Politics and Legislation
At congressional GSA hearing, Jeff Neely targeted for scandal
Click image to see more photos. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)Amid unwavering public apologies Monday from former employees of the General Services Administration (GSA), one official chose to remain mum.
Jeff Neely, the GSA official who organized a lavish 2010 conference for the agency, sat motionless–save for several eyebrow raises–as ranking House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-M.D.) accused him, a regional commissioner, and his wife of having “used taxpayer funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle.” The grilling occurred in front of a national audience at the first of at least four hearings this week on the conference scandal.
And when it came time for Neely to apologize or defend himself, he only uttered one phrase.
“Mr. Chairman, on the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer based upon my Fifth Amendment constitutional privileges,” Neely repeatedly responded Monday to questions about the scandal, which centers around about $830,000 in taxpayer dollars that was used for a three-day employee conference in 2010, as well as on mundane questions such as his former job title.
Israel Denies Entry to Hundreds in Day of Action
Published on Apr 16, 2012 by TheRealNews
Dozens arrested in an international day of solidarity where 1500 activists
tried to land in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport to travel to the occupied
Argentina’s decision to take control of Spanish firm Repsol’s shares in one of Argentina’s largest oil producing companies could have political ramifications.
There has already been anger from Madrid over the plan to nationalise Repsol’s stake in Argentine-firm YPF, and Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said measures against Argentina will be announced in the next few days.
Argentina’s plans to seize control of its biggest oil company YPF has drawn howls of protest from Madrid. Spain is angry as its energy giant Repsol has a controlling stake of nearly 60 per cent.
Vowing to take measures, Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo called the move unlawful: “The Spanish Government condemns the arbitrary decision taken by the government of the Republic of Argentina to expropriate the shares which Repsol has in the YPF Company.”
World Bank names US doctor as new president
Published on Apr 16, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
The World Bank has chosen its new president, Korean-American health expert Jim Yong Kim, sticking with the tradition of picking an American for the top job. Alan Fisher reports from Washington.
Senate torpedoes ‘Buffett Rule’ bill
By Bernie Becker
The Senate on Monday rejected a Democratic proposal intended to ensure millionaires pay a minimum tax rate.
In a mostly party-line 51-45 vote, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they needed to move forward with a debate on the so-called “Buffett Rule” legislation, with all but one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), voting to oppose proceeding on the legislation.
Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) was the only Democrat to vote against the motion, though Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Senate Democrats but missed Monday’s vote, released a statement announcing his opposition to the Buffett Rule.
Fifty Democrats supported the motion to proceed to the bill, including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who previously had opposed similar efforts. Nelson cited the deficit for changing his position, but his decision to retire and not seek reelection at the end of this Congress might also have played a role.
Both parties expected the result, and the issue of whether wealthier households should pay higher taxes on investment income appeared likely to remain at center stage through November’s presidential election.
Honorary bills persist despite GOP vow
By Russell Berman
House Republicans swept into the majority pledging to do away with the commemorative resolutions that clogged up the floor schedule in recent years, but for one evening on Monday, honorary bills filled the docket once again.
Lawmakers approved two Congressional Gold Medals, debated a third and discussed minting a coin in honor of Mark Twain.
The only living person among the honorees was golf legend Jack Nicklaus, a personal friend of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), himself an avid golfer. Nicklaus grew up in Boehner’s home state of Ohio, and in 2002, he testified before Boehner’s Education and Workforce Committee on the “First Tee” program aimed at promoting values in young people through golf.
The House passed a bill awarding a medal to Nicklaus in a 373-4 vote. All of the “no” votes came from Republicans.
Democratic Rep. Joe Baca (Calif.) spearheaded the honor for Nicklaus and recruited Rep. Tom Rooney (Fla.) as a Republican co-sponsor. Rooney went to school with Nicklaus’s children in Florida and remains friends with his family.
By Alexis Levinson – The Daily Calle
As the brouhaha over the General Services Administration’s excessive spending continues to unfold, the real loser is not the GSA, but Sin City itself, according to two Nevada Democrats.
The GSA got in trouble when a report by the GSA Inspector General brought to light a conference in Las Vegas on which the agency spent $823,000 of taxpayer money. The conference included lavish luxuries like a clown, bicycles that were used for a team building exercise and a mind-reader.
The House oversight committee is holding a series of hearings on other instances that have since come to light of extravagant spending by the agency.
But according to former Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, who is currently seeking a return to Congress, the hearings are not an attack on the GSA, but an attack on Las Vegas.
