staggering number of times a day, perhaps as many as 15 — heroin, cocaine, fentanyl. She overdosed five times. In Massachusetts, almost five residents die every day from overdoses.

 

“I don’t know how I’m alive, honestly,” Ms. Harvey said.

 

That night in October, she went into detox. Four days later, she checked out. She went back to her friends and drugs, developing an abscess on her arm, probably from dirty needles.

 

Two weeks later, she was back in detox. This time, she stayed, then entered a 30-day treatment program.

 

The return trips to detox have been an emotional roller coaster for her mother. To cope, Ms. Cavanagh founded a group, Magnolia New Beginnings, to help drug users and their families.

 

Among her words of advice: Tell your children you love them, because “it might be the last thing you say to them.” KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

 

Andrea Steen at an appointment with her substance abuse coordinator in Marshalltown, Iowa. She is taking Suboxone to mitigate her cravings, a treatment she heard about from a Facebook friend in Tennessee. “She could tell when I was high,” Ms. Steen said of her online friend. Credit Scott Morgan for The New York Times

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA

 

Help May Be Thin on the Ground

 

Andrea Steen is one of the fortunate ones. For people in this rural community of 28,000, getting medication to help overcome opioid addiction used to require long drives to treatment centers.

 

That changed about a year ago when two doctors here were licensed to prescribe Suboxone, a drug that eases withdrawal symptoms and helps keep opioid cravings at bay. Now Ms. Steen is one of their patients, coming once a month to check in and renew her prescription.

 

This epidemic is different from those of the past in significant ways. One is that it has spawned a growing demand for medications that can help modify addiction’s impact.

 

One of them is naloxone, known as Narcan, a powerful antidote that has jolted hundreds of overdosed users back to life. Another is buprenorphine, typically sold as Suboxone.

 

By keeping users from experiencing cravings and withdrawal, Suboxone can make it easier for addicts to stay off heroin and other opioids. The number of doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine has more than doubled since 2011, to about 36,000 from about 16,000, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Yet the drug remains out of reach for many rural Americans.

 

“I was in love with it the first

time I tried it. I craved and sought

it through every step of my days.”

BRADEN EWELL, ODESSA, TEX. WE COLLECTED RESPONSES FROM READERS ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH OPIOIDS. READ MORE HERE »

Ms. Steen, 46, is among 20 patients who get Suboxone from the two doctors authorized to prescribe it here. Until last summer, she said, she abused Vicodin and morphine relentlessly. She would steal them from her disabled husband, who would try in vain to hide them. But sometimes she couldn’t root out the pills fast enough, and she would experience what every addict dreads most: withdrawal.

 

She heard about Suboxone from a friend in Tennessee whom she met through Facebook.

 

“She could tell when I was high,” Ms. Steen said. “Her husband was on Suboxone. She was trying to help me.”

 

Ms. Steen started on Suboxone in July, initially making weekly visits to Dr. Nicole Gastala and Dr. Timothy Swinton, the family practitioners here who prescribe the drug. Then it was every other week.

 

Unlike methadone, which also helps treat opioid addiction but must be taken under supervision at special clinics, Suboxone can be taken at home. Some doctors fail to follow Suboxone patients closely, or to test their urine to make sure they are not abusing or selling the medication or using other drugs. But the protocol here is strict.

 

Besides her doctor visits, Ms. Steen must attend group therapy and have regular urine tests.

 

She has mostly stopped craving opioids, for now. ABBY GOODNOUGH

 


 

Jordan, who asked that his last name not be disclosed, was on his third stint in rehab. He once blew through a $20,000 inheritance in a month to get what he called the best heroin in the city. He was getting treatment at The Hills center in Los Angeles. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES

 

Tough-Love Rehab

 

They enter through an unmarked turquoise storefront, nestled between fashion boutiques on Melrose Avenue. They gather in a circle, ready for the tough-love approach they have come to expect from Howard C. Samuels, a clinical psychologist who runs the Hills, a drug rehabilitation center whose location is central to its marketing.

 

A spot in the room is hard to come by, as are most drug rehabilitation services, especially for the poor and anyone without the proper insurance. The Hills, which can cost around $50,000, serves a more privileged population, yet its mission is no less daunting.

