September 23, 2011
By: Esme Murphy
A mother who confronted two boys who bullied her 10-year-old son has been banned from her son’s Minneapolis school and even her son’s bus stop for the rest of the year.
Tanya Sydney said she does not regret taking actions into her own hand to keep her son from being a victim.
Last week, fifth-grader Sovante Griffin told his Mom and Stepdad he was being bullied on the school bus. Sydney said he told her boys were hitting him, so she took matters into her own hands. She went to the bus stop the next day and confronted the bus driver.
“He told me ‘I am doing the best I can, I can’t be in 50 million places at once,’” Sydney said. She then got on the bus and yelled at the two boys that Griffin said were the bullies. “Specifically to the two boys I said you need to keep your hands to yourselves,” she said.
The driver ordered her off the bus. She and Griffin then walked to Lake Nokomis Community School. Sydney said when she and Griffin got to school they were met by the school’s police liaison officer, the principal and a transportation supervisor.
Sydney said the supervisor pulled out a photograph of another African-American woman who he said he created a disturbance on a school bus last year.
“That is when the transportation guy apologized and said ‘I assumed you were the woman from last year,’” she said
Her son and the two bullies later had to apologize to each other. Sydney got a letter from the principal saying she is banned from school grounds and the bus stop for the rest of the school year.
“It’s mindboggling,” she said.
She has filed an appeal to the year-long ban with the Minneapolis School Board. Sydney said she does not regret her actions.
“There are too many stories of children getting bullied. I don’t want it to get to the point were he is scared to get on this bus and he can’t be successful,” she said.
Griffin has gotten back on the bus this week and has been going to school without incident. The school district released a statement on the matter Wednesday, saying they can’t comment on the incident because of data privacy laws.
“Because of data privacy laws, we are unable to share any particulars about this matter. For the safety of students and staff, we are committed to following the MPS policies regarding bus protocol, including only allowing MPS students to board school buses; it is not our protocol to allow parents or other adults to board school buses. Maintaining a safe and secure environment in the school district, including our school buses, is a top priority.
Minneapolis Public Schools encourages parents to contact their school immediately if there are bullying concerns. Our schools take allegations concerning bullying very seriously and have a protocol to address these types of situations,” the statement reads.
September 23, 2011
By: Reporting Maria Bartiromo, Writing Antonya Allen
Billionaire investor George Soros said he believed the United States was already experiencing the pain of a double dip recession and that Republican opposition to Obama’s fiscal stimulus plans was to blame for sluggish growth.
Asked by CNBC if he believed the US risks falling into a double-dip recession , Soror said: “I think we are in it already.”
“We have a slowdown and basically a conflict about whether the rich ought to pay taxes to create jobs or not and there was a deal in the making which would have balanced the budget over the long term, but would have allowed short-term fiscal stimulus, which would have been the right policy,” Soros said in an interview late Wednesday.
“That was rejected, it fell apart… so it will come to the electorate next year to decide what they want,” he added.
Euro zone policymakers have repeatedly followed the wrong policy shifts, creating a situation in Europe “more dangerous” to the global financial system than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, Soros said.
“It is a more dangerous situation [than Lehman Bros] and I think that the authorities, when push comes to shove, will do whatever it takes to hold the system together, because the alternative is just too terrible to contemplate,” he added.
A number of smaller euro zone nations could default and leave the single currency area, Soros said, but he warned if it happened on an ad hoc basis, there would be considerable risk to the global economy.
“I think that you could have two or three of the small countries default or leave the euro provided it is prepared and done in an orderly way,” Soros said.
“If it were to happen unprepared it could actually disrupt the global financial system, but that’s why it’s important to allow for it to happen and then those countries have a genuine choice it doesn’t mean they are being pushed out.”
Soros said he believed the so-called ‘Troika’ of the EU, ECB and IMF would release the next tranche of aid to heavily indebted Greece, but he stressed the creation of a European bailout fund would determine whether Greece received another bailout in December.
September 23, 2011
The Washington Times
By: Seth McLaughlin
Rick Perry went out on a limb Thursday by refusing to back off his support as Texas governor for granting in-state tuition to some of the children of illegal immigrants, and painting critics of the law as heartless — remarks that landed him in the crosshairs of his GOP rivals.
The three-term Texas governor said he still supports the program “greatly” and that the Lone Star State needs “to be educating these children because otherwise they’ll “become a drag on society.”
“If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” Mr. Perry said.
The stance also put Mr. Perry at odds with a chunk of the audience, which booed, and opened him up to attacks from the Republican field, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who said the law carries an annual price tag of $22,000 per student and acts as a magnet for illegal immigrants.
“If you’re a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more,” Mr. Romney said, alluding to the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at the University of Texas over four years. “That doesn’t make sense to me. That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania piled on the criticism and called Mr. Perry “soft on illegal immigration” and alluded to a Perry speech from 2001 at which the Texan extolled the virtue of studying a “binational health insurance” program between border areas of Texas and Mexico.
