Grassley accuses FDA of acting like communist secret police for spying on employees

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of acting like the East German secret police for closely monitoring the computer activities of some of its employees.

The GOP senator said internal documents on the surveillance program make the FDA “sound more like the East German Stasi than a consumer protection agency in a free country.”

He said the documents refer to employees who leaked information as “collaborators,” congressional staff as “ancillary actors,” and newspaper reporters as “media outlet actors.”

The FDA began using surveillance software in 2010 to monitor the computer activities of five of its scientists that it suspected of leaking damaging confidential information. The software captured screen images, intercepted personal emails, copied documents and even tracked their keystrokes.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the agency gathered 80,000 pages of documents as part of the program and created a list of 21 employees, congressional officials, academics and journalists it suspected of putting out negative information about the FDA. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who has examined the agency’s procedures for reviewing medical devices, was listed as No. 14 on the list.

Read more from this story HERE.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Media bias on steroids: Hiding utter GM Volt failure, channeling for Obama

The Jurassic Press is missing much in their reporting on the $50 billion bailout of General Motors (GM). The Press is open channeling for President Barack Obama – allowing him to frame the bailout exactly as he wishes in the 2012 Presidential election.

The President is running in large part on the bailout’s $30+ billion loss, uber-failed “success.” And the Press is acting as his stenographers. An epitome of this bailout nightmare mess is the electric absurdity that is the Chevrolet Volt. The Press is at every turn covering up – rather than covering – the serial failures of President Obama’s signature vehicle.

The Press has failed to mention at least five Volt fires, myopically focusing on the one the Obama Administration hand-selected for attention.

The Press has failed to mention that the Volt fire problem remains unsolved. Is it the battery? Is it the charging station? Is it the charging cable? All of the above?

GM and the Administration don’t know. And the Press ain’t breaking their necks trying to find out.

Read more from this story HERE.

Photo credit: visnup

Americans Joining Disability Now Outpacing Americans Finding Jobs

In the last three months, more Americans have joined disability than have found a job.

Between April-June 2012, an estimated 246,000 Americans were added to Social Security’s disability insurance program. In that same time period, only 225,000 American jobs were created.

Since 2008, 3.6. million Americans have been added to Social Security’s disability insurance program. In that same time period, a net total of 1.3 million jobs were lost.

“Amazingly, while fewer Americans are working than at the end of 2008, 3.6 million Americans have been awarded SSDI benefits over the same period. The growing number of people on disability and other federal benefits, combined with weak economic growth, raises serious concerns about the sustainability of the American economy,” Senator Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, says in a statement in response to these new numbers.

“It is clear there is a great need to distinguish between proper and improper disability claims, and to better incentivize and find acceptable work for those who are able. Today only 1 percent of Social Security disability recipients ever return to work. The administration of this program must be improved to avoid sinking our country deeper into debt, to ensure the program remains viable for those with disabilities, and to protect Social Security itself.”

Read more from this story and see the charts reflecting these numbers HERE.

Video: Rush – Obama hates the United States

In this must-see video, Rush Limbaugh explains why Obama “hates this country” and how he is, “brick by brick, trying to deconstruct the American dream.”

Video: Firefighters in Florida Forced to Remove US Flag from Trucks

Seminole, Florida firetrucks have apparently had all American flags stripped from them. Watch the video below and find out what happened.

 

Photo credit: Valerie Everett

Business leaders slam Obama for saying wealthy aren’t responsible for their own success

America’s leading small business association has slammed Barack Obama for showing ‘an utter lack of understanding’ of the country’s entrepreneurs when he told them: ‘If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.’

In a hard-hitting statement to Mail Online, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) president Dan Danne said: ‘What a disappointment to hear President Obama’s revealing comments challenging the significance of America’s entrepreneurs.

Mr. Danne added: ‘His unfortunate remarks over the weekend show an utter lack of understanding and appreciation for the people who take a huge personal risk and work endless hours to start a business and create jobs.’

President Obama said in a speech at the weekend that governments and not individuals create jobs, telling entrepreneurs: ‘If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.’

He added: ‘You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.’

Read more from this story HERE.

Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

Sen. Patty Murray: Democrats will go over ‘fiscal cliff’ unless GOP relents

With the US economy speeding toward a year-end fiscal cliff of some $560 billion in higher taxes and draconian spending cuts, Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington bluntly laid out her party’s position on how Congress should handle the nation’s coming fiscal travails: Go big or go over the ledge.

