OUR LATEST QUIZ
- OUR LATEST QUIZ
Our latest quiz asks you to rate some news stories as most important to least important. Our latest quiz was motivated by the spectacle of THE STAR LEDGER, which is the biggest newspaper in New Jersey choosing as its top front page story for October 1st, 2010 c.e. the tragic apparent suicide of
a same gender preference young man who had his life ahead of him and was talented in a number of ways which the world shall sadly never know, including music. It seems the man young man jumped off the George Washington Bridge because some other students at his college in New Jersey allegedly covertly videotaped him engaging in same gender preference activity with someone and then allegedly broadcasted the video on line. While all of that story reeks with tragedy, including the sad elements of the musical presentation the man was to have been a part of had he not gone off the George Washington Brdige we do not see why the story rated most of the front page of that newspaper.
The death of Bernie Schwartz, a.k.a. TONY CURTIS at 85 got less front page space, and appeared below the same gender preference story, although there was more inside the paper on both stories.
Surely Bernie Schwartz , a.k.a. TONY CURTIS was a far more important figure in history than the previously unknown young man who went off the George Washington Bridge. Unlike the fellow who went off the George Washington Bridge Bernie chose to overcome adversity and to go
on to entertain billions of people all over the world who saw his movies for decade after decade after decade.
Bernie Schwartz , a.k.a. TONY CURTIS was someone whose courage should be emulated. The fellow who went off the George Washington Bridge surely rates pity, if for no other reason than that his privacy wss infringed upon. Whether his apparent suicide was in fact a suicide or whether foul play was involved we will leave to the conspiracy theorists and or the authorities to unravel. Whatever the case may be there remains of course to be seen.
If one or more same gender preference activits sought to create a martyr by tossing the young man off the George Washington Bridge the authorities have a murder case or maybe even a murder conspiracy on their hands. On the other hand it may have really been a suicide.
Surely in this age of terrorism there must be video tape available from the George Washington Bridge, which has long been a target of terrorists, to show what actually happened on the Bridge.
Our latest quiz looks at a number of recent news stories and asks you to rate them as most important to least important. Imagine that you are the editor of the major newspaper in your area. Which story would get top of the told page one treatment? Which story would not even make it into your paper.
Here now some recent news stories along with some brief commentary from us on them. Rate them at your leisure and post your ratings please.
Published: 09/29/10, 11:01 AM / Last Update: 09/29/10, 11:08 AM
¡®Anti-Freeze¡¯ Protestors at Israeli Consulate: Not One Inch
by Fern Sidman
Follow Israel news on Twitter and Facebook.
Chants of "Not One Inch" could be heard in midtown Manhattan Tuesday afternoon as members of Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI) joined forces with members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, representing the World Committee for the Land of Israel.
More than 200 people gathered outside the Israeli Consulate in a spirited demonstration of support for the abrogation of the 10-month moratorium on Jewish building throughout Judea and Samaria. The building freeze expired earlier this week.
The crowd held aloft signs saying, "No Freeze, No Appease, Bibi Stay Strong", "Build !! Don't Destroy Jewish Homes and Synagogues", "The Land of Israel Belongs to G-d: Do Not Relinquish it" and "Jerusalem, Hebron, Golan, Judea and Samaria: Ours Forever."
Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel told the supporters for Israel, "We are here today to celebrate the renewal of building in Israel. We congratulate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for resisting the pressure from President (Barack) Obama and (Palestinian Authority Chairman) Mahmoud Abbas to extend the construction freeze in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
¡°We must call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to remember that nations rise and fall, but the Jewish people have maintained their right to the entire Land of Israel for nearly 4,000 years."
Interspersed during the speakers, Lubavitch members led the demonstrators in an emotional recitation of several chapters of Tehillim, prayers from the Book of Psalms; while beseeching G-d¡¯s mercy and protection for the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
The male and female demonstrators were separated by a mechitza, according to Jewish law that prohibits unnecessary public mingling of genders. Young men from Lubavitch carried their sets of the Four Species, known in Hebrew as the Arba Minim, exhorting Jewish passersby to recite the blessing while holding them.
We think the story above is very important because it shows the need for Israel to not only stop handing over land, but to retake land it has already handed over. We firmly believe in peace. If Israel is to defend itself without having to resort to nuclear weapons it can only do so from defensible broderrs. Those broderrs must have strategic depth. They must include every inch of Israeel, Judea, Samaria, the Golan and Gaza as parts of Israeel. All non-Jews in all of those areas must be permanetnly expelled from all of those regions. The alternative is to place Israel in a situation in which it must use nuclear weapons immediately to defend itself from attacks from within Israel, Judea, Samaria, the Golan and Gaza.
This collage of stories deals with the planetary economic meltdown and offers some tax reform suggestions. We believe that a strong planetary economy is very important.
The Tips Of The Iceberg
Some of them are listed below. There are far too many to list.
What it seems to boil down to is a planetary economy in melt down.
Everybody trying to grab the biggest piece of the pie that he or she is able to grab out of a seemingly ever shrinking pie.
Not enough people working on expanding the size of the pie.
In America a tax system that taxes residential property perpetuates poverty as poor neighborhoods cannot afford high residential property taxes so schools, police, fire, etc. are all perpetually underfunded.
Residential tenants need to demand higher wages if they are to pay residential rents as landlords of residential properties need to have their property taxes covered by residential rents. As residential tenants demand higher wages the value of the dollar diminishes.
Inflation is the cruelest tax of all. Retirees cannot keep pace with inflation and may become homeless. If employers of residential tenants cannot afford to pay higher wages they lay off workers.
The same system taxes commercial property resulting in landlords attempting to pass along property tax costs to commercial tenants who cannot afford the high rents resulting in vacant commercial properties which could end up being seized by municipal governments for non-payment of commercial property taxes, and in commercial tenants being forced out of business or forced to lay off workers so that they can pay their rents.
In America a capital gains tax of 15% which may go to 20% in January of 2011 if the Bush tax cuts are not renewed by the lame duck session of Congress after the November 2010 elections acts to discourage stockholders from holding onto stock in the hope that it may rise in value.
If the lame duck session of Congress after the November 2010 elections fails to restore the Bush tax cuts there will be a massive sell off of stocks as investors seek to avoid the higher 20% capital gains tax, and other taxes which would also increase in January of 2011.
A wiser course would be to completely overhaul the local, state, and federal tax systems.
Eliminate all commercial and residential property taxes nationwide. Eliminate the capital gains tax. Eliminate taxation of social security. Eliminate taxation of pensions.
