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      A little over 1 week in, and we’ve raised approximately $2,400. The first tier is at $5.000: A longer article on the collapse of the USSR, putting everything I’m aware of together. In particular I want to discuss the steps Gorbachev took which seem like either gross stupidity or intentional destruction. The fall of the Soviet Union was studied in great detai […]
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(Mid-Morning) News at The Confluence

My mom’s a three-time cancer survivor so I’m always interested in stories like this.

Marriage ‘cancer survival impact’

US researchers from Indiana University analysed data on 3.8m people diagnosed with cancer between 1973 and 2004.

They found people who were married had a 63% chance of surviving five years, compared to 45% of people who were separated, the journal Cancer reported.

The team said the stress of break-up probably affected survival rates.

Or …. The Department of Maybe Yes, Maybe No:

Strained marriages ‘harm women’ (March 5, 2009)

US psychologists found wives in tense marriages were prone to risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In comparison, husbands seemed relatively immune from such problems.

Procter & Gamble Sells Drug Unit for $3.1 Billion

The sale process for the Procter & Gamble unit was run by Goldman Sachs. Among the unit’s products is Actonel, a treatment for osteoporosis, the colitis drug Asacol, and Enablex, a treatment for an overactive bladder.

The Procter unit had $2.3 billion in revenue in the year ended in June, including more than a billion from Actonel. Warner Chilcott had revenue of $938 million in 2008.

Most of the unit’s 2,300 employees are expected to transfer to Warner Chilcott, the companies said in a statement. The deal, which needs regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the year.

Overuse of antivirals could make H1N1 pandemic even worse

Already, a handful of cases of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 have been reported this summer, and there is no shortage of examples of misuse of the antiviral medications, experts say.

People often fail to complete a full course of the drug, according to a recent British report — a scenario also likely to be occurring in the U.S. and one that encourages resistance. Stockpiling is rife, and some U.S. summer camps have given Tamiflu prophylactically to healthy kids and staff, and have even told campers to bring the drug to camp. Experts anticipate more problems in the fall as children return to school and normal flu season draws nearer.

Millions face shrinking Social Security payments

The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won’t be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn’t happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.

By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.

“I will promise you, they count on that COLA,” said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut who now heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “To some people, it might not be a big deal. But to seniors, especially with their health care costs, it is a big deal.”

Attack on Obama riles Beck’s advertisers

Glenn Beck returns to Fox News Channel on Monday after a vacation with fewer companies willing to advertise on his show than when he left, part of the fallout from calling President Barack Obama a racist.

A total of 33 Fox advertisers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., CVS Caremark, Clorox and Sprint, directed that their commercials not air on Beck’s show, according to the companies and ColorofChange.org, a group that promotes political action among blacks and launched a campaign to get advertisers to abandon him. That’s more than a dozen more than were identified a week ago.

While it’s unclear what effect, if any, this will ultimately have on Fox and Beck, it is already making advertisers skittish about hawking their wares within the most opinionated cable TV shows.

Health care plan tests Pelosi’s leadership

The speaker, eager to hear reports from the field and keep the party’s message on track, participates in a weekly call with members of her caucus.

“The reports we get back are very positive,” she said. “By and large, members are getting a very good reception.”

Still, a phone hotline and an e-mail address relay some of the thornier questions that arise from town hall meetings to Pelosi’s staff, allowing prompt responses on details such as how the legislation addresses home health care, or when a small business would be mandated to provide health care coverage.

“That it is still moving forward speaks to the fact that the leadership has been successful,” said Ken Thorpe, chairman of health policy at Emory University in Atlanta, and a senior official at the Health and Human Services department during President Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful push for health care reform.

“She’s very hands-on,” Thorpe said.

Hey! Maybe this time it’ll work….

Remember me? Wall Street repackages debt for sale

Wall Street may have discovered a way out from under the bad debt and risky mortgages that have clogged the financial markets. The would-be solution probably sounds familiar: It’s a lot like what got banks in trouble in the first place.

In recent months investment banks have been repackaging old mortgage securities and offering to sell them as new products, a plan that’s nearly identical to the complicated investment packages at the heart of the market’s collapse.

“There is a little bit of deja vu in this,” said Arizona State University economics professor Herbert Kaufman.

But Kaufman said the strategy could help solve one of the lingering problems of the financial meltdown: What to do about hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages that are still choking the system and making bankers reluctant to make new loans.

