Friday, May 1, 2009

Common Man News 5/2009


News for the common man because the elite already know!


Archive

05/29/2009

US: Army base ordered on stand-down after multiple suicides

Torture photos: US soldiers raped, sodomized Iraqi prisoners

Wall Street throws General Motors into bankruptcy

‘Settlement’ exposes politician-financier corruption

Is Larry Summers Taking Kickbacks From the Banks He's Bailing Out?

US Army moves to DEFCON 2

Indictment Alleges Trafficking in Foreign Workers

Unemployment Increase Continues to Propel Foreclosure Crisis

Fear and Looting in America: Are We Really Out of Money?

West Plots To Supplant United Nations With Global NATO

Educating Ourselves to Oblivion

US, Koreas prepare for peninsula war

Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape'

US Supreme Court ruling curbs ‘identity theft’ arrests of immigrants

Credit card ‘bill of rights’ puts few restraints on banks

New York ‘terror’arrests: another government-orchestrated plot

Unknown Cold-War-Era Conspiracy Comes to Light

Who Are the Shadow Warriors?

Deadly Salmonella: Frozen Food's Newest Ingredient

Iraq redux? Obama seeks funds for Pakistan super-embassy

Colonizing Culture

05/27/2009

Exploding Debt Threatens America

Home prices fall at record pace in first quarter

The Next Leg Down

The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts

Supreme Court: Suspects Can Be Interrogated Without Lawyer

France Opens Military Base in Persian Gulf

Bilderberg Plan for 2009: Remaking the Global Political Economy

US media ignores threat to democratic rights

Monsanto's Terminator Making a Comeback? Enter the Zombie!

Equal Rights Amendment Still Brings Out Ranters

GM Continues Efforts to Cut Labor Costs

EPA Mining Decisions Favor Coal Industry

Shell On Trial for Human Rights Abuse

05/26/2009

Victor Agosto refuses orders to deploy to Afghanistan

Six Ways the Financial Bailout Scams Taxpayers

Intimidation Nation: How US Employers Fight Unions

Pro-Israel forces attempt to silence professor

Senate Approves $91 Billion Funding Bill for Iraq, Afghan Wars

Haiti’s hunger made in USA

U.S. military budget saps economy

Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation

Harvard study backs bottle concern

Obama orders Gates to update plan for Iran strike

Neocon Calls for Military Strikes on Media

U.S. Navy to conduct human clinical trials of H1N1 flu vaccine

Government Experiments on U.S. Soldiers

U.S. Jobless Rate May Soon Top Europe's

Cheney Intervened in CIA Inspector General's Torture Probe

Cheney Goofs on Israel

Obama Issues Signing Statement After Creating Financial Investigative Panel

Bogus "Solutions" to the Financial Crisis

The American Way: In Defense of George W. Bush

Mass layoffs threaten San Francisco city workers

World economy in freefall

The Obama-Cheney “debate” and the threat of dictatorship in America

Involuntary Military Service Under the Radar

Florida bank collapses - firms swoop in

Another $7.5 billion bailout for GMAC

NYT Helps the Bushies, Again

Why Goldman Sachs Is the Greediest and Most Dastardly of the Wall Street Pigs

KBR Kills

Obama administration sides with Bush officials against outed CIA agent

The Pressure of an Expanding War

5/21/2009

Teachers protest in Los Angeles as more budget cuts loom

Israeli police target young people for refusing military service

Biden in the Balkans: US asserts interests in shattered region

Detroit students demonstrate against school restructuring

US military denies atrocity in Afghanistan’s Farah province

Netanyahu At The White House: Not Yet Change We Can Believe In

Kucinich Demands Chrysler Explain Plant- Closing Confusion

Are Wall Street speculators driving up gasoline prices?

Judge says US can hold prisoners indefinitely

The Trials of Ehren Watada

U.S. forces war on Pakistan, creates huge refugee crisis

Fired workers keep up organizing drive

Auto barons slash more jobs

Senate votes to block funds for Guantanamo closure

The Weimar Hyperinflation? Could it Happen Again?

U.S. military: Heavily armed and medicated

US treasury secretary rejects limits on executive pay

Supreme Court shields Bush administration officials from torture lawsuit

Panetta and Washington’s endless war

Wall St. and the Media Are Trying to Make Us Forget Who Started the Financial Crash

The Bad Guys of Subprime Lending Are Raking in Bailout Billions

Divisions in Labor Undercut Employee Free Choice Act

05/19/2009

Housing Construction Plunges to Record Low in April

Unexceptional Americans

White House relies on UAW to ram through GM job cuts, concessions

The Disease of Permanent War

G.M. Seeks More Imports From Low-Wage Regions

Netanyahu stands firm against demands from Barack Obama

Hersh claims Bhutto was killed on Cheney's orders

05/18/2009

FBI Infiltrated Iowa Anti-War Group Before GOP Convention

Scathing Watchdog Report Blasts SEC Oversight

Supreme Court rejects torture suit against Mueller, Ashcroft

Twelve Bush lawyers face disbarment complaints

The Monsanto Connection

Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers

Court Orders Parents to Poison Their 13-Year-Old Child with Chemotherapy

Flu Bug

Obama Dares Judge to Order Release of NSA Spy Document

Xe Mercenaries Fired at Kabul Car

Health Care Lobby Won Billions in Stimulus

Afghan Civilian Deaths: Who Is to Blame?

Our President, Our War?