Eliminate taxation of bank interest. Eliminate taxation of stock dividends.
Establish do not ask do not tell bank accounts which do not ask where the money to open or add to the accounts came from or whether taxes were paid on it to create a flood of money going into banks.
Eliminate the death tax also misleadingly called the estate tax.
Do all of these things and more to grow the pie rather than to shrink it.
Failure to grow the pie can only result in more frantic scrambles for the ever shrinking crumbs of an ever shrinking pie.
October 1, 2010
Standoff in Ecuador Ends With Rescue of the President
By SIMON ROMERO
CARACAS, Venezuela ¡ª The police chief in Ecuador resigned on Friday after an uprising by officers who held President Rafael Correa captive for more than 10 hours on Thursday, and the government maintained the state of emergency it had declared Thursday, several news agencies reported.
The chief, Freddy Mart¨ªnez, submitted his resignation on Friday morning, a spokesman for the police told Reuters, hours after President Correa vowed to overall the force on Thursday night in Quito , the capital.
Ecuadorean soldiers on Thursday stormed the police hospital where Mr. Correa was held by rebellious elements of the police forces and rescued him amid an exchange of gunfire in an effort to end a tense standoff between Mr. Correa and hundreds of protesting police officers and military personnel.
Speaking shortly after the rescue operation, which involved about 500 soldiers who entered the hospital grounds wearing gas masks, Mr. Correa delivered a fiery speech from the balcony of the presidential palace and blamed ¡°infiltrated elements¡± of the security forces for the day¡¯s events.
It was unclear if anyone died during the rescue, although Mr. Correa said that at least five people had been wounded.
The operation came during a state of emergency declared Thursday in Ecuador after Mr. Correa was caught at one point earlier in the day in an angry scrum of officers at a barracks in the Quito and was physically assaulted. He was tear-gassed, shoved, insulted and pelted with water, and emerged gasping for air.
He sought refuge in the police hospital, which was surrounded by protesting officers. Speaking to the news media by telephone, the president said that he was ¡°practically captive,¡± while hundreds of his supporters marched on the police compound, demanding his release.
He called the protests ¡°an attempt at a coup d¡¯¨¦tat¡± and lashed out at the protesting officers as ¡°a bunch of ungrateful bandits.¡±
Striking police officers also occupied the National Assembly, where hundreds of Mr. Correa¡¯s supporters gathered outside.
However, it was not clear on Thursday night whether the police officers, who were protesting a new law that would reduce their benefits and slow salary increases, also sought control of the government.
The standoff arose after security forces took over barracks in several cities to protest the law, part of a broader project to rein in government spending. Some members of the air force joined the protests in Quito , blocking the airstrip at the international airport and preventing planes from landing or taking off.
Miguel Carvajal, the minister in charge of internal security issues, said at least one person had been killed and several injured.
In the security vacuum created by protesting officers, sporadic robberies were reported at supermarkets and at banks, in the capital and in Guayaquil , a large coastal commercial city. Retail businesses and schools shut down.
Mr. Correa had gone to the barracks to address the police complaints in person. A shouting match ensued, and at one point, he loosened his tie and opened his shirt as if to show that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest. ¡°If you want to kill the president, here he is,¡± he said. ¡°Kill him, if you want to. Kill him if you are brave enough.¡±
The military leadership appeared to support the president. Gen. Ernesto Gonz¨¢lez, the highest-ranking military official, called on the protesting police officers and troops to stand down. ¡°We are a state of law,¡± he said in comments broadcast on Ecuadorean radio. ¡°We are subordinated to the maximum authority, which is the president of the republic.¡±
Leaders from across the hemisphere expressed support for Mr. Correa, 47. The White House expressed support for Mr. Correa and urged a peaceful end to the crisis. ¡°The United States deplores violence and lawlessness and we express our full support for President Rafael Correa, and for the institutions of democratic government in that country,¡± Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement.
The chaos raised new doubts over the stability of a country that had churned through eight different presidencies in the decade before Mr. Correa was first elected in 2006. Since then, Ecuador has enjoyed relative calm, and Mr. Correa¡¯s leftist agenda of increased state control of the oil industry and welfare programs for the poor proved popular enough that he was re-elected in 2009.
But his approval ratings recently slipped amid protests over his efforts to reorganize the federal bureaucracy.
Maggy Ayala Samaniego contributed reporting from Quito , Ecuador , and Mar¨ªa Eugenia D¨ªaz from Caracas .
Protesters take to Europe ¡¯s streets as anger grows over austerity measures
By Raf Casert, Associated Press | September 30, 2010
BRUSSELS ¡ª Tens of thousands of workers marched through the streets of Europe yesterday, decrying the loss of jobs and benefits they fear will come with stinging austerity measures.
Police fired shots into the air to disperse protesters during a general strike in Spain . Greek bus and trolley drivers walked off the job, joined by doctors who staged a 24-hour strike at state hospitals. Unions claimed 100,000 marched on the European Union¡¯s headquarters in Brussels .
From Ireland to Greece , workers united around the theme that they are victims of a debt crisis caused by reckless high-spending bankers undermining Europe ¡¯s cherished welfare state. They complained of higher taxes, job cuts, soaring unemployment, and smaller pensions.
¡°We are protesting mainly for our children, because they¡¯re not here ¡ª they are out looking for jobs,¡¯¡¯ said Emilio Martella, a 62-year-old retiree who demonstrated with 2,000 others in Rome.
Like Italy , several nations are raising or are considering raising the pension age, fearing there won¡¯t be any money left to pay retirees in the future.
France¡¯s conservative government is moving to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67.
To rein in public debt, countries including Greece and Spain have cut workers¡¯ pay, and across the continent governments have trimmed benefits that have long been generous by US standards. Unemployment benefits were cut from four years to two in Denmark , Germany trimmed support for the long-term jobless and new parents who stay home, and Spain and England dropped bonuses to families for having babies.
Waves of demonstrators marched through Brussels toward EU buildings. Unions estimated the turnout at 100,000 people; police put it at 56,000.
The EU Commission has proposed new penalties to punish member states that have run up deficits, mainly to fund social programs in a time of high unemployment. The proposal, backed by Germany , was running into strong opposition from France , which wants elected politicians, not rigid accounting rules, to decide on sanctions.
¡°It is a bizarre time for the European Commission to be proposing a regime of punishment,¡¯¡¯ said John Monks, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation. ¡°How is that going to make the situation better? It is going to make it worse.¡¯¡¯
He said Europe has 23 million jobless.
