|Posted by Jerrald J President on April 8, 2017 at 4:15 PM||comments (0)|
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
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
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
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Afghanistan 1980s *
Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *
Haiti 2004 *
Somalia 2007 to present
Libya 2011 *
Ukraine 2014 *
|Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
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.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
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.
“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.”
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.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 4:40 PM||comments (0)|
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.
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.
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.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on April 1, 2017 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
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?
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 27, 2017 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
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
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
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
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
‘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.
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
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
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
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.”
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 27, 2017 at 12:50 AM||comments (0)|
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.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 27, 2017 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
“Republicans are killing the requirements that insurance plans cover essential health benefits” such as emergency services, maternity care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and prescription drugs. This is why i wanted Trump to win the presidency America. don't you just love his compassion?By JJP
In Major Defeat for Trump, Push to Repeal Health Law Fails
WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders, facing a revolt among conservatives and moderates in their ranks, pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor Friday in a major defeat for President Trump on the first legislative showdown of his presidency.
“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, conceded.
The failure of the Republicans’ three-month blitz to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement exposed deep divisions in the Republican Party that the election of a Republican president could not mask. It cast a long shadow over the ambitious agenda that Mr. Trump and Republican leaders had promised to enact once their party assumed power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
And it was the biggest defeat of Mr. Trump’s young presidency, which has suffered many. His travel ban has been blocked by the courts. Allegations of questionable ties to the Russian government forced out his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Tensions with key allies such as Germany, Britain and Australia are high, and Mr. Trump’s approval ratings are at historic lows.
Republican leaders were willing to tolerate Mr. Trump’s foibles with the promise that he would sign into law their conservative agenda. The collective defeat of the health care effort could strain that tolerance.
Mr. Trump, in a telephone interview moments after the bill was pulled, tried to put the most flattering light on it. “The best thing that could happen is exactly what happened — watch,” he said.
“Obamacare unfortunately will explode,” Mr. Trump said later. “It’s going to have a very bad year.” At some point, he said, after another round of big premium increases, “Democrats will come to us and say, ‘Look, let’s get together and get a great health care bill or plan that’s really great for the people of our country.’”
Mr. Trump expressed weariness with the effort, though its failure took a fraction of the time that Democrats devoted to enacting the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010. “It’s enough already,” the president said.
A major reason for the bill’s demise was the opposition of members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which wanted more aggressive steps to lower insurance costs and to dismantle federal regulation of insurance products.
In a day of high drama, Mr. Ryan rushed to the White House shortly after noon on Friday to tell Mr. Trump he did not have the votes for a repeal bill that had been promised for seven years — since Mr. Obama signed the landmark health care law. During a 3 p.m. phone call, the two men decided to withdraw the bill rather than watch its defeat on the House floor.
Mr. Trump later told journalists in the Oval Office that Republicans were 10 to 15 votes short of what they needed to pass the repeal bill.
The effort to win passage had been relentless, and hardly hidden. Vice President Mike Pence and Tom Price, the health secretary, visited Capitol Hill on Friday for a late appeal to House conservatives, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker, said, “We are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” after Republicans decided to pull the bill repealing Obamacare in a blow to President Trump. By ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »
“You can’t pretend and say this is a win for us,” said Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, who conceded it was a “good moment” for Democrats.
“Probably that champagne that wasn’t popped back in November may be utilized this evening,” Mr. Walker said.
At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Mr. Ryan called Republicans into a closed-door meeting to deliver the news that the bill would be withdrawn, with no plans to try again. The meeting lasted five minutes. One of the architects of the House bill, Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon and the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, put it bluntly: “This bill’s done.”
“We are going to focus on other issues at this point,” he said.
The Republican bill would have repealed tax penalties for people without health insurance, rolled back federal insurance standards, reduced subsidies for the purchase of private insurance and set new limits on spending for Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers more than 70 million low-income people. The bill would have repealed hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act and would also have cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year.
Mr. Ryan had said the bill included “huge conservative wins.” But it never won over conservatives who wanted a more thorough eradication of the Affordable Care Act. Nor did it have the backing of more moderate Republicans who were anxiously aware of the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment that the bill would leave 24 million more Americans without insurance in 2024, compared with the number who would be uninsured under the current law.
The budget office also warned that in the short run, the Republicans’ legislation would drive insurance premiums higher. For older Americans approaching retirement, the cost of insurance could have risen sharply.
With the House’s most hard-line conservatives holding fast against the bill, support for the legislation collapsed Friday after more and more Republicans came out in opposition. They included Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, the soft-spoken chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Barbara Comstock of Virginia, whose suburban Washington district went for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, in November.
“Seven years after enactment of Obamacare, I wanted to support legislation that made positive changes to rescue health care in America,” Mr. Frelinghuysen said. “Unfortunately, the legislation before the House today is currently unacceptable as it would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituents in New Jersey.”
The bill died after Republican leaders, in a bid for conservative support, agreed to eliminate federal standards for the minimum benefits that must be provided by certain health insurance policies.
“It’s so cartoonishly malicious that I can picture someone twirling their mustache as they drafted it in their secret Capitol lair last night,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. “Republicans are killing the requirements that insurance plans cover essential health benefits” such as emergency services, maternity care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and prescription drugs.
Mr. Trump blamed Democrats for the bill’s defeat, and they proudly accepted responsibility.
“Let’s just, for a moment, breathe a sigh of relief for the American people that the Affordable Care Act was not repealed,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader.
Defeat of the bill could be a catalyst if it forces Republicans and Democrats to work together to improve the Affordable Care Act, which members of both parties say needs repair. Democrats have been saying for weeks that they want to work with Republicans on such changes, but first, they said, Republicans must abandon their drive to repeal the law.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan walked in the Capitol on Friday after a vote on the rules for debating the American Health Care Act, the bill to replace the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
“Obamacare is the law of the land,” Mr. Ryan said. “It’s going to remain the law of the land until it’s replaced.”
Whatever success Mr. Trump had in making business deals, he utterly failed in his first effort at cutting a deal at the pinnacle of power in Washington, Democrats said.
“This is not the art of the deal,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas, alluding to Mr. Trump’s best-selling book. “It is the art of the steal, of taking away insurance coverage from families that really need it to provide tax breaks for those at the very top.”
Rejection of the repeal bill may prompt Republicans to reconsider the political strategy they were planning to use for the next few years.
“We have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether or not we are even capable of functioning as a governing body,” said Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota. “If ‘no’ is your goal, it’s the easiest goal in the world to reach.”
Representative Robert Pittenger, Republican of North Carolina, offered this advice to hard-line conservatives who helped sink the bill: “Follow the example of Ronald Reagan. He was a master; he built consensus. He would say, ‘I’ll take 80 percent and come back for the other 20 percent later.’”
Failure of the House effort leaves the Affordable Care Act in place, with all the features Republicans detest.
“We tried our hardest,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess of Texas, chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health. “There were people who were not interested in solving the problem. They win today.”
“The Freedom Caucus wins,” he added. “They get Obamacare forever.”
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 26, 2017 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 26, 2017 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
Make America great again? Meet the new boss(President of the USA), same as the last 44! By JJP
Only the wealthiest would get $600 billion in tax breaks from 'Trumpcare' replacement for Obamacare?
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who helped put himself through college by working as a magician, has continued his performing since joining Congress.
In the March 20, 2017 episode of "Magic Mondays," his regular video feature, the Wisconsin Democrat appeared to make part of a playing card move from his closed hand into an assistant’s hand.
The purpose of the trick was to attack the Republican replacement for Obamacare, which is championed by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, supported by President Donald Trump and up for a House vote on March 23, 2017.
Under "Trumpcare," as Pocan calls the proposal, "$600 billion worth of tax breaks will go to the wealthiest in this country."
That figure has made headlines.
But Pocan’s claim, while partially on target, suffers from saying that all the money would go to "the wealthiest."
Recent claims about what is formally known as the American Health Care Act -- including two portraying it as a sop to the rich -- have gotten mixed reviews on the Truth-O-Meter.
Mostly False: A claim from U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who previously held Pocan’s seat, that "TrumpCare" would let insurance executives "personally make millions off your health care." One provision pegged at $400 million over 10 years is a tax break for corporations, not executives, and there’s no way to know how much of it would be turned into compensation for executives.
Mostly True: A claim by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that the GOP legislation gives "$275 billion in tax breaks for the top 2 percent, people earning $250,000 a year or more." The savings over 10 years is projected to benefit the top 4.4 percent.
Half True: Ryan’s claim that the legislation "will lower premiums." For people who buy health insurance on their own, premiums are expected to be higher than Obamacare in 2018 and 2019, but lower than Obamacare after that.
The $600 billion
It’s important to remember that the claims in those fact checks, along with the one by Pocan, were made about the original GOP replacement proposal -- prior to tweaks made in the days leading up to the expected House vote.
