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Be Alert!

Moriel Ministries Be Alert! has added this Blog as a resource for further information, links and research to help keep you above the global deception blinding the world and most of the church in these last days. Jesus our Messiah is indeed coming soon and this should only be cause for joy unless you have not surrendered to Him. Today is the day for salvation! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, - Psalms 95:7

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Global Warming and the Price of a Gallon of Gas

KUSI-TV A51/D18 INDP SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA [McKinnon Broadcasting Co.] - By John Coleman - June 13, 2008 John Coleman is an American news weathercaster. He founded The Weather Channel (but is no longer affiliated with it), and presently works as an on-camera weathercaster at KUSI-TV in San Diego. John Coleman's Comments Before the San Diego Chamber of Commerce You may want to give credit where credit is due to Al Gore and his global warming campaign the next time you fill your car with gasoline, because there is a direct connection between Global Warming and four dollar a gallon gas. It is shocking, but true, to learn that the entire Global Warming frenzy is based on the environmentalist's attack on fossil fuels, particularly gasoline. All this big time science, international meetings, thick research papers, dire threats for the future; all of it, comes down to their claim that the carbon dioxide in the exhaust from your car and in the smoke stacks from our power plants is destroying the climate of planet Earth. What an amazing fraud; what a scam. The future of our civilization lies in the balance. That's the battle cry of the High Priest of Global Warming Al Gore and his fellow, agenda driven disciples as they predict a calamitous outcome from anthropogenic global warming. According to Mr. Gore the polar ice caps will collapse and melt and sea levels will rise 20 feet inundating the coastal cities making 100 million of us refugees. Vice President Gore tells us numerous Pacific islands will be totally submerged and uninhabitable. He tells us global warming will disrupt the circulation of the ocean waters, dramatically changing climates, throwing the world food supply into chaos. He tells us global warming will turn hurricanes into super storms, produce droughts, wipe out the polar bears and result in bleaching of coral reefs. He tells us tropical diseases will spread to mid latitudes and heat waves will kill tens of thousands. He preaches to us that we must change our lives and eliminate fossil fuels or face the dire consequences. The future of our civilization is in the balance. With a preacher's zeal, Mr. Gore sets out to strike terror into us and our children and make us feel we are all complicit in the potential demise of the planet. Here is my rebuttal. There is no significant man made global warming. There has not been any in the past, there is none now and there is no reason to fear any in the future. The climate of Earth is changing. It has always changed. But mankind's activities have not overwhelmed or significantly modified the natural forces. Through all history, Earth has shifted between two basic climate regimes: ice ages and what paleoclimatologists call "Interglacial periods". For the past 10 thousand years the Earth has been in an interglacial period. That might well be called nature's global warming because what happens during an interglacial period is the Earth warms up, the glaciers melt and life flourishes. Clearly from our point of view, an interglacial period is greatly preferred to the deadly rigors of an ice age. Mr. Gore and his crowd would have us believe that the activities of man have overwhelmed nature during this interglacial period and are producing an unprecedented, out of control warming. Well, it is simply not happening. Worldwide there was a significant natural warming trend in the 1980's and 1990's as a Solar cycle peaked with lots of sunspots and solar flares. That ended in 1998 and now the Sun has gone quiet with fewer and fewer Sun spots, and the global temperatures have gone into decline. Earth has cooled for almost ten straight years. So, I ask Al Gore, where's the global warming? The cooling trend is so strong that recently the head of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had to acknowledge it. He speculated that nature has temporarily overwhelmed mankind's warming and it may be ten years or so before the warming returns. Oh, really. We are supposed to be in a panic about man-made global warming and the whole thing takes a ten year break because of the lack of Sun spots. If this weren't so serious, it would be laughable. Now allow me to talk a little about the science behind the global warming frenzy. I have dug through thousands of pages of research papers, including the voluminous documents published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I have worked my way through complicated math and complex theories. Here's the bottom line: the entire global warming scientific case is based on the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels. They don't have any other issue. Carbon Dioxide, that's it. Hello Al Gore; Hello UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Your science is flawed; your hypothesis is wrong; your data is manipulated. And, may I add, your scare tactics are deplorable. The Earth does not have a fever. Carbon dioxide does not cause significant global warming. The focus on atmospheric carbon dioxide grew out a study by Roger Revelle who was an esteemed scientist at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute. He took his research with him when he moved to Harvard and allowed his students to help him process the data for his paper. One of those students was Al Gore. That is where Gore got caught up in this global warming frenzy. Revelle's paper linked the increases in carbon dioxide, CO2, in the atmosphere with warming. It labeled CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Charles Keeling, another researcher at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, set up a system to make continuous CO2 measurements. His graph of these increases has now become known as the Keeling Curve. When Charles Keeling