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Longwood Gardens Orchid Extravaganza 2012
Longwood Gardens. March, 2012. Photo credit: joanneleon
Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.

-- Fulton Oursler


Texts From Hillary: your new favorite political Tumblr

Texts From Hillary is the brainchild of Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith, both communications professionals in Washington, D.C. The Tumblr features the sunglasses-adorned secretary of state using her Blackberry paired with various politicians also on their phones, along with imagined texts being exchanged.

Whose Illicit Money Did Citi Help Launder?

Note that among other things, Citi took this opportunity to ‘fess up to not adequately monitoring the use of cash letters (see this article for a description of how cash letters are used in money laundering) in the 2006-2010 period. You know? The period when Citi was reeling because it had invested too deeply in shitpile?

Now maybe in the near future, Treasury will release a similar notice telling us whether all this negligence on Citi’s part only could have–or actually did–help some nefarious types launder money. But for now, OCC’s not telling. Nor is OCC fining Citi (which they would normally do if Citi violates this consent order–banks, you see, get do-overs when they fuck up).

Finance as Wealth Transfer Mechanism: An Interview with James Galbraith

PP: As pretty much everyone knows by now, inequality has been rising in most advanced countries in the past few decades. One of the interesting points you make in the book is that you don’t believe rising inequality in many advanced countries could have been turned to electoral advantage. Could you please explain how you came to this conclusion?

JG: Inequality rose almost everywhere – both in the advanced countries and in the rest of the world – very sharply from 1980 to 2000. After that, the global picture becomes less clear, since lower interest rates, rising commodity prices and political change improved the picture in many places, including especially Latin America. We have strong evidence of declining inequality in parts of Latin America after 2001.

The book includes a chapter on the relationship between inequality and electoral outcomes in the United States. The US is interesting because what is relevant for presidential electoral outcomes – thanks to the Electoral College – is inequality within states. Getting good measures of inequality within states was a very interesting challenge, all by itself.

Lynn Parramore: Capitalism’s Dirty Secret: Corporations Don’t Create Jobs, They Destroy Them
By Lynn Parramore, an AlterNet contributing editor

Corporations are not working for the 99 percent. But this wasn’t always the case. In a special five-part AlterNet series, William Lazonick, professor at UMass, president of the Academic-Industry Research Network, and a leading expert on the business corporation, along with journalist Ken Jacobson and AlterNet’s Lynn Parramore, will examine the foundations, history and purpose of the corporation to answer this vital question: How can the public take control of the business corporation and make it work for the real economy?

For the last four decades, U.S. corporations have been sinking our economy through the off-shoring of jobs, the squeezing of wages, and a magician’s hat full of bluffs and tricks designed to extort subsidies and sweetheart deals from local and state governments that often result in mass layoffs and empty treasuries.

We keep hearing that corporations would put Americans back to work if they could just get rid of all those pesky encumbrances – things like taxes, safety regulations, and unions. But what happens when we buy that line? The more we let the corporations run wild, the worse things get for the 99 percent, and the scarcer the solid jobs seem to be.

Fighting Over the American Home: Handcuffs versus Hope and Change
Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Over the past four years, we’ve watched as public officials pushed financial and legal power to the large banks – the latest episode in this saga was the mortgage settlement between state officials, Federal regulators, and the banks themselves.  But there is also an undercurrent of resistance to this, resistance which could be growing stronger over time.

So what comes after the mortgage settlement? Will there be yet another multi-billion dollar transfer of wealth from taxpayers to banks in the near future? If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, I suspect the answer is, yes.  This time, it will flow through Fannie and Freddie, government entities that are responsible for trillions of dollars of mortgages. There’s been a deeply bitter fight over this giant pot of money, centering around Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) acting head Ed DeMarco. DeMarco controls Fannie and Freddie, and so far, he has refused to write down principal for homeowners on GSE controlled mortgages. But Treasury has been attempting to get DeMarco to change his mind, using the prospect of simply paying off Fannie and Freddie with bailout funds.

There are two schools of thought on fixing the housing market.  The first is the Tim Geithner school, which we’ll call the “hope and change” school.  [ ... ] The second is the “law and order” or “handcuffs” school, which has (loosely) as members people like former FDIC chief Sheila Bair, former SIGTARP Neil Barofsky, iconoclastic investors such as Bill Frey, foreclosure fraud defense attorneys, Congressional actors like Maxine Waters, criminologists like Bill Black and various securitization experts and bloggers.  The handcuffs believes that law and order is not incidental to the breakdown of the housing market, but is central to it.

US Coast Guard fires on tsunami 'ghost ship'

The US Coast Guard has used cannon to fire on a crewless Japanese ship that drifted to Alaska after the 2011 tsunami.

The coast guard earlier said they would hold off scuttling the Ryou-Un Maru after a Canadian fishing boat claimed salvage rights.

But a Canadian official later said that the Bernice C was unable to tow the 200ft (61m) Japanese "ghost ship".

'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout sentenced to 25 years

Arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "merchant of death", has been sentenced to 25 years in jail by a US judge.

During the sentencing, the ex-Soviet officer shouted "it's a lie" as the prosecution said he had agreed to sell weapons to kill Americans.