“Millions of jobs could be lost through the automatic cuts, programs families depend on would be slashed irresponsibly across the board, and middle-class tax cuts would expire. And once again, if Republicans won’t work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal,” said Senator Murray, the Senate’s No. 4 Democrat, in a speech at the Brookings Institution on Monday.

“[I]f we can’t get a good deal – a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share – then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013, rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus,” she said.

The chair of the party committee charged with electing Democrats to the Senate laid out the broadest, most full-throated explanation of the party’s views on the party’s negotiating position vis-a-vis the fiscal cliff, while outlining the party’s strategy for attacking Republicans at the polls in November.

While optimistic “that we can get a good deal,” Murray said Democrats would not, for example, sign on to a plan that would offset the $55 billion portion of the $109 billion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the “sequester,” the budget-slashing mechanism agreed to as part of 2011’s debt-ceiling showdown. The remainder of the reductions come from discretionary spending, home to Democratic priorities like social welfare programs, and reductions in payments to Medicare providers.

Read more from this story HERE.

Photo credit: ozmafan

Canadians richer than Americans for first time in history

Americans may enjoy teasing and taunting their neighbours to the north but now the jokes on them.

For the first time in recent history, the average Canadian is richer than the average American.

The net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202 compared to the average American household’s $319,970 worth, according to data published in Canada’s Globe and Mail last month.

That gives the average Canadian $43,232 more than the average American. And the Globe and Mail pointed out ‘these are not 60-cent dollars, but Canadian dollars more or less at par with the U.S. greenback.’

In a column for Bloomberg View, Stephen Marche, a Canadian novelist, sets out to explain how his country has stealthily crept up to overtake the U.S. in terms of a household’s average net worth.

Read more from this story HERE.

Photo credit:  _Shward_

Obama’s Friday Campaign Speech Reflects the Left’s Intellectual Exhaustion (+video)

Once in a while, a politician will say something that really offers you some insight into his state of mind and his worldview. On Friday, President Obama gave a campaign speech that included a portion that really repays close inspection. He made his usual case for raising taxes on the wealthy, and then he said:


The most interesting part of this may well be when Obama says “that’s the reason I’m running for president.” Throughout his campaign speeches, it seems he can really only get excited when he forgets that he actually is the president right now and thus manages to reclaim some of that 2008 excitement he clearly badly misses today.

But the larger theme here is fascinating too. It’s a huge and increasingly a central part of what the Democrats are saying (Elizabeth Warren got lots of applause on the left for saying basically the same thing a few months ago), and it tells us a great deal about what they think they’re up against and what they understand themselves to be championing.

The first thing to say about the president’s argument is that most of it is true, and is very, very obvious. No one would disagree with the specific things he says, except perhaps the vague and strange “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Who? But the president clearly thinks that some people do disagree with his more general point that everyone depends on society. It’s very evident from this passage and from a great deal of what he has to say about his opponents that Obama thinks he is running against a band of nihilistic Ayn Rand objectivists who champion complete and utter radical individualism. That weird notion is also behind the various attempts to link Paul Ryan to Rand, which are pretty amusing if you’ve followed Ryan (for what it’s worth, I would say Ryan thinks Ayn Rand is correct in her analysis of the left, which she believes has drawn the wrong lessons from the death of God, but is incorrect in many of her own prescriptions because she shares the left’s belief that God is dead, but that’s a story for another day…).

The president implies that his opponents don’t think government has any purpose at all, or that laws are necessary for free markets, and don’t recognize the fruits of any common efforts in American history. That’s just ridiculous. I’m sure there are many libertarians who wish Republicans really were radical individualists, but there’s just simply nothing in what Republicans have said or done in our time to support the idea that they are. The Ryan budget, which almost every congressional Republican has voted for, is an attempt precisely to focus the government on achieving what people can’t achieve on their own and on effectively helping the vulnerable and those who cannot help themselves. It envisions a very significant set of public entitlements and programs, in some cases larger than the ones we have now, but tries to bring them into line with the ethic and way of life of our free economy, to make sure they don’t crowd out civil society, and to make them far more efficient and effective than they have been lately. It is a different vision of American life, but not a radically individualist one. It makes for a smaller government on the whole, but it is built on a clear sense that government serves some very crucial purposes. And Republicans are proposing a very gradual path to that vision of America beyond the welfare state. The president would like to imagine that he’s running against radical individualism, but he’s running against some fairly modest reform proposals to avert fiscal catastrophe.

Read more from this story HERE.

