Archives for FUBAR

Wall Street reverts to an old con game

Wall Street may have discovered a way out from under the bad debt and risky mortgages that have clogged the financial markets. The would-be solution probably sounds familiar: It's a lot like what got banks in trouble in the first place.

In recent months investment banks have been repackaging old mortgage securities and offering to sell them as new products, a plan that's nearly identical to the complicated investment packages at the heart of the market's collapse.

"There is a little bit of deja vu in this," said Arizona State University economics professor Herbert Kaufman.

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No increases for Social Security checks

Millions of older people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, the first time in a generation that payments would not rise.

The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won't be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn't happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.

By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.

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Justice Dept. urged to reopen CIA abuse case

The Justice Department's ethics office has recommended that the attorney general reopen and pursue nearly a dozen CIA prisoner-abuse cases, The New York Times reported Monday.

The move would reverse the policy of the Bush administration, which had closed the cases, and could expose CIA employees and agency contractors to criminal prosecution for the alleged mistreatment of terror suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
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Deficit forecast raised to nine trillion

President Barack Obama's administration will raise its 10-year budget deficit forecast to about nine trillion dollars, up about two trillion from the previous forecast, a US official said Friday.

The 2010-2019 projection, due out in a report expected next week, will supercede the previous forecast of about 7.1 trillion dollars, according to an official with the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB official requested anonymity.

The figures are expected to fuel a fierce political debate over the US deficit and debt, with Obama's Republican critics redoubling their calls for him to abandon his plans to remake US health care and fight climate change.

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While vets suffer, VA staff get big bonuses

Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.
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Outsourcing for killers

Following reports the CIA hired private spies to be assassins, former U.S. intelligence officials are defending the use of contractors, estimating one out of three intelligence workers is on contract.

Such former bosses as Michael Hayden, who headed the CIA from 2005-2009 and the National Security Agency from 1999-2005, Michael Chertoff, who ran the Department of Homeland Security, and Jack Devine, a 32-year CIA veteran and former director of operations, won't talk about specifics. But they insist assassinations weren't discussed on their watches and that they applaud in general hiring contractors to handle work for which CIA employees supposedly lack skills.

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Blackwater still working for CIA

Xe, the mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater, continues to work for the U.S. government, carrying out counterterrorism operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The New York Times reports the controversial firm founded by an ardest "anti-Muslim" fanatic with strong ties to the Republican Party and the Bush Administration remains a large government contractor even after the State Department publicly severed ties with the company after its operatives murdered Iraqi civilians.

Former Blackwater mercenaries recently implicated company founder Erik Prince in murder plots against those who publicly reveal the firm's secrets.

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Cash for clunkers program ends Monday

Car shoppers have until Monday night to take advantage of lucrative Cash for Clunkers rebates from the government, and the Obama administration is hoping for a smooth ending to a program that has spurred auto sales but created headaches for many auto dealers.

The popular program will end at 8 p.m. EDT Monday after burning through much of its $3 billion in funding in just a month. All new deals will have to be completed and dealers must file their paperwork by the deadline in order to get repaid for the big incentives.
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Did politics control terrorism threat warnings?

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge claims in a new book that he was pressured by other members of President George W. Bush's Cabinet to raise the nation's terror alert level just before the 2004 presidential election.

Ridge says he objected to raising the security level despite the urgings of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to a publicity release from Ridge's publisher. In the end the alert level was not changed. Ridge said the episode convinced him to follow through with his plans to leave the administration; he resigned on Nov. 30, 2004.
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Michael Vick not ready yet for prime time

Why am I not surprised by the results of the following poll? A Marist poll released this month shows men are more likely than women to approve of the Philadelphia Eagles' controversial decision to allow Michael Vick back into that exclusive club otherwise known as the National Football League.

"Although Vick was convicted and served prison time for his role in operating a dog fighting ring, a majority of football fans nationwide -- 57 percent -- agree with the NFL commissioner's decision to allow Vick to return to the league. 36 percent disagree with that decision. Younger fans and men are more likely to be in favor of the ruling compared with older ones and women."
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