Through Boom and Bust: Minorities, Immigrants and Homeownership

The Cure for Layoffs: Fire the Boss

Patriot Act Overrides Constitution Across America

Pro-Israel Mouthpiece Says Freedom of Speech Dangerous

Anger at Obama Guantanamo Ruling

05/16/2009

Gov’t attacks Katrina survivors’ housing

Stocks still face deflationary collapse: Prechter

Leaked GM document shows automaker plans to sell China-built cars to U.S. consumers

US-Latin American Relations in a Time of Rising - Militarism, Protectionism and Pillage

Canada & the Caribbean

A H1N1 Pandemic: Pig to Human Transmission?

Obama on torture photos: cover-up and complicity

Card Check and Gut Check

White House Czar Calls for End to "War on Drugs"

Lt. Ehren Watada Wins Victory; Legal Limbo Continues

05/14/2009

US Preparing For War With Russia

New York City demands rent from the homeless

US economic crisis deepens

Obama bows to Republican right and military on torture photos

US: Cuts in Social Security, Medicare to pay for bank bailouts

GM Europe and the global fight for jobs

Pundits Blame You for Bush and Cheney's Torture Policies

Baucus Healthcare Plan: Arrest Doctors, Nurses

Indefinite Detention Weighed

When PTSD Comes Marching Home

Actual Bailout May Exceed $10 Trillion

FDA To General Mills: Cheerios Are a Drug

Bush Failure To Disclose Waterboarding Appears To Violate Law

CBS Pro-Drone Propaganda

April foreclosures rise 32 percent

5/12/2009

Pipelineistan Goes Af-Pak

Swine Flu May Be Human Error, Scientist Says

Actual U.S. Unemployment: 15.8%

Becoming What We Seek to Destroy

US sacks top commander in Afghanistan

It Is Getting Very Serious Now

Democrats Give Wall Street a Big, Wet Kiss

The Bankrupt Debate Over Bankrupting Our Children

US: 12 million children face hunger and food insecurity

Pakistan war fuels international tensions

Student anti-war conference links war at home, abroad

Progressive reporter convicted of felonies

Prosecuting Torture: Is Time Really Running Out?

Why Is the Supreme Court So Callous About Privacy?

Obama: Use Our Money to Build Car Factories Abroad

Ethnic Cleansing in East Jerusalem is Not a Paranoid Worry

Dems About to Pass the Filibuster Barrier

US accused of using 'illegal' white phosphorus on Afghan civilians

A Woman at the Edge

Cheney Learned Iran-Contra Lessons

05/10/2009

CIA memo cites 40 Congressional briefings on torture

Wall Street rallies as unemployment rate soars

Bill Deagle MD on CIA Weaponized FLU.

The Anti-Empire Report

Afghans Riot Over Air-strike Atrocity

Federal Government to Regulate the Internet and Social Networking

Banks Blocking Way Out of Foreclosure Crisis

Jobs Picture

Huge U.S. camp arises in Afghan Desert of Death

Pentagon's Black Budget Grows to More Than $50 Billion

"Where Is the World Headed?"

"They Frankly Own the Place"

American Bankers Have Learned Nothing!

Bank demolishes new Southern California homes, citing low profit-potential

US bank stress tests rigged to benefit Wall Street

Stanford Antiwar Alumni, Students Call for Condi War Crimes Probe

Betting on a Global Crapshoot

Wells Fargo freezes traditional pension plan

Phoenix-area bankruptcy filings jump 91%

Dole sued over links to Colombian death squads

Everyday is Doomsday in Washington

Laying the Groundwork for Violence

US Justice Department report urges no prosecution over torture memos

AIG Bonuses Nearly Four Times Larger Than Originally Disclosed

Is a Cheney Cover-Up Scandal Brewing?

Israeli activist to be jailed for caring

Who Will Stop AIPAC Before it is Too Late?

Subprime Lobbyists in $370M Battle

05/06/2009

Economic Casualties Pile Into Tent Cities

Revealed: U.S. Interrogators May Have Killed Dozens of Detainees

Bush Officials Try to Alter Ethics Report

Marines and Multinational Forces Train in Florida

Will NorthCom take over in Swine Flu Outbreak?

The Obama recovery

US companies mobilize to block limits on corporate tax dodges

05/05/2009

Ten Stressed Banks Will Need More Capital

Pakistani army flattening villages as it battles Taliban

US planes 'kill Afghan civilians'

UN probe finds Israel guilty of war crimes

Chrysler bankruptcy sets stage for assault on GM workers

Obama administration spearheads wage cuts for American workers

What is the Unites States preparing in Pakistan?

May Day of Pain and of Hope

What To Do When the Bailout Fails

Students Downsize College Dreams

Analyzing Obama's War Budget Numbers

05/04/2009

'One More Bubble!'

Combat Operations in Fallujah

Obama administration indicates military commission trials to resume

Appeals court rejects Obama state secrets claim in rendition case

Media sensationalism, corporate power and the swine flu outbreak

The New Homeless

60 anti-torture activists arrested at White House

Inflatable mortuaries and 'express' funerals planned for flu pandemic

The Hush-Hush Story: Why They Tortured

Workers’ struggles heat up in Europe

Government goes on trial for Katrina flooding

Police terrorism, the global economic crisis: Impact on workers, oppressed

US Supreme Court hears challenge to Voting Rights Act

Military investigations whitewash Israeli war crimes

Workers denounce UAW concessions as Chrysler shutters its factories

Obama administration seeks extraordinary military powers in Pakistan

FDIC Closes N.J.-Based Citizens Community Bank; 31st Failure of 2009

FDIC closes Ga.-based Silverton Bank, NA; 30th failure of 2009, 6th in Georgia

Regulators close Utah-based America West Bank

Senate Refuses to Let Judges Fix Mortgages in Bankruptcy

US Senate rejects anti-foreclosure measure opposed by banks

9/11 Commission Memo: 'Executive Branch Minders' Intimidation of Witnesses'