The 45-year-old was found guilty in November of attempting to sell heavy arms to a Colombian rebel group.

He was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 after a sting operation in which US informants posed as Colombian rebels.

Snake on a plane!
Pilot forced to land after snake is found in cockpit

Australian pilot Braden Blennerhassett was forced to turn his plane around after finding a snake in the cockpit.

What's that phrase? Screwed every which way from Sunday?
Chinese insurer stops covering Iranian oil
Company's decision, coupled with US and EU sanctions, will make it more difficult for refiners to import oil from Iran.

A major Chinese insurer, China P&I Club, will halt coverage for tankers carrying Iranian oil from July, in the latest sign that Western sanctions may have a serious impact on the Islamic Republic's oil industry.

The company's decision, first reported on Thursday by the Reuters news agency, could make it difficult for oil refineries in China to keep importing from Iran.

Oil tankers typically need $1bn worth of insurance coverage. About 95 per cent of the world's tanker fleet purchase such cover from firms in the European Union, but new sanctions which take effect in July will bar European insurers from indemnifying ships carrying Iranian oil products.

Anonymous hacks Chinese websites
Messages by the international hacking group Anonymous went up on a number of Chinese government websites on Thursday to protest internet restrictions.

[ ... ]

Dear Chinese government, you are not infallible, today websites are hacked, tomorrow it will be your vile regime that will fall," the message read. "So expect us because we do not forgive, never. What you are doing today to your Great People, tomorrow will be inflicted to you," one of the messages read.

Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan, reporting from Hong Kong, said that the attack was interesting because Anonymous had mostly previously stayed away from attacking Chinese websites.

Officials: Army investigates Afghan massacre site

Army criminal investigators visited the villages early this week to collect forensic evidence, two senior defense officials said Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of prohibitions against talking about the continuing investigation into the March 11 killings.

Investigators stayed away from the shooting sites for more than three weeks to avoid aggravating tensions with angry villagers.

Afghan peace envoy killed in suicide blast

Mohammad Hashim Munib, the provincial head of the government-appointed High Peace Council, and his son were killed in the blast as they were returning home from Friday prayers, officials said.

Two people were wounded in the blast which also killed the bomber.

"He was on his way home from Friday prayers when he was attacked by a suicide attacker," provincial police chief Ewaz Mohammad Nazari told the AFP news agency.

In Yemen, lines blur as U.S. steps up airstrikes
As the pace quickens and U.S. targets expand, the distinction may be less clear between Al Qaeda militants and those fighting only to overthrow Yemen's leaders.
WASHINGTON — A surveillance aircraft operated by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command flew over southeastern Yemen on the evening of March 9, tracking a mid-level Al Qaeda commander as he drove to his mountain hideout.

American missiles soon rained down. The Al Qaeda commander was killed, along with 22 other suspected militants, most of them believed to be young recruits receiving military training, U.S. officials said.

The attack is an example of how the U.S. is escalating its largely secret campaign in Yemen, taking advantage of improved intelligence and of changes in Yemen's leadership now that President Ali Abdullah Saleh has stepped down. The changes have allowed attacks against militants who until recently might have eluded U.S. attention, the officials say.

This seems like a stretch. I hope it doesn't mean the risk of involvement in yet another intervention war.
West’s role in Libya tipped Mali into chaos
PARIS: When Western forces helped topple Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi they forced hundreds of well-armed Tuareg fighters to flee home to Mali, tipping another fragile African state into chaos, experts say.

And for some observers, the Western powers’ role in helping trigger the crisis now gives them a responsibility to help try to end it.

“It must be said and said again that the factor that unleashed all of this is the Western intervention in Libya,” said Eric Denece, director of the French Centre for Intelligence Research (CF2R), a think tank.

Iraq unstable, sectarian, with signs of authoritarian rule

The only signs that nearly a decade of war and occupation had interrupted such leisurely evenings were the concrete blast walls surrounding the shrine and a cluster of Iraqi soldiers wearing castoff gear as they lounged in an office of the militant anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr.

Then a terrifying noise — more a loud click than a boom — scattered the pigeons and set off a stampede among panicked worshipers who'd been crowding the entrance of the shrine. When they realized moments later that the disturbance had been just a large generator switching on, people in the crowd laughed and cracked jokes about being scared of even balloons.

An Iraqi politician's face darkened the next day when I recounted the bomb-scare episode during a tour of his family's centuries-old gardens.

Wired Scores Exclusive Aerial Photos of Apple’s ‘Area i51′

Apple is building something at its Maiden, North Carolina, data center, but the uber-secretive company won’t say what it is.

So Wired took to the skies to find out.

These overhead photos — captured last month — showa Apple’s $1 billion data center and two adjacent areas where Apple has started new construction. Rumors have suggested that Apple is building a second data center beside the first, but judging from these photos — and county building permits — it appears that this is not the case. In all likelihood, the two construction areas will house the new-age biogas fuel cell plant and the massive solar array Apple will use to help power the original facility.

Appeals Court Revives Viacom’s Billion-Dollar YouTube Lawsuit

Media giant Viacom is getting another shot at getting hundreds of millions from YouTube for copyright infringement of its movies and music videos, after an appeals court reinstated its case against Google Thursday.

Originally posted to Team DFH on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 05:34 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA.

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