How Goldman Sachs bailed out Goldman Sachs with U.S. taxpayer dollars; U.S. Justice [sic] Dept.’s effort to probe torture abuse is one to validate torture; 59% of Pakistanis view the U.S. as their biggest threat; Israel vows to not evict unlawful Israeli settlers in the West Bank; China emulating the U.K.’s Big Brother surveillance program; NYC’s racist drug war; 84-year-old Ohio woman with Alzheimer’s slammed to the pavement by cop…
Fmr. U.S. Treasury Secy. Hank Paulson issued himself an ethics waiver to handle the details of the U.S. bailing out Goldman Sachs (GS), of which King Paulson is the former CEO, along with White House counsel. A.I.G. was bailed out for $85bn, $13bn of which went to GS. During the bailout period, King Paulson was in contact with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein two dozen times, five times the day King Paulson received the waivers and two beforehand — disproportionately more than with other CEO’s involved receiving bailouts. Mr. Paulson says he “had no role whatsoever in any of the Fed’s decision regarding payments to any of A.I.G.’s creditors or counterparties,” though unnamed officials say otherwise. “Mr. Paulson was closely involved in decisions to rescue A.I.G…. And government ethics specialists say that the timing of Mr. Paulson’s waivers, and the circumstances surrounding it, are troubling,” Gretchen Morgenson and Don van Natta, Jr. report (NYT). “Mr. Paulson helped decide the fates of a variety of financial companies, including two longtime Goldman rivals, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, before his ethics waivers were granted…. [GS] also was given permission at the height of the crisis to convert from an investment firm to a national bank, giving it easier access to federal financing in the event it came under greater financial pressure[,]… won federal debt guarantees and received $10 billion under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. It benefited further when the Securities and Exchange Commission suddenly changed its rules governing stock trading, barring investors from being able to bet against Goldman’s shares by selling them short.” For more on how GS has benefited since the bailout, see “Wall Street Reaping Outsized Profits Trading With The FED“
“The [economic] crisis is only masked by the wartime atmosphere of emergency and ‘temporary’ privation,” writes Justin Raimondo (AntiWar.com). “Politically, however, it is a lifesaver for our ruling elite, which is at pains to deflect blame away from itself and on to some ‘foreign’ target.”
U.S. banks are set to receive over $38bn in overdraft fees this year as the median overdraft fee has gone up from $25 to $26 for the first time in a recession more than 40 years. $6 over can get you a $35 fee at Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase’s fees range from $25-$35. 90% of the fees are attributed to 10% of the 138m checking accounts in the U.S., most commonly those with the lowest credit scores (FT). In other words, the individuals in the biggest jams relative to their income and worth are being charged the most fees by banks whose debt was bailed out by the gov’t so they could grab just about everything in existence as the only ones with any money.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder is stepping toward an inquiry in to “whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized” by the Bush Adminstration. The problem is that the Bush Administration approved torture in memos which, as Greg Miller and Josh Meyer aptly point out, ‘liberally interpreted anti-torture laws’ (LAT). Gust blogging for Glenn Greenwald, digby notes that such an inquiry could be the opposite of progress, in validating the John Yoo (et al) memos as accurate interpretations of the law, which aren’t (to any objectively reasonable eye looking at the law). Andy Worthington brought it to our attention that the ACLU, as part of their “Accountability for Torture” campaign, has a new page called “Tortured Logic” where you can send this video to Mr. Holder (1:49):
“The argument that Geneva Conventions should not apply to terror suspects is an argument I never expected to hear in any country that claims to be a democracy under the rule of law,” Colombia University international law professor and Centre for Constitutional Rights president Michael Ratner said (IPS). “The U.S. and other countries’ efforts to get out from under their humane legal obligations is and was obscene.”
The SCOTUS will hear the White House’s appeal of the lower court’s ruling in favor of the ACLU claim to release abuse photos under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). “These photos are a crucial part of the historical record, and the appeals court was right to find that they should be released,” said Director of the ACLU National Security Project Jameel Jaffer. “It’s disappointing that the Obama Administration which has rightly acknowledged the connection between transparency and accountability is continuing to argue that these photographs should be suppressed.” (IPS)
“The head of MI6 [Sir John Scarlett] has told the BBC there is no torture and ‘no complicity in torture’ by the British secret service…. In a highly critical report, the [Joint Human Rights Committee] said there was now a ‘disturbing number of credible allegations’ of British complicity in torture,” reports Gordon Corera (BBC). “[Sir John] was the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which had ownership of the 2002 dossier which contained the controversial claim that Saddam Hussein would be able to deploy weapons of mass destruction ‘within 45 minutes’…. The newly launched Iraq Inquiry is expected to revisit the question of how the intelligence was presented in the dossier.” Amnesty Int’l Counter-Terrorism Researcher Julia Hall said Sir John’s excuses were “conditioned on the idea that torture may just be inevitable in order to protect the public from terrorism”.
POLL: 59% of Pakistanis view the U.S. as its ‘biggest threat’. 18% identified India, 11% identified the Taliban. 41% still support the U.S. mission in “Af-Pak”, 24% oppose, 22% ‘remained neutral’ (AJE).
