September 26, 2011
By: Laura Rozen
In late 2009, the Obama administration transferred 55 so-called bunker-buster bombs to Israel. The 5,000-pound bombs conceivably put Israel in the position to attack Iran’s buried nuclear facilities–or to target Hezbollah’s buried bunkers in Lebanon.
The revelation, first reported by Newsweek’s Eli Lake Friday, received independent confirmation via a sensitive U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last month.
In a November 2009 meeting among senior American and Israeli military and diplomatic officials, “both sides . . . discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG [U.S. government] is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran,” the leaked Nov. 18, 2009 U.S. cable states. ThinkProgress’s Ali Ghraib first reported on the U.S. cable, which WikiLeaks released in August.
Israel had earlier requested the deep-penetrating bombs from the Bush administration, Lake reported. But according to Lake’s report, Bush had refused the Israeli request, not wanting to give Israel a “green light” to bomb Iran. (However, another leaked U.S. cable discusses Israeli media reports suggesting that the Bush administration transferred an earlier shipment of GBU-28 bombs to Israel, in 2005. “All media continued coverage of the forthcoming arms sale by the U.S. of GBU-28 bombs to Israel,” an unclassified April 2005 U.S. diplomatic states.)
American policymakers had–and indeed have–many reasons to be wary of Israel initiating a confrontation with Iran–chief among them the roughly 150,000 American troops the United States currently has deployed on either side of Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other forces and assets assigned to bases in Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region.
So why has the Obama administration seemingly reversed that call? After all, the Obama White House has sought to curtail Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic and economic measures–and the export of 5,000-pound bunker buster bombs to Israel would seem to severely test Israeli patience for that slow and frustrating effort. And, secondly, why is the information emerging now–nearly two years after the administration carried out the deal?
Some policy observers suggest that the U.S. military under Obama was trying to “hug Israel close,” in order to increase its feeling of security and thus hopefully stave off the prospect that Israel might launch a surprise strike on Iran on its own, thereby wreaking all sorts of havoc with U.S. military and diplomatic initiatives in the region.
The reported transfer may have been a “gesture” by the Obama White House “to assure the Israelis we love them,” one Washington Iran expert who insisted on anonymity told The Envoy via email. Still, he confessed that he still found the ultimate motivation behind the transfer mystifying.
It’s also worth noting that the pending U.S. transfer of 5,000-lb. bunker buster bombs occurred at a Nov. 18, 2009 meeting of American and Israeli officials — approximately a week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a ten-month partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank that the Obama administration had sought.
As to the timing of the revelation, while some observers have suggested that American officials may have leaked it in order to burnish Obama’s pro-Israel credentials as he faces a tough 2012 presidential campaign, Lake himself, in an in an interview with NPR Saturday, discounted a political motivation for his initial sources. Lake also said on Twitter that Obama White House officials were not among the U.S. and Israeli sources for his story. (Nevertheless, some Democratic Congressional staff sources have eagerly circulated the Lake story, seemingly seeking to beat back the Republican narrative that Obama has not demonstrated sufficient love and support for the Jewish state.)
The simpler explanation may in this case be the more compelling one: American and Israeli officials initiated the disclosure of the information now to send a potent warning to Iran.
Such a message would be well timed, in view of other recent developments in the Iranian nuclear effort. Last month, Tehran announced that it had started moving nuclear centrifuges to a buried underground facility in Qom. American officials have been concerned that as Iran proceeds with transferring its enrichment program from its current Natanz facility to the underground Qom facility, Israel might choose to launch a preventive strike aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear initiative before it becomes harder to target at the buried Fordo facility near Qom.
The Obama “administration is interested in sending message to the Iranians that we have lots of things we can do that are tougher, … [that it] can ratchet up the pressure on Iran,” suggested Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an interview with The Envoy Monday. “The administration may be lifting its skirt a little bit to show some ankle.”