“I don’t even think Barack Obama would be for binational health insurance,” the former Pennsylvania Senator quipped, sparking laughter from the audience. “So I think he’s very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota also said it was time to end “the magnet” of U.S. health and education benefits, which she said attracts illegal immigrants.
The dust-up over illegal immigration came toward the tail end of the debate here at the sprawling Orange Country Convention Center, where the candidates generally agreed over the notion of defeating Mr. Obama in the 2012 election and over devolving federal powers to the states, including such whole agencies as the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency.
During the two-hour affair, the contenders fielded various questions over health care, the economy and foreign policy — and each each of them appeared to score points with the audience along the way.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is running third in many national polls, vowed to veto every single bill that violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.
“Government is too big in Washington, D.C.,” the 12-term Texas Representative said. “It’s runaway. We have no controls of the spending, taxes, regulations, no control on the Federal Reserve printing money.”
Mrs. Bachmann promised to repeal ‘Obamacare’ and continued to attack the executive order Mr. Perry signed in 2007 that mandated that young girls be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted HPV virus, which is known to cause cervical cancer.
Defending himself, Mr. Perry stumbled over his history with a woman who later died of cervical cancer, identified later as 31-year-old Heather Burchman.
“I got lobbied on this issue. I got lobbied by a 31 year old young lady who had stage 4 cervical cancer,” said Perry. “I spent a lot of time with her. She came by my office. She talked to me about this program. I readily admitted we should have had an opt-in but I don’t know what part of opt out most parents don’t get and the fact is I erred on the side of life and I will always err on the side of life as a governor as a president of the United States.”
But Mr. Perry, according to an ABC News fact-check, only met Ms. Burcham after he issued his executive order in February 2007. The meeting occurred when Ms. Burcham was lobbying against a movement in the Texas Legislature to reverse the governor’s order.
On Fox News after the debate, Mrs. Bachmann brought up the misstatement and told host Sean Hannity that it will be a problem for Mr. Perry.
Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain, a crowd favorite, won applause for sharing his story about how he survived Stage 4 cancer, but would be dead under President Obama’s health-care plan. He said “Obamacare” would have resulted in delays for bureaucratic approval on his treatment schedule.
He also pushed his plan to replace the current tax code with three 9 percent levies — on businesses, personal income and sales.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he’d tie unemployment benefits to jobs training program, while Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman called for the troops to be brought home from Afghanistan.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson made the most of his first appearance in a post-Labor day debate, calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and vowing to veto any bills where spending exceeds revenues.
The former two-term governor also sparked laughter from the audience after telling the audience, “My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready projects than this president.”
Fireworks, meanwhile, continued to go off between Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney, who traded barbs over Social Security, illegal immigration and jobs — all in attempt to cast their top rival as the proverbial flip-flopper.
Mr. Romney delivered the opening salvo, suggesting Mr. Perry is retreating from statements he made in his book, “Fed Up,” where Mr. Romney said he suggested Social Security is unconstitutional and should be returned to the states.
“There’s a Rick Perry out there that’s saying that it — almost to quote — it says that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states,” Mr. Romney said. “So you’d better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.”
Mr. Perry retorted that Mr. Romney is hard to pin down when it comes to mandating health insurance, which he did as governor of Massachusetts in 2006.
“As a matter of fact, between books, your hard copy book, you said that it was exactly what the American people needed to have — that’s “Romneycare” — given to them as you had in Massachusetts,” Mr. Perry said. “Then in your paperback, you took that line out.”
Mr. Romney shot back, “I said no such thing” and went on to defend his plan, casting it as something much different than the president’s health care overhaul.
Later on, Mr. Perry tried to land a haymaker, but stumbled through what appeared to be a rehearsed line.
“I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with,” he said, alluding to Mr. Romney’s stances on guns and abortion, which have evolved over time. “I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.”
Mr. Huntsman summed up the feisty exchanges in the final minutes of the debate. “I’m tempted to say that when all is said and done, the two guys standing in the middle here, Romney and Perry, aren’t going to be around because they’re going to bludgeon each other to death.”
September 23, 2011
The privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, researchers said in Chicago this week.
To avoid spreading those bugs, health care providers should make sure to wash their hands after routine contact with the curtains and before interacting with patients, Dr. Michael Ohl, from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, said at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
“There is growing recognition that the hospital environment plays an important role in the transmission of infections in the health care setting and it’s clear that these (privacy curtains) are potentially important sites of contamination because they are frequently touched by patients and providers,” Dr. Ohl told Reuters Health.
Health care providers often touch these curtains after they have washed their hands and then proceed to touch the patient. Further, these curtains often hang for a long time and are difficult to disinfect.
In their study, Dr. Ohl and his team took 180 swab cultures from 43 privacy curtains twice a week for three weeks. The curtains were located in the medical and surgical intensive care units and on a medical ward of the University of Iowa Hospitals.
The researchers also marked the curtains to keep track of when they were changed.
Tests detected Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, including the especially dangerous methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), as well as various species of Enterococci — gut bacteria — some resistant to the newer antibiotic vancomycin.
The researchers used additional tests to identify specific vancomycin and methicillin-resistant strains to see whether the same strains were circulating and contaminating the curtains over and over.