“The Pakistani government says it intends to provide conclusive proof that Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban (TeT), is dead,” reports the BBC. TeT leadership refute the Pak intel report that a U.S. air strike, which killed Mr. Mehsud’s wife and father-in-law, also killed the group’s leader. TeT has released conflicting statements as well — one saying its leader is ‘alive and well’, another saying he is ‘gravely ill’. “On Sunday, Maulana Nur Syed told the BBC the Pakistani Taliban leader had not been at the house that was attacked by the U.S. missile.”
50 Afghans, believed to be drug traffickers, are being targeted by the U.S. to be “captured or killed”, reports James Risen (NYT). “Pentagon officials have said their new emphasis is on weaning local farmers off the drug trade — including the possibility of paying them to grow nothing — and going after the drug runners and drug lords. But the Senate report is the first account of a policy to actually place drug chieftains aligned with the Taliban on a ‘kill or capture’ list.”
45,000 more troops for Afghanistan are ‘needed’, according to Anthony Cordesman, top adviser to U.S. top commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Pres. Obama has already approved the addition of 21,000 troops and is openly talking about adding to that ‘surge’ (AntiWar.com). Gen. McChrystal says the U.S.-led coalition does not have the “upper hand” in the war costing taxpayers $4bn a month — ‘roughly $133m per day or $5.5m per hour’ (RAW STORY)
“Tasers aren’t benign however. They kill peoplem,” digby writes, guest-blogging for Glenn Greenwald (Salon). “Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their ‘orders’. There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.”
Israel PM Bibi Netanyahu ‘vows to never evict’ unlawful Israeli settlers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories that Israel continues to expand (AntiWar.com). FM Avigdor Lieberman said any peace effort would be an “illusion” that would “end in failure, disappointment and even confrontation.” (PTV)
Amnesty Int’l has kicked off it “Unlock the Camps” campaign calling on the Sri Lanka gov’t to end its arbitrary detention policy by fiat and release the hundreds of thousands Tamils in its de facto concentration camps: “According to government figures, the fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) displaced over 409,000 people. At least 280,000 are displaced from areas previously under LTTE control. A dramatic influx of people fleeing the fighting and crossing to government controlled areas took place from March 2009.” At least 50,000 children are being detained in at least 41 camps (AI).
Democratic Party of Japan leader ‘vows’ to fight U.S.-led globalism. “Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of Japan’s opposition Democratic party who is strongly placed to become prime minister after elections this month, has condemned ‘U.S.-led market fundamentalism’ and vowed to shield his nation from the effects of untrammelled globalisation,” reports Mure Dickie (FT).”‘Under the principle of fraternity, we will not implement policies that leave economic activities in areas relating to human lives and safety, such as agriculture, the environment and medicine, at the mercy of the tides of globalism,’ Mr. Hatoyama wrote.”
“We’re providing the [Somali] Transitional Federal Government with ammunition and weapons,” and “we may decide we may try to increase that number — that amount — at some point,” U.S. Deputy State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said (IPS).
The U.S. wants to ‘revive influence’ in Angola, Africa’s largest oil producer (CSM).
Georgia has released a 190-page ‘report’ deflecting blame for its war with Russia last year saying Russia “launched a large-scale assault on Georgia”. An E.U. report on the Five Day War between Georgia and Russia is to be published soon and is expected to identify Georgia as the aggressors. The pro-gov’t weekly Georgia Today called Der Spiegel a “mouthpiece for Putin” after reporting on the E.U. preliminary findings. Spiegel made it clear in their report on Georgia’s ‘report’: “The conflict broke out on Aug. 7, 2008 when Georgia attacked the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russian forces quickly repelled the Georgian attack and advanced into Georgia. Hundreds of people, including many civilians, are believed to have died during the fighting before a ceasefire was agreed upon on Aug. 12.”
$1.2tn is wasted on healthcare in the U.S. each year (CNN). Almost $420bn just on overtesting and processing claims, but another $100bn ignoring doctor’s orders alone.
China’s Ministry of Public Security is ‘gradually extending the installation of surveillance cameras in rural communities to be be linked to police stations, community police service posts and farmer security guards’ China has more than 2.75m surveillance cameras installed around China already, with more than 265k in Beijing. “The ratio of cameras to people in China stands at one to 472,000, while in Britain, with more than 4.2 million surveillance cameras, the ratio is one camera per 14 people,” PTV reports.
‘New York City is the marijuana arrest capital of the world’, according to Harry Levine’s report which also finds (AlterNet): “In 2008, blacks were about 26% of New York City’s population, but over 54% of the people arrested for pot possession. Latinos were about 27% of New Yorkers, but 33% of the pot arrestees. Whites were over 35% of the City’s population, but less than 10% of the people arrested for possessing marijuana. In 2008, police arrested Latinos for pot possession at four times the rate of whites, and blacks at seven times the rate of whites.” (h/t: Stephen Webster)
On August 1, an Ohio cop slammed Virginia, an 84-year-old with Alzheimer’s, to the ground in a Wal-Mart parking lot, drawing blood. Virginia was reportedly alone in the car while her adult daughter was in the store, cut her way out of the belt with a knife, and still had the knife in her hand as she walked through the lot — only calling her daughter’s name and not threatening anyone, according to bystanders. (h/t: Stephen Webster – 7:07):