Unions fear workers will become the biggest victims of an economic crisis set off by bankers and traders, many of whom were rescued by massive government intervention.
¡°It is not right that people on low salaries have to pay to prop up the country. It should be the banks,¡¯¡¯ said a Belgian demonstrator, Evelain Foncis.
Yet several governments, already living with high debt, were pushed to the brink of financial collapse.
From Barry Hatton, October 1, 2010 - 07:51 AM
Portuguese unions call general strike to protest government's austerity plan
By Barry Hatton
LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Portugal 's largest trade union alliance on Friday called a general strike for Nov. 24 to protest the government's austerity measures.
The General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, which groups about 700,000 members from dozens of unions, said the walkout was part of its fight against the government's debt-reduction plan.
The center-left Socialist government plans to raise taxes and cut pay and welfare benefits to alleviate a debt crisis that has threatened to engulf the country.
The confederation's secretary-general Manuel Carvalho da Silva said the strike aimed to press the government to consider "alternative ways" of resolving the fiscal problems.
The slightly smaller General Workers' Union , another umbrella group which also opposes the austerity measures, said it would consider instructing its members to join the strike.
The two groups represent mostly blue-collar workers and civil servants.
Greece and Spain , two other countries which use the euro currency and which have piled up huge debts, have also witnessed general strikes in recent months as workers seethe at cost-cutting programs.
Portugal's budget deficit reached 9.3 percent of gross domestic product last year, the fourth-highest deficit among the 16 eurozone countries.
Growing doubts on international markets about the country's ability to meet its financial obligations brought a surge in Portugal 's borrowing costs.
Investors gave the austerity plan, which must be approved by Parliament before it can be enacted, a cautious welcome. The interest rate on Portuguese 10-year bonds fell to 6.1 percent Friday, down from a euro-era record high of 6.5 percent earlier this week.
The European Commission, the European Central Bank and other eurozone nations have also endorsed the government's austerity package.
Unions, however, expressed anger that workers would bear the brunt of efforts to restore Portugal 's financial health. The national jobless rate is close to 11 percent.
The government's plan entails a 5 percent cut in public sector pay for those earning more than euro1,500 a month and a freeze on civil service promotions and pension levels next year, as well as cuts in some welfare benefits by up to 25 percent.
The government estimates about 450,000 state employees will take home less pay under the plan.
But daily business paper Jornal de Noticias calculated that that when the elimination of tax breaks and cuts in subsidies are taken into account, some 3.5 million people will be worse-off.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2010, 11:12 A.M. ET
U.S. Official Warns Europe on Austerity
By BRIAN BLACKSTONE
FRANKFURT¡ªA top U.S. Treasury official urged Europeans to tread carefully on fiscal belt-tightening, warning that ensuring economic recovery must remain the top priority for governments.
The remarks, delivered in Germany by U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard, are a precursor to what is likely to be a vigorous debate when global finance officials gather next week in Washington for annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund.
Americans and Europeans are divided on whether stimulus or austerity is the best path for growth in the midst of a fragile global recovery, with the U.S. urging continued stimulus and Europe already moving in the direction of tax increases and spending cuts.
"In an environment of weak global demand and low inflation, ensuring a lasting recovery must remain the paramount objective," Ms. Brainard told university students in Frankfurt on Wednesday. She also repeated Treasury's longstanding demand that China move toward greater exchange-rate flexibility.
Ms. Brainard was in Germany meeting with senior EU officials and economists.
European officials, particularly in Germany and at the European Central Bank, counter that austerity is the best way to ensure economic recovery by boosting business and household confidence. "Credible and ambitious consolidation raises expectations of future economic growth," the ECB wrote in its September economic bulletin.
Greece, Portugal , Ireland and Spain have started raising taxes and cutting spending to trim budget deficits, with painful economic effects as seen by steep slides in Greek and Irish GDP last quarter, raising doubts among some economists about that strategy.
Others in Europe including Germany, whose deficit is quite low by global standards, have announced austerity plans starting next year in an effort to bring deficits under the EU's limit of 3% of GDP over the next three or four ears.
"We hope that European officials will plot their exits with an eye to the recovery as well as to domestic mandates," Ms. Brainard said.
Ms. Brainard echoed another U.S. refrain: Europe, and in particular Germany , need to contribute more to the global economy at a time when the U.S. is being asked to spend less and save more. But Germans seem in no hurry to revisit their export-driven model, especially on the heels of 9% GDP growth, at an annualized rate, during the second quarter and a sharp drop in unemployment over the past year. Yet Germany 's recovery is already weakening, and many economists say the euro zone might only grow around 1.5% this quarter and even less in the fourth quarter.
"Promoting balanced growth does not mean constraining Germany 's exports or undermining Germany 's competitiveness," Ms. Brainard said. More domestic growth in Germany , which accounts for almost 30% of euro-zone GDP, would help weaker European countries emerge from the crisis, she said.
Yet for all the discussion of imbalances such as U.S. overspending and German oversaving expected at the IMF meetings, one Frankfurt student highlighted a practical challenge for officials: getting people to actually change their behavior.
"People buy stuff or they don't. What would the U.S. expect the German government do to stimulate domestic demand?" the student asked.
"I'm pretty careful not to wade into domestic debates about particular structural measures," Ms. Brainard replied.
September 30, 2010
The Austerity Caucus
By DAVID BROOKS
Silicon Valley, Calif.
If I had as much money as Meg Whitman, I¡¯d probably have a more exuberant house. Hers is perfectly nice. But at a time when other Silicon Valley moguls were installing underground squash courts, arcade-size game rooms and other gewgaws, she stuck with a New England-style colonial. The furniture is traditional. There¡¯s a middle-age Ford in the garage. There are definite signs of WASP parsimony and understatement here, especially compared with the $120 million she¡¯s spent on her campaign to become California ¡¯s governor.
Whitman seems to have led a sober, performance-oriented life. She began her career at a string of traditional companies: Procter & Gamble, FTD florists and Hasbro. Then, in 1998, she took the leap to a ramshackle company called Auction Web, which became eBay. Even as annual revenues surged from $6 million to somewhere north of infinity, she could have won an award for Most Likely to Avoid Irrational Exuberance. She was the grown-up chief executive hired to look after financial discipline, management structure, customer analysis and other spheres of eat-your-veggies sensibleness.