Thought police muscle up in Britain

Report: Two Psychologists Responsible for Devising CIA Torture Methods

New Prison May Have to Be Built, Gates Says

Health Freedom Advocates Must Oppose Threats to US Sovereignty To Stop Codex

05/01/2009

The credit card crisis and the false promise of the Obama administration

Unemployment takes growing toll in New York City

Racist unemployment patterns exposed in ‘job sprawl’ study

Chrysler to File for Bankruptcy

Travelers screened at Mexico-U.S. border for flu

Fulton County 'Ready to Vaccinate a Million People In 48 Hours'

Ga. gov signs flu bill with 'state or emergency' for pandemic

Mass. Senate approves pandemic flu bill with quarantine powers

DHS Sets Guidelines For Possible Swine Flu Quarantines

Supreme Court Conservatives Criticize Voting Rights Law

Human Rights in the Dust

Politics and economics dominate response to swine flu epidemic

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Declined

Credit Card Companies Snatch Social Security Payments

U.S. Home Prices Continued to Decline in February:

GM to Eliminate More Than 1,000 Underperforming Dealers

U.S. Economy Shrank at 6.1% Rate in First Quarter:

US Exports Fall By 30%

Flying Pigs, Tamiflu and Factory Farms

Cheney's Twisted World

Obama and America del Sur: A 'New Relationship?


The credit card crisis and the false promise of the Obama administration

The credit card crisis and the false promise of the Obama administration

By William Moore

Go To Original

A crisis in credit card debt is likely to be one of the next major shocks to the US banking system. Many large institutions, such as Bank of America and Citigroup, already effectively insolvent but for billions of dollars of bailout money from the federal government, will now see their financial positions deteriorate even further.

Personal debt, primarily in the form of home equity loans and credit cards, has been one of the principal mechanisms whereby working class families have attempted to counteract the decline in real income since the 1970s. Indeed, much of the consumer spending that has buoyed the US economy over the last few decades was facilitated by credit cards and other forms of personal debt. At the same time, the provision of “credit” has become one of the most substantial sources of income for banks in the face of an increasingly frenzied drive to raise profitability. However, this situation is now undergoing rapid change.

As banks have suffered major losses in mortgages and other “toxic assets,” they have continued to make money on credit card debt by increasing interest rates and fees and through a range of deceptive practices that are being imposed on card holders abruptly and with little or no justification. The growing anger over these practices, which affect working class and also more well off middle class people, has been receiving increasing attention in the media; so much so that bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to address the issue.

And, last week President Obama held a meeting with prominent credit card industry executives during which he gave them some friendly advice that they should moderate their most egregious practices so as to deflect additional damage to their public image among the mass of the population. The executives listened politely, but gave no indication that they intended to follow Obama’s advice.

The banks remain determined to continue to exploit this, one of their few remaining sources of profits. Fitch Ratings reports that US credit card delinquencies and charge-offs exceeded record levels last month as a result of the economic crisis. Nevertheless, yields to the card issuers increased, indicating that terms are being manipulated to squeeze borrowers even more tightly.

There is a substantial contradiction in the banks’ credit card practices. On the one hand, middle and working class people are suffering ever more from the effects of the economic crisis. Unemployment, loss of medical insurance, home foreclosures, and the like are making it increasingly difficult to keep up with credit card payments. Indeed, credit cards are often a desperate last resort when all other sources of support have been lost.

This is leading to the increase in delinquencies cited by Fitch Ratings. At the same time, however, the credit card issuers are doing their utmost to extract even more money from credit card holders by whatever means they can devise. Interest rates of 10 percent to 15 percent are now becoming the norm, and rates of more than 20 percent are appearing with increasing frequency; this at a time when the rate paid by banks to borrow money from the Federal Reserve is virtually zero.

The “scissors effect” between payment defaults on the one hand and rising interest rates and fees on the other is becoming ever more pronounced. The Washington Post reports, “Already some credit card issuers are seeing close to double-digit charge-offs. For example, Capital One Financial said its charge-off rate spiked to 8.4 percent in the first quarter, up from 5.85 percent in 2008 and 3.72 percent in the first quarter of 2007. The company said it expects further increases in its US credit card charge-off rate through 2009 as the economy continues to weaken.” Charge offs are losses that the companies remove from their balance sheets because they have no hope of collecting what is due. The amounts of money involved are substantial. According to Time, analysts predict credit-card defaults could total more than $75 billion this year.

In part, the banks’ usurious practices are intended to compensate for the rising defaults on credit card payments, but also, and more importantly, the banks are trying to bolster their overall cash flow in the face of massive losses in other investments. Never mind that by squeezing ever more tightly people who are already in economic difficulty the banks are guaranteeing that even more defaults will occur, thus creating an ever-increasing downward spiral. Such is the perverse logic of the capitalist system.

The perversity of the drive for profit apparently knows no bounds. Card issuers actually like to give high-fee credit to people in or just out of bankruptcy because a debtor can only seek personal bankruptcy protection once every 8 years, according to Forbes. College and even high school students are being actively marketed by credit card companies. It’s being reported that as education costs are rising students are forced to make increasing use of credit cards. Coming on top of education loans, this desperate measure is placing them in even greater debt, before they even fully enter their working lives.

Credit cards are a form of “predatory lending” as was the whole range of risky mortgages and mortgage-related “instruments” that have already blown up into a major financial crisis. Credit card debt has been “bundled” and sold off by the banks in a manner similar to what was done with subprime mortgages. For years, both of these investment categories were virtually unregulated mechanisms for banks and similar institutions to realize large profits by selling and reselling the same assets at increasingly inflated prices and with less and less relation to real value.