died in 2005, his son David, also at Scripps, took over the measurements. Here is what the Keeling curve shows: an increase in CO2 from 315 parts per million in 1958 to 385 parts per million today, an increase of 70 parts per million or about 20 percent. All the computer models, all of the other findings, all of the other angles of study, all come back to and are based on CO2 as a significant greenhouse gas. It is not. Here is the deal about CO2, carbon dioxide. It is a natural component of our atmosphere. It has been there since time began. It is absorbed and emitted by the oceans. It is used by every living plant to trigger photosynthesis. Nothing would be green without it. And we humans; we create it. Every time we breathe out, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is not a pollutant. It is not smog. It is a naturally occurring invisible gas. Let me illustrate. I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can't. That's all there is to it; it can't. The UN IPCC has attracted billions of dollars for the research to try to make the case that CO2 is the culprit of run-away, man-made global warming. The scientists have come up with very complex creative theories and done elaborate calculations and run computer models they say prove those theories. They present us with a concept they call radiative forcing. The research organizations and scientists who are making a career out of this theory, keep cranking out the research papers. Then the IPCC puts on big conferences at exotic places, such as the recent conference in Bali. The scientists endorse each other's papers, they are summarized and voted on, and viola, we are told global warming is going to kill us all unless we stop burning fossil fuels. May I stop here for a few historical notes? First, the internal combustion engine and gasoline were awful polluters when they were first invented. And, both gasoline and automobile engines continued to leave a layer of smog behind right up through the 1960's. Then science and engineering came to the environmental rescue. Better exhaust and ignition systems, catalytic converters, fuel injectors, better engineering throughout the engine and reformulated gasoline have all contributed to a huge reduction in the exhaust emissions from today's cars. Their goal then was to only exhaust carbon dioxide and water vapor, two gases widely accepted as natural and totally harmless. Anyone old enough to remember the pall of smog that used to hang over all our cities knows how much improvement there has been. So the environmentalists, in their battle against fossil fuels and automobiles had a very good point forty years ago, but now they have to focus almost entirely on the once harmless carbon dioxide. And, that is the rub. Carbon dioxide is not an environmental problem; they just want you now to think it is. Numerous independent research projects have been done about the greenhouse impact from increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. These studies have proven to my total satisfaction that CO2 is not creating a major greenhouse effect and is not causing an increase in temperatures. By the way, before his death, Roger Revelle coauthored a paper cautioning that CO2 and its greenhouse effect did not warrant extreme countermeasures. So now it has come down to an intense campaign, orchestrated by environmentalists claiming that the burning of fossil fuels dooms the planet to run-away global warming. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is a myth. So how has the entire global warming frenzy with all its predictions of dire consequences, become so widely believed, accepted and regarded as a real threat to planet Earth? That is the most amazing part of the story. To start with global warming has the backing of the United Nations, a major world force. Second, it has the backing of a former Vice President and very popular political figure. Third it has the endorsement of Hollywood, and that's enough for millions. And, fourth, the environmentalists love global warming. It is their tool to combat fossil fuels. So with the environmentalists, the UN, Gore and Hollywood touting Global Warming and predictions of doom and gloom, the media has scrambled with excitement to climb aboard. After all the media loves a crisis. From YK2 to killer bees the media just loves to tell us our lives are threatened. And the media is biased toward liberal, so it's pre-programmed to support Al Gore and UN. CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and here in San Diego The Union Tribune are all constantly promoting the global warming crisis. So who is going to go against all of that power? Not the politicians. So now the President of the United States, just about every Governor, most Senators and most Congress people, both of the major current candidates for President, most other elected officials on all levels of government are all riding the Al Gore Global Warming express. That is one crowded bus. I suspect you haven't heard it because the mass media did not report it, but I am not alone on the no man-made warming side of this issue. On May 20th, a list of the names of over thirty-one thousand scientists who refute global warming was released. Thirty-one thousand of which 9,000 are Ph.ds. Think about that. Thirty-one thousand. That dwarfs the supposed 2,500 scientists on the UN panel. In the past year, five hundred of scientists have issued public statements challenging global warming. A few more join the chorus every week. There are about 100 defectors from the UN IPCC. There was an International Conference of Climate Change Skeptics in New York in March of this year. One hundred of us gave presentations. Attendance was limited to six hundred people. Every seat was taken. There are a half dozen excellent internet sites that debunk global warming. And, thank goodness for KUSI and Michael McKinnon, its owner. He allows me to post my comments on global warming on the website KUSI.com. Following the publicity of my position form Fox News, Glen Beck on CNN, Rush Limbaugh and a host of other interviews, thousands of people come to the website and read my comments. I get hundreds of supportive emails from them. No I am not alone and the debate is not over. In my remarks in New York I speculated that perhaps we should sue Al Gore for fraud because