CA ‘Bomb Factory’ Suspect Admits To Three Bank Robberies

December 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

George Djura Jakubec, a California man accused of running a “bomb factory” in his Escondido home, admitted to San Diego County sheriff’s deputies that he robbed three banks, according to an affidavit obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

Jakubec reportedly admitted to the three robberies, at Bank of America branches on November 13, 2009, June 25, 2010, and July 17, 2010, during a jailhouse interview with San Diego officials.

Jakubec pleaded not guilty last Monday to 26 charges related to nine pounds of explosive materials allegedly found in his home. Officials announced Tuesday that they will burn down his home, possibly next week, since removing the materials manually proved too dangerous.

One of the types of explosives found was Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), the same type of explosive used by shoe bomber Richard Reid in 2001, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab last Christmas, and the UPS package bombs last month.

The Times reports:

Along with the bombmaking materials, authorities found handguns, masks and wigs in the house. Computers, written documents and surveillance cameras were also seized; authorities hope they may provide a clue to Jakubec’s motives.

Bail for Jakubec was set at $ 5 million.







TPMMuckraker

Target – Bank of America?

December 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

As I reported here Julian Assange told Forbes that his next target would be a large US Bank.  Raw Story reports that in October of 09 Assange said:

“At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive’s hard drives,” Assange told the technology site Computer World in an article published on October 9, 2009.

The Wikileaks chief continued: “Now how do we present that? It’s a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it.”

Barry Ritholz observed:

Here is the sad reality: Can you really embarrass any of these banks? They were incompetently run, with criminally inept risk management. They blew themselves up, and exist today only due to the largesse of the taxpayer. They gratefully took all they could grab and more.

What else can you release to embarrass them?

Unless they have 5GB of video showing their CEOs engaging in bestiality, its hard to imagine Wikileaks embarrassing the big banks.

I agree that there is no way to embarrass the sociopathic banksters but it could still be a problem both for the banks and the Obama administration.  The citizens with pitch forks already know the banksters are crooks and think they are responsible for their current problems.  So what happens when the criminality is there in black and white in the media?  Can the administration and the “Justice” Department continue to igonre it or will they be forced to go after The Masters of the Universe?  This could be a bigger problem than cablegate or the Iraq and Afghanistan leaks.  And even if the leaks just involve BofA will they be able to stop there?  The pitchfork crowd thinks all the TBF banks are about the same.


The Moderate Voice

Electronic Money Coming to a Bank Near You

December 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Felix Salmon is quite excited by a Citibank service that finally catches the US (or, at least, that bank’s customers) up with the rest of the planet:

It’s far too difficult to send money to your friends, family, or acquaintances.

At the moment, in the U.S., you basically have three options. You can try to do it physically, in person, with cash; that’s cumbersome, and often the reason you want to send them money is precisely because they’re paying cash for something and you want to pay them back. You can write them a physical check, which is even more cumbersome, and requires you to either carry your checkbook around or else start sending the payment in the mail. Or you can send them money through PayPal, which requires that they set up a PayPal account, and which often leaves them with less money than you sent, if you attached your PayPal account to your credit card.

If you live in Europe, or Canada, or just about anywhere else in the world, however, it’s easy—all they need to do is give you their account details, and you can transfer money directly from your account to theirs, for free. The lack of this basic banking functionality essentially explains why PayPal was created in the first place—by rights, if the U.S. banking system were remotely efficient or sensible, PayPal would never have existed.

Finally, however, that’s changing—and not just at forward-thinking credit unions and community banks. Citibank is now offering Popmoney, a service from CashEdge which allows Citi customers—and customers of 164 other banks—to send money easily to anyone in the U.S. with a bank account. If you send it straight to their account, the money simply appears there, just as it does in Europe. Alternatively, you can send it to their email address or mobile phone number, as you would with PayPal; in that case, they need to provide their bank account details to Popmoney before they can get the cash.

Frankly, I’d be happy to get rid of cash and checks entirely and go to an all-electronic system.  As it is, I use credit cards for every walking around purchase I make where it’s permitted, using cash only for such things as valet and bellhop tips and the odd visit to the hot dog stand.   I write two or three checks a month for various things.  Otherwise, I send money electronically via a third party vendor that’s more efficient than my bank used to be or through PayPal.

Salmon notes that it’s long been possible to send wire transfers in the US.  But they’re quite inconvenient, requiring a trip to the bank and waiting around for one of the account guys who sits at a desk, and expensive, costing $ 15 to $ 45 a pop.   There’s no reason they should cost anything, since they’re actually much less labor intensive and infinitely more secure than any alternate method the bank has of transferring funds.




Outside the Beltway

Assange and WikiLeaks new target: A big American bank

November 30, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Julian Assange has not only brought havoc to our international relations by releasing confidential material to the public, he also put our men and women in combat in danger.