The Federal Reserve has announced some rule changes that would put some minimal curbs on the most extreme of the banks’ abusive practices. However, these changes would not take effect until July of 2010. A bill with similar provisions recently passed by the House Financial Services Committee, the “Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights,” has effectively the same time line. Therefore, even this “relief’ will not come until a tremendous amount of additional pain has been inflicted on working people. These time frames give the credit card issuers another year or more of totally unfettered license to rake in super-profits and, at the same time, give the government the ability to claim that it is helping ordinary people against the rapaciousness of the banks.

At best, the proposed rules, either those of the Fed or of the Congress, would only retard slightly the banks’ ability to increase interest rates and raise fees. So, the charging of usurious rates of interest and all the other changes that are placing so much additional stress on working people could continue, just a little more slowly.

In supporting these moves, President Obama has indicated that his aim is to provide more “information” to people using credit cards. Obama takes issue with “deceptive practices,” framing the issue as one of “fairness.”

Giving debtors forewarning of an impending increase in already onerous interest rates or fees, or the enactment of new fees does nothing for people who are already or soon will be in financial difficulty. Those facing layoffs, mounting medical bills or other effects of the economic crisis have no ability to pay off the outstanding balance or to switch to another credit provider since their credit rating is likely already low.

Even these virtually worthless proposed changes are receiving strong opposition from the credit card industry and their political allies. Furthermore, banks are frantically raising rates in anticipation of possible restrictions in the future. Some Democrats in the House and Senate have proposed an immediate freeze on credit card interest rate increases. The chances for passage of such a measure in the Senate are seen as slim, at best, even by its supporters.

The credit card industry is raising the claim that government regulations, especially via legislation rather than the more easily reversed moves by the Fed, would simply result in greater restrictions on the availability of credit to “good” borrowers, making them pay for the mistakes of “bad” borrowers. The hypocrisy of such statements is colossal given that the banks are already engaged in a major triage of credit holders after having practiced outright usury on a massive and uncontrolled scale.

Tied to this is the myth of “good” verses “bad” debtors—the former being those who pay their bills on time, maintain balances below the maximum and don’t behave in ways that the banks consider “risky.” Good debtors deserve the government’s help, but bad debtors don’t. This mythology is intended to justify the ruthless behavior of the banks by demonizing people who are being hit by the economic crisis. As a consequence, cosmetic changes can be heralded as restoring “fairness” for the good debtors, while the banks are pretty much left to do what they like. Of course, as the crisis deepens, more and more people will be driven into the bad debtor category.

Unemployment takes growing toll in New York City

Unemployment takes growing toll in New York City

Go To Original

New York City has been one of the US metropolitan areas hardest hit by skyrocketing unemployment. The city had been somewhat insulated from the destruction of jobs elsewhere in the country, which began early last year. As late as August of 2008, employment was still rising thanks to New York’s service sector, tourism and professional services. Now, however, it is being hit by the full force of the crisis.

Jobs lineupLine for jobs fair in midtown Manhattan

The unemployment rate in New York City is expected to reach the 10 percent level very soon. The most recent monthly figure showed a jump from 6.9 to 8.1 percent, a record increase for a one-month period in the city.

New York’s jobless numbers have nearly doubled in only a year, with 325,700 officially counted as unemployed in March. The collapse of three of the city’s big five investment banks in 2008 was accompanied by the mass layoffs of tens of thousands of employees at these institutions as well as elsewhere in the financial services sector. The layoffs quickly spread to the city’s huge law firms.

Unemployment is now spreading rapidly from these areas to other sectors of the economy. Hotel and restaurant services are particularly hard hit, as the decline in tourism, entertainment and other discretionary and luxury spending exacts its toll on a mostly lower-paid work force.

According to the US labor department, the city lost 52,300 jobs in the transportation and utilities sector since March of last year; 37,000 in manufacturing; and 30,200 in financial activities. A total of nearly 200,000 workers have suffered layoffs in the past year.

Health care and other public services, including several hundred thousand government workers, have not yet faced large numbers of job cuts, but New York Mayor Bloomberg has already announced that 7,000 layoffs are likely, on top of 8,000 jobs to be lost through attrition.

The city’s mass transit system faces a combination of fare increases, service cuts and layoffs. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has set in motion fare hikes averaging 23 percent, and announced a May 31 deadline for enacting the increases and service cuts, unless New York State comes up with legislation increasing state aid. The MTA gave the Transport Workers Union the names of 600 transit workers who face imminent layoffs. In addition, another 500 subway and bus workers may lose their jobs by the end of the year.

For those who are laid off, unemployment benefits amount to a maximum of $430 a week, an amount that is far short of what is needed to survive in the city. It would not even cover the average rental for a studio apartment in Manhattan. And many of the jobless are losing even that. Benefits for 56,000 unemployed in New York state as a whole are set to run out this month, with 8,000 more a week losing benefits every week thereafter.

The unemployed also face continuing efforts to deny them access to welfare assistance. The welfare rolls have been drastically slashed since the bipartisan welfare “reform” legislation enacted under the Clinton administration in 1996. Work rules, time limits and strict sanctions for missed appointments or other procedural infractions have all been used to cut the numbers of those receiving public assistance.

A report issued last week by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies described the current situation. Even as the welfare rolls have continued to decline in the past decade, applications for assistance rose in the city from 221 in 1999 to 341,000 in 2007. The percentage of applications denied or withdrawn has sharply increased. “A lot of the unemployed New Yorkers who have lost their jobs in this recession are going to encounter barriers to social services that are meant for them,” said a spokesman for the FPWA.