of his carbon credits trading scheme. That remark has caused a stir in the fringe media and on the internet. The concept is that if the media won't give us a hearing and the other side will not debate us, perhaps we could use a Court of law to present our papers and our research and if the Judge is unbiased and understands science, we win. The media couldn't ignore that. That idea has become the basis for legal research by notable attorneys and discussion among global warming debunkers, but it's a long way from the Court room. I am very serious about this issue. I think stamping out the global warming scam is vital to saving our wonderful way of life. The battle against fossil fuels has controlled policy in this country for decades. It was the environmentalist's prime force in blocking any drilling for oil in this country and the blocking the building of any new refineries, as well. So now the shortage they created has sent gasoline prices soaring. And, it has lead to the folly of ethanol, which is also partly behind the fuel price increases; that and our restricted oil policy. The ethanol folly is also creating a food crisis throughput the world - it is behind the food price rises for all the grains, for cereals, bread, everything that relies on corn or soy or wheat, including animals that are fed corn, most processed foods that use corn oil or soybean oil or corn syrup. Food shortages or high costs have led to food riots in some third world countries and made the cost of eating out or at home budget busting for many. So now the global warming myth actually has lead to the chaos we are now enduring with energy and food prices. We pay for it every time we fill our gas tanks. Not only is it running up gasoline prices, it has changed government policy impacting our taxes, our utility bills and the entire focus of government funding. And, now the Congress is considering a cap and trade carbon credits policy. We the citizens will pay for that, too. It all ends up in our taxes and the price of goods and services. So the Global warming frenzy is, indeed, threatening our civilization. Not because global warming is real; it is not. But because of the all the horrible side effects of the global warming scam. I love this civilization. I want to do my part to protect it. If Al Gore and his global warming scare dictates the future policy of our governments, the current economic downturn could indeed become a recession, drift into a depression and our modern civilization could fall into an abyss. And it would largely be a direct result of the global warming frenzy. My mission, in what is left of a long and exciting lifetime, is to stamp out this Global Warming silliness and let all of us get on with enjoying our lives and loving our planet, Earth. http://www.kusi.com/weather/colemanscorner/19842304.html FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Monday, October 06, 2008

See it Here: Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

H.R. 1424: A bill to provide authority for the Federal Government to purchase and insure certain types of troubled assets for the purposes of providing stability to and preventing disruption in the economy and financial system and protecting taxpayers, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide incentives for energy production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, to provide individual income tax relief, and for other purposes. Overview http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1424 Summary http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1424&tab=summary Full Text http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-1424 FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Treasury Would Emerge With Vast New Power

NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Floyd Norris - September 28, 2008 During its weeklong deliberations, Congress made many changes to the Bush administration’s original proposal to bail out the financial industry, but one overarching aspect of the initial plan that remains is the vast discretion it gives to the Treasury secretary. The draft legislation, which will be put to a House vote on Monday, gives Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and his successor extraordinary power to decide how the $700 billion bailout fund is spent. For example, if he thinks it wise, he may buy not only mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, but any other financial instrument. To be sure, the Treasury secretary’s powers have been tempered since the original Bush administration proposal, which would have given Mr. Paulson nearly unfettered control over the program. There are now two separate oversight panels involved, one composed of legislators and the other including regulatory and administration officials. Still, Mr. Paulson can choose to buy from any financial institution that does business in the United States, or from pension funds, with wide discretion over what he will buy and how much he will pay. Under most circumstances, banks owned by foreign governments are not eligible for the money, but under some conditions, the secretary can choose to bail out foreign central banks. Under the bill, the Treasury is to buy the securities at prices he deems appropriate. Mr. Paulson may set prices through auctions but is not required to do so. Rarely if ever has one man had such broad authority to spend government money as he sees fit, with no rules requiring him to seek out the lowest possible price for assets being purchased. - - - - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/29/business/29bill.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Big Tax Breaks for Businesses in Housing Bill

NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Stephen Labaton and David M. Herszenhorn - April 16, 2008 WASHINGTON - The Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But while a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks - for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders. The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington. It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests. - - - - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/business/16bailout.html?ex=1366084800&en=30abe1fe0651f26b&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Rebuilding Babel?