“President Obama acted swiftly to punish those responsible for this blatant misuse of tax dollars. However, these hearings are nothing more than an attack on Las Vegas,” Titus said. “Washington Republicans should stop using Las Vegas as a punching bag to score cheap political points and start working on putting Americans back to work.”
Spanish fever recurs, pushing up borrowing costs
Published on Apr 16, 2012 by Euronews
http://www.euronews.com/ Investors have become wary of Spain’s financial health again, forcing the government to pay ever more to borrow money.
Ten year bonds went above 6 per cent, after data showing Spanish banks borrowed record amounts from the ECB.
There are fears Spanish bonds might hit the psychological 7 per cent panic barrier unless the ECB starts buying again.
IMF Raises Global Forecast for First Time Since Early 2011
By Ian Katz
The International Monetary Fund raised its global growth forecast for the first time in more than a year, with the U.S. boosting the outlook while recent improvements remain “very fragile.”
The world economy will expand 3.5 percent this year, compared with a January projection of 3.3 percent, the Washington-based IMF said today in its World Economic Outlook. It sees growth of 4.1 percent in 2013, up from 4.0 percent. It raised its forecasts for the U.S. to gains of 2.1 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2013.
The report reflects the IMF’s view that the euro area, while still facing an economic downturn and the “hard to quantify” potential risk of a country’s default, has stabilized since last year. The euro area economy is projected to decline by 0.3 percent in 2012, an improvement from the 0.5 percent in the IMF’s previous forecast. China is projected to grow 8.2 percent and Japan 2 percent this year.
U.S. Housing Starts Unexpectedly Drop to Five-Month Low
By Alex Kowalski
Builders began work on fewer homes than forecast in March, signaling a sustained industry recovery will take time to get underway.
Housing starts dropped 5.8 percent to a 654,000 annual rate, less than the lowest estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and the least since October, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The slump was led by the volatile multifamily category, which at the same time showed a jump in permits, a proxy for future construction.
While warmer weather may have spurred home construction at the beginning of 2012, a competing supply of cheap existing properties may be steering potential buyers away from purchasing a new home. That means home construction may not help boost the economy in 2012.
Insiders Tell Jim Sinclair, $17 Trillion In QE Coming (GLD, IAU, SLV, AGQ, UUP, UGL, UDN)
Dominique de Kevelioc de Bailleul: No matter how the Fed tries to manipulate the markets through its orchestrated communiques, more ‘quantitative easing’ is coming, says ‘Mr. Gold‘ Jim Sinclair. And this time, $17 trillion more of Sinclair’s mantra “QE to infinity” is a done deal, according to him.
How does he know?
“How does anyone know an answer to a question? By being told. By having sources,” Sinclair revealed to King World News, Friday. “I’m half a century in the business. I’ve constantly kept up my contacts in a very unique and focused way. Quantitative easing was made clear to me, prior to Bernanke’s speech to the Washington group, prior to quantitative easing.”
Europe Will Collapse in May-June
By Graham Summers
Starting back in August, I began suggesting that we were approaching a Systemic Crisis/ Crash scenario in the markets.
The technical and fundamentals both supported this forecast, but I completely underestimated the degree to which the Central Banks and EU would attempt to prop up the market.
At that time, I thought it likely we’d see a Crash, which would then be met with another round of stimulus, which would push the economy temporarily into the green. It seemed the most logical outcome given that we were heading into an election year with a President whose ratings were at record lows.
Instead, the Federal Reserve, particularly those Fed Presidents from Financial Centers (Charles Evans of Chicago and Bill Dudley of New York) began a coordinated campaign of verbal intervention, hinting that more easing or QE was just around the corner.
These verbal interventions coincided with coordinated monetary interventions between the Federal Reserve and other world Central Banks: first on September 15 2011 and again on November 30 2011.
The effects of both coordinated moves were short-lived in terms of equity prices, but they did send a message that the Central Banks were willing to intervene in a big way to maintain the financial system. This in turn helped to ease interbank liquidity problems in Europe (more on this in a moment) and maintain the belief that the Fed backstop or “Bernanke Put” was still in effect.
Another issue that served to push the markets higher was European leaders’ decision to go “all in” on the EU –bail out project. I’ve tracked those developments closely in previous articles.
Regarding this factor, I also underestimated the extent to which leaders would push to hold things together. After all, Greece had already received bailouts in excess of 150% of its GDP and still posted a GDP loss of 6.8% in 2011. It’s hard to believe they’d want to accept more austerity measures and more debt.