The study found significant contamination that occurred very rapidly after new curtains were placed. Of the 13 privacy curtains placed during the study, 12 showed contamination within a week.
Virtually all privacy curtains tested (41 of 43) were contaminated on at least one occasion.
MRSA was isolated from one in five curtains, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) from four in 10. Eight curtains were contaminated with VRE more than once. Three of these were of a single type, but the other five showed contamination with different VRE strains, which suggested recontamination was happening with bacteria from new sources.
Overall, two thirds of the swab cultures were positive for either S. aureus (26 percent), Enterococcus species (44 percent) or various bacterial species from a group known as gram-negative rods (22 percent).
“The vast majority of curtains showed contamination with potentially significant bacteria within a week of first being hung, and many were hanging for longer than three or four weeks,” Dr. Ohl noted.
“We need to think about strategies to reduce the potential transfer of bacteria from curtains to patients,” he added. “The most intuitive, common sense strategy is (for health care workers) to wash hands after pulling the curtain and before seeing the patient. There are other strategies, such as more frequent disinfecting, but this would involve more use of disinfectant chemicals, and then there is the possibility of using microbial resistant fabrics. But handwashing is by far the most practical, and the cheapest intervention.”
September 23rd, 2011
By: Laura Rowley
Gene Kessler, 67, may be the new face of mortgage default. The tech industry retiree is in the process of walking away from the home he purchased for $166,000 in 2004 in a small town 75 miles southwest of Minneapolis.
Its value has plummeted to $111,000, wiping out Kessler’s $45,000 down payment and leaving him with a mortgage that’s more than the home is worth. He stopped paying the loan six months ago, and estimates he’ll have to vacate by March 2012.
But Kessler isn’t in financial trouble, and he could afford the monthly payments. He has no other debts and two pensions from former employers, as well as Social Security. He also has a woodworking hobby, and runs a small business selling the artisan lamps he makes in galleries. He’s single now, and his two children are grown and gone.
“I was looking for a way to get back to a larger city, and this was the only way I could get out of this house,” says Kessler, who paid $800 to YouWalkAway.com to help guide him through the process known as strategic default. He’s anticipating a move to a warmer climate and a more active art and dating scene in Santa Fe, N.M.
Banks Hit the Restart Button on Foreclosures
First notices of default jumped 33% in August, a nine-month high and the biggest month-over-month increase since August 2007, according to figures by RealtyTrac released Wednesday.
“There are 3 million to 4 million seriously delinquent mortgages that under normal circumstances would be in foreclosure but have been kept out by procedural delays and paperwork problems,” says Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac senior vice president. The recent spike in foreclosure starts suggests lenders are “hitting the restart button” on cases that were delayed by documentation problems such as robo-signing, he explains.
There’s no data on the demographics or financial histories of the people receiving recent default notices. But among them are some homeowners who have never defaulted on a loan before, at least according to one poll. YouWalkAway.com surveyed several hundred of its clients earlier this year, and just 23% said they had previously shirked a financial obligation.
“The people we are now seeing are nearing retirement age, who never missed a payment on anything in their lives,” says Jon Maddux, co-founder and CEO of the Carlsbad, Calif., firm. “They are trapped. They can’t sell or get a modification and they need to downsize or move for a job.”
Attitudes toward default have also shifted, Maddux says. “Back in 2008 people were very emotional, very scared, in disbelief or denial,” he says. “Now they are simply fed up. It’s a very calculated, black-and-white business decision. People feel very relieved.”
Putting a Crater in Your Credit Score
A more widespread understanding of the consequences of default may be a factor, says Brent White, a University of Arizona law professor and author of Underwater Home.
“The conventional wisdom is you are ruined and are not going to recover,” says White, who wrote a widely circulated discussion paper on the topic. But in so-called “non-recourse” states such as California, the bank can only foreclose on the property and resell it. If the price is less than the amount owed on the mortgage, the lender can’t sue the homeowner to recoup the shortfall, says White. Even in recourse states, the bank is unlikely to go after the homeowner following foreclosure, he argues.
“The vast majority of those who default end up doing a short sale and that discharges the deficiency,” he says. “If they are pursued, they can negotiate to pay less than the full amount. A savvy person who retains an attorney or other knowledgeable person to walk them through the process will likely get through default without having to pay a deficiency judgment. Most people will have a good credit score again within a couple years.”
But John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com, disagrees, at least for consumers new to default. “If someone who has never missed a payment suddenly puts their home in foreclosure, their credit score is destroyed,” says Ulzheimer, who previously worked for a credit bureau.
“If you already have payment problems on the mortgage and defaulted on other accounts, [foreclosure] may not have a material downward impact, but it will lock in a lower score for a long time,” Ulzheimer says. People who stop paying the mortgage can minimize the credit score impact by using that free cash flow to pay down other debts, such as credit cards, he adds.
Refusing to Walk Away From a Bad Loan
But just because the bank doesn’t pursue homeowners today doesn’t mean it won’t tomorrow, argues Ulzheimer. The statute of limitations to sue on contract debt in recourse states ranges from three to 15 years. “Some people think that’s the next shoe to fall,” he notes.
