Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America"

From Wall Street titan should explain what he does for a living by Bob Greene:

... This month, Goldman announced that its profits in the last three months alone were $3 billion.

If the final quarter continues on this prosperous pace, Goldman's year-end bonus pool may exceed $20 billion, according to the New York Times -- enough to pay its 31,700 employees an average of $700,000.

That's the kind of news that many Americans may find difficult to swallow as a grim Christmas season arrives.

No wonder the anger at Wall Street is real and visceral.

But here is a modest proposal.

It has to do with Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chairman of Goldman Sachs.

Blankfein, it has been reported, may receive a year-end bonus that is even larger than the one he got two years ago.

Which is really saying something, seeing that his 2007 bonus was $67.9 million.

Here's the proposal:

Blankfein should go on television and make a public service announcement.

Not one of those 30-second ones that run late at night, promoting various worthy causes.

Blankfein should prepare a 30-minute announcement, to be delivered by him personally. He should buy time during the prime evening viewing hours on all the major networks.

He should look into the camera and, as a service to an irate country, answer one simple question:

"What exactly do you do for a living?"

He should answer the question specifically, and in detail.

What is it that he and his employees do every day that makes their work so much more valuable than the work done by virtually anyone else in America?

This proposal is not made sarcastically; it's not a joke. Many of us don't know what Goldman Sachs does to make those billions of dollars in profits. And evidently those of us who are in the dark are not alone. New York Times business reporter Jenny Anderson, in a story on Goldman's success: "Quarter after quarter, Wall Street executives scour Goldman's results hoping to figure out how the bank makes so much money." ...

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The History Of Oil - by Robert Newman


If video won't load, view here.

Companies reap the swine flu windfall

Healthcare companies are reaping the benefits of a global swine flu pandemic, brightening what might otherwise have been a dismal third quarter and bringing new focus on the market for vaccines.

Large European pharmaceutical companies are reporting windfall sales from flu drugs and H1N1 vaccines.

Small biotechs are winning fresh attention from investors and governments looking for quick, less expensive ways of making flu vaccines to protect their populations. And diagnostic companies have been growing revenues as doctors order more flu tests.

"Pretty much everyone who does something in influenza in has gained from it," said Hedwig Kresse, an infectious diseases analyst at Datamonitor in London.

"From a sales perspective, the big players certainly will see a very significant windfall of this pandemic this year," Kresse said in a telephone interview.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG said this week it expects the H1N1 flu vaccine to contribute about $400 million to $700 million of sales in the fourth quarter.

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Ex-CIA agent confirms US ties with Jundullah

A former Central Intelligence Agency officer has confirmed US' relations with the terrorist group Jundullah, despite the CIA knowing that the group has close links with the al-Qaeda.

"American intelligence has also had contact with Jundullah. But that contact, as Iran almost certainly knows, was confined to intelligence-gathering on the country," Robert Baer, a former Middle East CIA field officer wrote on the Time.com, IRNA reported early on Saturday.

However, he noted that the US-Jundullah relationship "was never formalized, and contact was sporadic."

The news comes amid US denial of any involvement in a recent terrorist attack in Sistan-Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran, which Jundullah claimed responsibility for.

"I've been told that the Bush Administration at one point considered Jundullah as a piece in a covert-action campaign against Iran, but the idea was quickly dropped because Jundullah was judged uncontrollable and too close to al-Qaeda. There was no way to be certain that Jundullah would not throw the bombs we paid for back at us," said the former CIA agent who is a columnist in the weekly, and very probably an advisor in the Middle East.

Baer also noted that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has had relations with the Jundullah leader, Abdolmalek Rigi.

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This recession just became a depression

It is difficult to know what to be most shocked by in the gross domestic product figures published by the Office for National Statistics this morning: the fact that we are in the longest-lasting deepest continuous recession in recorded history or that no-one in the City foresaw it*.

Leaving aside the City's failings, with which we are intimately familiar, the scale of the economic collapse is disturbing. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research has been calling this a “depression” rather than a recession for some time – these figures surely now underline such a description.

A brief look at the figures beneath the headline figure of a 0.4pc fall reveals that almost all parts of the economy – from industry and manufacturing to services to construction to transport suffered significant contractions. Only the government managed to keep its economic output from falling, stagnating during the quarter thanks to extra health spending (swine flu-related I wonder?).

The GDP fall, as you may have seen elsewhere, means that this is now the longest technical recession since at least 1955 (and most probably since the 1930s, though the ONS doesn't have figures on this) at six quarters, or a year and a half, long. The late 1970s/early 1980s slump was deeper, but was not a long uninterrupted period of economic output falls.

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Musical Innerlube: Gemma Ray






"Doctors were complicit in the torture strategy from the start"

From Doctors Without Ethics by Justine Sharrock :

... For more than five decades, starting with the prosecution of Nazi doctors during the Nuremberg trials, the Pentagon ordered its physicians to abide by international norms. The World Medical Association (WMA), which counts the American Medical Association (AMA) as a member, had issued clear directives: Doctors could not assist in torture or cruelty of any kind, and were duty bound to report abuses they witnessed. The United Nations later clarified that the rules apply to all medical personnel, from surgeon to nurse to psychologist to lowly medic. Even now, the Army's Military Medical Ethics textbook echoes the Geneva Conventions, noting that a doctor-warrior's priority is always “physician first.”

But even as the nation debates disbarment for the Bush administration lawyers who green-lighted torture, the medical profession has dealt reluctantly, if at all, with its own involvement. “The indifference is shocking,” says retired Army Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, a rare outspoken critic among military doctors. “Some civilian doctors are appalled, but many say, 'It doesn't affect my life; I'm not involved.' ”

Doctors were complicit in the torture strategy from the start. In December 2002 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a directive allowing interrogators to withhold medical care in nonemergency situations—men with injuries including gunshot wounds were denied treatment as a way to make them talk. The directive was soon revoked, but the practice continued.

Four months later, Rumsfeld ordered that doctors had to certify prisoners “medically and operationally” suitable for torture and be present for the sessions. At Abu Ghraib, interrogations had to be preapproved by a physician and a psychiatrist. “They have the final say as to what is implemented,” Colonel Thomas M. Pappas told military investigators.

The CIA received similar advice in 2002 and 2005 from the Justice Department, whose torture memos recommended that physicians and psychologists be present for the interrogation of “high value al-Qaida detainees.” These doctors, the lawyers argued, would see to it that interrogators didn't torture detainees by intentionally inflicting “serious or permanent harm.”

But it was in June 2005 that the Pentagon delivered its biggest ethical bombshell, a memo that allowed doctors to participate in torture and share medical records with interrogators so long as the detainee in question wasn't officially their patient. The directive's author, physician and top Pentagon health official William Winkenwerder Jr., received an award from the AMA that year for outstanding contributions “to the betterment of the public health.” ...

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