The only hint of disorder in her house is on the dining room table, where there are stacks of briefing books piled askew. Whitman doesn¡¯t exactly soar into the realm of poetry when she talks about what she¡¯d like to do if elected governor. But if you ask her about the need for earthquake-proof water levies or the intricacies of budget rules, you will be greeted with a torrent of figures.
She talks fast, begins too many sentences with ¡°So...¡± and holds out her hands while counting off points on her fingers. Problems with the tax code? Four fingers pop up and four quick proposals follow. Problems with the State Legislature? Four fingers and four data points. Television doesn¡¯t quite capture how physically imposing she can be, and how locomotivelike she is when focused and resolved.
But Whitman is representative of an emerging Republican type ¡ª what you might call the austerity caucus. Flamboyant performers like Sarah Palin get all the attention, but the governing soul of the party is to be found in statehouses where a loose confederation of ¨¹ber-wonks have become militant budget balancers. Just as welfare reformers of the 1990s presaged compassionate conservatism, so the austerity brigades presage the national party¡¯s next chapter.
Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who I think is most likely to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2012, is the spiritual leader. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the rising star. Jeb Bush is the eminence. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rob Portman, a Senate candidate in Ohio , also fit the mold.
These are people who can happily spend hours in the budget weeds looking for efficiencies. They¡¯re being assisted by budget experts from the Hoover Institution, the Manhattan Institute and freelancers like Bob Grady, who did budgeting in George H.W. Bush¡¯s administration. Members of the caucus have a similar sense of the role history has assigned them. ¡°This state had a party for 10 years and I¡¯m the guy who got called in to clean up the mess,¡± Christie says.
Christie is the Hot New Thing in the group because he not only has ideas to cut deficits but he¡¯s found a political strategy to enact them, even with a Democratic Legislature. One of the keys to cutting budgets, he says, is that ¡°almost nothing can be sacrosanct.¡± Inheriting an $11 billion deficit, he spread cuts across every agency. He even had to cut education spending by $820 million but said any individual district could avoid cuts if the teachers there would be willing to chip in 1.5 percent of their salaries to help pay for health benefits (few districts took advantage of this).
Democrats fought the cuts but could not swing public opinion. The big showdown came over the ¡°millionaires¡¯ tax.¡± Democrats sought to raise revenue by taxing the affluent. Christie vetoed the tax, arguing that the state, already hemorrhaging jobs, couldn¡¯t afford to make the business climate any worse. He won that battle and has dominated the state since. He was elected with 49 percent of the vote in a three-way race, and now he has a 57 percent approval rating.
Whitman has brought Christie to California to campaign for her and says he offers a roadmap of where she¡¯d like to go. It¡¯s not clear that Whitman has as deft an enactment strategy as Christie does. It¡¯s also not clear that Californians are as alarmed about their fiscal mess as people in New Jersey .
But Whitman has the personality type that you¡¯re seeing more and more of these days. Not big picture, like Reagan. Not an idea volcano, like Gingrich. Not a straightforward man of faith, like George W. Bush. The quintessential New Republican is detail-oriented, managerial, tough-minded, effective but a little dry. If Whitman wins her race, she¡¯ll fit right in.
Huge Flaw in Municipal Bond Assumptions
Everyone plowing into municipal bonds on the assumption the federal government will bail out the states may have another thing coming says Herbert Gold at Institutional Risk Analyst.
Please consider The Great Contraction Coming in State Finances
Back in August, the U.S. House of Representatives took a break from its recess to pass legislation giving $26 billion to the States for education and healthcare. This $26 billion is a stealth bailout for States on the verge of default. As such it is a band-aid that prolongs the crisis while sending a false signal to the markets. In the event of a State default Washington will not rescue the States.
The municipal debt crisis is well known. California by some measures has the world's 8th largest economy, yet it faces the prospect of once again issuing IOUs to its creditors as its government continues to struggle to pay its bills. Illinois , America 's fifth most populous state, is running nearly half a year behind on meeting many of its obligations. New York and New Jersey , the latter despite some bold political moves by Governor Chris Christie, are similarly situated. Indeed, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities only four states have avoided budget shortfalls this year.
Despite these conditions the market for State debt remains placid. Municipal securities continue to trade at favorable rates even though the larger economy has shown no solid signs of meaningful growth. The reason for this lies both in the fact that States historically don't default, and the belief that Washington will provide funding in the event of a true crisis.
The market continues to assume the federal government would not let a big issuer like California default. But this theory has a huge flaw: absent a vote from Congress there is no easy mechanism for the federal government to rescue the States. And after the political backlash from the TARP vote it is safe to say Congress will be loathe to issue any more blank checks to bail out the states.
It's unlikely the Fed would be inclined to bailout a State in distress given the political backlash the institution would face after another open-ended program that told the world (yet again) the US was ready to simply print its way out of its problems.
The market remains convinced that, in the worst-case scenario, Congress would not risk the disruption that would follow a State default. But countering this idea is the role federalism plays in our political system as well as an appreciation of the damage done to politicians who supported TARP.
Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), a highly respected member of the Senate, was unceremoniously dropped from the ballot in the Republican primary in Utah in large part because of his vote on TARP. At least five other sitting officeholders have lost in their own party primary this year for the same reason, to say nothing of the large- scale losses likely to occur this November. Any politician interested in keeping his or her job would be very wary of voting for a State bailout. And this does not account for the role the States play in America 's governing system. Ask a citizen of Oregon to bailout California , or a citizen of Michigan to bailout Illinois , and you are likely to get the same cold silence.
Treasury prefers to allow Illinois to borrow at low rates for as long as possible in the hope that somehow they will stumble through this crisis. From Treasury's perspective it is a free option, but the real price of this false confidence will only become clear after it is too late.
The genius of the American system is its flexibility, allowing States to be responsible for their own governance and finances. If some must bear the burden for reckless spending it should be the citizens of those States. Washington won't bail out the States and the market should be prepared for defaults. But just remember that it won't be the first time that an American state has defaulted on its debt.
Financial Reform Act Impacts
There is more in the article including an analysis of how the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ended the Treasury's authority to bail out the states and how President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner may rue this decision.
If so, that revision may be the only worthwhile thing in the entire bill.