That possibility is just one reason other underwater homeowners are stubbornly hanging on. Liana Friend, 67, bought a two-story, 2,300-square-foot home with a pool in a master community in Corona, Calif., in July 2005 as an investment for $540,000. It’s now worth $295,000.
Friend owes $389,000 on 30-year mortgage at 6.75% that can’t be refinanced. The difference between her costs and the rent she can collect on the property is about $1,300 a month. Even Friend’s property manager has suggested she default on the investment.
But she refuses. “It’s a big time moral issue,” says Friend. “If you make a contract, you agree to the terms. It bothers me that people get up and walk away. I don’t want that on my credit report.”
Moreover, Friend made a $160,000 down payment using money inherited from her grandparents. Her grandmother was a self-taught investor from a farming community who married her first husband (of five) at age 14 and eventually made a fortune in stocks. “She would grab all the granddaughters in her pink Cadillac and take us shopping,” Friend recalls. “We were not allowed to take things in shopping bags — she insisted we had to have them in boxes. We all adored her.”
“I love and believe in real estate,” adds Friend, who purchased two other homes in the 1980s that are still worth far more than she paid. She bought the properties for income in retirement, and plans to bequeath them to her three daughters.
Are You Better Off Renting?
Friend should ask her lender how far the mortgage needs to be paid down in order to refinance, advises Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH Associates, a mortgage information publisher. He estimates she would need $160,000, possibly more, to do a cash-in refinance on the property. But even if she could refinance, it still wouldn’t fully close the shortfall between the rent and her costs, and it may take decades for the house to recover its value.
White says underwater homeowners should figure out if they are paying substantially more to own a house on a monthly basis than they would pay to rent a similar property. “Even if you are thousands of dollars underwater, if you are paying the same as you would to rent, you don’t gain that much financially by defaulting,” he says. (The survey by YouWalkAway.com found a quarter of respondents saved 50% or more on housing expenses when they rented after their default.)
In addition, someone who will need a good credit score to run a small business or borrow to meet a goal, such as a child’s college education, should avoid strategic default. “If you have a particular need for easy credit in the future, then it doesn’t make financial sense,” White notes.
As for Kessler, he is looking forward to biking, tennis and skiing in the Southwest next year. “I don’t feel guilty at all about walking away from the place,” he says. “The banks really did it to themselves. They made a ton of money with me over the years. I owned four or five houses. But I don’t think I’ll ever buy another house. I’ll probably just rent until they put me in a nursing home.”
September 23rd, 2011
The New York Times
By: Eric Lipton
President Obama’s visit to the Solyndra solar panel factory in California last year was choreographed down to the last detail — the 20-by-30-foot American flags, the corporate banners hung just so, the special lighting, even coffee and doughnuts for the Secret Service detail.
“It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future,” the president declared in May 2010 to the assembled workers and executives. The start-up business had received a $535 million federal loan guarantee, offered in part to reassert American dominance in solar technology while generating thousands of jobs.
But behind the pomp and pageantry, Solyndra was rotting inside, hemorrhaging cash so quickly that within weeks of Mr. Obama’s visit, the company canceled plans to offer shares to the public. Barely a year later, Solyndra has become one of the administration’s most costly fumbles after the company declared bankruptcy, laid off 1,100 workers and was raided by F.B.I. agents seeking evidence of possible fraud.
Solyndra’s two top officers are to appear Friday before a House investigative committee where, their lawyers say, they will assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The government’s backing of Solyndra, which could cost taxpayers more than a half-billion dollars, came as the politically well-connected business began an extensive lobbying campaign that appears to have blinded government officials to the company’s financial condition and the risks of the investment, according to a review of government documents and interviews with administration officials and industry analysts.
While no evidence has emerged that political favoritism played a role in what administration officials assert were merit-based decisions, Solyndra drew plenty of high-level attention. Its lobbyists corresponded frequently and met at least three times with an aide to a top White House official, Valerie B. Jarrett, to push for loans, tax breaks and other government assistance.
Administration officials lay the blame for Solyndra’s problems in part on the global collapse in the price of solar energy components, which forced the company to sell its innovative solar panels at less than it cost to make them. Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill question whether the firm’s executives may have engaged in a cover-up of their precarious financial condition, allegations the company denies.
But industry analysts and government auditors fault the Obama administration for failing to properly evaluate the business proposals or take note of troubling signs already evident in the solar energy marketplace.
“It was alarming,” said Frank Rusco, a program director at the Government Accountability Office, which found that Energy Department preliminary loan approvals — including the one for Solyndra — were granted at times before officials had completed mandatory evaluations of the financial and engineering viability of the projects. “They can’t really evaluate the risks without following the rules.”
The Energy Department’s senior staff has acknowledged in interviews the intense pressure from top Obama administration officials to rush stimulus spending out the door.
“We had to knock down some barriers standing in the way to get these projects funded,” Matthew C. Rogers, the Energy Department official overseeing the loan guarantee program, said in March 2009, just days before Solyndra got its provisional loan commitment. Mr. Rogers said Energy Secretary Steven Chu had been personally reviewing loan applications and urging faster action on them.