The widely reported $600 billion in tax breaks comes from a solid source: estimates made by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, which is staffed by independent professionals. That’s the value over 10 years (2017 through 2026) of repealing nearly all the taxes contained in Obamacare and making other tax changes.
To evaluate Pocan’s characterization of the $600 billion, we relied on analyses done by two expert nonprofit organizations -- the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Tax Policy Center. Here’s our breakdown:
$275 billion to high-income earners by repealing two taxes:
$158 billion: A 3.8 percent tax applied to capital gains, dividend and interest income for families with $250,000 or more in income ($200,000 for singles).
$117 billion: Medicare surtax -- a 0.9 percent tax hike on wage income in excess of $250,000 a year for couples ($200,000 for singles).
It’s arguable whether households earning $250,000 per year are "the wealthiest," but they are clearly on the high end of the income scale.
According to the Tax Policy Center: About 90 percent of the benefit from repealing the investment tax would go to the top 1 percent of earners, who make $700,000 or more. And more than 99 percent of people would get no benefit from repeal of the Medicare surtax, while those in the top 1 percent would get three-quarters of the benefit—an average tax cut of $7,300.
The rest of the $600 billion can be broken into two categories.
$190 billion to businesses by repealing three taxes:
$145 billion: A tax on health insurance companies based on their market share.
$25 billion: Annual fee paid by prescription drugmakers and importers.
$20 billion: A 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device makers and importers.
Both Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center and Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget told us these are a mixed bag. Repealing the taxes helps shareholders of those corporations, who tend to be wealthier; but they would also help a broad swath of people through lower prices.
$122 billion to a variety of individuals through tax changes:
$49 billion: Postponing the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans actually helps middle-income taxpayers, the Tax Policy Center says.
$35 billion: Allowing more tax deductions for medical expenses -- starting at 7.5 percent of income, rather than 10 percent. This tends to help middle- and upper-income people, given that the rich are well insured and the poor don’t pay income taxes.
$19 billion: Repealing a cap of $2,500 on the pre-tax dollars workers could put into flexible spending accounts annually. Poorer people can’t afford to put more than $2,500 aside for medical expenses, but this change benefits middle-income folks as well as the wealthiest.
$19 billion: Increasing, to $6,550 for an individual and $13,100 for couples, the amount that could be put annually into a Health Savings Account. Similar impact as the pre-tax change.
Pocan says that under "Trumpcare," the Republican replacement for Obamacare, "$600 billion worth of tax breaks will go to the wealthiest in this country."
Not all of the $600 billion in tax breaks (over 10 years) would go to the wealthiest Americans.
But nearly half -- $275 billion -- would almost exclusively benefit only people on the highest end of the income scale.
And the wealthiest, along with middle- and lower-income Americans, would benefit from the remainder of the tax breaks.
For a statement that is partially accurate but leaves out important details, our rating is Half True.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 26, 2017 at 10:55 AM||comments (0)|
This is why the South has "Right to Work" legislation everywhere. Which means right to get "SCREWED". Pay is "$8.75 an hour to $10.50" . Race to the bottom is here America! By JJP
Inside Alabama’s Auto Jobs Boom: Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs
The South’s manufacturing renaissance comes with a heavy price.
Regina Elsea was a year old in 1997 when the first vehicle rolled off the Mercedes-Benz assembly line near Tuscaloosa. That gleaming M-Class SUV was historic. Alabama, the nation’s fifth-poorest state, had wagered a quarter-billion dollars in tax breaks and other public giveaways to land the first major Mercedes factory outside Germany. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai followed with Alabama plants of their own. Kia built a factory just over the border in West Point, Ga. The auto parts makers came next. By the time Elsea and her five siblings were teenagers, the country roads and old cotton fields around their home had come alive with 18-wheelers shuttling instruments and stamped metal among the car plants and 160 parts suppliers that had sprouted up across the state.
A good student, Elsea loved reading, horses, and dogs, especially her Florida cracker cur, named Cow. She dreamed of becoming a pediatrician. She enrolled in community college on a federal Pell Grant, with plans to transfer to Auburn University, about 30 miles from her home in Five Points. But she fell in love with a kindergarten sweetheart, who’d become a stocker at a local Walmart, and dropped out of school to make money so they could rent their own place.
Elsea went to work in February 2016 at Ajin USA in Cusseta, Ala., the same South Korean supplier of auto parts for Hyundai and Kia where her sister and stepdad worked. Her mother, Angel Ogle, warned her against it. She’d worked at two other parts suppliers in the area and found the pace and pressure unbearable.
Elsea was 20 and not easily deterred. “She thought she was rich when she brought home that first paycheck,” Ogle says. Elsea and her boyfriend got engaged. She worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, hoping to move from temporary status at Ajin to full time, which would bring a raise from $8.75 an hour to $10.50. College can wait, she told her mom and stepdad.
On June 18, Elsea was working the day shift when a computer flashed “Stud Fault” on Robot 23. Bolts often got stuck in that machine, which mounted pillars for sideview mirrors onto dashboard frames. Elsea was at the adjacent workstation when the assembly line stopped. Her team called maintenance to clear the fault, but no one showed up. A video obtained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows Elsea and three co-workers waiting impatiently. The team had a quota of 420 dashboard frames per shift but seldom made more than 350, says Amber Meadows, 23, who worked beside Elsea on the line. “We were always trying to make our numbers so we could go home,” Meadows says. “Everybody was always tired.”
After several minutes, Elsea grabbed a tool—on the video it looks like a screwdriver—and entered the screened-off area around the robot to clear the fault herself. Whatever she did to Robot 23, it surged back to life, crushing Elsea against a steel dashboard frame and impaling her upper body with a pair of welding tips. A co-worker hit the line’s emergency shut-off. Elsea was trapped in the machine—hunched over, eyes open, conscious but speechless.
No one knew how to make the robot release her. The team leader jumped on a forklift and raced across the factory floor to the break room, where he grabbed a maintenance man and drove him back on his lap. The technician, from a different part of the plant, had no idea what to do. Tempers erupted as Elsea’s co-workers shoved the frightened man, who was Korean and barely spoke English, toward the robot, demanding he make it retract. He fought them off and ran away, Meadows says. When emergency crews arrived several minutes later, Elsea was still stuck. The rescue workers finally did what Elsea had failed to do: locked out the machine’s emergency power switch so it couldn’t reenergize again—a basic precaution that all factory workers are supposed to take before troubleshooting any industrial robot. Ajin, according to OSHA, had never given the workers their own safety locks and training on how to use them, as required by federal law. Ajin is contesting that finding.
An ambulance took Elsea to a nearby hospital; from there she was flown by helicopter to a trauma center in Birmingham. She died the next day. Her mom still hasn’t heard a word from Ajin’s owners or senior executives. They sent a single artificial flower to her funeral.
Alabama has been trying on the nickname “New Detroit.” Its burgeoning auto parts industry employs 26,000 workers, who last year earned $1.3 billion in wages. Georgia and Mississippi have similar, though smaller, auto parts sectors. This factory growth, after the long, painful demise of the region’s textile industry, would seem to be just the kind of manufacturing renaissance President Donald Trump and his supporters are looking for.
Except that it also epitomizes the global economy’s race to the bottom. Parts suppliers in the American South compete for low-margin orders against suppliers in Mexico and Asia. They promise delivery schedules they can’t possibly meet and face ruinous penalties if they fall short. Employees work ungodly hours, six or seven days a week, for months on end. Pay is low, turnover is high, training is scant, and safety is an afterthought, usually after someone is badly hurt. Many of the same woes that typify work conditions at contract manufacturers across Asia now bedevil parts plants in the South.
“The supply chain isn’t going just to Bangladesh. It’s going to Alabama and Georgia,” says David Michaels, who ran OSHA for the last seven years of the Obama administration. Safety at the Southern car factories themselves is generally good, he says. The situation is much worse at parts suppliers, where workers earn about 70¢ for every dollar earned by auto parts workers in Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Many plants in the North are unionized; only a few are in the South.)
Cordney Crutcher has known both environments. In 2013 he lost his left pinkie while operating a metal press at Matsu Alabama, a parts maker in Huntsville owned by Matcor-Matsu Group Inc. of Brampton, Ont. Crutcher was leaving work for the day when a supervisor summoned him to replace a slower worker on the line, because the plant had fallen 40 parts behind schedule for a shipment to Honda Motor Co. He’d already worked 12 hours, Crutcher says, and wanted to go home, “but he said they really needed me.” He was put on a press that had been acting up all day. It worked fine until he was 10 parts away from finishing, and then a cast-iron hole puncher failed to deploy. Crutcher didn’t realize it. Suddenly the puncher fired and snapped on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.
Now Crutcher, 42, commutes an hour to the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., where he’s a member of United Auto Workers. “They teach you the right way,” he says. “They don’t throw you to the wolves.” His pay rose from $12 an hour at Matsu to $18.21 at GM.
