Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Always watch out when you hit "reply" A Real Countrywide Email From the Office of Angelo Mozilo - Email Below Calls Homeowner Disgusting: It isn’t every day that you get to see behind the scenes of the housing and mortgage crisis. Mainstream media usually tells the same homeowner story of pain and suffering and then the “made up” stories from the lenders and servicers who are masters of deception and lip service. Here is an email that was forwarded to me by a Countrywide Home Loans borrower named Dan Bailey....

Noah Schactman on why the Navy isn't always realistic in its plans: It's an open secret in Washington that the Navy's ship-building plans are -- oh, how to put this delicately? -- complete and utter bullshit. The 30-year, 313-ship project relies on, among other things, doubling the country's maritime construction budget, to $25 billion per year -- which most observers believe is about as likely as the tooth fairy taking command of one of the ships. "There's a tendency towards magical thinking," one well-placed analyst once told me about the plan. "Or maybe people are just lying, in hopes that some part of it will happen."

Pentagon looks to borrow from Peter to pay Paul: The Pentagon has asked Congress for the authorization to borrow and transfer $9.7 billion from various accounts to pay for war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The so-called reprogramming request is necessary because a new war supplemental funding bill is still pending in Congress, the Department of Defense stated. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Senate last week that, if Congress did not approve the remainder of the 2008 war supplemental, he would submit a reprogramming request — taking money from less pressing accounts to front war costs — on May 27 to avoid depletion of the Army’s personnel and operations funds.

Good Ford, enough with this kind of crap: At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand. Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked. He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16." "They are trying to convert us to Christianity," said Anad, a Sunni Muslim like most residents of this city in Anbar province. At home, he told his story, and his relatives echoed their disapproval: They'd been given the coins, too, he said. STOP with this bullshit. Respect their religion, and GIVE IT A REST! Please!

Anyone for Frog Marching? Anyone? In an interview with MSNBC’s Dan Abrams yesterday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) said that the House Judiciary Committee would be willing to arrest Karl Rove if he continues to refuse to testify about his role in the U.S. attorney scandal and prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. The Hill reports: “Well, if that’s what it takes,” she said. “I mean we really cannot allow the co-equal branch of government, the legislative branch, to be trampled upon by the executive branch. The founding fathers established three branches of government. We are a co-equal branch, and this is an administration that essentially has ignored and disrespected the role of the legislative branch for far too long.” Damned straight.

Markey brings Global Warming to the forefront in Congress: Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House global warming panel, will introduce a bill next week that would cut emissions 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, more than the leading Senate bill to be debated on the floor next week. Markey said the measure would generate $8 trillion through the auctioning of emissions allowances to polluters. That money would be spent on developing new technologies like carbon capture and storage, retraining workers in green-collar jobs and helping consumers reduce their energy costs. Markey said he had briefed staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the parameters of the bill, but he did not indicate his legislation would reach the floor this year.

Scars are nothing to be ashamed of, but come on--let the lady wear what she wants to wear: A Kent Island bar has settled a lawsuit with a bartender who was fired because she would not wear a tight tank top that revealed scars from breast cancer surgery. Fifty-six-year-old Margaret Finley won her job back and $75,000 in the settlement of a federal lawsuit against her employer, Red Eye's Dock Bar in Grasonville. The bar's owner, Bob Wilson, did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was agreed to in March.

What, like getting their rocks off? Health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teenagers and young adults: the energy drink. Super-caffeinated energy drinks, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp, have surged in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12- to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States. The trend has been the source of growing concern among health researchers and school officials. Around the country, the drinks have been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits. In Colorado Springs, several high school students last year became ill after drinking Spike Shooter, a high caffeine drink, prompting the principal to ban the beverages. In March, four middle school students in Broward County, Florida, went to the emergency room with heart palpitations and sweating after drinking the energy beverage Redline. In Tigard, Oregon, teachers this month sent parents e-mail alerting them that students who brought energy drinks to school were "literally drunk on a caffeine buzz or falling off a caffeine crash."

You can't make this up: Sales of Spam - that much maligned meat - are rising as consumers are turning more to lunch meats and other lower-cost foods to extend their already stretched food budgets. What was once cheeky, silly and the subject of a musical (as Monty Python mocked the meat in a can), is now back on the table as people turn to the once-snubbed meat as costs rise, analysts say. Food prices are increasing faster than they've risen since 1990, at 4 percent in the U.S. last year, according to the Agriculture Department. Many staples are rising even faster, with white bread up 13 percent last year, bacon up 7 percent and peanut butter up 9 percent. There's no sign of a slowdown. Food inflation is running at an annualized rate of 6.1 percent as of April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The price of Spam is up too, with the average 12 oz. can costing about $2.62. That's an increase of 17 cents, or nearly 7 percent, from the same time last year. But it's not stopping sales, as the pork meat in a can seems like a good alternative to consumers.

Navy tries to help, but Myanmar? Myanmar is run by tyrants and fools: The United States probably will withdraw a group of naval vessels from waters off the coast of Myanmar within days unless the government allows the ships to offload their relief supplies for cyclone victims, the senior commander of U.S. forces in the region said Wednesday. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said he would discuss the matter this week with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Singapore, where they will attend an international security conference. Keating said the group of ships, led by the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, has other scheduled commitments in the area, including a planned port visit to Hong Kong. They were in the Gulf of Thailand participating in a naval exercise when the cyclone struck Myanmar, also known as Burma, on May 2-3. "Absent a green light from Burmese officials, I don't think she will be there for weeks," Keating told a Pentagon news conference, referring to the Essex. "Days, and then we'll see." The admiral said the Myanmar junta's refusal to allow the Navy to provide relief is frustrating. He described the sailors and Marines aboard the Essex as "desperate" to provide help.

Now if they can just do something about the cat mafia: In October 2004, a freighter bound from China pulled into a port in Newark, N.J. A 40-foot container was pulled off and cracked open by federal agents. Beneath false-bottom boxes filled with plastic toys, the feds found hundreds of thousands of dollars in $100 bills. It was nearly-flawless counterfeit cash known as "Supernotes," traced to the government of North Korea, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports. "The people working on the notes were very shocked - at the quality of the counterfeit notes," said FBI Former Assistant Director Lewis D. Schiliro. The seizure was part of an operation code-named "Royal Charm." Playing a key role was the rather odd couple: Louie and Z. They'd been working undercover in Atlantic City for six years - FBI agents posing as high-rolling Italian mobsters could get anything through customs. "If you have the money, if you have the credibility, you - it doesn't matter. You could buy virtually anything," Louie said. Today Asian organized crime deals in everything from human cargo to Ecstasy to fake Viagra to weapons. It feeds America's insatiable appetite for knock-off designer goods you find in flea markets and back-alley shops across the country...In August 2005 the FBI decided it had enough evidence to move in. The dilemma: How to lure dozens of top Asian crime figures from as far away as China, to one place at one time.

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