Daily Archive: 04/15/2013

Apr 15 2013

Two Explosions at the Boston Marathon

There have been two explosion at the Boston Marathon this afternoon. There are reports of numerous injuries. It is unknown at this time if there are any fatalities or the cause of the two explosions. MSNBC is also reporting a fire at the JFK library that started shortly after the explosions.

The A.P. said that a loud explosion was heard on the north side of Boylston Street, near a photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion was heard several seconds later. [..]

The headquarters for the organizers of the marathon, one of the world’s oldest, was reportedly locked down while authorities investigate. Reporters inside the Copley Plaza Hotel, where the media center is and where many elite athletes are staying, were unable to leave.

The explosions went off more than four hours after the start of the men’s race, which meant that there were still several thousand runners yet to finish the race.

Up Date 21:10 EDT: This is the final up date for the night.

From the Live Feed at The Guardian

9.01pm ET

‘No further devices’

Police commissioner Davis is asked if he is confident that officers have found all the explosives.

“We’ve pretty much cleared the area … there are no further devices that we’ve located. … I’m not prepared to say that we are at ease at this point in time.”

He says the focus of the investigation is in the area near the explosions.

Agent DesLauriers says investigative activity is ongoing. “It is a very active and fluid investigation.”

He declines to comment on evidence analysis, possible people of interest – pretty much everything.

Governor Patrick says the secure area “may get smaller… but that area is not going to be accessible for normal traffic.”

“It’s not going to be easy, simple or regular. I think in most cases people are not going to have access to that specific area.”

The briefing is closed.

8.56pm ET

Police: three dead, no suspect

Police commissioner Ed Davis speaks, offering his sympathies to the victims. “This cowardly act will not be taken in stride. We will turn every rock over to find the people who are responsible for this. It’s been a horrendous loss of life.”

Davis says that at least three people died, but stressed the casualty numbers are in flux.

“There is no suspect,” he says. “There are people that we are talking to, but there is no suspect at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as has been reported.”

He went on: “Tomorrow, as the governor said, will not be business as usual in Boston.” He says police will be working 12-hour shifts to investigate the case.

Apr 15 2013

Austerity and Growth Don’t Mix

Former Greek Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou inherited a failing economy when he was sworn in on October 9, 2009. He resigned two years later during failed talks of a bailout with the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and the European Union. Mr. Papamdreou discussed the cost of austerity with Chris Hayes, the host of “All In,” economics journalist Chrystia Freeland, managing director and editor of Consumer News at Thomson Reuters, and  economics professor Radhika Balakrishnan,  executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University.

In the news today, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournara announced that Greece had reached an agreement on economic measures for the release of €2.8bn in the coming weeks, followed by a further €6bn in May. The cost to bail out the banks: some 15,000 employees would be fired by 2015 with 4,000 redundancies by the end of the year.

Meanwhile Greek unemployment has reached a record high:

Greece’s unemployment rate reached a new record of 27.2 percent in January, new data has showed, reflecting the depth of the country’s recession after years of austerity imposed under its international bailout. [..]

The jobless rate has almost tripled since the country’s debt crisis emerged in 2009, and was more than twice the eurozone’s average unemployment reading of 12 percent. [..]

Unemployment among youth aged between 15 and 24 stood at 59.3 percent in January, up from 51 percent in the same month in 2012.

Despite the “happy talk” from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras about this deal showing that the six years of austerity was paying off, the people of Greece are not very optimistic and are still suffering under the weight of EU demands for more austerity.

Apr 15 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Europe’s Bitter Medicine

For more than two years, European leaders have pushed a cocktail of fiscal austerity and structural reforms on troubled countries like Portugal, Spain and Italy, promising that it will be the tonic to cure their economic and financial ailments. All the evidence shows that this bitter medicine is killing the patient. [..]

rom the beginning, it was clear that economic austerity (cutting government spending and public benefits) and structural reforms (relaxing tough labor laws and privatizing state-owned companies, for example) could not be accomplished simultaneously during a deep recession. And that painful reality is playing out with no end in sight.

Paul Krugman: The Antisocial Network

Bitcoin’s wild ride may not have been the biggest business story of the past few weeks, but it was surely the most entertaining. Over the course of less than two weeks the price of the “digital currency” more than tripled. Then it fell more than 50 percent in a few hours. Suddenly, it felt as if we were back in the dot-com era.

The economic significance of this roller coaster was basically nil. But the furor over bitcoin was a useful lesson in the ways people misunderstand money – and in particular how they are misled by the desire to divorce the value of money from the society it serves. [..]

So do we need a new form of money? I guess you could make that case if the money we actually have were misbehaving. But it isn’t. We have huge economic problems, but green pieces of paper are doing fine – and we should let them alone.

Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel: Gitmo Is Killing Me

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago – no one seriously thinks I am a threat – but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Upside of Taxes

April 15 has never been considered a day for celebration, and it’s especially tough to pay taxes when so many of us are struggling financially.