In 2014, OSHA’s Atlanta office, after detecting a high number of safety violations at the region’s parts suppliers, launched a crackdown. The agency cited one year, 2010, when workers in Alabama parts plants had a 50 percent higher rate of illness and injury than the U.S. auto parts industry as a whole. That gap has narrowed, but the incidence of traumatic injuries in Alabama’s auto parts plants remains 9 percent higher than in Michigan’s and 8 percent higher than in Ohio’s. In 2015 the chances of losing a finger or limb in an Alabama parts factory was double the amputation risk nationally for the industry, 65 percent higher than in Michigan and 33 percent above the rate in Ohio.
“I gave them a very strong message … ‘American consumers are not going to want to buy cars stained with the blood of American workers’ ”
Korean-owned plants, which make up roughly a quarter of parts suppliers in Alabama, have the most safety violations in the state, accounting for 36 percent of all infractions and 52 percent of total fines, from 2012 to 2016. The U.S. is second, with 23 percent of violations and 17 percent of fines, and Germany is third, with 15 percent and 11 percent. But serious accidents occur in plants from all over, according to more than 3,000 pages of court documents and OSHA investigative files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Michaels, who was running OSHA when Elsea was killed, was furious when he learned how it happened. A year earlier, while attending a conference in Seoul, he’d paid a visit to executives at Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Co. to warn them that OSHA had found serious safety violations at many of their Korean-owned suppliers in the Southeast. Michaels told the carmakers they were squeezing their suppliers too hard. Their productivity demands were endangering lives, and they had to back off.
Elsea was killed at this plant only a month after Ajin settled OSHA violations related to eight other workers’ injuries.
“I gave them a very strong message: ‘This brings shame on your reputation. American consumers are not going to want to buy cars stained with the blood of American workers,’ ” says Michaels, who in January rejoined the faculty of George Washington University. “They didn’t acknowledge the problem but said they were committed to safe working conditions. Clearly, they didn’t make safety a requirement for their suppliers.” Safety is a top priority at Hyundai’s Alabama operation, says spokesman Robert Burns, who added that Hyundai promotes safety at suppliers’ plants with quarterly forums and requires suppliers to comply with OSHA standards.
After Elsea’s death, Ajin issued a statement saying all employees were being retrained in safety procedures. “Ajin USA is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Regina Elsea,” it said. A spokesman, Stephen Bradley, says the company can’t comment on the incident because of litigation. Elsea’s death “was a tragic accident, and Ajin remains deeply saddened,” the company said in a written statement. “Safety continues to be our guiding principle.”
Ajin had settled other OSHA violations a month before Elsea was killed. Eight workers had fingers crushed or fractured in recent years in welding machines. After the first seven injuries, Ajin’s safety manager recommended installation of a machine controller called Soft Touch, which slows welding electrodes and stops them from closing together if a finger is detected. Nothing happened. Then an eighth worker smashed his thumb. For the unsafe welding machines, OSHA fined Ajin a total of $7,000.
In December, after investigating Elsea’s death, OSHA fined the company $2.5 million for four “willful” citations, the agency’s most severe sanction, reserved for violators that “knowingly” disregard employee safety. Ajin is contesting the findings.
The pressure inside parts plants is wreaking a different American carnage than the one Trump conjured up at his inauguration. OSHA records obtained by Bloomberg document burning flesh, crushed limbs, dismembered body parts, and a flailing fall into a vat of acid. The files read like Upton Sinclair, or even Dickens.
Last year a 33-year-old maintenance worker was engulfed in flames at Nakanishi Manufacturing Corp.’s bearing plant in Winterville, Ga.—after four previous fires in the factory’s dust-collection system. OSHA levied a $145,000 fine on the Japanese company, which supplies parts to Toyota Motor Co., for a willful violation for knowingly exposing workers to unguarded machinery. The plant’s maintenance chief told the OSHA investigator that he’d been too busy to write up proper lockout procedures for working on the system. The technician suffered third-degree burns all over his upper body.
Phyllis Taylor, 53, scorched her hand inside an industrial oven last year at the HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc. insulation plant in Thomson, Ga., while baking foam rubber linings for BMW hoods. The oven had been down for repairs earlier that day, and “there was always pressure to catch up,” Taylor says. She slipped on a puddle of oil at her feet, and as she instinctively grabbed the oven in front of her, the door slammed down on her hand. She’d been telling her supervisor for weeks about the oil leak. “They don’t pay you no mind; they just want you to work,” says Taylor, who had skin graft surgery but still can’t close her dominant hand. The plant’s maintenance manager told OSHA, “The focus of this plant is production at all costs.” OSHA fined HP Pelzer $705,000 for 12 “repeat” safety violations.
“You heard all day long, ‘If we don’t get these parts out, the customer is going to fine us $80,000’ ”
Nathaniel Walker, 26, had been doing the same high-wire act for three years at the factory of WKW-Erbsloeh Automotive, a supplier of metal trim parts to Mercedes and BMW, in Pell City, Ala. Every Saturday he climbed onto a ventilation duct above big dipping pools of acid on the plant’s back line, where the aluminum parts were anodized to give them a protective coat. It was always a race. At first, Walker and a co-worker had 24 hours to clean and service as many of the 34 tanks as possible. As production demands rose, management cut that to 14 to 16 hours, and sometimes to as few as 6. The job required balance and dexterity. Walker and his colleague hopped on and off the 4½-foot-high ventilation shafts, hauling hoses, tools, and 50-pound bags of caustic soda. They were always exhausted—Walker worked from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week, for up to six months straight.
There were no gangways, no cables, no handrails. The only training the workers got from the plant’s German supervisors, according to Walker, was in how to rinse off the ventilation ducts so they weren’t so slippery.
In July 2014, Walker fell in. He was balancing on the duct between two tanks—one empty, one full—while using a crowbar in the empty one to remove and replace a lead cathode. His hands slipped, and he tumbled backward into a vat of sulfuric and phosphoric acid 4 feet deep. Submerged, he swam for a second before righting himself. A nearby co-worker quickly pulled him out and hosed him down, minimizing damage to his skin and eyes. Walker’s cotton shirt pulled off his skin like wet tissue paper. His throat burned and swelled from swallowing the solution. He spent four days in intensive care and didn’t fully recover for months.
OSHA fined WKW-Erbsloeh $178,000 and issued the company a willful violation for failing to secure the work areas around open chemical tanks. The agency had inspected WKW-Erbsloeh eight times since 2009 and issued multiple citations after another worker’s arm was chewed up in a polishing machine and a third employee lost a thumb. Walker was earning $13 an hour when he fell into the acid. “I was way, way underpaid for working all the time in a risky situation like that,” he says.
Ray Trott, a retired U.S. Marine aircraft maintenance chief, worked for WKW-Erbsloeh as a production manager until 2015. He says the German managers didn’t seem to understand the American workers and were never satisfied with what they got from them. “If you made 28,000 parts one day, the next day they’d want 29,000,” Trott says. “You heard all day long, ‘If we don’t get these parts out, the customer is going to fine us $80,000.’ ”
Allen, 35, took a job at Matsu Alabama to get his life together. After dropping out of high school, he’d worked briefly at McDonald’s, then sold marijuana for a living. When he turned 30, with three kids younger than 6 and his wife working at Walmart, Allen decided dealing dope was no way to raise a family. “They’d see cars pulling up, hear people talking, and ask, ‘Daddy what are you doing? You ain’t got no job.’ I wanted to better myself.”
He applied at Surge Staffing, a temp agency that was hiring workers for Matsu. Allen’s dad, who’d worked at the facility for a few weeks after a 30-year career making furniture at Steelcase Inc., told him to stay away—the Matsu plant was too dangerous. “Don’t let the monster eat you up,” he told his son.
Allen took a $9-an-hour job on the overnight shift as a janitor. He passed up higher-paying positions on the assembly line, because “the machines scared him,” says Adam Wolfsberger, the former manager at Surge Staffing who hired Allen. The only training he received was where to find the mop and broom, Wolfsberger says.
He stood there for an hour, his flesh burning inside the heated press. When emergency crews finally freed him, his right hand was severed at the wrist
On April 2, 2013, after Allen had been on the job for about six weeks, a plant supervisor ordered him to put down his broom. He assigned him to work the rest of the shift on one of the metal-stamping presses instead and admonished him not to tell anyone about the job switch. Matsu was producing only 60 percent of its parts quota and could have been fined $20,000 by Honda for every minute its shortfall held up the company’s assembly line, according to a deposition by the plant’s general manager at the time, Robert Todd, in a workers’ compensation suit filed by Allen in state court in Huntsville.
Allen testified in the case that his only operating instructions came from a co-worker who told him: “Get these blanks out of the bin. You load them in the machine, and you make sure you get back.” Stepping back was essential, not only to avoid injury but to clear the vertical safety beam, or light curtain, which is supposed to deactivate the machine if a worker is standing too close when an operator cycles it on.
At about 4 a.m., Allen, wiry and 5 feet 9 inches, was leaning inside the machine with his arms extended upward, loading metal bolts. Suddenly the die, which stamps the metal parts, slammed onto his arms. “It felt like the whole world was coming down on me,” he says. The press operator hadn’t noticed him working inside the machine, and Allen’s frame was so slight that the safety beam missed him.