As Paul Krugman says:

All the President’s Zombies

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.

Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.

The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option — not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson — have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance — which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.

But it’s much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation — this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.

So why won’t these zombie ideas die?

Nouriel Roubini thinks…

The risk of a double-dip recession is rising

The global economy is starting to bottom out from the worst recession and financial crisis since the Great Depression. In the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 the rate at which most advanced economies were contracting was similar to the gross domestic product free-fall in the early stage of the Depression. Then, late last year, policymakers who had been behind the curve finally started to use most of the weapons in their arsenal.

That effort worked and the free-fall of economic activity eased. There are three open questions now on the outlook. When will the global recession be over? What will be the shape of the economic recovery? Are there risks of a relapse?

. . .

But if they maintain large budget deficits, bond market vigilantes will punish policymakers. Then, inflationary expectations will increase, long-term government bond yields would rise and borrowing rates will go up sharply, leading to stagflation.

Another reason to fear a double-dip recession is that oil, energy and food prices are now rising faster than economic fundamentals warrant, and could be driven higher by excessive liquidity chasing assets and by speculative demand. Last year, oil at $145 a barrel was a tipping point for the global economy, as it created negative terms of trade and a disposable income shock for oil importing economies. The global economy could not withstand another contractionary shock if similar speculation drives oil rapidly towards $100 a barrel.

Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players

Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled — a reflection of a White House that grew more cautious after several nominations blew up last spring, a Senate that is intensively investigating nominees and a legislative agenda that has consumed both.

Justice Dept advises pursuing CIA abuses

The department’s ethics watchdog has recommended considering prosecuting Central Intelligence Agency employees or contractors for harsh interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan that went beyond approved limits, a government official said.

Malaysian authorities postpone whipping of women who drank alcohol.

“The sentence remains,” Mohamed Sahfri Abdul Aziz, the head of religious affairs in Pahang state said, according to Malaysian media accounts. “She has been released but only temporarily.”

Does caning in Malaysia herald a more Islamic state?

This would be the first time that a woman has been caned in this mainly Muslim country of 27 million people that is seen as a moderate state.

The sentencing has turned the spotlight on an Islamic legal system that runs alongside civil laws in the multi-ethnic country. It also comes at a time when influence of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which wants to introduce an Islamic state, is growing.

Bernie Madoff dying of cancer

Madoff, 71, who since June has been serving a 150-year sentence at a North Carolina federal prison, has been telling fellow inmates he does not have much longer to live, the Post said, citing the unofficial and unusual sources.

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31 Responses

  1. Wha??? No COLAs. What dipsh*t thought that one up?

    • Uhh, let me gues…daschle? Lieberman? No, it had to have been Rahm Emmanuel! (everything wrong in this administration is credited to him): the Rahmflu!

  2. Also – interesting about the double dip – weren’t France and Germany out of it? I guess they enacted some controls of the blessed market….

  3. Everyone really needs to go read Denninger today. He lays out pretty clearly the incestuous, illegal, fraudulent things that are going on and have been going on between the govt and Wall Street. He even has some interesting info on GE’s lobbying activities re: credit card interest rates and other matters.


    • Great article.

      I read yesterday that GE had just hired Tom Daschle’s wife Linda as their lobbyist for high speed rail contracts.

      Incestuous, indeed.

  4. BIG TIME lobbyist – Heather Podesta, sister in law of John Podesta, symbolizes a MAJOR problem in Washington!
    It’s all very disgusting….


  5. & then there is the embarrassing E.J.Dionne from WAPO. Why doesn’t this guy just start the Official Obama Fan Club, and get it over with?

    This was under the heading: “Obama Saved the Economy” at Real Clear Politics:

    The Invisible Achievement

    But because the cataclysm was avoided, this is an invisible achievement. Many whose bacon was saved, particularly in the banking and corporate sectors, do not want to admit how important the actions of government were. Anti-government ideologues try to pretend that no serious intervention was required.


  6. ‘Is He Weak?’

    But it is one inevitably raised by Obama’s conciliatory manner, his appeals to sweet reason and high morality, and his soaring rhetorical promises when he has to adjust means, goals or both. And it will dog his presidency if he does not demonstrate quickly that he is as good at handling adversity as he has been at exploiting initial success.

    “Characteristically, Mr. Obama has been trying to have it both ways,” the Financial Times editorialized about the health-care ruckus. “Characteristically” was the dagger in that sentence.