Unfortunately, I think Congress will try to "do something", they always do. However, I am equally convinced severe austerity measures are on the way to more than a handful of states. If so, none of this is factored into lofty stock market valuations, and equally absurd valuations of municipal bonds.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Explores Bankruptcy
I have commented on this before but it finally appears the bankruptcy writing is on the wall for Harrisburg . Bloomberg reports Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Council Votes to Explore Bankruptcy
The City Council¡¯s 5-2 vote last night rebuked a personal plea from first-year Mayor Linda Thompson. Harrisburg needed state aid two weeks earlier to avoid becoming the second-largest borrower to default on a general-obligation bond this year.
¡°The whole world is watching Harrisburg ,¡± Thompson said in a 40-minute speech to the council, where she had a seat until becoming mayor in January. ¡°Our bondholders are looking to make us the poster child of the world to municipalities in financial difficulties. And they don¡¯t plan on losing.¡±
Councilor Brad Koplinski, who proposed considering bankruptcy protection, said it would take a ¡°devastating tax increase¡± to cover the debts.
¡°I¡¯m not going to have that $210 million payment on the backs of taxpayers,¡± he said in an interview after the vote. ¡°Bankruptcy, I don¡¯t think, would kill our city. I think the tax increases would kill our city.¡±
Certainly Councilor Brad Koplinski understands the situation properly.
In contrast mayor Linda Thompson is beholden to the bondholders. Either she is a complete economic dunce or someone is financing her campaign. Either way, she is unfit for office.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Manhattan Moment: Obama puts public sector employees ahead of private sector
By: E.J. McMahon
September 14, 2010
From the end of 2007 through 2009, more than eight million jobs were lost. The national unemployment rate rose to more than 10 percent for the first time in nearly 30 years. Personal incomes and industrial output plunged. For many of those who managed to remain employed, wages stagnated or even declined as bonuses shriveled along with sales and profits. The Great Recession was the deepest and most prolonged economic downturn ever experienced by most Americans.
In his January 2009 inaugural address, President Barack Obama pointedly praised "the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job" as an example of what "sees us through our darkest hours."
But Obama never expected unionized public-sector workers to imitate their private sector counterparts. Instead, he devoted his first few weeks in the White House to fighting for an economic "stimulus" bill that included $145 billion in state and local aid designed to minimize austerity measures in state and local government.
By the time private employment finally began a sluggish recovery in early 2010, public-sector employment was dropping. This set off alarm bells in the White House. The president warned that "if additional action is not taken, hundreds of thousands of additional [government] jobs could be lost."
The upshot: congressional Democrats last month approved another $26 billion in special aid to states and local governments. "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe," Obama declared in signing the bill.
The president's rhetoric implied that the nation's schools, firehouses, and police stations were on the verge of being staffed by skeleton crews. In fact, even after a recent decline, state and local governments employ nearly 1.7 million more people than they did 2000 - a gain of nine percent during a decade when private employment decreased by a net three percent.
Obama's infusion of federal aid to states and localities didn't just "save" jobs. It also pumped up the paychecks of heavily unionized public employees who already earn more, on average, than the people who pay their salaries.
While private sector wages were dropping along with employment in 2009, the average annual wage for state government employees was up in 45 states, including fiscal basket cases such as Illinois , Michigan , New York , and New Jersey . The average local government wage rose at least slightly in every state, even crisis-wracked California . The stimulus helped make it all possible.
This result ran counter to the advice of the pro-stimulus economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others. "Public sector wage increases should be avoided as they are not well-targeted, difficult to reverse, and similar to [income] transfers in their effectiveness," they wrote in a report issued just before Obama took office.
But the 2009 and 2010 federal stimulus packages are just a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of benefits promised to America 's current generation of public sector employees. Pension and retirement health care insurance coverage for state and local government workers across the country represent unfunded liabilities that could exceed $2 trillion, and may reach $4.7 trillion. Even in the Obama era, that's real money.
The public sector compensation burden threatens to crush future generations of Americans. In the process, it also threatens to starve the very public services and infrastructure that government exists to provide.
Unfortunately, Obama's legislative agenda has mainly reflected the priorities of public sector employee unions that are the main obstacle to reform. The president's continuing push for aid to prop up the status quo has been a wasted opportunity for Washington to help in promoting real change.
E.J. McMahon is director of the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy and is author of the new broadside "Obama and America's Public Sector Plague" (Encounter Books, October 2010).
Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/columns/oped_contributors/Obama-puts-public-sector-employees-ahead-of-private-sector-862743-102918264.html#ixzz1178e6HQ6
The story immediatley below deals with two arabs. One is Abua Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen, deputy to the late terrorist Arafat Abbas is a notorious HOLOCAUST DENIER, educated in MOSCOW,WHO TOOK PART IN ORGANIZING COUNTLESS TERRORIST ACTS. HE HAS BLOOD ON HIS HANDS.The other arab is former US Senator Mitchell of Maine, chosen to be Barack Hussein Obama's number one henchman in the planned demise of ISRAEL.
Abbas to Mitchell: No further talks until building halted
By JPOST.COM STAFF
PA says Israeli building in settlements equivalent to refusal to continue peace negotiations; Netanyahu tells Mitchell that Israel wants to continue direct talks; Egyptian FM says freeze not an important issue.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday told US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell that the there will be no further peace negotiations with Israel as long as building in settlements continues, Israel Radio reported.
Mitchell met with Abbas in Ramallah on Friday after having met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the hopes of finding a compromise that could save the talks which have stalled following Israel's decision earlier this week not to extend the 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement building.
Mitchell, Ashton to meet leaders for peace talks push
Arab League postpones meeting with Abbas on talks
Following Abbas's meeting with Mitchell, a Palestinian Authority spokesman said that no breakthrough to revive the talks had been made and that Israel's insistence on continuing construction in the settlements is preventing progress towards reaching a peace agreement.
Senior Palestinian Authority official Yasser Abed Rabbo added that Israel's refusal to halt settlement building is equivalent to a refusal to continue the peace talks which began early in September.
Earlier Friday, Netanyahu told Mitchell that Israel wants to continue negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
In his opening words, Netanyahu said: "We are making a joint effort with Senator Mitchell to continue talks with Abbas. We want to continue talks, and I want it."
"We have a mission for peace," Netanyahu added.
Also on Friday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit criticized the Palestinian Authority for its "insistence" on a moratorium on building in the settlements.
In an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, Aboul Gheit said waiting for a renewed freeze will only complicate peace talks, and that the most important issue is borders.
Where did the peace sign come from?
(Photo: Getty Images)
By Melissa Breyer
More from Care2 Green Living blog
It is instantly recognizable as a sign of peace, but what is the symbolism behind the peace sign?