(And in actuality, Israel has received earlier shipments of U.S. bunker buster bombs, analysts said. For instance, the Bush Defense Department announced in 2008 plans to sell 1,000 GBU-39 smart bunker buster bombs to Israel, “to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” according to an Associated Press report. However, Israeli analysts said at the time that the smaller, 250-pound, precision GBU-39 bombs were more useful against buried arsenals in Lebanon and Gaza–not Iran. “You would need something a lot heavier,” former Israeli military strategic planner Shlomo Brom told the AP. “The GBU-39 can penetrate 6 feet of concrete, and 6 feet is not enough” for targeting Iran’s buried nuclear facilities, he said. By contrast, analysts note that the bunker busters reportedly transferred in the 2009 Obama deal are 5,000-pound bombs, with much deeper penetration capacities.)
Could the disclosure now that Israel has the means to strike Iran’s underground nuclear facilities change Iran’s nuclear decision-making calculus? It’s hard to know with any certainty, given that so many factors that might influence such a decision are still very much in play.
But in a meeting with journalists in New York last week, attended by The Envoy, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not discount the possibility of an Israeli strike–and he warned harshly against it.
“The Zionists are quite eager to be able to damage the security of Iran,” Ahmadinejad said through a translator at the Sept. 22 lunch with journalists, using “Zionists” to refer to the Israeli government. “It’s their ultimate dream to be able to transgress against Iran. Certainly know Iran’s response will be quite hard and it will be regretful for them. We assure everyone we will defend ourselves. I hope they avoid that fatal mistake.”
Message delivered–and received?
September 26, 2011
By: Elaine Lies
To jump-start the healing of difficult diabetic wounds, researchers have a suggestion: let maggots do the work.
To allow such wounds to heal, doctors remove infected or dead tissue with scalpels or enzymes, a process they call debridement. But these tools often fail.
“These problem patients with diabetes really need better treatments in order to salvage their limbs,” said Lawrence Eron from Kaiser Hospital and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, who with colleagues presented their findings at a recent scientific meeting in Chicago.
“Maggot debridement treatment is overwhelmingly effective. After just one treatment these wounds start looking better,” he told Reuters Health.
The results from Eron’s team, which treated 37 diabetics with the maggots, still haven’t been vetted by independent researchers.
All of the patients in the study suffered from a type of artery disease that causes poor circulation in the limbs and they all had stubborn wounds, some up to five years old.
The doctors put 50 to 100 maggots, of the species Lucilia sericata, on the wounds and left them there for two days, at which time they applied new ones. They repeated this five times on average.
“We cage the maggots in a mesh-like material. Nylon panty hose might be used. And then we seal them so they don’t get out,” Eron said.
Maggots secrete substances into wounds that liquefy dead tissue and then ingest the material to further degrade it in their gut. The wounds are cleaned, and other substances contained in the maggot secretions allow the development of granulation tissue, a type of connective tissue that forms during wound healing.
Twenty-one of the patients had successful outcomes, defined as eradication of infection, complete removal of dead tissue, formation of robust connective tissue in the wound and more than three-quarters closure of the wound.
Five wounds were infected with the “superbug” MRSA, but they healed successfully with the maggot therapy. Nine wounds were infected with another bacterium called MSSA, and six of those healed. All 10 cases with infection due to group B streptococci were successfully treated, Eron said.
The treatment failed in some patients. One had excessive inflammation surrounding the wound, two bled too much, and three had problems with infected bones.
Asked how he persuades patients to undergo the treatment, Eron said he carefully explains the procedure and then has them sign a consent form.
“A lot of patients might be somewhat wary of having live insects placed into their wounds so we explain how it works and what possible problems might occur,” he said.
“After this, we go on to do further treatment with hydrogels, grafts of cell culture tissue, or negative pressure dressings. But to get to the point there these treatments will work, you really need to clean up the wound, get rid of dead tissue, and get robust granulation tissue into the wound — and this is where the maggots help.”
September 26, 2011
By: Kate Kelland
An explosion of new technologies and treatments for cancer coupled with a rapid rise in cases of the disease worldwide mean cancer care is rapidly becoming unaffordable in many developed countries, oncology experts said on Monday.