The growing ranks of the unemployed have turned out by the thousands at job fairs held in the city in recent months, even though they know they have little prospect of finding work under the present conditions. WSWS reporters spoke to some workers who recently attended a job fair at the Radisson Martinique Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

GerrickGerrick

Gerrick, 45, has been out of work for one year. He told the WSWS: “I was working in accounts receivable for a brokerage firm that merged with another one. As a result, most of us got laid off. I have been surviving on unemployment benefits. I think I have about ten weeks of benefits left.

“I have been actively looking for a job for the entire past year, and have been to about 25 job fairs. Every opportunity I get, I go to a job fair. A lot of employers say I have no experience in the kind of work that they are looking for. They are very polite about it, but I am still out of work. The previous job fairs are a lot like this where you have to stay out in the chilly weather and wait until you can get into the hotel.

“If I do not find a job soon and my unemployment insurance runs out, I really do not know what I will do. Right now, my income is about less than half of what I was earning. I am able to pay my bills because of what I had previously saved.

“I am 45 years old, and I know that it is definitely harder for someone 45 years and older to get a job than it is for someone who is younger.”

Chelsea, 24, said she was working part-time in a restaurant, but had come to the job fair in search of full-time work. “I used to be working for a travel agency for about a year in California,” she said. “Obviously, as the economy was going down, they needed less people and I was one of those who got laid off.

“I then decided to come to New York, which has been a dream of mine since I was ten years old. I have friends here. I have been here for about two months working in a restaurant a couple of nights a week, which really doesn’t pay the bills. I went to one job fair in Orange County, but this is my first in New York. This is a big line. In California, they offered me a lot of sales jobs, but I am not a pushy kind of person. I really am the exact opposite of that. I don’t think I would be good at it and I don’t think I could handle that kind of work.

“When I was laid off from my job in California, I had to become a waitress there. I promised myself that I would never do that kind of work again, but here I am in New York doing the same job.”

AnaAna

Ana, 52, said she had been unemployed for one month. “I was doing retail,” she said. “I was only working 20 hours a week, which is not enough to pay the rent. I was working a year and a half for them. Before that I was a receptionist for only six months.

“I actually have had a lot of jobs. I have been working under a lot of emotional and financial stress because I am a caregiver—I have an elderly mother at home. Right now, I am getting unemployment insurance, food stamps, and housing benefits. However, this does not pay my bills.

“This is my third job fair. They are not going to hire everybody. I already know this. There are simply not enough jobs to go around. It is also a lot harder for many older people to find a job. What are older people supposed to do? If one doesn’t work and build up their Social Security, then there is not enough of a benefit for one to live on.

“Obama’s stimulus package is not doing any good. When it comes to helping ordinary people the government is very slow, very bureaucratic, involving a lot of paper work. The people in Congress and the Senate don’t have a clue as to what working people are going through every day. It is a lot different when it comes to bailing out the financial companies—they have a lot more pull than I do. They are the ones who have the connections.”

NicoleNicole Moore

Nicole Moore, 40, said that her unemployment benefits had run out in October.” I was an office manager for a small photography company that employed four people,” she said. “With the economy going down, we didn’t get as many contracts as we used to. I was working for them for two years. Before that I was also an office manager for another company for about four years. I got a masters degree in Germany in business administration that was transferred here.

“It is very difficult to find a job because companies are very, very picky. Even though I have education and work experience and am very qualified and learn quickly, it has been very difficult. If my resume doesn’t fit a hundred percent what the employer is looking for, there is no way to be considered. While I have gotten first interviews and some second interviews, I am the mother of small children, and when this issue comes up I feel the interview is over. It is discrimination against working mothers.

“I send out about 20 job applications a week. I have gone to so many job interviews that I can’t even remember the number. I can say at least two a week. Since I started looking for a job, things have only gotten worse.

“I don’t think that we have reached the bottom yet. So many of my friends have lost their jobs from companies like Lehman Brothers, big banks like Chase and Citibank as well as smaller banks, and insurance companies. Some of my friends are forced to do freelance work which is essentially like working part-time because that is all the companies are willing to pay. This amounts to cutting full-time jobs, which reduces wages and benefits. I am very angry about this because the companies are squeezing all that they can from people. It is not the way work should be. It is not right. People are being squeezed financially and losing their homes.

“My unemployment insurance has run out since October. I am receiving public assistance right now, which just keeps me alive. I have two small children—one is one and a half and the other is three and a half. I left my husband and I am in a domestic violence shelter right now.

“This is a direct result of the economic pressures, I think. He is a carpenter, and because of the economy he hasn’t worked in quite a while, and this caused domestic problems. He used to work ten months out of the year, then six months out of the year, and he did not work at all last year. The way the system works, I have to move from one shelter to another. One saying that is very true today, even though it is kind of a cliché, many of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless.”

Racist unemployment patterns exposed in ‘job sprawl’ study

Racist unemployment patterns exposed in ‘job sprawl’ study

In a Brookings Institute study released April 6, Detroit topped the list of urban areas suffering from “job sprawl.” In the Detroit metropolitan region, encompassing the area within a 35-mile radius drawn from the city’s center, more than 77 percent of the jobs are located at least 10 miles away. Only 7 percent of the jobs are within three miles of the core.

Not only in Detroit but in all of the 98 largest urban areas studied, the “job sprawl” trend is leading to greater impoverishment in the cities and a huge income and employment gap between white workers and workers of color.