Photo credit: Andrew Aliferis

Crime of the century: LIBOR and the Global Bank Conspiracy

In what may prove to be the “Crime of the Century,” recent evidence has come to light that some of the world’s largest banks were involved in a scheme to manipulate a key interest rate index, thereby cheating investors out of hundreds of billions of dollars.

LIBOR which stands for London Interbank Offering Rate is where 16 major international banks with offices in London each day inform the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) what each bank must pay in order to borrow cash from other banks.  The BBA then takes those rates and tosses out the highest rates and the lowest rates and averages the ones that are left and it’s published as LIBOR.  It has just become public knowledge that the banks making up the LIBOR system apparently were manipulating these rates to their advantage.

LIBOR is like the prime lending rate for banks and affects hundreds of trillions of dollars of investments in derivatives, bonds, and mortgages.  Because LIBOR is, by far, the largest interest rate index in the world, it has far reaching affects both short-term and long-term.  For example, if you had a 30-year mortgage with an interest rate set at LIBOR plus 4 percent, a few tenths of percent could cost you tens of thousands of extra dollars.  And you would be struck with that interest rate for the life of the mortgage.

Of course, the banks deny that they manipulated the LIBOR.  That’s despite the fact that Barclays Bank, a trillion dollar British bank and one of the largest in the world, had to negotiate a settlement with the British government for several hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties.  But it still claims it did no wrongdoing. Some of the biggest banks in America including Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America are also involved in setting LIBOR along with some of the other largest banks in the world.

The world’s major banks gained massive advantage in manipulating the LIBOR in two different ways.  The first is pretty straightforward, based upon the simple fact that these banks themselves hold trillions of dollars of investments that are LIBOR-rate sensitive.  With respect to investments that made them money if LIBOR dropped, the banks could manipulate the rate to drop when everyone in the world was expecting the rates to shoot up.  That is when the financial markets were in turmoil and the banks were exposed to massive losses.  Emails released by Barclays conclusively demonstrate that is what they did. They manipulated their stated interest rates to the BBA so as to affect the LIBOR in a way to maximize the value of their trading positions.

This is where the banks get their second advantage of manipulating LIBOR.  During the height of the 2008 financial crisis, LIBOR was viewed as a gauge of the financial strength of banks.  If the banks were charged high interest rates by other lenders who supposedly were most familiar with the borrowers’ financial condition, then it would indicate they were at a high risk of defaulting on their loans and therefore in a poor financial state.  So if a bank was actually charged a high rate of interest by another bank but falsely informed the BBA they were actually charged a lower rate, they would be looked at as a healthier bank.  This was important because, at the time, there were major investors and financial institutions withdrawing funds or refusing to lend to other institutions like Bear Sterns or Lehman Brothers.  An institution could go bankrupt in a matter of days without such investment given the heavy dependence on short term funds, the funds LIBOR was created to rate.

Now, the question of the century is, did the British government encourage the banks to manipulate the LIBOR downwards during the financial crisis?  There is some evidence that this is exactly what happened.  Barclays’ former chief operating officer, Jerry del Missier, contends that Barclays was told by the Bank of England in 2008 to underreport its borrowing costs.  He bases this on a discussion between Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker and Barclays’ then-head of investment banking Bob Diamond.  The subject of their discussion? Barclays’ persistently high LIBOR submissions to the BBA.

Barclays argues that Mr. del Missier misinterpreted the call, that Barclays had not been urged by the Bank of England to underreport its own borrowing costs in order to appear to be in line with other banks.  But in one transcript of a telephone call from April 11, 2008, released by the New York Fed this past Friday, a Barclays employee told the New York Fed that Barclays was underreporting its rate to avoid the stigma associated with being an outlier with respect to its LIBOR submissions, relative to other participating banks.  Another smoking gun came from a subsequent phone call, on October 24, 2008, in which another Barclays employee told a US Fed official that the LIBOR rate was “absolute rubbish”.

Under US law it’s a criminal conspiracy to falsely report and manipulate interest rates for the financial benefit of a cartel.  If the Bank of England encouraged this, then it becomes even worse.  On top of the Bank of England’s involvement, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the then-New York Federal Reserve Chairman, allegedly knew about the LIBOR manipulations in 2007.  Geithner even corresponded with the British financial services regulator as well as the Bank of England in 2008 on the LIBOR manipulations and on how to prevent them.  But nothing was done to stop the continued manipulation.

This brings into question whether Geithner, the Fed, and the British authorities can be trusted to regulate the global financial network for the benefit of the citizens.  If what’s all alleged is confirmed, this is truly a global criminal conspiracy.

Photo credit:  Matt from London