Two committees of Congress, the Department of Energy’s inspector general and the Department of Justice are now investigating what went wrong in the Solyndra case. In Washington, it has set in motion a highly partisan battle over the benefits or failings of Mr. Obama’s stimulus program.
Some Republican lawmakers have raised questions about political interference in the loan decision, pointing to the fact that George B. Kaiser, a billionaire from Tulsa, Okla., was a fund-raiser for Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign and the backer of a foundation that is Solyndra’s leading investor. While he has met with top White House and administration officials multiple times, Mr. Kaiser and administration officials say they discussed issues related to his foundation, not Solyndra.
But during the period when Solyndra’s loan guarantee was under review and management by the Energy Department, the company spent nearly $1.8 million on Washington lobbyists, employing six firms with ties to members of Congress and officials of the Obama White House. None of the other three solar panel manufacturers that eventually got federal loan guarantees spent a dime on lobbyists.
Energy Department officials said the lobbying had no impact on their decisions. But Solyndra, which had been among 143 companies to express an interest in a loan guarantee and 16 that were asked to submit a formal application — ended up securing the first financial commitment. Solyndra’s loan guarantee was the highest of the four companies.
Tim Harris, the chief executive of Solopower, which got a $197 million loan guarantee last month to build solar panels in San Jose, Calif., said his company had never considered employing a Washington lobbyist to grease the application. “It was made clear to us early in the process that that was clearly verboten,” Mr. Harris said. “We were told that it was not only not helpful but it was not acceptable.”
If there was a single bet made by the Obama administration that would determine the success or failure of its investment in Solyndra, it centered on the global price its competitors pay for one of earth’s most common elements: silicon.
Solyndra’s unique tube-shaped solar panels — which harvest early morning and evening light for electricity instead of just midday sun — do not rely on silicon. But it assumed its competitors would continue to pay a relatively high price for silicon, allowing Solyndra to charge the premium required to turn a profit on its panels. It was an assumption Obama officials bought into. But industry experts outside the federal government, going back to 2008, were predicting silicon prices were headed for a steep fall.
Bush administration officials had started the review of the Solyndra application in May 2008. They were anxious to approve the deal, because members of Congress were complaining that the loan guarantee program, signed into law in 2005, still had not given out its first award. But in the final weeks of the administration, Energy Department officials put the brakes on any loan commitment to Solyndra, partly out of concern that its costs made the price of manufacturing power capacity significantly higher than its competitors.
The Obama administration, though, was determined to move ahead. “DOE is trying to deliver on the first loan guarantee within 60 days from inauguration,” one March 2009 e-mail from an Office of Management and Budget official said.
Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said administration officials realized the Solyndra plan posed some certain risks. The loan program was designed to help finance cutting-edge projects that could not otherwise find enough private-sector investors.
“But we did not just take what this company was telling us,” Mr. LaVera said. “We did the analysis on our own and decided it was a good bet.”
But Shyam Mehta, a senior analyst at GTM Research who follows the solar energy industry, said that he questions just how careful this review was, given the obvious warning signs.
“There was just too much misplaced zeal at the Department of Energy for this company,” Mr. Mehta said.
Solyndra executives, seeking an edge in the competition for federal loan guarantees, began employing Washington lobbyists in 2008. The company stepped up its efforts in early 2009, retaining McBee Strategic Consulting. Five lobbyists employed by the McBee group eventually worked on Solyndra’s behalf, including Michael Sheehy, a former top aide to Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. Solyndra has paid McBee Consulting $340,000 since 2009.
Steve McBee, the firm’s founder and a former Senate aide, did not return calls seeking comment, but in an April 2009 press release he said that his firm could help technology companies gain a chunk of the projected bonanza of $100 billion in federal money for clean-energy projects.
Mr. McBee said that lobbying was not allowed as part of the process. But in early 2009, the firm filed a disclosure form saying it was retained by Solyndra to lobby on stimulus act spending related to the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program. A critical piece of the stimulus bill removed a requirement that firms like Solyndra pay a substantial up-front fee to cover the risk of a loan, a provision that had slowed approvals of loan guarantees. Once that was removed, loans began to flow and Solyndra was the first to benefit.
Over the next three years, Solyndra retained two other lobbying firms, hired two in-house lobbyists and aggressively pushed for White House meetings to plead its case. Another lobbying and public relations firm with close ties to the White House — Glover Park Group — also worked on Solyndra’s behalf.
In January 2010, four months after the loan was finalized, Solyndra executives and lobbyists pressed Gregory S. Nelson, an aide to Ms. Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, for a meeting to boast about progress at the plant financed with federal money and to discuss a possible second loan, according to White House e-mails. That meeting occurred on Jan. 15, 2010, records show. White House scheduling officials later began talks that led to Mr. Obama’s visit in May.