The study doesn’t come out and call this racism, but in overly polite language the facts are laid out: “When overlaid onto existing patterns of residential segregation, employment decentralization can result in different levels of geographic access to employment opportunities for different demographic groups. ... Metro areas with higher rates of employment decentralization exhibit greater rates of ‘spatial mismatch’ between the relative locations of jobs and black residents. ... Even as low-income and minority populations suburbanize, job growth is fastest in higher-income suburbs, perpetuating patterns of spatial mismatch within suburbia.” (www.brookings.edu)

In 95 out of 98 metropolitan areas studied, jobs increased outside the 10-mile radius by an average of 17 percent from 1998 to 2006. Yet within the three-mile radius, the increase was only 1 percent. “At just over 45 percent, the outer ring contains the largest share of metro area jobs and more than twice the proportion located in the inner ring,” the study found.

Out of 18 industries studied, 17 experienced “employment decentralization” in the eight-year period. In the manufacturing industry, 53.7 percent of the jobs were located outside the 10-mile radius. Only the industrial category “Forestry, Fishing, Hunting, and Agriculture Support” had a lower rate of inner-city employment.

During the eight-year period covered by the study, cities with a large industrial economy—not only Detroit but Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati and others—experienced “rapid decentralization.” The Plain Dealer pointed out that, in Cleveland, suburban factory jobs are inaccessible by public transportation or require commutes as high as two hours.

The movement of jobs away from the most oppressed neighborhoods has actually been going on for decades. In 1957 Chrysler opened a stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio—then a rural town halfway between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. When an older plant in Detroit closed and the work was being shipped out, Black and white workers sat down in front of the trucks and won the right to transfer to Twinsburg.

At that time Chrysler was the largest private employer in the city of Detroit. By the 1980s every factory inside city limits had been closed. While in 1991 Chrysler began building new plants in the city, more of the company’s facilities remain in suburban locations. General Motors has only one plant in Detroit and Ford has none.

Detroit’s population is 82 percent African American compared to 3 percent in Warren, Mich., and 1 percent in Sterling Heights, Mich., where Chrysler and GM have several plants. Ford is based in Dearborn, Mich., where the Black population is also just 1 percent.

In 1983 Cleveland lost both the White Motor plant and the GM Fisher Body plant. “[Fisher] was known as the Coit Road plant,” political prisoner Mosi Paki recently wrote. “It was very productive and essential to the area, yet it was closed; but the Chevy plant on Brook Park, [Ohio, then] a poor producing plant, is still open.” Paki’s mother was one of the 1,700 workers to lose their jobs.

The Parma, Ohio, Chevrolet plant is now a GM stamping plant. In 1983 the city of Parma was almost exclusively white and notoriously racist. “One can only conclude,” Paki adds, “the 50 percent Black and white workers, their strong union and a predominant Black neighborhood that benefited from the workers’ commerce were the real underlying reasons to close the Coit Road plant. Many of my Mom’s co-workers, Black and white, were good people, whose union represented them in strength, and they were hardworking parents.”

Paki himself experienced these hard economic times. He writes to us from the Ohio State Penitentiary, where he is serving a life term on trumped-up charges stemming from a 1993 Lucasville prison uprising.

Collinwood, the neighborhood surrounding the Coit Road plant in Cleveland, also witnessed the closing of National Acme, TRW, Premier Electric, General Electric, Parker-Hannifin and a number of small machine shops. At the time of the 2000 census, the largest number of households profiled made less than $10,000 a year. Now one in 20 homes in Collinwood is boarded up. A number of youths in the neighborhood have been killed by police in recent years.

The racist bosses in the auto, steel, rubber, machine tool and appliance industries sucked billions of dollars in profits out of their urban plants—only to shutter them and build modern plants in the suburbs, in right-to-work states and in low-wage countries.

What the study doesn’t look at is the millions of industrial jobs wiped out by greedy corporations in the cities and suburbs alike. Workers of color and white workers have all lost good-paying union jobs.

Only a class-wide movement, of a thoroughly anti-racist character, can begin to reverse the devastating impact of decades of capitalist restructuring.

Chrysler to File for Bankruptcy

Obama Vows Swift Overhaul As Chrysler Enters Bankruptcy

Union and Fiat Gain Major Stakes in Automaker; President Slams Holdout Creditors as 'Speculators'

By Peter Whoriskey, Brady Dennis and Kendra Marr

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Chrysler, the nation's third-largest automaker, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday, with President Obama promising that court relief would give the company a "new lease on life."

The administration's efforts to avert a bankruptcy filing were frustrated by some hedge funds, which Obama referred to as "a small group of speculators," that rejected the government's final offer to settle their claims against Chrysler out of court.

Now largely under government control, Chrysler will seek in court to strip itself of its overwhelming debts. Then, according to the administration plan, the company will get roughly $10 billion in new government aid and be merged with Italian automaker Fiat.

It is an ambitious corporate rehab project for any management team: Cerberus, the secretive private-equity firm, failed in recent years to revive the company after its ill-fated marriage to Germany's Daimler. The Obama administration's attempt similarly runs a number of risks.

While Obama promised a "quick" and "efficient" bankruptcy, and administration officials said they hoped it could be done in 30 to 60 days, many in the field warned that it could take much longer because of the size and complexity of the case. Each passing day could weaken the company's prospects if customers and suppliers shun the brand. Chrysler announced yesterday that it is stopping production across the country for 30 to 60 days to reduce inventories. Because the United Auto Workers renegotiated its contract, cutting supplemental unemployment benefits, workers affected by the shutdown will receive a portion of their regular pay.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that a slimmed-down, Fiat-managed company would fare significantly better than Chrysler has in the past against foreign competition such as Toyota and Honda, which essentially dethroned the American automakers years ago.

"For too long, Chrysler moved too slowly to adapt to the future, designing and building cars that were less popular, less reliable, and less fuel efficient than foreign competitors," Obama said. "That's part of what has brought us to a point where they sought taxpayer assistance."