He stood there for an hour, his flesh burning inside the heated press. Someone brought a fan to cool him off. “I was just talking to myself about what my daddy had told me,” Allen says. When emergency crews finally freed him, his left hand was “flat like a pancake,” Allen says, and parts of three fingers were gone. His right hand was severed at the wrist, attached to his arm by a piece of skin. A paramedic cradled the gloved hand at Allen’s side all the way to the hospital. Surgeons removed it that morning and amputated the rest of his right forearm to avert gangrene several weeks later.
Matsu, it turned out, had known for years that Press 10, where Allen was dragooned into working, was dangerous. Three years earlier a press operator on the plant’s safety committee reported a near miss on an identical machine after the light curtain failed to pick up a worker. The safety committee recommended fixes to the vertical beam, but nothing was done, according to testimony in the court case. In 2012 a worker on that same press had his hand crushed. In response, Todd, the general manager, recommended installing horizontal beams to eliminate the blind spot in the vertical light curtains of both machines. It would have cost $6,000 to $7,000, Todd testified. John Carney, the company’s vice president for operations at the time, rejected the proposal. Instead, he told Todd to install a safety bar, for $150, Todd testified. It failed to protect Allen.
After Allen’s injury, Surge Staffing gathered its 80 or so Matsu workers for a meeting, says Wolfsberger, the former Surge manager. That’s when the agency learned the plant had provided no hands-on training, routinely ordered untrained temps to operate machines, sped up presses beyond manufacturers’ specifications, and allowed oil to leak onto the floor. “Upper management knew all that. They just looked the other way,” says Wolfsberger, who left Surge in 2014 and now manages a billiards parlor. “They treated people like interchangeable parts.”
An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission approved a $103,000 fine against Matsu, ruling that Allen’s injuries resulted from its “conscious disregard or plain indifference” to his safety. Matcor-Matsu did not respond to phone messages and emailed questions, nor did its attorney, John Coleman. After the commission’s 2015 decision, Coleman told the Birmingham News the judge was mistaken and that Allen was trained but didn’t follow the rules. Allen sued the company and reached a multimillion-dollar settlement out of court. He and his wife purchased 15 acres and a big house with a fish pond near the Tennessee River, prepaid their kids’ college tuition, and bought a bright-green Buick Roadmaster. “I’d rather have my arm back any day,” Allen says.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 17, 2017 at 6:55 PM||comments (0)|
"Four hundred of the 420 counties ARC operates in voted for Trump in November's election". This is the epitome of the "American Dream(Myth)" white America believes in. If it was'nt for government assistance their is no middle class. The sad part is they don't even know it's A"WELFARE PROGROM" ie FHA ring a bell! By JJP
Trump seeks to ax Appalachia economic programs, causing worry in coal country
PAINTSVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating funding for economic development programs supporting laid-off coal miners and others in Appalachia, stirring fears in a region that supported him of another letdown on the heels of the coal industry’s collapse.
The 2018 budget proposal submitted to Congress by the White House on Thursday would cut funds to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Washington-based organizations are charged with diversifying the economies of states like West Virginia and Kentucky to help them recover from coal’s decline.
The proposed cuts would save the federal government $340 million and come as the Republican president seeks to slash a wide array of federal programs and regulations to make way for increased military spending.
But they are perceived by some in Appalachia as a betrayal of his promises to help coal miners.
"Folks that live in Appalachia believe that the ARC belongs to them," said federal ARC Co-Chair Earl Gohl, bemoaning the proposed cut. "It's really their organization."
Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, who represents eastern Kentucky's coal counties, said he would fight to restore the funding when Congress negotiates the budget later this year.
“It's true that the president won his election in rural country. I would really like to see him climb aboard the ARC vehicle as a way to help us help ourselves," Rogers said.
Four hundred of the 420 counties ARC operates in voted for Trump in November's election.
The 52-year old agency has run more than 650 projects in Appalachia's 13 states between 2011 and 2015 costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Its programs, some launched under Democratic former President Barack Obama, are expected to create or retain more than 23,670 jobs and train and educate over 49,000 students and workers, the organization said.
Trump vowed during his campaign that the White House would put American coal miners back to work, in part by cutting environmental regulations ushered in by Obama, mainly aimed at curbing climate change but characterized by Trump as hampering the industry.
However, many industry experts and coal miners doubt that rolling back regulation alone can revive the coal mining industry, which faces stiff competition from abundant and cheap natural gas in fueling U.S. power generation.
Rigel Preston, a 38-year old former surface miner, said ARC programs helped him land a job as a paid intern at technology company Interapt after he lost his benefits.
He said that, while he and many members of his family in eastern Kentucky hope Trump will deliver on his promise to revive the coal industry, he believed the region's future lay elsewhere.
"From my experience from the coalfield, I know that that is a finite job and coal will run out eventually," Preston said.
Preston was among several former miners and other east Kentuckians at an event in Paintsville this week held by Interapt and ARC to announce Interapt's plan to hire another hundred people from the region this summer.
Interapt last year launched a program called TechHire Eastern Kentucky, supported by ARC, which provides 36 weeks of paid training in code and paid internships.
Interapt Chief Executive Ankur Gopal, a 37-year-old tech entrepreneur, expanded his Louisville-based company out to eastern Kentucky with the vision of lifting that part of his home state out of economic stagnation.
"There is a skilled workforce and opportunity that can be found here in eastern Kentucky," Gopal said. "This is not just a bunch of people that are waiting for coal mines to reopen."
ARC has worked on economic development in Appalachia since its founding in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty." In recent years it has focused on helping states in the region deal with the coal industry's sharp decline and the loss of 33,000 coal mining jobs between 2011 and 2016.
So far, ARC has had no official contact from the president's transition teams, said co-chair Gohl, an Obama appointee who remains in the job.
The cuts to its funding were recommended to the administration by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Nick Loris, an energy fellow at the foundation, said the work that ARC and the Economic Development Administration do should be devolved to state and local governments "to encourage transparency and reduce duplicative federal spending."
States have said their budgets are already strapped.
In addition to all of West Virginia and part of Kentucky, the ARC covers parts of Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 17, 2017 at 6:40 PM||comments (0)|
The "Hidden Hand" of the international banking cabal os specking! By JJP
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin warns Congress on debt ceiling
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter this week to Congress warning that the United States is about to reach its legal borrowing limit by next Thursday.
That's because the current debt ceiling suspension expires at the end of Wednesday, March 15.
Since Congress will almost certainly not act in time to raise the ceiling or extend the suspension, Mnuchin will have to start an official juggling act to ensure the country can continue to keep paying all its bills in full and on time. After the current suspension expires, the debt ceiling should reset a little north of $20 trillion next Thursday.
"At that time, Treasury anticipates that it will need to start taking certain extraordinary measures in order to temporarily prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations," Mnuchin wrote in a March 8 letter to leaders in the House and Senate.
He didn't specify how long "temporarily" will last. The Bipartisan Policy Center and Congressional Budget Office, however, have recently estimated that all the measures combined are likely to be exhausted sometime this fall.
If lawmakers haven't acted by then, the Treasury Department will no longer be able to pay all the country's bills because it will have run out of borrowing authority. And there won't be enough revenue plus cash on hand to cover all legal obligations.
Those obligations -- approved over the years by both parties -- include paying bondholders, federal contractors, Social Security recipients, tax filers owed refunds and a vast array of other parties for services rendered and benefits due.
That's why it's wrong to assert, as some do, that raising the debt ceiling is a "license to spend more." It's more like a license to continue paying what the country already owes.
Defaulting on any set of obligations could hurt the economy and markets to varying degrees, depending on who gets stiffed and for how long.
Typically no party in the majority wants that kind of crisis on their watch. So it's not surprising that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday told Politico that Congress would raise the debt ceiling. "The government will not default," McConnell said.
But that doesn't mean the path will be easy. Conservatives or Democrats -- seeking leverage -- may decide to make any number of demands in exchange for their support to raise or suspend the ceiling.
In any case, lawmakers will have several opportunities between now and the fall to deal with the issue. They have to pass two budgets -- one for the rest of this fiscal year and one for next year. And, if they get far enough on health reform or tax reform, they could work in a provision in those bills.
And Mnuchin very well may prod them again.
"As I said in my confirmation hearing, honoring the full faith and credit of our outstanding debt is a critical commitment," he wrote. "I encourage Congress to raise the debt limit at the first opportunity so that we can proceed with our joint priorities."
|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 17, 2017 at 6:35 PM||comments (0)|
The clock is ticking!!!! By JJP
Debt ceiling returns, creating new headache for GOP
The legal limit on how much the United States government can borrow returns on Thursday, potentially setting up an intense political battle in Congress.
Lawmakers will have until sometime this autumn to raise the debt ceiling before the Treasury runs out of ways to make essential payments, putting the nation at risk of its first-ever debt default.