Mile-high tower: Saudi prince promises £5bn desert spire TWICE as tall as nearest rival being built LONDON DAILY MAIL [Associated Newspapers/DMGT] - By Barry Wigmore - March 31, 2008 On a clear day, the view from the top will take in the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Ocean - providing you've a head for heights. Plans for a mile-high tower in the Saudi Arabian desert have been unveiled by the billionaire owner of London's Savoy Hotel. At 5,250ft, the £5billion project, masterminded by two British engineering consultancies, will be twice as high as its nearest rivals, skyscrapers under construction in Dubai and Kuwait, and almost seven times as high as the Canary Wharf tower in London's Docklands. It is being planned for a new city near the Red Sea port of Jeddah. Behind the scheme is 51-year-old Prince al-Walid bin Talal, who bought the Savoy for £1.25billion in 2005. The plan gives the Middle East a clear lead over Asian countries and the U.S., who have vied in the past to construct the world's tallest buildings. None of the other skyscrapers under construction, including New York's Freedom Tower on the World Trade Centre site, will exceed 2,296ft. The prince's company, Riyadh-based Kingdom Holdings, has set up a joint venture with the London firms Hyder Consulting and Arup. Experts say the technical challenges are enormous. Much of the lifting will be carried out by helicopters, which will also be used as commuter transport for builders. The tower will have to be capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures, with its top baking in the desert sun by day but dropping to well below freezing at night. To resist the strong winds prevalent in the area and stop it swaying, giving its occupants a form of high-rise seasickness, it will be fitted with a giant computer-operated damper. Two "mini-towers" - both taller than Canary Wharf - will be built on either side of the main tower. Linked to it by elevated walkways, they will anchor it and act as stabilisers. Until recently, the still-under-construction Dubai Tower was expected to be the world's tallest building. Plans have changed several times to make it higher, but the final version is expected to be 2,300ft with 160 storeys. Original Report http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=550548&in_page_id=1811 Developer: Dubai Tower at 'new record height' ASSOCIATED PRESS - September 1, 2008 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The developer of a Dubai skyscraper set to become the world's tallest building says the rising tower now stands at a "new record height" of 2,257 feet. Emaar Properties says the skyscraper - known as Burj Dubai - now has "more than 160 stories." Its exterior is almost done and work has started on the interior. The company's Monday statement gave no other details. The silvery steel-and-glass building's final height is a secret. Last summer, the developer announced the building surpassed Taiwan's Taipei 101 which has dominated the global skyline at 1,667 feet since 2004. In the four years of construction, Emaar twice postponed the skyscraper's finish, now slated for September 2009. Original Report http://news.yahoo.com/story//ap/20080901/ap_on_re_mi_ea/dubai_tallest_building World's First 'Building In Motion' Set For Dubai Italian Architect Poised To Build 80-Story Tower With Revolving Floors Powered By Wind Turbines CBS NEWS America [CBS Corporation] - June 25, 2008 NEW YORK - ... Italian architect Dr. David Fisher announced on Tuesday the launch of a revolutionary skyscraper in Dubai dubbed as the "world's first building in motion," an 80-story tower with revolving floors that give it an ever-shifting shape. The spinning floors, hung like rings around an immobile cement core, would offer residents a constantly changing view of the Persian Gulf and the Dubai's futuristic skyline. At a news conference in New York, Rotating Tower Dubai Development Ltd headed by the Dynamic Group, revealed the design and floor plans of the rotating building. The one planned for Dubai will rise 1,380 feet into the air. Sales of individual apartments will begin in September, with asking prices of around $3,000 per square foot. The smallest, at 1,330 square feet, would cost about $4 million and the largest, a 12,900-square-foot villa, $38.7 million. - - - - Read Full Report http://wcbstv.com/national/dubai.david.fisher.2.756027.html Philadelphia: Zoning bill marks 1st step toward 1,500-foot skyscraper here PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS [Knight Ridder] - By Chris Brennan - June 20, 2008 A local developer took the first step yesterday toward building the tallest skyscraper in America when City Councilman Darrell Clarke introduced legislation for zoning changes needed at the 18th and Arch streets location. Clarke's action came on the same week that Mayor Nutter laid out his goal to restore to the City Planning Commission the power to shape such developments. The councilman and the mayor agree the commission should run the show on the proposed skyscraper, which Walnut Street Capital has named the "American Commerce Center." At 1,500 feet, the skyscraper would be more than 50 percent taller than the Comcast Center, which recently opened one block away. The Comcast Center takes up a full city block while the American Commerce Center would be built on a 1.5-acre half-block. Clarke said the site's narrow footprint was one reason the developer chose to build so high. - - - - Read Full Report http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20080620_Zoning_bill_marks_1st_step_toward_1_500-foot_skyscraper_here.html World’s Biggest Building Coming to Moscow: Crystal Island INHABITAT - By Karim - December 26, 2007 Moscow’s rapidly growing skyline will soon feature an eye-popping new addition: Crystal Island, which will be the world’s biggest building when completed. Sir Norman Foster’s mountainous 27 million square feet spiraling “city within a building” will cost $4 billion and it is scheduled to be built within next 5 years. The Crystal Island will be Lord Foster’s second large scale project in the Russian capital, and his third new building design that resembles a volcano (we’re talking about his two mountainous buildings in Astana, Kazakstan). Although many people are calling this design the ‘Christmas Tree’ of Moscow - we can’t help but be reminded of the utopian and also rather volcanic X-Seed 4000 design for Tokyo. Unlike that pipe-dream project, however, Foster has a track record of getting buildings built, so the likelihood is high that we will see this striking structure towering over the Kremlin within 5 years time. - - - - Read Full Report http://www.inhabitat.com/2007/12/26/tallest-skyscraper-in-the-world-coming-to-moscow/ FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Agency’s ’04 Rule Let Banks Pile Up New Debt

NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Stephen Labaton - October 2, 2008 “We have a good deal of comfort about the capital cushions at these firms at the moment.” — Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, March 11, 2008. As rumors swirled that Bear Stearns faced imminent collapse in early March, Christopher Cox was told by his staff that Bear Stearns had $17 billion in cash and other assets — more than enough to weather the storm. Drained of most of its cash three days later, Bear Stearns was forced into a hastily arranged marriage with JPMorgan Chase — backed by a $29 billion taxpayer dowry. Within six months, other lions of Wall Street would also either disappear or transform themselves to survive the financial maelstrom — Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection, and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley converted to commercial banks. How could Mr. Cox have been so wrong? Many events in Washington, on Wall Street and elsewhere around the country have led to what has been called the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. But decisions made at a brief meeting on April 28, 2004, explain why the problems could spin out of control. The agency’s failure to follow through on those decisions also explains why Washington regulators did not see what was coming. On that bright spring afternoon, the five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission met in a basement hearing room to consider an urgent plea by the big investment banks. They wanted an exemption for their brokerage units from an old regulation that limited the amount of debt they could take on. The exemption would unshackle billions of dollars held in reserve as a cushion against losses on their investments. Those funds could then flow up to the parent company, enabling it to invest in the fast-growing but opaque world of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments. The five investment banks led the charge, including Goldman Sachs, which was headed by Henry M. Paulson Jr. Two years later, he left to become Treasury secretary. A lone dissenter — a software consultant and expert on risk management — weighed in from Indiana with a two-page letter to warn the commission that the move was a grave mistake. He never heard back from Washington. One commissioner, Harvey J. Goldschmid, questioned the staff about the consequences of the proposed exemption. It would only be available for the largest firms, he was reassuringly told — those with assets greater than $5 billion. “We’ve said these are the big guys,” Mr. Goldschmid said, provoking nervous laughter, “but that means if anything goes wrong, it’s going to be an awfully big mess.” Mr. Goldschmid, an authority on securities law from Columbia, was a behind-the-scenes adviser in 2002 to Senator Paul S. Sarbanes when he rewrote the nation’s corporate laws after a wave of accounting scandals. “Do we feel secure if there are these drops in capital we really will have investor protection?” Mr. Goldschmid asked. A senior staff member said the commission would hire the best minds, including people with strong quantitative skills to parse the banks’ balance sheets. Annette L. Nazareth, the head of market regulation, reassured the commission that under the new rules, the companies for the first time could be restricted by the commission from excessively risky activity. She was later appointed a commissioner and served until January 2008. “I’m very happy to support it,” said Commissioner Roel C. Campos, a former federal prosecutor and owner of a small radio broadcasting company from Houston, who then deadpanned: “And I keep my fingers crossed for the future.” The proceeding was sparsely attended. None of the major media outlets, including The New York Times, covered it. After 55 minutes of discussion, which can now be heard on the Web sites of the agency and The Times, the chairman, William H. Donaldson, a veteran Wall Street executive, called for a vote. It was unanimous. The decision, changing what was known as the net capital rule, was completed and published in The Federal Register a few months later. With that, the five big independent investment firms were unleashed. In loosening the capital rules, which are supposed to provide a buffer in turbulent times, the agency also decided to rely on the firms’ own computer models for determining the riskiness of investments, essentially outsourcing the job of monitoring risk to the banks themselves. Over the following months and years, each of the firms would take advantage of the looser rules. At Bear Stearns, the leverage ratio — a measurement of how much the firm was borrowing compared to its total assets — rose sharply, to 33 to 1. In other words, for every dollar in equity, it had $33 of debt. The ratios at the other firms also rose significantly. The 2004 decision for the first time gave the S.E.C. a window on the banks’ increasingly risky investments in mortgage-related securities. But the agency never took true advantage of that part of the bargain. The supervisory program under Mr. Cox, who arrived at the agency a year later, was a low priority. The commission assigned seven people to examine the parent