The olive branch came from ancient Greece, the dove from the Bible ¡ but where did that circle with the chicken-footprint come from?
Rewind back to 1958 when London textile designer, Gerald Holtom, wanted to create a symbol for marchers to carry on banners and signs at a "Ban the Bomb" march planned by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). The event was Britain¡¯s first major demonstration against nuclear weapons -- a 52-mile march from London to the town of Aldermaston, home to an A-bomb research center.
Members of the DAC came to the march emblazoned with Holtom¡¯s circle-with-lines symbol; but to bystanders, its meaning was a mystery.
Nowadays we all know what the symbol stands for, but what is the meaning behind the design? Holtom created the symbol by combining flag semaphore signals, an alphabet signalling system where flags are waved in a particular pattern to symbolize different letters. The system was used in the maritime world in the 1800s to convey information at a distance.
Holtom used the signals for the letters "N" for nuclear and "D" for disarmament and put them in a circle. The symbol is essentially a logo for the concept of nuclear disarmament! Such graphic elegance.
Later the symbol was adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). In 1960, the peace sign was imported to the United States via a peace sign button brought from the U.K. to the U.S. by Philip Altbach, a freshman at the University of Chicago.
The symbol had shown up here and there in the U.S. prior to that, but when Altbach convinced the Student Peace Union to adopt the sign as its symbol, the popularity of the peace sign grew immensely. By the late 1960s, the peace sign had become an international symbol adopted by anti-war protesters, and it doesn't seem to be losing steam any time soon.
The next story deals with a Mosque that courageous Hindus removed from an ancient Hindu Holy site. There are many such Mosques around the world placed by Islamic Conquerors on the holy sites of other faiths. One such arab act of war is planned for the American HOLY SITE at Ground Zero in Manhattan.
Disputed India Holy Site to Be Divided, Court Rules
September 30, 2010
By JIM YARDLEY
NEW DELHI ¡ª With the nation on high alert, an Indian court handed down a long-awaited decision on Thursday over control of the country¡¯s most disputed religious site by splitting the land into three portions to be divided among Hindus and Muslims, according to lawyers in the case.
Much of the detail and rationale behind the decision issued late Thursday by a three-judge panel in the state of Uttar Pradesh remained unclear. The court was expected to release the complete ruling only later in the evening. But lawyers in the case, interviewed on Indian news channels, said the panel had unexpectedly ruled by dividing the land in a way that gave something to both Hindus and Muslims after a legal battle that originated six decades ago.
The case focused on a site in the city of Ayodhya, which many Hindus have long claimed as the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram, but which also was the site of a mosque, known as the Babri Masjid, built in the 16th century by India¡¯s first Mughal ruler. In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed the Babri Masjid, sparking riots that would claim the lives of about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.
One of the central questions in the case had been whether a Hindu temple had existed on the site before the construction of the Babri Masjid. Lawyers in the case said the court¡¯s ruling would reserve one-third of the land for construction of a temple to Ram, another third for another Hindu party to the case, while designating the final third for Muslims to build a mosque.
¡°The judgment is in favor of Hindus,¡± said H. S. Jain, a lawyer for one of the Hindu groups in the case. ¡°The belief of Hindus that this is the birthplace of Ram is upheld.¡±
But Zafaryab Jilani, a lawyer representing one of the Muslim parties, denied that the ruling represented a loss to Muslims.
¡°There is no reason of any loss of hope,¡± Mr. Jilani said, noting that the judgment was several thousands pages long. He added: ¡°We do not agree with the formula of giving one-third of the land to Muslims.¡±
Despite Thursday¡¯s ruling, the court said that the status quo at the contested shrine would remain in place for three months. Lawyers representing both Muslim and Hindu groups said they would appeal the verdict to India¡¯s Supreme Court.
The 1992 violence became a searing rebuke to modern India¡¯s secular identity and deepened the religious passions invested in the Ayodhya case.
In recent weeks, India¡¯s government has beseeched the public to remain calm, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the leaders of the major political parties issuing appeals for peace. As a precaution, the Home Ministry deployed almost 200,000 paramilitary officers from both state and federal forces across Uttar Pradesh, which includes the contested site. One unit was assigned to stand guard outside the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra. The ministry also placed a temporary nationwide block on bulk text messages as a measure to block rumors or efforts to organize mass protests.
By early Thursday evening, with the details of the case becoming public through television reports, there were no reports of protests or violence. Earlier, Palaniappan Chidambaram, the home minister, had predicted the Indian public would respect the court¡¯s finding.
¡°I think, India has moved on, young people have moved on,¡± he told the Indian media. ¡°I think young people have recognized that the India story is much more than a dispute over a place where one religious group claims they are entitled to [rather] than another religious group.¡±
Indian leaders have warned that an eruption of violence might derail the economic and social progress the country had made since the 1992 outbreak. The destruction of the Babri Masjid occurred a year after the national government initiated reforms that have transformed India into one of the world¡¯s fastest growing major economies, if also a country of deep inequality. Moreover, the political potency of the Hindu nationalist movement, which took the destruction of the Babri Masjid as a rallying cry, has since eroded.
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.
The next story could be a dream come true someday, but probably not anytime soo. NBC's BRIAN WILLIAMS featured the story on the NIGHTLY NEWS show he anchors and mistakenly said that if things got bad here
onEarth we could always go to the new planet. Well, maybe not always Brian, surely not yet anyway . The new planet happens to be a "mere" 20 light years or so away. A light year is the distance light travels in a year. The Sun is 8 ilght minutes from Earth, about 90 milliion miles. Light travels at 186,000 miles per seconds our fastest space ships can go up to 25,000 miles per hour to reach escape velocity from Earth's gravity well. So trips to the new planet might take
awhile. Even if humans already had faster than light travel humans are hardly prepared to make first contact with anyone at the moment. We are all for space travel but we also need to recognize that we need to do a lot of personal growth in a hurry before we meet extra terrestrials. Some theorists speculate that in the 118,000 years in which humanity in its current state has lived on earth there could have been lost periods of history during which humanity might have had a few thousand years of scientific progress which might well have surpassed the last few centuries of scientific progress that we know about. If that proves to be the case perhaps the first contact humans might make could occur between humans from such earlier eras whose ancestors might have gone into space thousands of years ago, and more recent spacefarers such as contemporary huans or our descendants.
Goldilocks' planet be just right for life?