 

In 2014, heroin became the most common reported drug of choice among those seeking treatment in Los Angeles County, surpassing marijuana and methamphetamine.

 

Dr. Samuels began with what he called a reality check. “How many of you have been to at least five treatment centers?” he asked. Nearly every one of the 19 clients in the room raised a hand.

 

“How about 10?” Still half of the clients raised their hands.

 

One of them, Jordan, who agreed to tell his story only if his last name was not disclosed, knows he is one of the lucky ones. This is only his third time in rehab, a relative rookie at 33 years old. This was his 118th day sober.

 

Jordan has been collecting his sobriety chips. At the time a reporter spoke to him, he was on his 118th day sober. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

He had smoked pot, taken ecstasy and occasionally snorted cocaine. But heroin seemed off-limits to him, a college-educated son of two therapists, until a friend offered him some to smoke. Four years later, he blew through a $20,000 inheritance in a month to get what he called the best heroin in the city.

 

After his first days of detox were over at the Hills, Jordan began what would be months of therapy. He confronted what Dr. Samuels calls “character defects,” and rattles his off easily: lust, anger, lack of discipline.

 

On this day, he knows he will draw the wrath of Dr. Samuels: Subverting the rules, he recently went out for his seventh tattoo. “My addiction has been replaced with addiction to other things: going to the gym, smoking, girls, getting tattoos.”

 

“Don’t you owe me an apology?” Dr. Samuels said to him, almost shouting.

 

Jordan answered quietly: “Yeah, I guess I owe you and some people an apology.”

 

“I’m glad you’re apologizing to me. That’s good, but what’s bad is, it came so naturally,” Dr. Samuels said.

 

Members of the King County’s Emergency Service Patrol, from left, Todd Ayling, Dan Manus and Soloman Tesfay, prepare to help an intoxicated man in Seattle. Mr. Manus, a former addict himself, says, “It just seems today that there’s so much more out there, so many more people.” Credit David Ryder for The New York Times

SEATTLE

 

‘For the Grace of God, There Go I’

 

The girl looked to be barely out of her teens, and was teetering on the brink of consciousness.

 

“She couldn’t even form a sentence,” said Dan Manus, a soft-spoken 61-year-old in a Seattle Seahawks cap. His jaw tightened as he recalled the night in October when he and his partner on the King County Emergency Service Patrol found the girl and, he thinks, saved her life.

 

A former addict, he knows the terrain too well. He’s been clean for 22 years now, and working for the county for the last nine.

 

“I can relate to everybody I work with down there, because for the grace of God, there go I,” Mr. Manus said, standing in the patrol parking lot between runs. “So, yeah, I feel like this kind of was my calling.”

 

The Emergency Service Patrol was established in the 1980s by a private charity (later taken over by King County) to rescue street alcoholics by bringing them to a safe “sobering center” to sleep it off.

 

In October, though, in an acknowledgment of heroin’s new ravages — treatment admissions for heroin in King County surpassed alcohol for the first time in 2015 — Mr. Manus and other patrol crew members were trained and equipped with naloxone.

 

“I remember the moments of shame

and guilt after being resuscitated from

an overdose. It didn’t start like that,

but no one told me it would end like that.”

ZACH NEUSER, MIDLAND, TEX. WE COLLECTED RESPONSES FROM READERS ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH OPIOIDS. READ MORE HERE »

“Harm reduction” is an approach that was to some degree pioneered here. One of the nation’s first clean-needle exchanges started in nearby Tacoma in 1988.

 

King County is now considering opening what could be the country’s first safe-injection site. There, addicts could use drugs under supervision by a health worker who may, crucially, also open the door to recovery programs, all under one roof.

 

For Mr. Manus, the crisis is personal. In 1992, he was saved from death by someone who found him in mid-overdose and called paramedics.

 

California Today

The news and stories that matter to Californians (and anyone else interested in the state), delivered weekday mornings.

Seattle was a different, harder-edged city back then. Grunge music, and the heroin that swirled like a slipstream through the lives and song lyrics of some of its stars, was spilling out of the clubs.