The debt limit is a major test for the Trump administration and Republican congressional leaders who’ve sought major spending cuts before previous increases in the debt ceiling.
The White House and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are pushing lawmakers to raise the ceiling as soon as possible, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Congress will “obviously” increase the limit.
But the highly charged political atmosphere, demands from fiscal conservatives, record high debt levels and the perpetual wild card that is Trump all make a quick and easy increase in the borrowing limit unlikely.
Democrats have warned that Republicans shouldn’t count on their votes.
“We're not going to get what we want. We understand that. But if they think they're going to get everything they want, then they're going to have to get it with their votes,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
The debt ceiling was temporarily suspended in November 2015 through a budget deal negotiated by President Obama and then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). That deal waived the debt ceiling until March 15, retroactively approving all borrowing up to that time.
Mnuchin urged congressional leaders last week to raise the debt ceiling “at the first opportunity,” while the Treasury takes extraordinary measures to pay bills without adding to the country’s roughly $20 trillion debt. Those measures include stopping payments into certain government funds, halting certain bond sales and selling government-held securities.
“There’s some expenses associated with it,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan debt watchdog Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It’s a little ponzi scheme with government trust funds, but in the end, everyone remains whole.”
The Treasury can likely delay the need to raise the debt ceiling until October or November, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. At that point, Treasury will have exhausted extraordinary measures and would need to borrow more money to pay the country’s bills.
Lawmakers have squabbled over raising the debt ceiling, with the stakes escalating in recent years. The 2011 standoff over led to the creation of the sequester: automatic cuts touching every part of the federal budget, a policy now loathed by both parties for different reasons.
Republicans have previously demanded spending cuts or entitlement reforms for raising the debt ceiling, and leaders have been mum about what they’d seek this time around.
Trump has “expressed a commitment to work with Congress to raise the debt limit and to address the growing national debt,” a White House spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday. “The President’s team is also looking into a variety of ways in which to ensure that our commitments are kept.” The spokesperson declined to go into detail.
With meager majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP can afford few defections to pass the debt limit increase on their own. Democratic leaders have warned Republicans not to attach unreasonable or unrelated measures to the debt ceiling, or they wouldn’t support it.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). "[But] we're going to have to have some of our Republican colleagues step up to the plate on this issue."
Hoyer said "if there is a clean debt limit extension, I think Democrats would be inclined not to vote against it. But that's a big if."
“The problem will be that the hardliners will be more inclined or as inclined as the people who shut down the government last time,” said Hoyer. "If those hardliners continue in that position, then they'll be responsible for shutting down the government."
Several fiscal hawks said they wouldn’t support raising the debt ceiling without measures to reduce spending and the debt. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he’d support a hike only “if there is a real path to balance ... but we have typically not shown the intestinal fortitude to do just that.”
Meadows’ Freedom Caucus colleague Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) called the “debt ceiling is a leverage point in forcing conversation about where do we go from here” and said he wouldn’t vote for an increase without cuts.
"If our prescription is simply to keep on doing what we've been doing, I think that we're going to see one heck of a financial storm coming,” Meadows said.
The GOP’s ideological divide could be complicated by Trump. His only formal debt relief plan is a combination of ambitious economic growth promises and budget cuts with major impacts for government agencies but minor effects on the debt.
MacGuineas said Trump “has been all over the map when it comes to debt.”
“He kind of assumed the debt as a metric of his success or failure,” MacGuineas, but “he has yet to put forth any policies that would put us on a more responsible course.”
Observers and analysts ultimately expect Congress to raise the ceiling. Moody’s Investor Services expects the federal government to raise the debt ceiling before risking a default, and Fitch Ratings said Wednesday a debt ceiling crisis is less likely this year than in years past.
A former senior Senate aide said financial markets have come to expect contentious debt ceiling showdowns and trust the government to find a deal.
“Everybody warns about the debt ceiling but nothing ever happens, and until you see some sort of impact, someone calling in the money that they owe us,” said the former aide. “Cooler heads prevail under some sort of deal.”
|Posted by Jerrald J President on February 25, 2017 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
Dr Alan Greenspan was Chairman
of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to
2006 and has advised government
agencies, investment banks, and
hedge funds ever since. Here, he
reveals his deep concerns about
economic prospects in the developed
world, his view on gold’s important
role in the monetary system and
his belief in gold as the ultimate
Chairman of the Federal
Reserve from 1987 to 2006
In recent months, concerns about
stagflation have been rising.
Do you believe that these concerns
We have been through a protracted period of stagnant
productivity growth, particularly in the developed world,
driven largely by the aging of the ‘baby boom’ generation.
Social benefits (entitlements in the US) are crowding out
gross domestic savings, the primary source for funding
investment, dollar for dollar. The decline in gross domestic
savings as a share of GDP has suppressed gross nonresidential
capital investment. It is the lessened investment
that has suppressed the growth in output per hour globally.
Output per hour has been growing at approximately ½%
annually in the US and other developed countries over
the past five years, compared with an earlier growth rate
closer to 2%. That is a huge difference, which is reflected
proportionately in the gross domestic product and in
people’s standard of living.
As productivity growth slows down, the whole economic
system slows down. That has provoked despair and a
consequent rise in economic populism from Brexit to
Trump. Populism is not a philosophy or a concept, like
socialism or capitalism, for example. Rather it is a cry of
pain, where people are saying: Do something. Help!
At the same time, the risk of inflation is beginning to rise.
In the United States, the unemployment rate is below 5%,
which has put upward pressure on wages and unit costs
generally. Demand is picking up, as manifested by the
recent marked, broad increase in the money supply, which
is stoking inflationary pressures. To date, wage increases
have largely been absorbed by employers, but, if costs
are moving up, prices ultimately have to follow suit. If you
impose inflation on stagnation, you get stagflation.
The Federal Reserve’s gold vault.
Gold Investor | February 2017
Gold: The ultimate insurance policy
As inflation pressures grow, do
you anticipate a renewed interest
Significant increases in inflation will ultimately increase the
price of gold. Investment in gold now is insurance. It’s not
for short-term gain, but for long-term protection.
I view gold as the primary global currency. It is the only
currency, along with silver, that does not require a counterparty
signature. Gold, however, has always been far more
valuable per ounce than silver. No one refuses gold as
payment to discharge an obligation. Credit instruments and
fiat currency depend on the credit worthiness of a counterparty.
Gold, along with silver, is one of the only currencies
that has an intrinsic value. It has always been that way. No
one questions its value, and it has always been a valuable
commodity, first coined in Asia Minor in 600 BC.
Over the past year, we have
witnessed Brexit, Trump’s election
victory, and a decisive increase in
anti-establishment politics. How
do you think that central banks
and monetary policy will adjust to
this new environment?
The only example we have is what happened in the 1970s,
when we last experienced stagflation and there were
real concerns about inflation spiraling out of control. Paul
Volcker was brought in as chairman of the Federal Reserve,
and he raised the Federal Fund rate to 20% to stem the
erosion. It was a very destabilising period and by far the
most effective monetary policy in the history of the Federal
Reserve. I hope that we don’t have to repeat that exercise
to stabilise the system. But it remains an open question.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has greater problems
than the Federal Reserve. The asset side of the ECB’s
balance sheet is larger than ever before, having grown
steadily since Mario Draghi said he would do whatever it
took to preserve the euro. And I have grave concerns about
the future of the Euro itself. Northern Europe has, in effect,
been funding the deficits of the South; that cannot continue
indefinitely. The eurozone is not working.
In the UK, meanwhile, it remains unclear how Brexit will
be resolved. Japan and China remain mired in problems as
well. So, it is very difficult to find any large economy that
is reasonably solid, and it is extremely hard to predict how
central banks will respond.
I view gold as
Gold Investor | February 2017 13
Gold: The ultimate insurance policy
Although gold is not an official
currency, it plays an important role
in the monetary system. What role
do you think gold should play in
the new geopolitical environment?
The gold standard was operating at its peak in the late
19th and early 20th centuries, a period of extraordinary
global prosperity, characterised by firming productivity
growth and very little inflation.
But today, there is a widespread view that the 19th century
gold standard didn’t work. I think that’s like wearing the
wrong size shoes and saying the shoes are uncomfortable!
It wasn’t the gold standard that failed; it was politics.
World War I disabled the fixed exchange rate parities and
no country wanted to be exposed to the humiliation of
having a lesser exchange rate against the US dollar than it
enjoyed in 1913.
Britain, for example, chose to return to the gold standard
in 1925 at the same exchange rate it had in 1913 relative
to the US dollar (US$4.86 per pound sterling). That was a
monumental error by Winston Churchill, then Chancellor of
the Exchequer. It induced a severe deflation for Britain in
the late 1920s, and the Bank of England had to default in
1931. It wasn’t the gold standard that wasn’t functioning;
it was these pre-war parities that didn’t work. All wanted
to return to pre-war exchange rate parities, which, given
the different degree of war and economic destruction
from country to country, rendered this desire, in general,
Today, going back on to the gold standard would be
perceived as an act of desperation. But if the gold standard
were in place today we would not have reached the
situation in which we now find ourselves. We cannot afford
to spend on infrastructure in the way that we should. The
US sorely needs it, and it would pay for itself eventually in
the form of a better economic environment (infrastructure).