With costs ballooning, a radical shift in thinking is needed to ensure fairer access to medicines and address tricky questions like balancing extra months of life for patients against costs of a new drug, technology or care plan, they said.
“The cancer community needs to take responsibility and not accept a sub-standard evidence base and an ethos of very small benefit at whatever cost,” said a report commissioned by the Lancet Oncology medical journal on the costs of cancer care.
“There should be fair prices and real value from new technologies.”
Some 12 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer each year and that number is expected to rise to 27 million by 2030.
The cost of new cancer cases is already estimated to be about $286 billion a year, with medical costs making up more than half the economic burden and productivity losses account for nearly a quarter, according to Economist Intelligence United data cited in the report.
The report, led by Richard Sullivan of Britain’s King’s Health Partners Integrated Cancer Center in London, said policy-makers, doctors, patients groups and the health industry should work together to find ways to stem future cost rises.
“We are at a crossroads for affordable cancer care, where our choices — or refusal to make choices — will affect the lives of millions of people,” said Sullivan, who presented his report at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) in Stockholm.
“Do we bury our heads in the sand, keep our fingers crossed, and hope that it turns out fine, or do we have difficult debates and make hard choices?”
Sullivan’s team, which brought together 37 experts from wealthy countries, found that cancer costs are driven by many factors, including aging populations and rising demand for healthcare, as well as increasingly sophisticated and expensive targeted cancer drugs.
Prices for some of the latest experimental drugs unveiled at the EMCC — including a highly-sophisticated armed antibody drug from Roche and a so-called alpha-pharmaceutical from Bayer and Algeta — are likely to reach into the tens of thousands of dollars per patient.
The Lancet report pointed to Dendreon’s Provenge prostate cancer treatment — which costs more than $100,000 for a three-dose course and was found in trials to improve survival by several months in patients with few other options.
“How should we determine its value?” the report asked.
Michael Baumann, president of the European Cancer Organization, said there was an “explosion of new possibilities” in cancer treatment and care. This was exciting for scientists, oncologists and cancer patients, he said, but also made it “absolutely necessary to think about this cost issue now.”
September 26, 2011
By: Chris Moody
Not everyone needs to go to Disney World to have fun in central Florida.
After one of Herman Cain’s strongest showings yet at a Republican presidential debate Thursday, and two days with conservative activists in the state, he won the “Presidency 5″ straw poll in Orlando over the weekend, beating front-runner Texas Gov. Rick Perry by more than 20 points.
While straw polls are not scientific and their results can be poor indicators of whether a candidate will win a party’s nomination–the latest actual Florida poll put Cain near the bottom–they can help spark some momentum, especially for lower-tier candidates. For Cain, a 65-year-old businessman, mathematician, author and radio host from Atlanta, Georgia, his straw poll win could well be the high-water mark of his campaign. And by his own admission, the path that brought him this far wasn’t an easy one. The morning before the straw poll, I met Cain for coffee in a hotel near the convention center that hosted the debate and straw poll. As we discussed the early phase of the Republican primaries, he told me that before coming to Florida, he had nearly called it quits on two occasions.
“The thing that I’ve learned about myself in this campaign–because I’ve never had this happen to me before on a single challenge–is that I’ve gone to the brink, ready to pull the plug, but came back, twice,” Cain said. “I’ve only had two days where I personally felt, should I pull the plug? For different reasons. That’s how frustrating a campaign can be.”
When I pressed for details, he said he’d prefer to keep them to himself.
“I can’t tell you what those two days are,” he said. “But think about the number of days we’ve been on this campaign. Two ain’t that bad.”
Cain is certainly no stranger to adversity, having recently overcome Stage IV colon and liver cancer.
Even though he’s known as the “pizza” candidate for his years as head of Godfather’s Pizza, his background is much broader than that. After he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry in 1968, Cain landed a job as a ballistics analyst for the Department of the Navy, where he was responsible for the calculations that ensured battleship rockets hit their targets.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.