 

The mix of drugs was changing, too. Heroin’s impact in King County surged in the late 1990s in the number of times it was identified in connection with a drug death, before beginning a near decade-long slide — a period that coincided with an increase in the number of times prescription opioids were found in victims’ bodies, which peaked in 2009. In that same year, heroin’s role began rising again to hit its highest-ever, worst numbers in 2014 with a drop since then, according to county figures.

 

More people lately seem to be on complex combinations of drugs, Mr. Manus said — like the girl who, at his direction, was treated by paramedics.

 

“It just seems today that there’s so much more out there, so many more people,” Mr. Manus said quietly. “It feels nonstop.” KIRK JOHNSON

 

An undercover Homeland Security agent inspects a car in which border patrol agents found heroin and methamphetamine in Nogales, Ariz. Much of the heroin that enters the United States comes hidden in cars, suitcases or hollowed fire extinguishers, or strapped to thighs, crotches and chests of people who cross between both countries. Credit Caitlin O'Hara for The New York Times

NOGALES, ARIZ.

 

Outwitting the Mules

 

A tipster warned: Look out for a silver Nissan Sentra approaching the busy Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz., a crucial gateway for cheap heroin made in Mexico.

 

Early one morning, the Nissan rolled into passport control. A Customs and Border Protection officer caught the telltale signs of a driver who had something to hide: the darting eyes, the tight grip on the steering wheel.

 

The driver carried a border-crossing card, an entry permission given only to Mexican citizens. He also carried his wife and two small children and a load of heavy drugs: four pounds of methamphetamine in the passenger’s backrest, and seven and a half pounds of heroin between the engine and the dashboard.

 

Last year, Customs and Border Protection agents seized more than 930 pounds of heroin in Arizona, which is almost one-third of all heroin seized along the entire southern border. Agents acknowledge that they catch only a small fraction of what goes through.

 

Heroin seized by border agents in Nogales. An agent speculated that the drugs belonged to a distribution offshoot of the Sinaloa cartel called the Chino Leys. Credit Caitlin O'Hara for The New York Times

Much of the heroin that enters this country comes hidden in cars, concealed in suitcases, squeezed inside hollowed fire extinguishers, or strapped to the thighs, crotches and chests of Mexicans and Americans who cross between the two countries.

 

To the special agents assigned to Homeland Security Investigations, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, mules are the first link of a knotted chain that may or may not lead to the agents’ ultimate prize: a top drug trafficker.

 

“It’s about preventing the narcotics from entering the community,” said Jesus Lozania, the agent in charge in Nogales. “It’s taking down the organization from the bottom all the way to the top: the mules, the people who coordinate the logistics, the persons who handle the money after the narcotics are sold in the United States. That cash has to make its way back to Mexico.”

 

It is about building conspiracy cases bit by bit.

 

That morning at the border, three special agents noticed the black letters stamped on the bricks of heroin: LEY. “That’s probably from the Chino Leys, probably Sinaloa,” said one of the agents, who declined to provide his name because he works undercover.

 

The Chino Leys, he said, are one of the drug distribution organizations in the Sinaloa cartel, which controls the routes that slice through Arizona, aimed for the Northeast. Cleveland, New York and New Jersey are main destinations for Sinaloa’s heroin these days.

 

The driver said he had borrowed his cousin’s car to come to Nogales to buy sweaters. The disbelieving agent pressed on. The driver crossed his arms.

 

“The guy’s not talking,” the agent said. FERNANDA SANTOS

Kolton World, 30, hugs his mother, Marsha, before she leaves for her job at a dry cleaner in Huntington, Utah. Every day she gives him one pill of naltrexone to control heroin cravings. The Four Corners Behavioral Health center in the nearby town of Price is the only substance-abuse center for miles. Three of its staff members have lost family members to addiction. Credit Cayce Clifford for The New York Times

HUNTINGTON, UTAH

 

Staying Clean in the High Desert

 

As she drives to work each morning, past horse ranches and nodding oil pumps, Marsha World stops to give her son, Kolton, a pale yellow pill to help keep him off heroin for another day.