companies — which last year controlled financial empires with combined assets of more than $4 trillion. Since March 2007, the office has not had a director. And as of last month, the office had not completed a single inspection since it was reshuffled by Mr. Cox more than a year and a half ago. The few problems the examiners preliminarily uncovered about the riskiness of the firms’ investments and their increased reliance on debt — clear signs of trouble — were all but ignored. The commission’s division of trading and markets “became aware of numerous potential red flags prior to Bear Stearns’s collapse, regarding its concentration of mortgage securities, high leverage, shortcomings of risk management in mortgage-backed securities and lack of compliance with the spirit of certain” capital standards, said an inspector general’s report issued last Friday. But the division “did not take actions to limit these risk factors.” Drive to Deregulate The commission’s decision effectively to outsource its oversight to the firms themselves fit squarely in the broader Washington culture of the last eight years under President Bush. A similar closeness to industry and laissez-faire philosophy has driven a push for deregulation throughout the government, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to worker safety and transportation agencies. “It’s a fair criticism of the Bush administration that regulators have relied on many voluntary regulatory programs,” said Roderick M. Hills, a Republican who was chairman of the S.E.C. under President Gerald R. Ford. “The problem with such voluntary programs is that, as we’ve seen throughout history, they often don’t work.” As was the case with other agencies, the commission’s decision was motivated by industry complaints of excessive regulation at a time of growing competition from overseas. The 2004 decision was aimed at easing regulatory burdens that the European Union was about to impose on the foreign operations of United States investment banks. The Europeans said they would agree not to regulate the foreign subsidiaries of the investment banks on one condition — that the commission regulate the parent companies, along with the brokerage units that the S.E.C. already oversaw. A 1999 law, however, had left a gap that did not give the commission explicit oversight of the parent companies. To get around that problem, and in exchange for the relaxed capital rules, the banks volunteered to let the commission examine the books of their parent companies and subsidiaries. The 2004 decision also reflected a faith that Wall Street’s financial interests coincided with Washington’s regulatory interests. “We foolishly believed that the firms had a strong culture of self-preservation and responsibility and would have the discipline not to be excessively borrowing,” said Professor James D. Cox, an expert on securities law and accounting at Duke School of Law (and no relationship to Christopher Cox). “Letting the firms police themselves made sense to me because I didn’t think the S.E.C. had the staff and wherewithal to impose its own standards and I foolishly thought the market would impose its own self-discipline. We’ve all learned a terrible lesson,” he added. In letters to the commissioners, senior executives at the five investment banks complained about what they called unnecessary regulation and oversight by both American and European authorities. A lone voice of dissent in the 2004 proceeding came from a software consultant from Valparaiso, Ind., who said the computer models run by the firms — which the regulators would be relying on — could not anticipate moments of severe market turbulence. “With the stroke of a pen, capital requirements are removed!” the consultant, Leonard D. Bole, wrote to the commission on Jan. 22, 2004. “Has the trading environment changed sufficiently since 1997, when the current requirements were enacted, that the commission is confident that current requirements in examples such as these can be disregarded?” He said that similar computer standards had failed to protect Long-Term Capital Management, the hedge fund that collapsed in 1998, and could not protect companies from the market plunge of October 1987. Mr. Bole, who earned a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Chicago, helps write computer programs that financial institutions use to meet capital requirements. He said in a recent interview that he was never called by anyone from the commission. “I’m a little guy in the land of giants,” he said. “I thought that the reduction in capital was rather dramatic.” Policing Wall Street A once-proud agency with a rich history at the intersection of Washington and Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission was created during the Great Depression as part of the broader effort to restore confidence to battered investors. It was led in its formative years by heavyweight New Dealers, including James Landis and William O. Douglas. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt was asked in 1934 why he appointed Joseph P. Kennedy, a spectacularly successful stock speculator, as the agency’s first chairman, Roosevelt replied: “Set a thief to catch a thief.” The commission’s most public role in policing Wall Street is its enforcement efforts. But critics say that in recent years it has failed to deter market problems. “It seems to me the enforcement effort in recent years has fallen short of what one Supreme Court justice once called the fear of the shotgun behind the door,” said Arthur Levitt Jr., who was S.E.C. chairman in the Clinton administration. “With this commission, the shotgun too rarely came out from behind the door.” Christopher Cox had been a close ally of business groups in his 17 years as a House member from one of the most conservative districts in Southern California. Mr. Cox had led the effort to rewrite securities laws to make investor lawsuits harder to file. He also fought against accounting rules that would give less favorable treatment to executive stock options. Under Mr. Cox, the commission responded to complaints by some businesses by making it more difficult for the enforcement staff to investigate and bring cases against companies. The commission has repeatedly reversed or reduced proposed settlements that companies had tentatively agreed upon. While the number of enforcement cases has risen, the number of cases involving significant players or large amounts of money has declined. Mr. Cox dismantled a risk management office created by Mr. Donaldson that was assigned to watch for future problems. While other financial regulatory agencies criticized a blueprint by Mr. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, that proposed to reduce their stature — and that of the S.E.C. — Mr. Cox did not challenge the plan, leaving it to three former Democratic and Republican commission chairmen to complain that the blueprint would neuter the agency. In the process, Mr. Cox has surrounded himself with conservative lawyers, economists and accountants who, before the market turmoil of recent months, had embraced a far more limited vision for the commission than many of his predecessors. ‘Stakes in the Ground’ Last Friday, the commission formally ended the 2004 program, acknowledging that it had failed to anticipate the problems at Bear Stearns and the four other major investment banks. “The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work,” Mr. Cox said. The decision to shutter the program came after Mr. Cox was blamed by Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, for the crisis. Mr. McCain has demanded Mr. Cox’s resignation. Mr. Cox has said that the 2004 program was flawed from its inception. But former officials as well as the inspector general’s report have suggested that a major reason for its failure was Mr. Cox’s use of it. “In retrospect, the tragedy is that the 2004 rule making gave us the ability to get information that would have been critical to sensible monitoring, and yet the S.E.C. didn’t oversee well enough,” Mr. Goldschmid said in an interview. He and Mr. Donaldson left the commission in 2005. Mr. Cox declined requests for an interview. In response to written questions, including whether he or the commission had made any mistakes over the last three years that contributed to the current crisis, he said, “There will be no shortage of retrospective analyses about what happened and what should have happened.” He said that by last March he had concluded that the monitoring program’s “metrics were inadequate.” He said that because the commission did not have the authority to curtail the heavy borrowing at Bear Stearns and the other firms, he and the commission were powerless to stop it. “Implementing a purely voluntary program was very difficult because the commission’s regulations shouldn’t be suggestions,” he said. “The fact these companies could withdraw from voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the mandate of the program and weakened its effectiveness. Experience has shown that the S.E.C. could not bootstrap itself into authority it didn’t have.” But critics say that the commission could have done more, and that the agency’s effectiveness comes from the tone set at the top by the chairman, or what Mr. Levitt, the longest-serving S.E.C. chairman in history, calls “stakes in the ground.” “If you go back to the chairmen in recent years, you will see that each spoke about a variety of issues that were important to them,” Mr. Levitt said. “This commission placed very few stakes in the ground.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/business/03sec.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cosmetic Surgery Expected to Soar

LIVE SCIENCE.com - By Robert Roy Britt - June 24, 2008 By 2015, 17 percent of the residents of the United States will be getting cosmetic procedures, the body enhancement industry predicts. A new study published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) predicts there will be more than 55 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed in 2015. That's nearly one procedure for every five Americans, including children, based on U.S. Census Bureau population projections. Of course, the bulk of procedures are done on adults, and some people might get more than one body part fixed in a year. The industry is well aware of what is driving all this: "Pushing this growth is increasing consumer awareness, direct-to-consumer marketing and advertising, as well as technological advances in non-surgical options," the group said in a statement today. In 2007, Americans spent more than $13 billion for nearly 11.7 million cosmetic procedures. That's up from nearly 8.5 million procedures in 2001. Sales sag Thanks to the bad economy, times are tough in human body shops right now, however. "While today's economy reflects a slow-down in plastic surgery procedures, the specialty will weather the current decline in economic growth just as it has previous declines, such as the stock market correction after the 2001 Internet bubble," said ASPS President Richard D'Amico, MD. "This prediction for 2015 is exciting." Some caution might be in order before the nation plunges head-long into fulfilling the industry's expectations. "Our concern is that with predicted growth and interest in the broad spectrum of cosmetic procedures, patients will look to the closest, easiest solution," said D'Amico. "Potential patients, however, need to know that board-certified plastic surgeons are uniquely qualified with an in-depth medical knowledge of the entire human body. They have the training necessary to accurately assess your individual needs and map health and beauty goals for your entire lifetime." The study was based on annual ASPS National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery statistics from 1992-2005. The researchers also analyzed the impact of economic and non-economic variables on industry growth. What's hot? Women's top-five cosmetic surgical procedures for 2007: Breast augmentation: 399,440 procedures Liposuction: 