Cain later completed a master’s degree in computer science and entered the business world where he led several companies–most recently Godfather’s–and chaired the National Restaurant Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. His résumé–from mathematician and rocket scientist to restaurateur and now politician–isn’t exactly a typical one for a presidential candidate. But Cain said that while his presidential run may look unlikely from the outside, it’s actually part of his larger career trajectory of seeking out new ways to test himself.
“I’m bored if I don’t have a challenge,” he said.
Cain said the run for the White House is his toughest challenge yet–and it’s been anything but boring. Despite the frustrations of running a national campaign, you can tell he’s enjoying it. But it doesn’t take much to get him riled up.
After a few caffeine-heavy refills at our corner table, I asked him about President Obama’s new effort to raise taxes on the wealthy, and Cain just about blew a blood vessel–especially when I mentioned the part where Obama says it’s about “math” not “class warfare.”
“Can I be blunt? That’s a lie,” Cain said, before the sound of his voice began to rise noticeably higher. “You’re not supposed to call the president a liar. Well if you’re not supposed to call the president a liar, he shouldn’t tell a lie. If it’s not class warfare, it’s highway robbery. He wants us to believe it’s not class warfare, oh okay, it’s not class warfare. Pick my pockets, because that’s what he’s doing!”
Cain paused, took a breath and looked at me.
“I’m not mad at you, I just get passionate about this stuff,” he said. “I have to tell people because I get so worked up . . . . I’m listening to all this bullshit that he’s talking about, ‘fairness’ and ‘balanced approach’ to get this economy going.”
As anyone who watched the past couple of debates knows by now, Cain has his own plan that he says would steer the country out of its economic downturn. He calls it the “9-9-9 Plan,” and it would replace the current tax code with three flat, nine-percent federal taxes on income, consumption and business.
“With 9-9-9 guess what? How many loopholes?” he said, tapping his fingers on the table like a drumroll. “None. Everybody gets treated the same. What a novel idea.”
As the straw poll and his recent fundraising numbers suggest, Cain’s message is resonating with the conservative movement’s influential base of tea-party activists; for these supporters his status as a non-career politician with an extensive background in the private sector is nearly as strong a draw as his ideas and policy proposals. But despite his recent surge in support, few expect Cain’s momentum to carry him on to victory at the Republican National Convention in 2012.
Cain insisted that the prognostications of a few pundits won’t stop him from pressing on as far as his donors will carry him. At the same time, though, he said that this campaign will be his last foray into politics.
“I’m not planning to run for another public office,” he said. But regardless, it’s been “a hell of a challenge.”
September 26, 2011
By: Derek Kravitz
Sales of new U.S. homes fell to a six-month low in August. The fourth straight monthly decline during the peak buying season suggests the housing market is years away from a recovery.
The Commerce Department said Monday that new-home sales fell 2.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 295,000. That’s less than half the roughly 700,000 that economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.
New-homes sales are on pace for the worst year since the government began keeping records a half century ago.
High unemployment, larger required down payments and tougher lending standards are preventing many people from buying homes. Plunging stocks and a growing fear that the U.S. could tip back into another recession are also keeping people from entering the housing market.
Pierre Ellis, an analyst at Decision Economics, said that until wages increase and hiring picks up, home sales will languish.
The “bad news is the evident absence of optimism that sales will pick up to any degree,” Ellis said.
While new homes represent less than one-fifth of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
Last year was also the fifth straight year that sales have fallen. It followed five straight years of record highs, when housing was booming.
The median sales price of a new home fell nearly 9 percent to $209,100 — the lowest price since last October. That suggests builders are slashing their prices in order to compete with comparably lower-priced previously occupied homes.
Foreclosures and short sales — when lenders accept less for a house than a mortgage is worth — are forcing prices down. Those homes are selling at an average discount of 20%, and they are lowering neighboring home values. That’s made many re-sales a bargain compared with new homes, creating an average 30% disparity in prices.
Many builders have stopped working on projects and are waiting for demand to pick up. Home construction is down nearly 6% over the past year.
Still, permits, a gauge of future construction, have risen nearly 8 percent this year. Builders may be preparing to start dormant project once the economy improves.