 

There are few options for drug treatment in the high desert of central Utah, a remote expanse of struggling coal mines, white-steepled Mormon towns and some of the country’s highest opiate death rates.

 

The lone doctor licensed to prescribe one addiction-treating drug has a waiting list. The main detox center is the county jail. So mothers like Ms. World occupy the lonely front lines of a heroin crisis that has reached deep into the remotest corners of rural America.

 

The sun was just skimming over the sagebrush hills when Ms. World climbed out of her car and palmed that day’s naltrexone pill for her 30-year-old son. Unlike other medications Mr. World has taken over 11 years of addiction and rehab, jail and relapse, this one seemed to help.

 

Mr. World was in a treatment program ordered by the local drug court, and Ms. World had promised the judge she would keep the pills at her house and bring one to him. Every day.

 

“Every time he lied to me about getting clean,

I would believe him and try to help him out.

Now I just hope his bottom is not his death.” 

The rate of prescription overdose deaths among the 32,000 people sprinkled across two neighboring counties in this corner of Utah is nearly four times the state average. Addiction has rippled through ranks of miners who relied on pain pills after years of digging coal and working in the power plants.

 

Karen Dolan, who runs the Four Corners Behavioral Health center in the nearby town of Price, the only substance-abuse facility for miles, said three of her staff members had lost family members to addiction. At the power plant where her husband works, some of his co-workers’ family members have died of overdoses. Heroin accounts for 31 percent of the clinic’s admissions, up from 3 percent in 2010.

 

“People call every day and say, ‘Do you have an opening?’” Ms. Dolan said. “We don’t have any money to pay for medication-assisted treatment, and we don’t have prescribers to provide treatment.”

 

After years struggling with heroin addiction in Salt Lake City, Mr. World moved back in 2013, to the community where he had grown up in a loving family that went to Mormon services on weekends. (He is no longer a part of the church.)

 

But it was no sanctuary. When Mr. World found a stray Chihuahua on the road a few months ago, it turned out the dog’s young owner was in jail because of an opiate addiction. And getting drugs here proved just as easy as in the city: One Facebook message to an acquaintance did it.

 

But it has been more than 300 days since he last used. His days now are work, therapy, random drug tests at the sheriff’s office and morning visits from Mom.

 

“Love you,” she said after he took his pill. She hugged her son and his boyfriend goodbye, and drove to her job at the dry cleaner. JACK HEALY

 

Sara Schreiber is the forensic technical director of the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office. Last year, more than 265 people in the county died of drug-related overdoses, including the medical examiner’s son. In one seven-week period last summer, more than 70 people died of overdoses. Credit Darren Hauck for The New York Times

MILWAUKEE

 

In the End, Uncomprehending

 

Sometimes they call themselves “the last responders.”

 

They work in the county medical examiner’s office, in a low-slung brick building downtown in the shadow of an old Pabst factory. Here is where they take over after a drug addiction has been more powerful than pleas from family, 12-step programs or even Narcan.

 

“We’re the end of the line,” said Sara Schreiber, the forensic technical director, walking through the autopsy rooms to talk about the office’s part in the opioid addiction epidemic — a crisis that has hit especially hard here.

 

Last year, 299 people in Milwaukee County died of drug-related overdoses. One of them was the medical examiner’s own son.

 

Adam Peterson died in September at the age of 29, found unresponsive in a friend’s apartment. “At this time I am not speaking publicly about Adam’s death, and I appreciate your forbearance as my wife and I work through this issue,” his father, Brian L. Peterson, the medical examiner, wrote in an email.

 

Dr. Peterson has continued his work despite his grief. He oversees a staff of nearly 30 people — administrators, toxicologists and laboratory employees — who have perhaps never been more overwhelmed. They are confronting a surge of drug-related deaths in Milwaukee County, the most populous county in Wisconsin, with nearly one million people in the city and suburbs.

 

“Seven rehabs, suboxone, doctors, methadone

clinics, money, money, money that you do

not have but you would sell your soul to get.”

 

They have witnessed an alarming rise in drug-related deaths for years now: 251 deaths in 2014, 255 in 2015, and they surpassed those figures in 2016. Dr. Peterson’s son was among those who died last summer in a surge of overdoses that in seven weeks took more than 70 lives.