But few of such benefits would be reflected in private cash
flow to repay debt. Much such infrastructure would have to
be funded with government debt. We are already in danger
of seeing the ratio of federal debt to GDP edging toward
triple digits. We would never have reached this position
of extreme indebtedness were we on the gold standard,
because the gold standard is a way of ensuring that fiscal
policy never gets out of line.
Today there is a
widespread view that
the 19th century gold
standard didn’t work.
I think that’s like
wearing the wrong size
shoes and saying the
shoes are uncomfortable!
Significant increases in
inflation will ultimately
increase the price of gold.
Investment in gold now
is insurance. It’s not for
short-term gain, but for
Gold Investor | February 2017 14
Do you think that fiscal policy
should be adjusted to aid monetary
I think the reverse is true. Fiscal policy is much more
fundamental policy. Monetary policy does not have the
same potency. And if fiscal policy is sound, then monetary
policy becomes reasonably easy to implement. The very
worst situation for a central banker is an unstable fiscal
system, such as we are experiencing today.
The central issue is that the degree of government
expenditure growth, largely entitlements, is destabilising
the financial system. The retirement age of 65 has changed
only slightly since President Roosevelt introduced it in
1935, even though longevity has increased substantially
since then. So, the first thing we have to do is raise the
retirement age. That could cut expenditure appreciably.
I also believe that regulatory capital requirements for banks
and financial intermediaries need to be much higher than
they are currently. Looking back, every crisis of recent
generations has been a monetary crisis. The non-financial
part of the US economy was in good shape before 2008,
for example. It was the collapse of the financial system that
brought down the non-financial part of the economy. If you
build up enough capital in the financial system, the chances
of serial, contagious default are much decreased.
If we raised capital requirements for commercial banks,
for example, from the current average rate of around
11% to 20% or 30% of assets, bankers would argue
that they could not make profitable loans under such
circumstances. Office of the Controller of the Currency
data dating back to 1869 suggests otherwise. These data
demonstrate that the rate of bank net income to equity
capital has ranged between 5% and 10% for almost all
the years of the data’s history, irrespective of the level of
equity capital to assets. This suggests we could phase in
higher capital requirements overtime without decreasing
the effectiveness of the financial system. To be sure there
would likely be some contraction in lending, but, arguably,
those loans should, in all likelihood, never have been made
in the first place.
Against a background of ultra-low
and negative interest rates, many
reserve managers have been
large buyers of gold. In your view,
what role does gold play as a
When I was Chair of the Federal Reserve I used to testify
before US Congressman Ron Paul, who was a very strong
advocate of gold. We had some interesting discussions.
I told him that US monetary policy tried to follow signals
that a gold standard would have created. That is sound
monetary policy even with a fiat currency. In that regard,
I told him that even if we had gone back to the gold
standard, policy would not have changed all that much.
The very worst situation
for a central banker
is an unstable fiscal
system, such as we are
Gold: The ultimate insurance policy
Gold Investor | February 2017 15
The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on February 25, 2017 at 7:05 PM||comments (0)|
If there is only $1.5 Trillion dollars in circulation. Can anyone tell me how in the world the US government is $20Trillion dollars in debt. To a private corporation I may add. By JJP
How much U.S. currency is in circulation?
There was approximately $1.5 trillion in circulation as of January 11, 2017, of which $1.46 trillion was in Federal Reserve notes.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on February 25, 2017 at 6:55 PM||comments (0)|
Can you say "Hocus Pocus", this is crazy to think a private cartel creates money out of thin air on a printing press or computer. Yet for some strange reason we don't understand why where "BROKE"! Wake up... By JJP
How Currency Gets into Circulation
There is about $1.2 trillion dollars of U.S. currency in circulation.
The Federal Reserve Banks distribute new currency for the U.S. Treasury Department, which prints it.
Depository institutions buy currency from Federal Reserve Banks when they need it to meet customer demand, and they deposit cash at the Fed when they have more than they need to meet customer demand.
As of July 2013, currency in circulation—that is, U.S. coins and paper currency in the hands of the public—totaled about $1.2 trillion dollars. The amount of cash in circulation has risen rapidly in recent decades and much of the increase has been caused by demand from abroad. The Federal Reserve estimates that the majority of the cash in circulation today is outside the United States.
Meeting the Variable Demand for Cash
The public typically obtains its cash from banks by withdrawing cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) or by cashing checks. The amount of cash that the public holds varies seasonally, by the day of the month, and even by the day of the week. For example, people demand a large amount of cash for shopping and vacations during the year-end holiday season. Also, people typically withdraw cash at ATMs over the weekend, so there is more cash in circulation on Monday than on Friday.
To meet the demands of their customers, banks get cash from Federal Reserve Banks. Most medium- and large-sized banks maintain reserve accounts at one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, and they pay for the cash they get from the Fed by having those accounts debited. Some smaller banks maintain their required reserves at larger, "correspondent," banks. The smaller banks get cash through the correspondent banks, which charge a fee for the service. The larger banks get currency from the Fed and pass it on to the smaller banks.
When the public's demand for cash declines—after the holiday season, for example—banks find they have more cash than they need and they deposit the excess at the Fed. Because banks pay the Fed for cash by having their reserve accounts debited, the level of reserves in the nation's banking system drops when the public's demand for cash rises; similarly, the level rises again when the public's demand for cash subsides and banks ship cash back to the Fed. The Fed offsets variations in the public's demand for cash that could introduce volatility into credit markets by implementing open market operations.
The popularization of the ATM in recent years has increased the public's demand for currency and, in turn, the amount of currency that banks order from the Fed. Interestingly, the advent of the ATM has led some banks to request used, fit bills, rather than new bills, because the used bills often work better in the ATMs.
Maintaining a Cash Inventory
Each of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks keeps an inventory of cash on hand to meet the needs of the depository institutions in its District. Extended custodial inventory sites in several continents promote the use of U.S. currency internationally, improve the collection of information on currency flows, and help local banks meet the public's demand for U.S. currency. Additions to that supply come directly from the two divisions of the Treasury Department that produce the cash: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prints currency, and the United States Mint, which makes coins. Most of the inventory consists of deposits by banks that had more cash than they needed to serve their customers and deposited the excess at the Fed to help meet their reserve requirements.
When a Federal Reserve Bank receives a cash deposit from a bank, it checks the individual notes to determine whether they are fit for future circulation. About one-third of the notes that the Fed receives are not fit, and the Fed destroys them. As shown in the table below, the life of a note varies according to its denomination. For example, a $1 bill, which gets the greatest use, remains in circulation an average of 5.9 years; a $100 bill lasts about 15 years.
The Federal Reserve orders new currency from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces the appropriate denominations and ships them directly to the Reserve Banks. Each note costs about four cents to produce, though the cost varies slightly by denomination.
Virtually all of currency notes in use are Federal Reserve notes. Each Federal Reserve Bank is required by law to pledge collateral at least equal to the amount of currency it has issued into circulation. The bulk of the collateral pledged is in the form of U.S. Government securities and gold certificates owned by the Federal Reserve Banks.
Making U.S. Currency More Secure
In late 1996, the Treasury began issuing a series of Federal Reserve notes containing new features that make the notes harder to counterfeit. The Treasury introduced the modified notes in order of decreasing denomination—the $100 bill appeared in March 1996, the $50 bill in October 1997, the $20 bill in September 1998, and the $10 and $5 bills in May 2000. The most noticeable modification was a larger, slightly off-center portrait that incorporates more detail, thereby making the bill harder to counterfeit. For the benefit of persons with impaired vision, the back of the modified $50, $20, $10 and $5 bills features numerals larger than those on older currency.
In October 2003, the United States issued a newly redesigned $20 note with enhanced security features and subtle background colors of blue, peach and green. A new $50 note was issued on September 28, 2004. On March 2, 2006, the new $10 note entered circulation. On March 13, 2008, the new $5 note entered circulation. The $100 note is also slated to be redesigned, but a timetable for its introduction is not yet set.
Putting Coins into Circulation
The procedures for putting coins into circulation are similar to those for currency. The U.S. Mint produces coins in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, and ships them to the Federal Reserve Banks and to authorized armored carriers, which supply banks that need coins to meet the public's demand.