The administration's efforts on behalf of Chrysler foreshadow what may be a vastly larger effort later this month, when it is scheduled to complete the makeover of American corporate icon General Motors.

Like Chrysler, GM has been weakened by massive debt and propelled by the economic crisis to the brink of bankruptcy.

The dual rescues within the auto industry have placed Obama in the odd position of salesman-in-chief.

"If you are considering buying a car, I hope it will be an American car," Obama told a television audience yesterday.

He also noted, as showroom salesmen now do, that the government has guaranteed the warranties of both companies, so consumers can get full coverage even if one of them goes bust.

The government is also arranging a deal under which GMAC, the automaker's financing company, would provide loans for Chrysler dealers and car buyers, replacing Chrysler Financial, which will be shuttered. Both the Treasury Department and GMAC are trying to persuade two other federal agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve, to provide support to the company. So far neither has agreed.

For now, however, much of the administration's efforts have gone into reshaping Chrysler into a newly competitive corporate entity.

The automaker's current majority owner, Cerberus Capital Management, is relinquishing its entire stake in the company.

The new majority owner will be Chrysler's union retiree health fund, which would receive a 55 percent stake in the new company. Fiat would get a 20 percent stake, with its share potentially rising to 35 percent over time based on performance. The United States would take 8 percent, while the Canadian government, which is also providing financing, would receive 2 percent.

Chief executive Robert L. Nardelli, who was installed by former owner Cerberus, is stepping down, and Fiat's leadership will take over. Chrysler's board will include four representatives named by the U.S. government, three by Fiat, one by the union's health trust fund, and one by Canada.

Nardelli, who will return to Cerberus Capital Management as an adviser, said he has "no golden parachute."

"We did a heck of a lot to try to salvage this company," Nardelli said in a conference call with reporters yesterday.

Though Obama administration officials emphasized time and again that bankruptcy was not their preferred option, they said the filing was essentially provoked by a small group of Chrysler's creditors who refused to accept the government's out-of-court offers.

The president yesterday praised Chrysler's management, union workers and the majority of the company's lenders, led by J.P. Morgan, for their "unprecedented sacrifices." Those groups were willing to make concessions out of court, he said.

But a number of hedge funds and other investment firms, who had invested in loans to Chrysler, refused to accept the government's final offer of 33 cents in lieu of every dollar owed. Their rejection precipitated the bankruptcy filing, administration officials said.

Calling them a "small group of speculators," Obama said they "were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting."

"I don't stand with them. I stand with Chrysler's employees, and their families and communities."

A group of about 20 investment firms that declined to go along with the deal released a statement yesterday rejecting the government's characterization and criticizing the negotiating process.

The group did not identify its members, but sources said it includes Perella Weinberg, Stairway Capital and OppenheimerFunds.

The group said its members had been "systematically precluded" from engaging in direct negotiations with the government.

Those negotiations had been dominated by four large banks that own 70 percent of Chrysler's debt -- Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley. Each has received government bailout loans through the Treasury's Troubled Assets Relief Program.

"We have been forced to communicate through an obviously conflicted intermediary: a group of banks that have received billions of TARP funds," the lenders said in a statement. "In its earnest effort to ensure the survival of Chrysler and the well-being of the company's employees, the government has risked overturning the rule of law."

One of the key aspects of the bankruptcy will be its duration, many analysts said, and administration officials promised a relatively quick one. They noted that most parties involved have already agreed to concessions.

But some bankruptcy specialists warned that the court process can be unpredictable and difficult to manage in the case of a company as vast as Chrysler. Fearing the worst, for example, the National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents Chrysler dealers, has hired law firm Arnold & Porter to protect dealer investments.

The administration's assertion that the bankruptcy could wrap up within 60 days "is something I would expect someone who has never been involved in a bankruptcy would say," said Jean Robertson, chair of business restructuring at Calfee, Halter & Griswold. "There is nothing typical about this case. It's like Frankenstein, and Frankenstein isn't pretty."

Richard C. Breeden, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman and court-appointed monitor of WorldCom during its massive bankruptcy, said the time spent under court protection may be less important than the quality of the results.

"One of the most devastating situations is when companies go into bankruptcy and don't cut deeply enough," he said, citing the example of US Airways. "That would be truly devastating here. If you don't use the tools of bankruptcy to cut enough cost and fail again, then your customer impact is vastly greater and you put yourself on a path to liquidation."

Jim Arrigo, owner of two Florida Chrysler dealerships and chairman of the national Chrysler dealer council, said that despite the bankruptcy filing, he remained "very optimistic."

"Unfortunately some people out there in the banking industry have not come to table," Arrigo said. "They alone are responsible for us going into this. But as long as we come out the other side, that's all that matters."

Travelers screened at Mexico-U.S. border for flu

Travelers screened at Mexico-U.S. border for flu

* Border crossings unusually quiet

* White-gloved travelers, taco vendors

By Robin Emmott

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Mexican doctors in surgical masks screened travelers crossing the border by foot into the United States on Thursday for signs of a new deadly flu strain that has killed up to 176 people.

The doctors and federal health workers were checking for signs of fever or coughing among those crossing border bridges into Texas and California. U.S. Customs agents were also on alert for flu symptoms.

"Yesterday, we stopped a 60-year-old woman from Brownsville with all the symptoms of swine flu and we handed her over to U.S. health authorities," said Mexican health worker Dora Carreon as she reviewed people at a crossing between the Mexican city of Matamoros and Brownsville in south Texas. "We need people to know how serious this is."

"Mexican citizens could be refused entry to the United States if they test positive for swine flu, although we haven't had any cases yet," U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mike Balero told Reuters from Washington.