 

Ms. Schreiber has witnessed much of the epidemic. The victims have been mostly middle-aged; more male than female; more white than black.

 

As she walked through the laboratory, she pointed out the epidemic’s effects. Now, the machines that analyze blood to help determine the ever-more-toxic blends of drugs are running far more often. They’re juggling more cases and analyzing more specimens than before.

 

Ms. Schreiber and her colleagues struggle with questions that they cannot answer. What can they do to stem the epidemic? How can they influence people while they are still alive?

 

It’s hard to know where to begin, she said. “You can’t outrun it.”


Taliban's Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say

Posted by Jerrald J President on March 27, 2017 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

/www.nytimes.com/2001/05/20/world/taliban-s-ban-on-poppy-a-success-us-aides-say.html

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  Surprise!!!! By JJP

 Taliban's Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say


 The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement's ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world's largest crop in less than a year, officials said today.

 

The American findings confirm earlier reports from the United Nations drug control program that Afghanistan, which supplied about three-quarters of the world's opium and most of the heroin reaching Europe, had ended poppy planting in one season.

 

But the eradication of poppies has come at a terrible cost to farming families, and experts say it will not be known until the fall planting season begins whether the Taliban can continue to enforce it.

 

''It appears that the ban has taken effect,'' said Steven Casteel, assistant administrator for intelligence at the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington.

 

The findings came in part from a Pakistan-based agent of the administration who was one of the two Americans on the team just returned from eight days in the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan.

 

Mr. Casteel said in an interview today that he was still studying aerial images to determine if any new poppy-growing areas had emerged. He also said that some questions about the size of hidden opium and heroin stockpiles near the northern border of Afghanistan remained to be answered. But the drug agency has so far found nothing to contradict United Nations reports.

 

The sudden turnaround by the Taliban, a move that left international drug experts stunned when reports of near-total eradication began to come in earlier this year, opens the way for American aid to the Afghan farmers who have stopped planting poppies.

 

On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced a $43 million grant to Afghanistan in additional emergency aid to cope with the effects of a prolonged drought. The United States has become the biggest donor to help Afghanistan in the drought.

 

''We will continue to look for ways to provide more assistance to the Afghans,'' he said in a statement, ''including those farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome.''

 

The Afghans are desperate for international help, but describe their opposition to drug cultivation purely in religious terms.

 

At the State Department, James P. Callahan, director of Asian affairs at the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs who was one of the experts sent to Afghanistan, described in an interview how the Taliban had applied and enforced the ban. He was told by farmers that ''the Taliban used a system of consensus-building.''

 

They framed the ban ''in very religious terms,'' citing Islamic prohibitions against drugs, and that made it hard to defy, he added. Those who defied the edict were threatened with prison.

 

Mr. Callahan said that in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, where the Taliban's hold is strongest, farmers said they would rather starve than return to poppy cultivation -- and some of them will, experts say.

 

In parts of Nangahar province in the east, where the Taliban's hold is less complete, farmers told the visiting experts that they would flee to Pakistan or risk illegal crops rather than watch their families die.

 

The end of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has come at a huge cost to farmers, Mr. Callahan and Mr. Casteel said. The rural economy, especially in the usual opium-poppy areas, had come to rely on the narcotics trade. ''The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country -- or certain regions of their country -- to economic ruin,'' Mr. Casteel said. ''They are trying to replace the crop with wheat, but that is easier said than done.''

 

''Wheat needs more water and earns no money until it is sold,'' Mr. Casteel said. ''With the opium trade they used to get their money up front.''

 

The Taliban, who used to collect taxes on the movement of opium, is also losing money, adding another layer of difficulty for a government that is already isolated and not recognized diplomatically by most nations.

 

Afghanistan is now under United Nations sanctions, imposed at the insistence of the United States because the Islamic movement will not turn over Osama bin Laden for trial in connection with attacks on two American Embassies in Africa in 1998.

 

American experts and United Nations officials say the Taliban are likely to face political problems if the effects of the opium ban are catastrophic and many people die.



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