Sales were uneven across the U.S. They plunged 13.6% in the Northeast, which was hit by Hurricane Irene at the end of the month. They also fell 6.3% in the West and 2.4% in the South. They rose 8.2% in the Midwest.
All home sales remain weak. The August sales pace for previously occupied homes was 5.03 million. That’s slightly above last year’s sales, which were the fewest since 1997. Economists say roughly 6 million older homes need to be sold each year to sustain a healthy housing market. Home prices have dropped more since the recession started, on a percentage basis, than during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It took 19 years for prices to fully recover after the Depression.
September 26, 2011
CBS New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg dismissed President Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on people who make more than a million dollars a year.
“The Buffett thing is just theatrics. If Warren Buffett made his money from ordinary income rather than capital gains, his tax rate would be a lot higher than his secretary’s,” he said.
“I think it’s not fair to say that wealthy people don’t pay their fair share. They pay a much higher percentage of their income, they have a higher rate than people who make less,” Bloomberg added.
President Obama argues that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of taxes on their income because of lower rates on investment earnings.
Republicans call the Buffett Rule “class warfare.”
Mr. Obama left the White House Sunday for a Seattle fundraising trip where he told supporters the GOP would cripple America.
Bloomberg also said he thinks President Barack Obama could win re-election next year in spite of the country’s high unemployment rate, citing incumbency as one of his advantages.
“If I were the president, I’d go out there and I’d emphasize the things I have done and I’d say some things haven’t worked and I’m sorry about but I’ll keep trying and I think the president is a very viable candidate and you’re going to have a real horse race here no matter who the Republican nominee is,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg was also asked if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be a good candidate for the White House.
“I think he would be a credible, formidable candidate,” he said. “If you take a look at all the Republican field at the moment, there’s a number there who obviously don’t have a chance to influence the dialog or to be the nominee, but there are a number who do.”
But Bloomberg said that he probably won’t endorse a candidate. He didn’t make an endorsement in 2008.
September 26th, 2011
General Motors’ OnStar in-car communications system violates privacy, a U.S. senator is charging.
OnStar, used by 6 million Americans, maintains its two-way connection with a customer even after the service is discontinued, while reserving the right to sell data from that connection, the Associated Press reports.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says that’s a blatant invasion of privacy and is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. But OnStar says former customers can stop the two-way transmission, and no driving data of customers have been shared or sold.
“OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory,” Schumer said.
But the General Motors OnStar service says customers are thoroughly informed of the new practice. If a customer says he or she doesn’t want to have data collected after service is ended, OnStar disconnects the tracking.
And although OnStar reserves the right to share or sell data on customers’ speed, location, use of seat belts and other practices, a spokesman says it hasn’t done so and doesn’t plan to.
“We apologize for creating any confusion about our terms and conditions,” said Joanne Finnor, vice president of subscriber services. “We want to make sure we are as clear with our customers as possible, but it’s apparent that we have failed to do this. … We will continue to be open to their suggestions and concerns.”
A week ago, OnStar changed its policy and began continuing the connection for ex-customers unless they asked for it to be discontinued:
Finnor noted keeping the two-way communication active for former customers could someday allow for emergency messages to be sent even to ex-customers about severe weather or evacuations. The open line could also allow OnStar to alert drivers about warranty information or recalls, she said.
Schumer said he isn’t persuaded. He said customers shouldn’t have to “opt out” of the tracking after they end service. He accuses OnStar of actively deceiving customers.
Schumer is announcing the effort today by releasing a letter to the Federal Trade Commission seeking an investigation.
OnStar charges about $199 a year for basic service and $299 a year for service that includes navigation aid.
September 26th, 2011
By: Mary Marino
You hear about it all the time: Finding and landing a job these days is definitely a difficult task. And with employers tightening their hiring belt, it’s more important than ever to stand out so you’re seen as the best candidate.