Yet, he is not done.

Now he reveals to Forbes magazine, his next target will be a major US bank and compared it to the taking down of Enron.

Liberty Pundits Blog

Spain and Bank Runs

November 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Paul Krugman explains why Spain likely neither will nor should leave the Euro:

Should Spain try to break out of this trap by leaving the euro, and re-establishing its own currency? Will it? The answer to both questions is, probably not. Spain would be better off now if it had never adopted the euro — but trying to leave would create a huge banking crisis, as depositors raced to move their money elsewhere. Unless there’s a catastrophic bank crisis anyway — which seems plausible for Greece and increasingly possible in Ireland, but unlikely though not impossible for Spain — it’s hard to see any Spanish government taking the risk of “de-euroizing.”

I suppose one issue is this: Having read this column, if I had a Spanish bank account I’d now be looking for feasible ways to minimize the amount of funds in it. And once everyone starts hedging against a bank run, your bank run is under way.

The larger question posed here is whether it really makes sense to be running separate national banking systems parallel to a single continent-wide monetary authority. A regulatory system that works fine until there’s a problem doesn’t really work at all.


Yglesias

Energy and Global Warming News for November 24th: World Bank boosts clean energy lending 300%, fossil fuels 430%; UK wants central role for business in Cancun; World’s first hybrid tugboat

November 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

World Bank Giving More to Clean Energy, but Also to Fossil Fuels

The World Bank has been talking more and more about focusing its support on clean energy projects, and apparently it has been putting much more into clean energy lately. “The World Bank’s lending for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects increased by 300 percent between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2010, to a record $ 3.4 billion,” Timothy Hurst of ecopolitology reports.

However, while that alone might look really good, it’s also important to note that lending for fossil fuels increased 430 percent in the same time period. Lending for coal plants reached a record $ 4.4 billion and lending for fossil-fuel projects, in total, reached a record $ 6.3 billion.

This is despite the World Bank admitting a couple years ago that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the development of poor countries.

“In its actions, the World Bank has deviated from its rhetoric,” says Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “It has not done clean energy when it could. It has not prioritized clean energy sources over traditional fossil-fuel sources. And it is constantly stalling on one very important policy: calculating the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by its own projects.”

One of the biggest disappointments of late was in April when the World Bank approved the world’s fourth-largest coal power plant in South Africa, a 4,800-MW plant. (The U.S., Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy showed their disapproval for this project by abstaining from the vote,.. a typical, but, in my opinion, not very brave way of showing disapproval.)

Another clear failure was giving support to a 4,000-MW coal plant in India. The World Bank is supporting the emission of 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year with these two projects alone, about equal to Ireland’s total emissions.

While the World Bank recently appointed Daniel M. Kammen as its ”clean tech czar,” I am still hesitant to believe it is planning to live up to its responsibility to address and limit the devastating effects of climate change.

UK wants central role for business in Cancun

The UK’s negotiating team for next week’s Cancun climate change summit has signaled that it wants to see the global business community play a central role in the crucial talks, insisting that support from the private sector is vital if progress towards an international deal is to be delivered.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, climate change minister Greg Barker said he would act as a liaison between business leaders and the negotiators as part of an effort to improve upon previous UN summits where the “voice of the private sector has not been sufficiently heard”.
He acknowledged that while there has been “scepticism and in some cases outright hostility” amongst some developing countries to the role of the private sector in tackling climate change, the UK would make the case that private finance will be critical to the development of a global low carbon economy and would not be used to replace government funding.

Barker said vocal support from the business sector could help revive the negotiations following the deadlock at the end of the Copenhagen Summit.

“What we need to get out of this round of talks is a sense of momentum,” he said. “The central question is whether the drive to a low carbon economy is compatible with prosperity and economic growth – we think it can be done and can actually help drive economic growth.”

The negotiating text will not be directly changed to give business leaders a more central role, but Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said he was hopeful the summit would deliver progress in a number of areas that will throw up new business opportunities.

Most notably, he expressed optimism the talks could see agreement on the final outline of a deal on forestry protection mechanisms and the formation of a new international green fund to distribute climate financing that could combine public and private sector funding.

He also said the UK would be looking for a number of multilateral agreements with “progressive developing countries” that would demonstrate how a mixture of public and private finance can effectively drive low carbon and climate adaptation projects.

Huhne reiterated the UK “is not expecting a final agreement in Cancun”, but he insisted the groundwork done by the Mexican hosts suggested agreements could be reached on forestry and financing that could then be finalised when other issues are addressed at next year’s talks.

He also said the UK was hoping to see some progress on a number of the more contentious issues in the negotiating text.

In particular, he said the EU would push for the targets contained in the Copenhagen deal to be formally recognised in the UN negotiating process. He also said he remained hopeful that countries such as China that are opposed to MRV measures on the grounds that they represent an infringement of their sovereignty may be willing to shift their position, given they are already signed up to other international treaties that are more invasive.