The distribution of coins differs from that of currency in some respects. First, when the Fed receives currency from the Treasury, it pays only for the cost of printing the notes. However, coins are a direct obligation of the Treasury, so the Reserve Banks pay the Treasury the face value of the coins. Second, large banks in some Federal Reserve Districts participate in a Direct Mint Shipment Program, and receive coins directly from the Mint. In the New York area, there also is an arrangement under which banks that need coins buy them from banks that have a surplus. To promote the arrangement, the New York Fed stands ready to match banks that have excess coins with those that need coins.July 2013
|Posted by Jerrald J President on February 25, 2017 at 6:45 PM||comments (0)|
The wheels keep on turning, Greece continues it's plunge into the financial abyss. Stop borrowing money, and print your own fiat currency(PAPER). By JJP
‘From bad to worse’: Greece hurtles towards a final reckoning
With another bailout set to bring more cuts, quitting the euro is back on the agenda
Dimitris Costopoulos stood, worry beads in hand, under brilliant blue skies in front of the Greek parliament. Wearing freshly pressed trousers, polished shoes and a smart winter jacket – “my Sunday best” – he had risen at 5am to get on the bus that would take him to Athens 200 miles away and to the great sandstone edifice on Syntagma Square. By his own admission, protests were not his thing.
At 71, the farmer rarely ventures from Proastio, his village on the fertile plains of Thessaly. “But everything is going wrong,” he lamented on Tuesday, his voice hoarse after hours of chanting anti-government slogans.
“Before there was an order to things, you could build a house, educate your children, spoil your grandchildren. Now the cost of everything has gone up and with taxes you can barely afford to survive. Once I’ve paid for fuel, fertilisers and grains, there is really nothing left.”
Costopoulos is Greece’s Everyman; the human voice in a debt crisis that refuses to go away. Eight years after it first erupted, the drama shows every sign of reigniting, only this time in a new dark age of Trumpian politics, post-Brexit Europe, terror attacks and rise of the populist far right.
“I grow wheat,” said Costopoulos, holding out his wizened hands. “I am not in the building behind me. I don’t make decisions. Honestly, I can’t understand why things are going from bad to worse, why this just can’t be solved.”
As Greece hurtles towards another full-blown confrontation with the creditors keeping it afloat, and as tensions over stalled bailout negotiations mount, it is a question many are asking.
The country’s epic struggle to avert bankruptcy should have been settled when Athens received €110bn in aid – the biggest financial rescue programme in global history – from the EU and International Monetary Fund in May 2010. Instead, three bailouts later, it is still wrangling over the terms of the latest €86bn emergency loan package, with lenders also at loggerheads and diplomats no longer talking of a can, but rather a bomb, being kicked down the road. Default looms if a €7.4bn debt repayment – money owed mostly to the European Central Bank – is not honoured in July.
Amid the uncertainty, volatility has returned to the markets. So, too, has fear, with an estimated €2.2bn being withdrawn from banks by panic-stricken depositors since the beginning of the year. With talk of Greece’s exit from the euro being heard again, farmers, trade unions and other sectors enraged by the eviscerating effects of austerity have once more come out in protest.
From his seventh-floor office on Mitropoleos, Makis Balaouras, an MP with the governing Syriza party, has a good view of the goings-on in Syntagma. Demonstrations – what the former trade unionist calls “the movement” – are a fine thing. “I wish people were out there mobilising more,” he sighed. “Protests are in our ideological and political DNA. They are important, they send a message.”
This is the irony of Syriza, the leftwing party catapulted to power on a ticket to “tear up” the hated bailout accords widely blamed for extraordinary levels of Greek unemployment, poverty and emigration. Two years into office it has instead overseen the most punishing austerity measures to date, slashing public-sector salaries and pensions, cutting services, agreeing to the biggest privatisation programme in European history and raising taxes on everything from cars to beer – all of which has been the price of the loans that have kept default at bay and Greece in the euro.
In the maelstrom the economy has improved, with Athens achieving a noticeable primary surplus last year, but the social crisis has intensified.
For men like Balaouras, who suffered appalling torture for his leftwing beliefs at the hands of the 1967-74 colonels’ regime, the policies have been galling. With the IMF and EU arguing over the country’s ability to reach tough fiscal targets when the current bailout expires in August next year, the demand for €3.6bn of more measures has left many in Syriza reeling. Without upfront legislation on the reforms, creditors say, they cannot conclude a compliance review on which the next tranche of bailout aid hangs.
“We had an agreement,” insisted Balaouras, looking despondently down at his desert boots. “We kept to our side of the deal, but the lenders haven’t kept to their side because now they are asking for more. We want the review to end. We want to go forward. This situation is in the interests of no one. But to get there we have to have an honourable compromise. Without that there will be a clash.”
It had been hoped that an agreement would be struck on Monday at what had been billed as a high-stakes meeting of euro area finance ministers. On Friday, EU officials announced that the deadline had been all but missed because there had been little convergence between the two sides.
With the Netherlands holding general elections next month, and France and Germany also heading to the polls in May and September, fears of the dispute becoming increasingly politicised have added to its complexity. Highlighting those concerns, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, attempted to end the rift that has emerged between eurozone lenders and the IMF over the fund’s insistence that Greece can only begin to recover if its €320bn debt pile is reduced substantially.
In talks with Christine Lagarde, the Washington-based IMF’s managing director, Merkel agreed to discuss the issue during a further meeting between the two women to be held on Wednesday. The IMF has steadfastly refused to sign up to the latest bailout, arguing that Greek debt is not only unmanageable but on a trajectory to become explosive by 2030. Berlin, the biggest contributor of the €250bn Greece has so far received, says it will be unable to disburse further funds without the IMF on board.
The assumption is that the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will cave in, just as he did when the country came closest yet to leaving the euro at the height of the crisis in the summer of 2015. But the 41-year-old leader, like Syriza, has been pummelled in the polls. Persuading disaffected backbenchers to support more measures, and then selling them to a populace exhausted by repeated rounds of austerity, will be extremely difficult. Disappointment has increasingly given way to the death of hope – a sentiment reinforced by the realisation that Cyprus and other bailed-out countries, by contrast, are no longer under international supervision.
In his city centre office, the former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos pondered where Greece’s predicament was now. “[We are] at the same point we were several years ago,” he joked. “The only difference is that anti-European sentiment is growing. What was once a very friendly country towards Europe is becoming increasingly less so, and with that comes a lot of danger, a lot of risk.”
When historians look back they, too, may conclude that Greece has expended a great deal of energy not moving forward at all.
The arc of crisis that has swept the country – coursing like a cancer through its body politic, devastating its public health system, shattering lives – has been an exercise in the absurd. The feat of pulling off the greatest fiscal adjustment in modern times has spawned a slump longer and deeper than the Great Depression, with the Greek economy shrinking more than 25% since the crisis began.
Even if the latest impasse is broken and a deal is reached with creditors soon, few believe that in a country of weak governance and institutions it will be easy to enforce. Political turbulence will almost certainly beckon; the prospect of “Grexit” will grow.
“Grexit is the last thing we want, but we may arrive at a point of serious dilemmas,” said Venizelos. “Whatever deal is reached will be very difficult to implement, but that notwithstanding, it is not the memoranda [the bailout accords] that caused the crisis. The crisis was born in Greece long before.”
Like every crisis government before it, Tsipras’s administration is acutely aware that salvation will come only when Greece can return to the markets and raise funds. What happens in the weeks ahead could determine if that is likely to happen at all.
Back in Syntagma, Costopoulos the good-natured farmer ponders what lies ahead. Like every Greek, he stands to be deeply affected. “All I know is that we are all being pushed,” he said, searching for the right words. “Pushed in the direction of somewhere very explosive, somewhere we do not want to be.”
|Posted by Jerrald J President on February 25, 2017 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
The next shoe to fall!!! By JJP
How Deutsche Bank Made a $462 Million Loss Disappear
A dubious trade leads to a criminal trial for Europe’s most important bank.
On Dec. 1, 2008, most of the world’s banks were still panicking through the financial crisis. Lehman Brothers had collapsed. Merrill Lynch had been sold. Citigroup and others had required multibillion-dollar bailouts to survive. But not every institution appeared to be in free fall. That afternoon, at the London outpost of Deutsche Bank, the stolid-seeming, €2 trillion German powerhouse, a group of financiers met to consider a proposal from a team led by a trim, 40-year-old banker named Michele Faissola.
The scion of an Italian banking family, Faissola was the head of Deutsche’s global rates unit, a division that created and sold financial instruments tied to interest rates. He’d been studying the problems of one of Deutsche’s clients, Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which, as the crisis raged, was down €367 million ($462 million at the time) on a single investment. Losing that much money was bad; having to include it in the bank’s yearend report to the public, as required by Italian law, was arguably much worse. Monte dei Paschi was the world’s oldest bank. It had been operating since 1472, not long after the invention of the printing press, when the Black Death was still a living memory. If investors were to find out the extent of its losses in the 2008 credit crisis, the consequences would be unpredictable and grave: a run on the bank, a government takeover, or worse. At the Deutsche meeting, Faissola’s team said it had come up with a miraculous solution: a new trade that would make Paschi’s loss disappear.