But signs were increasing in 2010 that the company’s business plan was imploding. The dive in silicon prices, which had started in late 2008, accelerated by the end of 2010. Solyndra sales were growing, but so were its losses. It was forced to slash prices much lower than its costs in order to compete with conventional silicon panel producers. Trade publications began to question whether Solyndra would survive — even its own accountant in March 2010 said it had “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”
But Solyndra and its lobbyists continued to provide assurances to the White House and the Energy Department, which still could have stopped the flow of federal money that was being given out for construction of a new factory.
“We have no intention of going out of business,” David Miller, a Solyndra executive, wrote to Mr. Nelson, the White House aide, in July 2010. Mr. Miller, added in May 2011, as the cash crunch had severely worsened, that “we have good market momentum.”
Mr. Nelson wrote back encouraged. “Fantastic to hear that business is doing well,” he said, according to a May 2011 e-mail released by the White House. “Keep up the good work.”
Similar positive predictions were shared with members of Congress this year, after the company sought and received permission from the Obama administration to restructure its $535 million loan, which put private investors ahead of the government for some of the debt if the company was liquidated.
That disconnect has led some members of Congress to question if Solyndra was intentionally misleading officials in Washington.
“Even as late as this summer, Solyndra executives told us here in Washington that the company’s finances were improving,” said Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, and the chairman of the panel leading the Solyndra inquiry. “Solyndra was never profitable, and it was obviously poorly managed and unviable in the global market.”
September 23rd, 2011
By: Mark Sircus
No matter how many times I have written about vaccines the subject never fails to throw a harpoon through my heart. Just to know and see innocent children everywhere being attacked by pediatric doctors from the moment they are born is enough to shake a person to ones core.
A comprehensive evaluation of eight common childhood vaccines has found that any adverse effects from vaccines are very rare or very minor. The report, issued last week by a panel of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), said there is no evidence that childhood vaccines cause autism, diabetes, facial palsy or episodes of asthma. They are lying because scientifically it’s impossible to conclude this. Several of the chemicals or heavy metals that are in vaccines are independently known to cause severe disease.
Mercury contamination causes autism, diabetes and many other chronic diseases and is even known under certain circumstances to cause sudden death. The aluminum that is in many vaccines is not a piece of cake either and the two together are 100 times more toxic than either alone.
The IOM says that these conclusions are based on the analysis of more than 1,000 research studies in peer-reviewed journals but they forget to mention that these research studies are heavily biased. The institute had been asked by the federal government to review whether or not the eight vaccines caused specific adverse effects as claimed by people seeking redress from a national vaccine injury compensation program. The government does not like paying out money to anyone injured by vaccines and they will fight tooth and nail against the unfortunate families who have been devastated by their vaccines.
The panel did find convincing evidence, its highest category of proof, that vaccines have been linked to adverse effects, including seizures and inflammation of the brain. It also found that a chickenpox vaccine could cause pneumonia, meningitis or hepatitis years later if the virus, normally suppressed by the immune system, re-emerged after the immune system had been weakened.
Vaccines are a cornerstone of modern medicine and that cornerstone weighs heavily on the honesty and intelligence of doctors everywhere. Parents SHOULD NOT take comfort in the report’s conclusions about vaccine safety. Those inclined to seek ways to have their children evade mandatory vaccinations need to be assured that they are doing the right thing and that vaccination is absolutely the worst way to protect anyone from the risk of contracting dangerous diseases.
If you want to have a healthy child, stay away from vaccines! If you want to have a healthy pregnancy stay away from any OB/GYN doctors who have not the slightest idea of what they are doing to pregnant women and their unborn children when they inject them with unnecessary and dangerous vaccines. I was talking to a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy and she said it was too late for my warnings. Then she rattled off a long string of shots her doctor had prescribed for her.
Most doctors know little to nothing about nutrition and even less about toxicology. They have rubberstamped the elite class’s dependency on using chemical, heavy metal and radioactive poisons to earn fortunes.
As I have been saying, we do not need to wait for a one-world government to make our collective lives miserable. The United Nations and the World Health Organization already dictate a unified policy across the globe. When we trust the wrong people we receive consequences that cause us pain and suffering and sometimes even the death of our children. You will never catch a mainstream media report talking about vaccine deaths even though they fit right into their “rare” category. The death of a few thousand kids is just too rare to mention for these monsters who have the bloodstreams of our young in their disgusting hands.
Can We Trust?
There is no reason that we should trust the powers that be especially when it has something to do with the field of medicine. Actually we cannot trust them at all and you can tell from the following video, the powers that be do not want us to challenge their cruel consensus reality and it eventually will get to the point where they will shoot us on sight for doing so.
The president speaks of facts. Would love to hear him explain the factors about World Trade Center building number seven and how that one came down on its own footprint with hardly a scratch on its structure. But there are fools everywhere who believe their own rhetoric and even worse fools who believe in and trust the most un-trustable people and organizations.
Babies in the United States have a higher risk of dying during their first month of life than do babies born in 40 other countries, according to a new report. In 2009, an estimated 3.3 million babies died during their first four weeks of life. How many of these babies died from the vaccines given them and from those given to their mothers when still in the womb?