398,848 Eyelid surgery: 208,199 Men's top-five cosmetic surgical procedures for 2007: Liposuction: 57,980 procedures Eyelid surgery: 32,564 Nose reshaping: 31,713 In 2005, 34 percent of all procedures performed by ASPS Member Surgeons were surgical and 66 percent were non-surgical, the new study finds. Also in 2005, for non-ASPS members 9.5 percent of their procedures were surgical, while 90.5 percent were non-surgical. But non-surgical procedures grew 27.9 percent between 1992 and 2005, while surgical procedures grew just 7.5 percent. The No. 1 non-surgical cosmetic procedure for U.S. men and women last year was Botox injection. By 2015, the researchers predict that 88 percent of all cosmetic procedures will be non-surgical. http://www.livescience.com/health/080624-plastic-surgery.html FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Short-selling’ church leaders accused of failing to practise what they preach

THE TIMES of LONDON [News Corporation/Murdoch] - By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent - September 26, 2008 The Church of England was accused last night of having used short-selling to maximise profit on a £5 billion investment hours after its archbishops criticised banking practices. After the call from the archbishops of Canterbury and York for tighter regulation of the markets, the liberal think-tank Ekklesia said that the Church was implicated in stock market speculation. It said that in 2006 the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England’s investments, set up a currency hedging programme against a fall in the value of sterling, effectively short-selling the pound to guard against rises in other currencies. It also criticised the Church for its shareholdings in oil and mining companies. On Wednesday the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, branded the traders who cashed in on falling share prices in the troubled bank HBOS as “bank robbers” and “asset strippers”. In an interview with The Times, he said that people had become enslaved to the god of money, and that leaving the market to regulate itself was like leaving a pack of hyenas in charge of a herd of cattle. He called for a judicial inquiry into the financial services industry. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, accepted that making a profit was a legitimate goal, “if not a morally supreme” one, but called in an article in The Spectator for more regulation of the financial world. Jonathan Bartley, the co-director of Ekklesia, said: “The archbishops should be extremely careful when attacking City ‘bank robbers’ for short-selling and speculation. Amongst the billions of pounds that the Church currently invests in property and shares are hundreds of millions invested in oil and mining companies. “The Church has benefited significantly from the speculation that has underpinned rising oil and commodity prices such as gold and copper. The Church has substantial shareholdings in banks and a stated aim of making an excess profit of 5 per cent each year, over and above the rate of inflation, on its investments.” The Church Commissioners’ annual report last year revealed that its average return over the past decade was 9.5 per cent per year. Mr Bartley continued: “By its own admission it has also hedged against a fall in the value of sterling, and set up a currency hedging programme in 2006, effectively short-selling sterling in the currency markets.” He suggested that the Church should invest in institutions such as cooperatives, friendly societies and housing associations, and to work for the good of society, accepting a slightly lower profit. “The £5 billion investments that the Church currently holds provide a valuable opportunity for the Church to put its money where its mouth is, and use its wealth for good,” Mr Bartley said. The Church denied last night that it indulged in any dubious practices and said that its investment decisions were informed by its Ethical Investment Advisory Group. A spokesman said: “The commissioners do not short equities, nor have they delegated any shorting powers to their external equities fund managers. They do not have any exposure to hedge funds that short stocks. “The currency hedging programme, set up in 2007, is designed to protect the sterling value of the commissioners’ foreign currency denominated assets. The commissioners invest in a wide range of equities, including those of mining, oil and financial companies, as part of a broadly diversified asset base.” Evangelical leaders came out in support of the two archbishops as Dr Sentamu last night prepared to preach in New York and speak at the United Nations on the importance of the Millennium Development Goals, aimed at eradicating poverty. The Rev Joel Edwards, of Micah Challenge International, a global Christian campaign that works to challenge international leaders to achieve its goals, said: “Archbishop Sentamu’s challenge goes to the heart of the issue. The current financial crisis has demonstrated not only the degree of our self-interest and human greed in the West, but also our abject reluctance to rise to the challenges of taking our promises seriously.” David Muir, public policy director at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “We live to consume and now our greed is consuming us. We are reaping the consequences of always wanting more.” Collection box - £2.25bn portfolio of company shares held by the Church of England - 123,000 acres of agricultural land, worth an estimated £237 million, also owned by the Church. - About 31 per cent of its assets are invested in property - 85% of all the listed places of worship in England are owned by the Church - £250m has been spent by the Church of England since 1996 on repairing churches around the country - £177m annual estimated income of the Church - £5.7bn estimated value of Church’s central assets Sources: Times database; Centre for Citizenship http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4828516.ece FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.