    If you want to see this president succeed, as I do, you can construct an alternative narrative in which he is throwing dust in the eyes of opponents and resolutely moving toward goals that are worthy, if not as exalted as those originally proclaimed.

    But it hasn’t felt that way in this uneven August. In Washington the old saw about perception being reality is all too true. And all too final, once an impression of unsteadiness has been etched onto public opinion.


  7. Healthcare insurers get upper hand
    Obama’s overhaul fight is being won by the industry, experts say. The end result may be a financial ‘bonanza.’

    Some insurance company leaders continue to profess concern about the unpredictable course of President Obama’s massive healthcare initiative, and they vigorously oppose elements of his agenda. But Laszewski said the industry’s reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: “Hallelujah!”

    The bills vary in the degree to which they would empower government to be a competitor and a regulator of private insurance. But analysts said that based on the way things stand now, insurers would come out ahead.


  8. Very sobering article from The Economist about the supposedly stabilizing housing market…

    Where it all began
    Signs of stabilisation should not obscure the big problems still ahead


  9. Last one:

    Tom Daschle: The Man Behind Insurance Cooperatives

    Privately, Daschle tells his health care industry buddies that the public option is far from finalized. In order to calm the nerves of drug company executives, Daschle told them that “there is no consensus on whether there ought to be a public option.” As recent as last week, he told the hospital executives, “There is virtually no support among Republican members for a public option, and that remains an unresolved element of this debate.” Of course, Daschle is only concerned with support in Congress. Meanwhile, the newest polls indicated that Americans overwhelming support the idea of including a public option in health care reform.

    Dan Pfeiffer, a White House spokesman, said the president greatly appreciates Daschle’s advice on health care reform and his friendship. I thought that was the idea behind getting the dog, Bo. A spunky little Portie is a much better companion than, say, an informal lobbyist who has none of the legal restraints placed upon traditional lobbyists, including banishment from the White House, a promise Obama made to his supporters.


  10. Maybe it is just me but can the sponsors leaving Glenn Beck
    answer one question? Where the hell were you when the media was calling anyone who did not agree with backtrack “racist”? These were the people who bought your products. Why no outrage then? I am no Glenn Beck fan, but fair is fair.



  11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/bristol/somerset/8217972.stm

    This looks hopeful. I really hope it works



  12. Repubs offer seniors health “bill of rights” – lol


    • If the Democrats were smart they’d call the bluff of Republicans by offering to expand Medicare since the Republicans seem to think it’s such a great program.

  13. Interesting study about marriage and how it can help people live longer with cancer. Too bad marriage is illegal for some members of society which means they are not only excluded from being full members of society, but some perhaps are even condemned to die sooner.

  14. I am in spam
    used the f word but the article if true deserved it

    it is something that needs to be seen

  15. Good article at Planet Money blog today explaining that there’s a “$10-billion provision tucked deep inside thousands of pages of health care overhaul bills that could help the UAW retiree health-care plan and other union-backed plans.”

    Direct quote: “It would see the government—at least temporarliy—pay 80 cents on the dollar to corporate and union insurance plans for claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees from age 55 to 64.”

    Well, well, well. A union bailout, too.

    • Yep. Force by law ridiculously expensive insurance on the rest of us, but make sure they protect THEIR healthcare plans, and the plans of their big donors, from the same fate.

      I am categorically opposed to ANY plan that allows “cutouts” for this or that group, whether govt employees, unions, corporate plans, or whoever.

      If you craft a plan GOOD ENOUGH, then there should be no problem with everyone being on it. If you are not willing to do that, then that’s proof, to me, that you know damn well the “plan” sucks.

      • Besides which, who the hell gets to “retire” with full benefits at 55, anyway, except UAW workers?

        Not only do you and I get to “buy” the car companies, but we get to pay their health benefits through subsidies, too.

        Good Lord.

        • Uh and military members, who can actually retire at 48, or federal or state employees(but you don’t hear the right whining about this because they KNOW it would go over like a lead balloon).

          I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that if you work hard for a company for 20-30 years that you be allowed to retire. I also support honoring the contracts of hard working men and women who were told that if they worked hard that they’d get retirement benefiots.

          In short, don’t blame union men and womnen that you have a 401K instead of a defined pension plan and get to work until you wind up in a pine box instead of having loyalty to a company rewarded. They aren’t the ones who bought the con job.

      • Those ridiculously expensive plans were covered by contracts. While I agree that everyone should have health care I find it ridiculous to suggest that men and women who were promised something in good faith be told to “pack sand.”