Newborn deaths would probably be vastly reduced if the doctors and nurses would leave the children alone, meaning stop the use of vaccines. Many years ago the Japanese stopped vaccinating children less than two years of age and the number of sudden deaths among the newborn dropped precipitously. The one-world medical government has deliberately forgotten all about that. They’ve gone the opposite direction by making sure fetuses feel their boot by injecting poisons into their mothers’ bloodstreams, knowing full well how much of that will settle into the woman’s womb.
We live in an obscene civilization run by obscene people and institutions. We as a people have been too wimpy in front of the growing plague of leaders who have sold their souls but lose very little sleep over it. We could have used a true holy war against these people, a war where people of all religions unite against all the ones at the top who have only profanities coming out of their mouths and hearts. They are the true enemy and it is amazing how deeply they reach into everyone’s lives, even to those who are still resting quietly in the wombs of their mothers.
Stefan Molyneux speaks with Casey Research Managing Director David Galland about the debt situation but this can also be applied to the medical industrial complex. Stefan: So, we are seven-tenths of the way towards fascism in the United States. I wonder if you could expand upon that. David: Well, all the elements for fascism are in place. We have a monetary system that is accountable to no one and that’s a very good start. Dr. Mark: We have a medical system that is accountable to no one, not even to medical science. What can we say about a medical science that supports the poisoning of men, women and children everywhere? What can we say about pediatricians, obstetricians and oncologists that lead the field in the harm they do to their fellow humans? All of these doctors have blood on their hands because they love to use the most poisonous substances known to man. They have violated their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.
Contemporary medicine has sunk into a terrible darkness from which it cannot return.
September 23rd, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Catherine Pearson
When you say “I do,” you are not just signing up for a lifetime of togetherness — you’re also, apparently, signing up for shared eating habits.
Researchers analyzed the eating patterns of more than 3,000 participants in the ongoing Framingham Heart Study to determine whether social ties influence eating behaviors and exactly how they do so. They considered the role that spouses, friends, brothers and sisters played over the course of 10 years. Overall, the analysis, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, found that couples had the greatest impact on one another’s dietary patterns.
“The hypothesis is that your eating behavior is going to be affected by those around you,” said Paul F. Jacques, D.Sc., director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at Tufts University and one of the study’s authors.
“With spouses, it has a lot to do with the stronger shared environment,” he added. “One person is probably preparing food for the other frequently.”
But it wasn’t just couples who influenced one another; friends also appeared to share certain eating patterns, particularly when it came to regular consumption of alcohol and snacks. (For purposes of analysis, the researchers grouped the individuals into seven distinct patterns, including meat and soda eaters, sweets eaters and those who avoid caffeine.)
Indeed, the researchers found that in terms of influential eating types, the “alcohol and snacks” pattern reigned supreme, influence-wise. Across all of the social relationship types, it was the most likely eating pattern to be shared.
According to the authors, one reason for this is that drinking and snacking tend to be more social in nature.
“Items in this food pattern are easy to share and often require less of a time commitment relative to meals,” they write. “In addition, in American society, alcohol is culturally associated with sociability.”
Conversely, the light eating pattern — which consisted of lower average food consumption throughout the week, even of healthier foods like vegetables, fruits and grains — was the least likely to be shared across the various social relationships.
Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietitian Association, said that research like this is important for people to be aware of so that they can monitor their own eating patterns. Other recent studies have found that marriage influences weight gain in women.
Crandall explained that when she begins working with clients looking to lose weight, one of the first things she stresses is the importance of having friends, family and particularly a spouse on board. While this might not necessarily mean they adopt your new eating habits, they should be cognizant of, say, ripping open a bag of chips in front of you, or bringing you a muffin as a thoughtful gesture.
Crandall said her clients get the support they are looking for much of the time. One couple, she said, not only changed what they ate, they got off the couch and started square and swing dancing.
But about half of the time, she estimated, her clients don’t get that support, which can make it difficult to change eating habits given the crucial role relationships can play.
“You get very accustomed to being in that environment of ‘let’s go grab a bite, or a coffee, or a drink,” Crandall said. “When you try to change what your typical habits are, that can impact your spouse or friends, and they may not be ready to change.”
September 23rd, 2011
By: Dan Caplinger
In your quest to save for retirement, tax-favored retirement accounts are valuable tools to help you set aside and grow your money. But eventually, all good things must come an end, and regardless of if you want to, you need to start taking money out of your traditional IRAs and 401(k) accounts. If you don’t, the IRS will gladly sock you with a penalty you simply can’t afford to pay. And with the recent volatility we’ve seen in the stock market, you need to make sure your retirement investments will produce enough income to give you the cash that the IRS makes you take out.
Dealing with the RMD
Millions of workers have enjoyed the benefits of retirement saving through IRAs and 401(k)s. When you set money aside in one of these tax-favored retirement accounts, you generally get to fund it with pre-tax money — meaning that you either get a deduction on your tax return (in the case of IRAs) or have that money excluded from your taxable income on your paystub (for 401(k) accounts). That’s a huge boost that often gives you thousands in tax savings year in and year out.