AP ¨C This undated handout artist rendering provided by Lynette Cook, National Science Foundation, shows a ¡
Play Video Video:Scientists report most earth-like planet ever AP
Play Video Video:Raw Video: NASA test fires rocket motor AP
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer ¨C Wed Sep 29, 7:19 pm ET
WASHINGTON ¨C Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right.
Not too far from its star, not too close. So it could contain liquid water. The planet itself is neither too big nor too small for the proper surface, gravity and atmosphere.
It's just right. Just like Earth.
"This really is the first Goldilocks planet," said co-discoverer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
The new planet sits smack in the middle of what astronomers refer to as the habitable zone, unlike any of the nearly 500 other planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. And it is in our galactic neighborhood, suggesting that plenty of Earth-like planets circle other stars.
Finding a planet that could potentially support life is a major step toward answering the timeless question: Are we alone?
Scientists have jumped the gun before on proclaiming that planets outside our solar system were habitable only to have them turn out to be not quite so conducive to life. But this one is so clearly in the right zone that five outside astronomers told The Associated Press it seems to be the real thing.
"This is the first one I'm truly excited about," said Penn State University's Jim Kasting. He said this planet is a "pretty prime candidate" for harboring life.
Life on other planets doesn't mean E.T. Even a simple single-cell bacteria or the equivalent of shower mold would shake perceptions about the uniqueness of life on Earth.
But there are still many unanswered questions about this strange planet. It is about three times the mass of Earth, slightly larger in width and much closer to its star ¡ª 14 million miles away versus 93 million. It's so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn't rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark.
Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between ¡ª in the land of constant sunrise ¡ª it would be "shirt-sleeve weather," said co-discoverer Steven Vogt of the University of California at Santa Cruz.
It's unknown whether water actually exists on the planet, and what kind of atmosphere it has. But because conditions are ideal for liquid water, and because there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water, Vogt believes "that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent."
The astronomers' findings are being published in Astrophysical Journal and were announced by the National Science Foundation on Wednesday.
The planet circles a star called Gliese 581. It's about 120 trillion miles away, so it would take several generations for a spaceship to get there. It may seem like a long distance, but in the scheme of the vast universe, this planet is "like right in our face, right next door to us," Vogt said in an interview.
That close proximity and the way it was found so early in astronomers' search for habitable planets hints to scientists that planets like Earth are probably not that rare.
Vogt and Butler ran some calculations, with giant fudge factors built in, and figured that as much as one out of five to 10 stars in the universe have planets that are Earth-sized and in the habitable zone.
With an estimated 200 billion stars in the universe, that means maybe 40 billion planets that have the potential for life, Vogt said. However, Ohio State University's Scott Gaudi cautioned that is too speculative about how common these planets are.
Vogt and Butler used ground-based telescopes to track the star's precise movements over 11 years and watch for wobbles that indicate planets are circling it. The newly discovered planet is actually the sixth found circling Gliese 581. Two looked promising for habitability for a while, another turned out to be too hot and the fifth is likely too cold. This sixth one bracketed right in the sweet spot in between, Vogt said.
With the star designated "a," its sixth planet is called Gliese 581g.
"It's not a very interesting name and it's a beautiful planet," Vogt said. Unofficially, he's named it after his wife: "I call it Zarmina's World."
The star Gliese 581 is a dwarf, about one-third the strength of our sun. Because of that, it can't be seen without a telescope from Earth, although it is in the Libra constellation, Vogt said.
But if you were standing on this new planet, you could easily see our sun, Butler said.
The low-energy dwarf star will live on for billions of years, much longer than our sun, he said. And that just increases the likelihood of life developing on the planet, the discoverers said.
"It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions," Vogt said.
The National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov
This next item may be seen as a sign of the times perhaps.
Comics will no doubt make note of the name of the legislator who is pushing for the proposal.
Indonesian Legislator Wants Virginity Tests
Tishrei 21, 5771, 29 September 10 02:40(Israelnationalnews.com) An Indonesian legislator wants girls in his province to pass virginity tests before being admitted into state-funded high schools - a widely ridiculed proposal with little chance of passing.
Bambang Bayu Suseno, a lawmaker in Jambi's provincial parliament, cited concerns about a rise in premarital s-x among teens in pushing for the proposal.
Study finds first evidence that ADHD is genetic
By Kate Kelland
LONDON | Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:54am EDT
(Reuters) - British scientists have found the first direct evidence attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a genetic disorder and say their research could eventually lead to better treatments for the condition.
Researchers who scanned the gene maps of more than 1,400 children found that those with ADHD were more likely than others to have small chunks of their DNA duplicated or missing.
Anita Thapar, a professor psychiatry at Cardiff University who led the study, said the findings should help dispel the myths that ADHD is caused by bad parenting or high-sugar diets.
"This is really exciting because it gives us the first direct genetic link to ADHD. Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children," she told reporters at a briefing about the findings.
ADHD is one of the most common child mental disorders and is estimated to affect around 3 to 5 percent of children globally. It is seen far more often in boys than in girls.
Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and easily distracted, and often experience difficulties at home and in school. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be kept in check by a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.
Millions of people take ADHD drugs including Novartis's
Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, Johnson & Johnson's Concerta, Shire's Adderall and Vyvanse and Eli Lilly's
Strattera. Global sales of ADHD drugs were around $4 billion dollars in 2009, according to pharmaceutical analysts at Deutsche Bank in London .
NO DIAGNOSTIC TEST IN SIGHT
Thapar said the findings would help unravel ADHD's biological basis, "and that's going to be really important in the future to develop new and much more effective treatments."
But experts stressed that the DNA findings were unlikely to lead the development of a genetic test for ADHD, since a complex mix of genes and environment are likely to be the cause.
"It is not clear that this will yet lead to a diagnostic test, but may well open up new avenues for understanding the neurobiology of the disorder," said Philip Asherson of the Institute of Psychiatry King's College London.
The study also showed an overlap between the deleted or duplicated DNA segments, known as copy number variants (CNVs), and genetic variants linked to the brain disorders autism and schizophrenia -- providing what the scientists said was "strong evidence" that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition.
The Cardiff team analyzed the genomes of 366 children with ADHD and compared them with 1,047 samples from children without ADHD to try to find variations in their genetic make-up.
The findings, published in The Lancet medical journal, showed that rare CNVs were almost twice as common in children with ADHD compared to the other children.
Nigel Williams, who also worked on the study, noted the significant overlap between CNVs found in children with ADHD and regions of the gene map which are known to influence susceptibility to autism and schizophrenia.