Moreover, political tensions between Greece and Germany had reached the point that Greeks were openly comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble as Nazis while the Germans referred to Greece as a “bottomless hole” into which money was being tossed.
Looking back on it, the clear reality was that Germany wanted to force Greece out of the EU but didn’t want to do it explicitly: instead they opted to offer Greece aid provided Greece accepted austerity measures so onerous that there was no chance Greece would go for it.
U.S. Roads and Bridges Being Built By Chinese Companies As American Unemployment Remains High
Wars and Rumors of War
Taliban Launches ‘Spring Offensive’
Published on Apr 17, 2012 by TheAlyonaShow
Thirty-six insurgents are dead after an eighteen hour standoff between US led NATO and Afghan forces, and Taliban members. It was part of a spring offensive by the Taliban, and according to one of their spokesman, it was a plan two months in the making. According to one of the captured insurgents, the attacks were linked to the Haqqani network, from the Afghan-Pakistan border. The attacks left eight members of the Afghan Security Forces dead as well, President Hamid Karzai praised the forces for their efforts, but quickly called out NATO for having a serious intelligence failure.
Leaked CIA Memo: Bush knew US torture was ‘war crime’
Published on Apr 17, 2012 by RussiaToday
Water boarding and stress positions… just two of the torture techniques used by the U.S. against terror suspects. Now, a secret memo has been leaked which brands them “war crimes”, and shows the Bush administration was warned against their use. As RT’s Marina Portnaya explains, many feel President Obama isn’t doing enough to make up for America’s past mistakes.
Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah First Guest On New Julian Assange Show pt.1
Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah First Guest On New Julian Assange Show pt.2
Articles of Interest
ABUJA (Reuters) – French oil major Total has shut down a gas plant in Nigeria’s onshore Niger Delta, following a leak caused by a technical incident, the company said in a statement.
The leak occurred on a block that also contains crude oil in Rivers state, one of the three states that make up the Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region veined with hundreds of kilometres of labyrinthine creeks and waterways.
“On April 3rd, Total E&P Nigeria Limited (TEPNG) was alerted about some water and gas resurgence points, observed in an uninhabited area close to its onshore Obite gas production facilities, on the OML 58 license,” a statement on the company’s website said.
Business leaders lash out at both parties, tell Congress: Do your job
By Alexander Bolton
Business groups are exasperated that Congress has made little progress on issues they see as vital in helping the ailing economy.
Industry leaders are lashing out at both parties for shifting into campaign mode with more than 200 days to go before the November election.
While corporate officials acknowledge that Congress was never likely to undertake the complex task of reforming the tax code or the politically dangerous assignment of immigration reform during an election year, they thought there would be more progress in other areas.
For example, they are perplexed that Congress has no immediate plans to extend 60 tax provisions that expired at the end of last year. The transportation authorization bill, traditionally one of the easiest bills to pass in Congress, has become stalled by an internecine fight in the House, and energy legislation, another priority, is not likely to come up in the Senate because Democratic leaders want to shield vulnerable colleagues from casting difficult votes on Environmental Protection Agency regulations and oil-and-gas drilling.
“It’s driving everyone crazy that 60 provisions of the tax code expired last December 31 and 41 more are slated to expire this year,” said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives from the nation’s biggest corporations.
“The government is under-performing,” he said.
US tax system due for a change?
Published on Apr 16, 2012 by RTAmerica
Tax week is upon us in the US and many Americans will have to pay the government, but are all Americans paying their fair share? April 17 is the deadline for all citizens to file their taxes but most Americans dread this day. The tax system has been a major topic for debate especially in this election year and many are calling for a change of the system. So will this be a year of reform for the tax system? The Market Ticker’s Karl Denninger joins us with his take on the tax system.
Muslim peer’s ‘£10m to capture Obama’ was actually a legal fund to put Blair on trial
Labour peer Lord Nazir Ahmed was suspended by the Labour Party amid claims he had offered a 10 million pound bounty for the capture of U.S. President Barack Obama
Britain’s first Muslim peer has offered to set up a £10million legal fund to bring Tony Blair before the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
It had been reported initially that Lord Ahmed of Rotherham put up the cash as a ‘bounty’ for the capture of U.S. president Barack Obama.
But a video of his speech at a reception in Pakistan last Friday suggests his remarks concerned the former prime minister as well as Mr Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush.
He is heard saying in Urdu: ‘Even if I have to beg in Haripur, Pakistan, the U.S. or Britain, even if I have to beg, I am willing to raise and offer £10million so that George W Bush and Tony Blair can be brought to the International Court of Justice on war crimes charges.’
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