But the real problem isn’t taxation. Ourreal problem is the new “bipartisan” drive toward austerity, a mad obsession which runs against the 75-year political consensus of both political parties. Once our leaders understood government’s vital role in a healthy economy.

No more, apparently. Today’s new corporate-sponsored cost-cutting craze is merely the latest policy designed to enrich a powerful few at the expense of the many, and today’s anti-tax agenda is being used to make sure it succeeds.

Les Leopold: The Southern State Fast Becoming Ayn Rand’s Vision of Paradise

If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. It’s lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you deeply believe in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.

Tennessee starves what little government it has. It ranks dead last in per capita tax revenue. To fund its minimalist public sector, it makes sure that low-income residents pay as much as possible through heavily regressive sales taxes, which rank 10th highest among all states as a percent of total tax revenues.

John Nichols: Obama’s Chained-CPI Social Security Cut is Smart Politics… For the GOP

The most misread — perhaps the proper word is “miscovered” — story of the current budget wrangling in Washington is that of Republican Congressman Greg Walden’s savage condemnation of President Obama’s proposal of the “Chained-CPI” Social Security cut.

“When you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again,” declared the congressman from Oregon, “I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country.”  [..]

Greg Walden, who was a prominent Oregon legislator and potential gubernatorial candidate in 1994, and who was an essential player in the House Republican leadership in 2010, knows the history.

That’s why Walden is saying what he is saying.

Anyone who is interested in the politics of 2014 knows that Greg Walden is not pontificating about policy. He is laying political traps that will spring on the Democrats if they put their party on the side of “Chained-CPI” and the austerity agenda.

Apr 15 2013

On This Day In History April 15

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 15 is the 105th day of the year (106th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 260 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1912, Molly Brown avoids sinking with the Titanic

A 20th century version of the strong and resourceful women of the Wild West, Molly Brown wins lasting fame by surviving the sinking of the Titanic.

Margaret Brown (nèe Tobin) (July 18, 1867 – October 26, 1932) was an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist who became famous due to her involvement with the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, after exhorting the crew of lifeboat 6 to return to look for survivors. It is unclear whether any survivors were found after life boat 6 returned to search. She became known after her death as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, although she was not called Molly during her life. Her friends called her Maggie.

Born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri, one of four children born to Irish immigrants John Tobin (1820-1899) and Johanna Collins (1825-1905). Her siblings were Daniel (born 1863), William (born 1869), and Helen (born 1871). Added to these, Margaret had two half-sisters: Catherine Bridget Tobin, by her father’s first marriage, and Mary Ann Collins, by her mother’s first marriage. Both her mother and father had been widowed young.

At age 18, Margaret relocated to Leadville, Colorado with her sister, and got a job in a department store. It was here she met and married James Joseph Brown (1854-1922), nicknamed J.J., an enterprising, self-educated man. His parents, too, had emigrated from Ireland. Brown had always planned to marry a rich man but she married J.J. for love. She said,

   I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown. I thought about how I wanted comfort for my father and how I had determined to stay single until a man presented himself who could give to the tired old man the things I longed for him. Jim was as poor as we were, and had no better chance in life. I struggled hard with myself in those days. I loved Jim, but he was poor. Finally, I decided that I’d be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with a wealthy one whose money had attracted me. So I married Jim Brown.

Margaret and J.J. were married in Leadville’s Annunciation Church on September 1, 1886. The Browns had two children.

The family acquired great wealth when J.J.’s engineering efforts proved instrumental in the production of a substantial ore seam at the Little Jonny mine of his employers, Ibex Mining Company, and he was awarded 12,500 shares of stock and a seat on the board.

In Leadville, Margaret first became involved with the women’s suffrage issue, helping to establish the Colorado chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and working in soup kitchens to assist miners’ families.

During 1894, the Browns moved to Denver, Colorado, which gave the family more social opportunities. Margaret became a charter member of the Denver Woman’s Club, whose mission was the improvement of women’s lives by continuing education and philanthropy. During 1901, she was one of the first students to enroll at the Carnegie Institute in New York. Adjusting to the trappings of a society lady, Brown became well-immersed in the arts and fluent in the French, German, and Russian languages. During 1909 she advertised herself as campaigning for the U.S. Senate.

Margaret assisted in the fundraising for Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which was completed during 1911. Margaret worked with Judge Lindsey to help destitute children and establish the United States’ first juvenile court which helped form the basis of the modern U.S. juvenile courts system.

Margaret campaigned for Senate again during 1914 but stopped when her sister Helen married a German baron, with Margaret believing that the union would have made a successful campaign impossible.