The bankers in the room had seen some financial sleight of hand in their day, but the maneuver that Faissola’s staffers proposed was audacious. They described a simple trade in two parts. For one half of the deal, Paschi would make a sure-thing, moneymaking bet with Deutsche Bank and use those winnings to extinguish its 2008 trading losses. Of course, Deutsche doesn’t give away money for free, so for the second half of the deal, the Italians would make a bet that was sure to lose. But while the first transaction was immediate, the second would play out slowly, over many years. No sign of the €367 million sinkhole would need to show up when Paschi compiled its yearend financial reports.
The audience for the proposal that day was Deutsche’s global market risks assessment committee, a top-level panel that reviews transactions with legal, regulatory, and reputational considerations. Respectively, that means asking: Is a given trade within the law? Is it within the looser framework of industry rules and standards? And even if so, can Deutsche pull it off without maiming its brand—its basic ability to operate as a trustworthy member of the global financial system?
To at least one member of the committee, the possibilities of Faissola’s trade seemed wondrous. “This is fantastic,” said Jeremy Bailey, Deutsche’s European chairman of global banking, according to testimony of an executive who later recounted the exchange for an internal disciplinary panel. “You can book a [profit] in front and spread losses over time?” Bailey added. “We should do it for Deutsche Bank.”
Ivor Dunbar, the meeting’s chairman, curbed Bailey’s enthusiasm. “We are not discussing [our] balance sheet here,” he said. (Bailey, through a spokesman, denies he made the remarks.)
Outside the room, one of Faissola’s longtime colleagues was raising questions about the deal. William Broeksmit, a managing director who specialized in risk optimization, was concerned about the winner-loser construction. A Chicago-born son of a United Church of Christ minister, Broeksmit had decades earlier been a pioneer in interest rate swaps, the financial instruments that had rewritten the possibilities—and profitability—of investment banking. But Broeksmit, 53, was also against reckless derivative deals, which is how he viewed Faissola’s proposal, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Eleven minutes after the meeting began, Broeksmit e-mailed one of its attendees with a warning about the Paschi trade and its “reputational risks.”
The message had no effect. When the meeting ended after almost 90 minutes, Faissola got a go-ahead—setting in motion a scandal that has resulted in a criminal trial now under way in Milan. A judge there has accused Deutsche Bank and five former executives, including Faissola and Dunbar, of colluding with Paschi to falsify its accounts in 2008. (None of Deutsche’s top managers at the time has been accused of wrongdoing. Faissola declined to comment for this article, as did both banks. Dunbar didn’t respond to requests for comment.)
Eight years after the financial crisis, the stakes could hardly be higher. Being the biggest bank in Germany makes Deutsche the most important bank in Europe, and the Paschi trial is an uncomfortable reminder that its operations, already with barely enough capital to meet industry standards, are threatened by persistent scandal. Deutsche is also facing investigations into whether it helped clients launder billions out of Russia. This month the bank agreed to pay $7.2 billion to resolve a U.S. probe into its subprime mortgage business, admitting it misled investors. Deutsche has paid more than $9 billion in further fines and settlements related to claims of tax evasion; violating sanctions against Iran, Libya, Syria, Myanmar, and Sudan; rigging the $300 trillion Libor market; and other alleged breaches of the law.
The strain has intensified concerns about Deutsche’s balance sheet, which contains one of the world’s largest pots of most-difficult-to-quantify risk. The bank says it’s trimmed some of its exposure, as John Cryan, who became chief executive officer in 2015, attempts to clean up his predecessors’ messes. But if Deutsche ever requires government help, such as a bailout, the effects could be catastrophic for more than shareholders. In recent years, as the euro community has faced one solvency problem after another in Greece, Portugal, and elsewhere, Germany’s Angela Merkel has been chief scold. She’s insisted on fiscal pain for irresponsible actors and pushed for banking rules that keep taxpayers from picking up the bills again for reckless financiers. Her government coming to the aid of Deutsche Bank after lecturing others on restraint would be the ultimate euro zone irony. In a worst-case scenario, it could trigger a furor that finally brings down the continent’s currency, already made fragile by Brexit, refugees, and the rise of nationalist politicians.
The bank’s deal with Paschi is a microcosm of how Deutsche’s embrace of derivatives, questionable accounting, and slow-walking of regulators have eroded the market’s trust to the point that no one really knows how close the company is to the edge. What exactly happened in the days surrounding the December 2008 meeting in London is key to the Italian prosecution. The German financial-markets regulator, known as BaFin, already tried to get to the bottom of the matter, commissioning an independent audit in January 2014.
The ensuing report has never been made public, but Bloomberg Businessweek obtained a copy. It shows that auditors asked Faissola what happened that afternoon in London. Other participants recalled details and dialogue, the report says, but Faissola drew a blank about the event he’d helped run. Broeksmit wasn’t interviewed. On Jan. 26, 2014, the day before the audit began, his body was found at his London home, hanging from a dog leash.
Founded in 1870, Deutsche Bank was for most of its existence content to take deposits and make loans; in the 1920s it participated in the founding of the airline Lufthansa and the merger of automakers Daimler and Benz. Then, in the 1980s and ’90s, Deutsche watched as rival lenders in London and across the U.S. turbocharged profit growth by snapping up boutique investment banks and hiring or building teams to sell higher-margin financial products. To join the bonanza, Deutsche in 1995 hired one of its leaders from Merrill Lynch: Edson Mitchell, a redheaded chain smoker from Maine who was nurturing a team of future financial leaders. His crew included Broeksmit, the swaps innovator, and Anshu Jain, a prodigy at selling such risky, fee-laden products to hedge funds. Three years later, Deutsche made an even more emphatic attempt to buy its way into investment banking’s culture and profits, acquiring Bankers Trust—a New York derivatives house notorious for its cowboy culture—for about $10 billion.
If longtime Wall Streeters gawked at first at the German interloper, they quickly recognized that Deutsche had adopted their aggression and then some: Mitchell and his deputies expanded Deutsche’s London-based investment banking operation until it made half the bank’s revenue by the turn of the century.
Mitchell didn’t live to see Deutsche complete its transformation into a financial omnivore. Three days before Christmas 2000, he was riding in a small Beechcraft Super King Air 200 plane along the coast of Maine toward his vacation home in Rangeley. The wreckage was found the next morning, not far from the summit of Beaver Mountain. He was 47. Afterward, Jain took over as head of global markets. One of his deputies was Faissola.
Faissola represented the next generation in Deutsche’s investment banking push. He was born in 1968 in Sanremo, the coastal town whose legendary song contest launched the tune Volare, and his uncle was president of the Italian banking association. While running Deutsche’s global rates division in London for Jain, Faissola built his own fortune, at times earning tens of millions of pounds a year. He drew the jealousy of British co-workers because, as a foreigner, he was able to legally avoid U.K. tax on his bonuses. Faissola’s town house in Chelsea featured an indoor pool.
In the first years of the millennium, Deutsche bankers chased new sources of riches around the globe. People who piled into uncharted areas or pushed the rules were rewarded handsomely. Starting in 2005, Deutsche traders in Europe, North America, and Asia manipulated a benchmark interest rate to benefit their own derivative bets, according to an indictment made public last year in federal court in New York City. Deutsche’s most profitable derivatives trader earned a bonus of almost £90 million (then $130 million) in 2008 alone. Deutsche bankers also increased their bonuses in the runup to the crisis by creating and selling to clients mortgage securities that were marketed as high-quality investments but were in fact loaded with home loans destined to go bust. For clients, Deutsche became a go-to bank when they wanted risk and complexity.
|Posted by Jerrald J President on February 14, 2017 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Federal Reserve Policy Statement on
Rental of Residential Other Real Estate Owned Properties
In light of the large volume of distressed residential properties and the indications of
higher demand for rental housing in many markets, some banking organizations may choose to
make greater use of rental activities in their disposition strategies than in the past. This policy
statement reminds banking organizations and examiners that the Federal Reserve’s regulations
and policies permit the rental of residential other real estate owned (OREO) properties to thirdparty
tenants as part of an orderly disposition strategy within statutory and regulatory limits.1
This policy statement applies to state member banks, bank holding companies, nonbank
subsidiaries of bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies, non-thrift
subsidiaries of savings and loan holding companies, and U.S. branches and agencies of foreign
banking organizations (collectively, banking organizations).2
The general policy of the Federal Reserve is that banking organizations should make
good-faith efforts to dispose of OREO properties at the earliest practicable date. Consistent with
this policy, in light of the extraordinary market conditions that currently prevail, banking
organizations may rent residential OREO properties (within statutory and regulatory holdingperiod
limits) without having to demonstrate continuous active marketing of the property,
provided that suitable policies and procedures are followed. Under these conditions and
circumstances, banking organizations would not contravene supervisory expectations that they
show “good-faith efforts” to dispose of OREO by renting the property within the applicable
holding period. Moreover, to the extent that OREO rental properties meet the definition of
community development under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations, they
would receive favorable CRA consideration.3
In all respects, banking organizations that rent
OREO properties are expected to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local statutes and