However, after a while, constant rejection paired with no callbacks can wear a job seeker down. When you’ve exhausted all other options and started to feel the dreaded job search fatigue, don’t give up! Here are five ways you can rev up your search:
1. Create a job search plan.
When changing your job search tactics, it’s important to figure a few things out. That’s where a job search plan comes into play. Among other things, it’s vital to include the following:
What’s worked and what hasn’t
Your five-year plan
What you actually want to do and the projected future of that industry (Hint: Use My Next Move and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to help you out)
How you’re going to target your dream companies
A schedule of tactics, how you’re going to implement them, how you’ll measure success, etc.
These are just a few suggestions — but the bottom line is to be organized, active and knowledgeable, which will hopefully lead to more opportunities.
2. Switch up your tactics.
You’ve sent out countless resumes, networked your butt off, and followed-up incessantly, all to no avail. Sometimes, your old tactics just aren’t cutting it — and the sooner this is accepted and altered, the faster you will land a job. As with your job search plan, reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t and act accordingly. By doing this, you avoid wasting your time (as well as the time of an employer) and hopefully create a more productive search.
3. Use social networking professionally.
Facebook doesn’t just have to be about posting crazy photos. Likewise, Twitter can be more than just saying what you ate on Saturday night. These social networks can actually help you land a job if you use them correctly. By using them as modern day networking tools, you can connect and converse with the company of your dreams. Announce your job search on Google Plus and LinkedIn, participate in weekly Twitter chats, or even use job search apps on Facebook. That way, you’ll be able to use these networks professionally and to their full potential.
4. Stay involved.
Just because you’re searching for a new job doesn’t give you a free ticket to do nothing. Stay involved in your industry by attended industry meetings, connecting with your dream companies at meet-ups, and asking old employers if they need any help with projects, even it’s pro bono. You’ll not only stay involved, you’ll show a future employer that you didn’t just sit around until something came along. Instead, you took control of your job search.
5. Take a break.
It may sound simple, or even impossible, but sometimes we all need a break. Step away from the phone, the computer, or the job ads, and do something else to take your mind off the search, like volunteering, traveling, or even doing some soul-searching. Whatever you choose, make sure you still understand that the job hunt will always be there; you just need a little breather (and perhaps a little perspective) to make your search more productive.
September 26th, 2011
By: Douglas Mcintyre
The S&P 500 is precariously close its 52-week low. If it breaks below that number, how much further might it fall? Recent history suggests the possibility of a long drop.
The S&P index is trading at 1,136, against a 52-week high of $1,371 and a low of $1,102. It topped $1,353 just a little over two months ago. Since then, stocks have sunk due to concerns about the possibility of a new recession and worries about a collapse of the debt markets in some of the eurozone’s most economically fragile nations.
A return to recession appears more likely by the day. U.S. consumer confidence is near lows last seen two years ago. Last week, stock markets dropped the most they have, on a weekly basis, since 2008. Unemployment numbers have barely improved over the past three months. And the the housing market shows no signs of improvement. Some economists believe prices won’t recover in certain markets for years.
Since the stock market hit its cyclic nadir in spring 2009, the backbone of its long rally has been strengthening corporate earnings. Those gains were driven in large measure by cost cutting. Sales have been slow to recover because there has been no strong economic recovery in the U.S., but productivity has increased sharply as companies figure out how to get more from each worker. Yet cost cutting can only go so far, and that trend is faltering after nearly four years of downsizing. While many employers may not cut more jobs, they aren’t hiring much either. Companies want to wait and see whether they can afford new workers. And President Obama’s tax credits for hiring won’t help much if firms think a new downturn is near, because a tax break can’t offset the sales drops that will occur if the economy slows sharply again, or begins to contract.
The question of whether a slowdown has severely damaged corporate revenue will begin to be answered as companies announce third-quarter earnings and offer guidance for the final quarter of the year. Weak numbers would provide another reason to sell stocks after the sharp declines of the past month.
The last sharp market dip took the S&P 500 below 683 in March 2009. If the stocks were to drop that far again, it would be a reset of another 40%. That’s unlikely. The sell-off that ended in spring 2009 was relatively rapid, based on the U.S. credit crisis and the realization that the U.S. economy was in its greatest recession in the better part of a century. But the S&P was only below 800 for a quarter, and recovered to that level by April 2009 as investors saw that the banking crisis had ended.