Even better, once your money is inside your retirement account, you get to defer paying taxes on the income it generates throughout your lifetime. The only time you’ll pay tax on a traditional IRA or 401(k) is when you take money out of your account. That’s why most people try to leave money inside their retirement accounts as long as they can.
When lawmakers created IRAs and employer retirement plans, they knew that taxpayers wouldn’t want to pay taxes any sooner than they had to. So they included provisions in the laws that govern retirement accounts to force people to take their money out under certain conditions, regardless of whether they actually needed the money. These required minimum distributions apply to two groups of people: accountholders who will be age 70 1/2 or older at the end of 2011, or those who inherited IRAs and weren’t eligible to do a spousal rollover into their own accounts.
What’s the deal?
Once you know that you have to take an RMD, the hard part is calculating it. Each year, you have to take out a fraction of your total traditional retirement account assets. That fraction is determined by your life expectancy and will change every year, but for those in their 70s, the required withdrawal is about 4% to 5% of your retirement portfolio. By the time you’re in your 90s, that figure can approach or exceed 10%.
And worst of all, if you don’t take your RMD, the IRS hits you with a 50% penalty on the amount you should have taken. So you simply have to find a way to come up with the cash.
Financing those distributions is where dividend stocks come in. If you want to take your RMDs without selling stock, then you need stocks that will pay you enough income to cover the RMD.
Fortunately, those who’ve just started having to take RMDs have plenty of good choices to get them into the 4% to 5% yield range. Utility stock Duke Energy (NYS: DUK) and telecom giant AT&T (NYS: T) are obvious choices with highly attractive yields. But at current yields, you have the luxury of building a truly diversified dividend-producing portfolio. For instance, recycling giant Waste Management (NYS: WM) offers not only a high current yield but also strong dividend growth, which can be even more important. Drugmaker Eli Lilly (NYS: LLY) and cigarette maven Philip Morris International (NYS: PM) also add some sector breadth while still providing the yield you need.
Once your RMDs get into the double-digit percentage realm, though, your choices get more limited. Rural telco Frontier Communications (NYS: FTR) and mortgage REIT Annaly Capital (NYS: NLY) make the grade as far as yield is concerned, but they may not fit well with the conservative investing styles that most older retirees prefer for their portfolios. Nevertheless, they remain an option for those who are dead-set against selling stocks and invading their principal.
If you have to take an RMD, you have until the end of the year to do it. But with the end of the year often getting hectic, think about doing it now rather than procrastinating. With half your distribution on the line, you can’t afford to mess this up.
September 23rd, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Elise Foley
House Republicans set the stage early Friday for another fight over government funding, passing a stopgap bill that Senate Democrats say will not make it through the Senate.
The bill, which funds the government until Nov. 18 and provides emergency disaster aid to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, passed in a 219 to 203 vote, mostly along party lines. Two dozen Republicans voted against the bill.
It won almost full support from Republicans, an improvement for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over a failed vote on a nearly-identical funding bill just a day prior. But to win over members in his own conference, Boehner and other GOP leaders inserted a provision that would make it even more unpalatable to the other side, adding more offsets for disaster funding that Democrats say should not be offset at all.
Senate leaders said they will not back down, offering to stay in session next week to ensure FEMA and government funding are in place.
“The bill the House will vote on tonight is not an honest effort at compromise,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement before the vote. “It will be rejected by the Senate. …. The Senate is ready to stay in Washington next week to do the work the American people expect us to do, and I hope the House Republican leadership will do the same.”
Both chambers settled on a funding figure for the government more than a month ago, while setting the terms for a debt ceiling increase. But since then, a number of disasters have occurred that made emergency funding for FEMA a necessity.
Republicans, urged by their constituents to cut as much government spending as possible, moved to offset disaster funding in the continuing resolution by cutting $1.5 billion from an energy loan program. But those spending cuts were not enough for 48 Republicans, who voted on Wednesday against the funding bill in hopes for higher cuts. Leaders responded with one addition that, though relatively small, went after a program that provided loans to the failed and politically embarrassing Solyndra company, a solar energy company once hailed by the Obama administration as a model green company, but now under an FBI investigation after filing for bankruptcy last week.
Senate Democrats rejected the idea that disaster aid should be offset at all, arguing Congress should approve aid first and find the money later.
“The feeling in there [the caucus] is we’re fed up with this,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after a caucus meeting on Thursday. “They know what it takes for us to extend the [continuing resolution] and keep the government in business and this brinkmanship of maybe we will and maybe we won’t — we’re sick of it, we’re tired of it. The American people are sick of it too.”
They stuck to a firm message they have used all week: Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were approved without offsets, so why should emergency disaster aid be subjected to them?
“The general [sense] was look, we’re dealing with folks who spend money on nations overseas unpaid for all of the time,” Rep. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Thursday. “They’re unwilling to pay for nation-building here, and it’s wrong.”
The question now will be whether the House and Senate can come to an agreement — and when. Either way, both sides have said it will be the other’s fault if disaster aid is delayed by partisan bickering.
“The Senate should pass this bill immediately, and the president should sign it, because any political games will delay FEMA money that suffering American families desperately need,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Thursday in a statement.