        Frankly, I’m grateful for our “ridiculously expensive” insurance that covers us and I’m grateful that the people my husband work with are willing to fight to continue to get the excellent coverage it provides. My husband makes a median wage for a company that makes billions, I don’t think he should apologize for the collective bargaining process that got him good coverage.

        Would that everyone were willing to “fight’ to get good coverage that subsidizes the hardest hit among us and asks the rest of us to share the costs and benefits of a workable system like the one my family enjoys.

        • cwaltz, I don’t have a problem with unions having those plans – not at all. BUT, if we are going to reform the entire system, and everyone is going to have to make changes, it is not fair to say union folks get to be exempt.

          I love my health care plan too. So do a LOT of Americans. How is it “selfish” for them to be unwilling to risk losing their private plan to get UHC for all, but somehow not selfish if the unions do the same damn thing?

          If you take that position, then all those right wingers saying “leave my healthcare alone, it works for ME” are no more wrong or selfish than the unions. If no one wants to risk giving up what THEY have, but only want everyone else to risk doing so, then health care reform is dead as a doornail.

          • Thank you. Eloquently said.

            Frankly, I believe that $10 billion hidden in the bills should go FIRST to help those who have no insurance at all, rather than to gold-plated Union members who do.

            Incredible, sometimes.

  16. Thomas Gabriel’s plot was to take over a data center in Maryland and siphon off billions of dollars. It’s frightening when life imitates fiction but a Gabriel-like plot may very well happen unless citizens speak up and demand more accountability with a contract that the Social Security Administration (SSA) intends to award that allows you to check your social security funds online.

    I’m all in favor of having the government do more online and with fewer people, but not if it means the bad guys can potentially rip off the government for billions of dollars. But while the movie bad guys had to jump through hoops to try and steal the money, the SSA has created a system that will allow the bad guys to simply ask for it. How can this be done and why hasn’t anyone in government objected to unleashing government access into our lives?

    The SSA recently issued an RFP that will allow a private contractor the ability enable consumers to access to SSA accounts online by asking both non-credit and credit-related questions to prove your identity. There are two problems with this approach.

    First, each time they ask you a credit-related question, it results in a pull on your credit rating, so your credit score is likely to drop with successive inquiries. Second, authenticity is “assured” by asking the user a set of four questions based on your credit report. But if a user fails to answer these questions correctly, the user is given a second attempt at answering four new questions. Only after the third attempt, will the Website end the session of a user. But, a user can just as easily close their browser and start all over again.

    As you can imagine, with enough tries, anyone can guess at this information, all without being locked out of the system. So anyone who has, through ID theft, acquired a bunch of Social Security numbers (remember when the Fed’s allowed 26 million social security numbers stolen?) can make an attempt to get all the questions that may be asked.

    If successful, a hacker can then hijack anyone’s account that is receiving a monthly benefit check or deposits, have those monthly amounts deposited into their offshore accounts and have the real person suffer without the funds they need to survive. According to Cybersecurity experts I spoke with here in Silicon Valley, it would take only a few people a couple of weeks to hijack 100-500,000 accounts with the new system. If each beneficiary was receiving only $1,000 per month the hackers could steal as much as 500 million dollars each month.

    And given the fact the funds could be electronically routed through multiple offshore bank accounts (start with Russia, the Wild West of Banking, then Malta and then a regional bank in Switzerland) it would be hard to trace where the money ended up.

    So while Hollywood needed to come up with an elaborate plot to steal billions from a government agency, it seems the SSA has edited that plot to make it much easier and less risky for the bad guys. Leave it up the government to create a bailout program for the bad guys that will cost taxpayers even more money.

    Lets try it this way. maybe spam will let it through



  17. “Still, a phone hotline and an e-mail address relay some of the thornier questions that arise from town hall meetings to Pelosi’s staff, allowing prompt responses on details such as how the legislation addresses home health care, or when a small business would be mandated to provide health care coverage.”

    Too bad none of them had time to READ THE BILL themselves. Then they wouldn’t need to call Pelosi’s staff to answer questions for them.

  18. http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2009/08/obama-dems-plan-to-desecrate-9-11-into.html

    9-11 is not a political football. It is a day of mourning for ALL Americans. People of all races , religions, genders, political parties died that day.
    It is not for the right to use and it is not for the left to use.



  19. he wants to make it a day of service..this is not good..

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