A near-collapse of the credit system with the next recession is unlikely. Banks have buttressed their balance sheets, and most of the largest financial firms say they have only modest exposure to EU sovereign debt. Still, that leaves the current economic slowdown, which is more than enough to drag us into the second dip of a double-dip recession. If it does, stocks have another 25% to fall.
September 26th, 2011
The New York Times
By: Jackie Calmes
President Obama on Sunday criticized not only the Republicans vying to defeat him but also their party’s conservative base – symbolized by the audiences at recent candidate debates — in a busy day of four West Coast fund-raisers to collect money and rally dispirited Democratic donors.
In Woodside, Calif., an affluent community between San Francisco and San Jose, Mr. Obama hit his stump-speech theme that the 2012 election will be “a contest of values,” and then suggested that some in his audience might well be former Republicans “puzzled by what’s happening to that party.”
“I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately?” he asked. Referring to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has sought federal aid to fight wildfires caused by a prolonged drought, Mr. Obama said: “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change. It’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay.”
“That’s not reflective of who we are,” Mr. Obama said. “This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country.” Obama advisers in the past have said he does not watch Republicans’ debates. But by his remarks, Mr. Obama showed he is well aware that a recent string of debates produced moments in which reactions from audiences of Tea Party sympathizers became as widely discussed afterward as anything the candidates said – prompting some of the candidates to distance themselves later from the expressions of intolerance or hardheartedness. Besides the episodes Mr. Obama cited, at another debate the loudest applause came at the mention of the numerous executions Mr. Perry has sanctioned.
To the relief of many Democrats, Mr. Obama has become more assertive lately in attacking Republicans and drawing contrasts with them. At Sunday’s first fund-raiser, one of two in the Seattle area, he said a Republican president would institute “an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.”
Depending on the event, donors gave from $100 to $35,800. Those in Woodside, on the expansive and sumptuously landscaped lawn of John W. Thompson, chairman of Symantec, gave the maximum amount, to be split between the Democratic Party and Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign. He addressed them as “my stockholders.”
There and elsewhere, Mr. Obama acknowledged that many of the donors would probably pay higher taxes after 2012 under his proposals to raise taxes on high-income households, both to offset the short-term costs of his job-creation plan in Congress and to reduce future annual budget deficits. Citing Republicans’ criticism that his proposals amount to “class warfare,” Mr. Obama delivered what has become his standard response – he is a proud warrior for the middle class – and drew applause.
Celebrities made appearances at several events. Lady Gaga was at the final function, held at the Atherton, Calif., home of Sheryl Sandberg, an executive of Facebook who was a Treasury official in the Clinton administration. The singer, extravagantly attired as usual, was about two feet taller than Mr. Obama thanks to her towering heels and upswept hair.
The musician Bruce Hornsby performed at the Woodside fund-raiser. And the former pro basketball players Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens introduced Mr. Obama at Seattle’s Paramount Theater. At each stop, Mr. Obama gave a rundown of his administration’s record, including taking credit for rescuing the economy, decimating Al Qaeda and killing Osama bin Laden, ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against openly gay service members, tightening financial industry regulations and – “as long as I get a second term” – implementation of the law expanding health insurance.
But Mr. Obama acknowledged that many Democrats, especially liberals, are disheartened that he has not been more successful in overcoming the obstructions of Congressional Republicans. “Shake off any doldrums,” he told supporters at the Seattle theater, and “get to work.”
In Woodside, he urged donors to “push back” against friends and neighbors whose criticisms are based on “inadequate information” from Fox News or Wall Street Journal editorials. “And in some cases,” he told them, “I may need you to have some arguments with our progressive friends.”
“We’re going to have a stark choice in this election,” Mr. Obama added. “But I have to make sure that our side is as passionate and as motivated and is working just as hard as the folks on the other side because this is a contest of values.”
Quoting his vice president, “my friend Joe Biden,” Mr. Obama said, “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.”