Mexico reported late last week that a never-before-seen H1N1 flu virus -- with elements of swine, avian and human varieties -- was spreading rapidly through the country.

In the United States, officials have reported 109 confirmed swine flu infections in 11 states and the only death recorded outside of Mexico -- a Mexican toddler visiting Texas.

Every day, up to a million people cross the U.S.-Mexican border, most of them Mexicans who go to the United States to work, shop or visit relatives.

At the Brownsville border post, like the dozens along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexico border, people crossing by foot and displaying symptoms were isolated, given face masks and tested by doctors on site or taken to hospitals. Car travelers were also checked, but less frequently.

A number of people crossing the border from Tijuana into California, as well as some taco vendors, took their own precautions against infection, wearing white gloves.

Normally congested border crossings from Tijuana on the Pacific to Matamoros were oddly quiet on Thursday, with the flow of people and cars down by about half, Mexican officials and local residents said.

Many have stayed at home since word of the flu outbreak spread last week. President Felipe Calderon asked government offices and private businesses not crucial to the economy to stop work beginning on Friday to avoid more contagion.

Many travelers said they were looking for supplies of anti-bacterial gel in the United States that is now in short supply in Mexican pharmacies.

There was little sign of panic in Brownsville.

"I started wearing a face mask but everyone looked at me as if I was a weirdo, so I took it off again," said Magdalena Gonzalez, who owns a herbal remedies shop in downtown Brownsville.

The World Health Organization said on Thursday it was dropping the "swine flu" designation of the new virus in favor of 'influenza A (H1N1).'

Fulton County 'Ready to Vaccinate a Million People In 48 Hours'

Fulton County 'Ready to Vaccinate a Million People In 48 Hours'

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Ever since all of the bird flu cases four years ago, county health departments across Metro Atlanta have been holding drills and meetings every month, practicing and discussing every imaginable scenario of a flu pandemic.

They believe they'll be ready if cases of swine flu spread across the region.

"We've been planning for this for years," said Dr. Kim Turner, the director of public health in Fulton County. "We're prepared to vaccinate a million people within Fulton County within 48 hours."

Dr. Turner said a swine flu pandemic would probably stretch Metro Atlanta's E.R.s and hospitals and clinics to their absolute limits, but would not overwhelm them.

"We have drills with communities" across the region, she said, practicing their Pandemic Flu Response Plan, "to simulate an incident, if this were to occur. So we're quite prepared and quite ready."

She has every hospital and clinic on alert, now, for possible swine flu cases.

The CDC said about 11 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile have been sent to states in case they are needed - roughly one quarter of the doses in the stockpile.

While there presently is no vaccine available to prevent the specific strain now being seen, there are antiflu drugs that do work once someone is sick. If a new vaccine eventually is ordered, the CDC already has taken a key preliminary step - creating what's called seed stock of the virus that manufacturers would use.

Another line of defense is at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport -- the CDC's medical quarantine station at the airport.

CDC physicians are in contact with arriving flight crews, and board every plane that has an ill passenger, as soon as the plane is parked at the gate. The physicians determine on the spot whether to quarantine that patient and all the other passengers. The CDC quarantines them at the CDC's sealed rooms on E Concourse.

The CDC has passenger quarantine facilities at 20 U.S. airports.

No word, yet, on whether any possible swine flu cases have been detected at the airports in the past week or two.

In October, 2008, the CDC held a drill at the airport, practicing in real time as if flights were arriving full of people who needed to be quarantined immediately.

Parents like Wendi Aspes, taking their children out for evening playtime Monday at a northeast Atlanta park, are beginning to pay attention to the threat.

"We're being extra cautious right now, just making sure that hands are always washed, that kind of thing," Aspes said as she pushed her ten-month-old daughter in a swing. "I think it's very serious.... I'm definitely reading a lot, everything I can get my hands on, on line, I've been reading about monitoring it.... I think that a lot of people just think it's far away, they don't think it's here --and if it's not in your neighborhood and you don't know somebody who has it, sometimes people like to turn the other way."

Dr. Turner's advice -- be calm and be ready.

"This is not an emergency, we don't have anything going on" with any cases anywhere in Georgia. The preparedness is "just a precaution... to keep ourselves healthy and our families healthy."

Ga. gov signs flu bill with 'state or emergency' for pandemic

Perdue signs flu bill

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Georgia nurses and pharmacists have more authority to respond to the spreading swine flu outbreak and the governor has more power as the result of legislation Gov. Sonny Perdue signed this morning.

The Access to Flu Vaccines Act cosponsored by the druggists in the House, including Reps. Ron Stephens and Buddy Carter of Savannah and health-policy expert Mickey Channell of Greensboro, is designed to make it easier for Georgians to receive shots and for the state to respond quicker.

Pharmacists and nurses will now be able to dispense flue shots without individual prescriptions. It was needed after the Composite Board of Medical Examiners accepted advice from the Attorney General’s Office last fall in concluding that prescriptions were needed under the law.

The new legislation legitimizes the state’s practice for the last decade in permitting doctors to issue standing orders. It also specifically permits hospitals authority to offer vaccinations or tests when recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, it lets the governor declare a state or emergency for a pandemic influenza if the CDC or World Health Organization declares a phase 5 alert.

Mr. Perdue plucked House Bill 217 for signing ahead of the hundreds of others awaiting his signature from the 2009 session that ended earlier this month. He has until May 13 to sign or veto bills and normally announces his decisions closer to the deadline.

“The flu affects thousands of people each year and our citizens should be able to access flu vaccines to protect themselves and their families,” said Mr. Perdue.