By the time Margaret Tobin Brown boarded Titanic at Cherbourg, France, she had already made a significant impact in the world. She and her daughter Helen, who was a student at the Sorbonne, had been traveling throughout Europe and were staying with the John Jacob Astor party in Cairo, Egypt, when Margaret received word that her first grandchild, Lawrence Palmer Brown, Jr., was ill. She decided to leave for New York immediately, and booked passage on the earliest ship: Titanic. At the last minute Helen decided to stay behind in London. Due to her quick decision, very few people, including family, knew that Margaret was on board the Titanic.

After the ship struck the iceberg, Margaret helped load others into lifeboats and eventually was forced to board lifeboat six. She and the other women in lifeboat six worked together to row, keep spirits up, and dispel the gloom that was broadcast by the emotional and unstable Robert Hichens. However, Margaret’s most significant work occurred on Carpathia, where she assisted Titanic survivors, and afterwards in New York. By the time Carpathia reached New York harbor, Margaret had helped establish the Survivor’s Committee, been elected as chair, and raised almost $10,000 for destitute survivors. Margaret’s language skills in French, German, and Russian were an asset, and she remained on Carpathia until all Titanic survivors had met with friends, family, or medical/emergency assistance. In a letter to her daughter shortly after the Titanic sinking, she wrote:

   “After being brined, salted, and pickled in mid ocean I am now high and dry… I have had flowers, letters, telegrams-people until I am befuddled. They are petitioning Congress to give me a medal… If I must call a specialist to examine my head it is due to the title of Heroine of the Titanic.”

Her sense of humor prevailed; to her attorney in Denver she wired:

   “Thanks for the kind thoughts. Water was fine and swimming good. Neptune was exceedingly kind to me and I am now high and dry.”

On May 29, 1912, as chair of the Survivor’s Committee Margaret presented a silver loving cup to Captain Rostron of the Carpathia and a medal to each Carpathia crew member. In later years Margaret helped erect the Titanic memorial that stands in Washington, D.C.; visited the cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to place wreaths on the graves of victims; and continued to serve on the Survivor’s Committee. She was particularly upset that, as a woman, she was not allowed to testify at the Titanic hearings. In response she wrote her own version of the event which was published in newspapers in Denver, New York, and Paris.

The actor Kathy Bates, who portrayed Margaret “Molly” Brown in the movie Titanic, bears an uncanny resemblance to Margaret Brown.

Apr 15 2013

Can Working People Be Saved From Mr. Obama’s Brilliant Plans?

President Obama has done a brilliant job for the 1%.

 

Under Mr. Obama’s leadership, after a tremendous, near utter collapse of the economy brought about by a corrupt finance sector, trillions of public dollars have been poured into the coffers of bankers. One recent study showed that the big banks got an annual government subsidy of $83 billion dollars a year – equal to the amount of their alleged profits.  Hold onto your hats, another recent study, by Chris Whalen and endorsed by noted economist Nouriel Roubini demonstrates that the subsidy is much larger, at least $780 billion dollars a year:

$360 billion in Federal Reserve subsidies, by creating an artificial “spread” in interest rates

$120 billion in federal deposit insurance (through the FDIC, backed by the Treasury)

At least $100 billion in government-guaranteed loans, especially mortgages

At least $100 billion in monopolistic advantages in the secondary market for home mortgages

More than $100 billion in fees in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market. (The lack of capital required in these transactions and other special dispensations from the Fed provide the zombie banks with unlimited leverage and almost no public scrutiny.)

The first study indicates that the too big to fail banks are barely breaking even and they are getting fat and demanding on our largesse; the second study indicates that they are indeed not profitable at all.  They are nothing but corporate welfare queens with a large budget to purchase politicians.

Apr 15 2013

Can Working People Be Saved From Mr. Obama’s Brilliant Plans?

President Obama has done a brilliant job for the 1%.

 

Under Mr. Obama’s leadership, after a tremendous, near utter collapse of the economy brought about by a corrupt finance sector, trillions of public dollars have been poured into the coffers of bankers. One recent study showed that the big banks got an annual government subsidy of $83 billion dollars a year – equal to the amount of their alleged profits.  Hold onto your hats, another recent study, by Chris Whalen and endorsed by noted economist Nouriel Roubini demonstrates that the subsidy is much larger, at least $780 billion dollars a year:

$360 billion in Federal Reserve subsidies, by creating an artificial “spread” in interest rates

$120 billion in federal deposit insurance (through the FDIC, backed by the Treasury)

At least $100 billion in government-guaranteed loans, especially mortgages

At least $100 billion in monopolistic advantages in the secondary market for home mortgages

More than $100 billion in fees in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market. (The lack of capital required in these transactions and other special dispensations from the Fed provide the zombie banks with unlimited leverage and almost no public scrutiny.)

The first study indicates that the too big to fail banks are barely breaking even and they are getting fat and demanding on our largesse; the second study indicates that they are indeed not profitable at all.  They are nothing but corporate welfare queens with a large budget to purchase politicians.