He said the most marked overlap was found at a particular region on chromosome 16 which has been linked to schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders and spans a number of genes, including one known to play a role in brain development.
"We have seen a clear genetic link between these segments and other brain disorders," he said. "These findings give us tantalizing clues to the changes that can lead to ADHD."
(Editing by Ralph Boulton)
The next story is interesting why were there no lawsuits brought by OBSERVANT JEWS whose desire to keep KOSHER is surely as important as the desire of OBSERVANT MOSLEMS to keep HALAL.
McDonald¡¯s Lawsuit ¡ª
What¡¯s the Story?
McDonald's Lawsuit Timeline
Proposed Allocation of Money for "Vegetarian" Recipients
List of Vegetarian Appellants
The McDonald¡¯s ¡°french fry¡± lawsuit has become one of the biggest stories in the vegetarian movement, yet very little about it has appeared in vegetarian publications. The class action suit originated after it was discovered that the fast-food chain had not told vegetarians that its french fries and hash browns had beef in them, contrary to the impression some had after a company press release of July 23, 1990, which stated that McDonald¡¯s fries were cooked in 100 percent vegetable oil. But alas, many unfortunate vegetarians did consume McDonald¡¯s french fries or hash browns after July 23, 1990, and in doing so unwittingly consumed minuscule amounts of beef.
A lawsuit was filed against the company and a $10 million settlement was agreed upon, with $6 million going to vegetarian groups. But then disputes erupted, not only with McDonald¡¯s, but within the vegetarian community as well, over which groups should get the money¡ªprobably the most serious and most public division in the history of the modern vegetarian movement. The divisions resulted in accusations against some vegetarian groups of ¡°sleeping with the enemy¡± and unethical conduct. The case is being appealed, millions of dollars are at stake, and the outcome is in doubt. What¡¯s the story?
In the Beginning
The controversy began with Eric Schlosser¡¯s book Fast Food Nation, published in 2001. Schlosser, not himself vegetarian, noted the source of some of the so-called ¡°natural flavors¡± in much fast food, remarking that the ¡°natural flavor¡± in McDonald¡¯s french fries was derived from beef. Ironically, in light of subsequent developments, Schlosser got his information from Vegetarian Journal, a publication of the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG).
One of Schlosser¡¯s readers was a Jain who asked McDonald¡¯s whether the company¡¯s fries contained beef. McDonald¡¯s confirmed Schlosser¡¯s information by email, and on April 6, 2001 the information was published in India-West, a California-based weekly targeting Asian Indians in North America. Harish Bharti¡ªa Seattle lawyer and a native of India¡ªthen filed a lawsuit on May 1, 2001 in King County, Washington, claiming that McDonald¡¯s hadn¡¯t told the truth about their ingredients; he cited this email and Schlosser¡¯s book as evidence. McDonald¡¯s quickly issued a denial, saying it had never claimed its fries were vegetarian and that they had always contained beef flavoring.
But this denial provoked another unexpected development. Hindu nationalists in India, upon hearing about McDonald¡¯s statement, were furious, and protests were launched at various McDonald¡¯s restaurants. At some sites, the protests were peaceful; at others, they turned ugly, with windows broken and a statue of Ronald McDonald smeared with cow dung.
McDonald¡¯s backtracked, explaining that french fries sent to India (unlike its North American fries) were free of beef products. When laboratory tests revealed that no animal fat was in the french fries, the issue receded in India. But in the United States, additional lawsuits were filed in Texas, New Jersey, California, and Illinois, where the lawsuit was finally negotiated.
The Case Against McDonald¡¯s
McDonald¡¯s denies lying about its french fries. The list of ingredients provided for their fries (before the lawsuit) included ¡°natural flavor.¡± As many veteran ingredient-readers could quickly tell you, ¡°natural flavor¡± can legally include animal products, including beef¡ªas it actually did in this case. But more than that, some McDonald¡¯s employees said that the fries were vegetarian. The most incriminating evidence was a 1993 letter written by a company employee stating that there were a number of items which ¡°vegetarians can enjoy at McDonald¡¯s¡± ¡ª specifically mentioning the french fries and the hash browns.
However, the question of liability for a few specific cases of misinformation to a small number of individuals would be different from a systematic advertising campaign. The judge in this case, Hon. Richard Siebel, did not believe the plaintiff¡¯s case was very strong. In his order of October 30, 2002, he remarked: ¡°Proving liability on the merits is problematic. The Plaintiffs face a substantial risk of obtaining no relief if litigation against McDonald¡¯s were pursued.¡±
On the other hand, the plaintiffs had one practical advantage: the area of public relations. McDonald¡¯s had already received stunningly bad publicity in this case. They may have calculated that they could ill afford another ¡°victory¡± like the infamous ¡°McLibel¡± lawsuit in England. In that case, while McDonald¡¯s successfully sued two anti-McDonald¡¯s campaigners for libel, the case boomeranged into a constant stream of negative publicity about the corporation.
The plaintiffs initially demanded $75 million; McDonald¡¯s offered $5 million. After negotiations, a proposed $10 million settlement was announced on April 26, 2002, with $6 million assigned to ¡°vegetarian groups.¡±
No sooner had the proposed settlement been announced than questions began to be raised about who would receive the money. At a preliminary hearing in May 2002, Greg Khazarian represented Muslims who objected to the settlement. Khazarian stated to me that ¡°the fatal flaw in the structure of the settlement is that Muslims are included in the class, but excluded as one of the groups receiving benefits in the settlement.¡± Several hundred Muslims filed objections.
Muslims usually eat meat, but the meat must be slaughtered in accordance with ¡°halal,¡± a procedure roughly similar to kosher. Clearly the McDonald¡¯s beef was not ¡°halal¡± (or kosher, either). There are roughly 7 million Muslims in the United States, compared to about 6 million adult vegetarians. While vegetarian groups were slated to get 60 percent of the settlement, there was no category for Muslim groups.
At the preliminary hearing on May 1, 2002, the judge said that the Muslims ¡°could be accommodated within the parameters of the proposed settlement,¡± according to Khazarian. In the final settlement approved by the judge, Muslims were included in the vegetarian category.
Khazarian disputes the logic that lumps Muslims and vegetarians together. ¡°The McDonald¡¯s argument was that a Muslim who is in McDonald¡¯s will be looking for food that is vegetarian, so they should be included in the vegetarian category,¡± explains Khazarian. ¡°My clients don¡¯t buy that argument.¡±
When the proposed list of recipients was released in September 2002, there were further objections,<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)