He concluded that the UK negotiating team would not be armed with “a lot of difficult red lines” and would regard the talks as a success as long as they deliver clear progress towards a deal that can be finalised next year.

“The last thing we want is a confrontational shambles that ends in a lot of name calling,” he said.

The news comes on that same day as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative announced that it will host a major new business summit alongside the main Cancun talks dubbed the World Climate Summit.

The conference – which UNEP describes as “the beginning of a new, open and collaborative global 10-year framework dedicated to helping governments, businesses and financiers accelerate solutions to climate change” – will take place on December 4-5 in Cancun and will be attended by representatives from over 300 of the world’s largest firms, including Richard Branson and Ted Turner.

“As world leaders drive towards a global agreement on climate change, investors in the world’s capital markets cannot afford to simply sit and wait,” said Paul Clements-Hunt, Head of the UNEP Finance Initiative. “Investors and other financial institutions are determined to work with policy-makers to catalyse new low carbon markets worth USD trillions. The World Climate Summit will bring finance, business and negotiators together to help make those future low carbon markets a reality.”

World’s First Hybrid Tugboat Reduces Emissions at California Ports

Carbon emissions at sea have received more attention over the last decade. Ports, especially, can have a negative impact on air quality in the populated areas that surround them. The many emissions sources at ports include ships, trucks, trains, and cargo-handling equipment. Harbor-crafts also contribute a significant portion of total port emissions. These include tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, and dredge vessels. Recently, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have started using a hybrid electric tugboat. A new study by the University of California (UC) Riverside has shown that this has been effective at reducing emissions.

Tugboats are typically powered by marine compression ignition engines. The engines are built to be extremely powerful relative to the size of the vessel. Larger tugboats used in deeper waters have power ratings up to 27,000 horse power. They can have a power:tonnage ratio of up to 4.5, similar to engines used in locomotives. These engines typically drive the propellers mechanically rather than converting the output through electric motors, as is done on trains.
The massive engines can consume large amounts of fuel and produce harmful emissions full of diesel particulates. This has made the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the largest contributors of air pollution in the South Coast Basin according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Pollution from the diesel-powered tugboats and other port emission sources has caused negative health effects on the surrounding population, including cancer and respiratory illnesses.
Now the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest container ports in the nation, are home to the first and only hybrid electric tugboat in the world. Named the Carolyn Dorothy, it runs on four diesel engines and 126 batteries. It was financed by the two ports and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to the tune of $ 1.35 million. The vessel was built by Foss Maritime, based in Seattle, and began operational duty in January of 2009.

Researchers from UC Riverside’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology conducted a study to see how much emissions the new hybrid tugboat saved. They found it decreased emissions of soot by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides (smog forming compounds) by 51 percent, and CO2 (greenhouse gas) by 27 percent. Their report was completed in October of 2010 and presented to CARB.

The widespread adoption of hybrid marine engines would go a long way in reducing emissions at sea and in port. However, it comes with a very expensive price tag, and technical issues resulting in inefficiencies still remain. The UC Riverside researchers are hopeful that there will be further improvements once plug-in hybrid tugboats become available.

A Sustainable Farming System Designed for Practically Everyone

Algosolar LLC, a farming research and design group, has announced the launch of Bioponica™ — an organic gardening system geared for homeowners, schools, restaurants and commercial growers. On November 20th, from 6pm until 12am, the company will begin a public displaying event for this innovative growing system. The 10′x4′ table, complete with 120 gallon fish tank, is designed to convert waste such as grass clippings, table scraps and other carbon and nitrogen-rich waste sources into fertilizer. “It is unfortunate that we have relied on our municipalities to dispose of waste, whether that be urine, food or yard trimmings,” says co-creator, Dr. Epstein, a holistic osteopathic physician. “It is not practical or sustainable. When nutrients that come from the environment or from the food we eat are buried in landfills or else incinerated then we lose that valuable resource and it becomes a greenhouse gas that negatively impacts our climate and environment. The alternative is to recycle nutrients with the least amount of effort and cost.” The Bioponica™ system works by taking waste and converting it into worm castings and worm teas which are then used to fertilize hydroponic plant beds.

The system also accomodates the growth of algae and duckweed, as well as microbes and aquatic animals that feed on the algae. The table is intended for ample food production, and will grow a variety of medicinal and edible plants — from micro-greens to wheatgrass. “When growing high value crops such as these, the return on investment is less than one year. And without having to purchase fish food or fertilizer the cost is limited to a small electric bill for water pumps and labor,” says Epstein.

The Bioponica™ gardening system will grow indoors or outdoors and also come complete with a UV filtered polycarbonate roofing option to help keep the temperature, CO2 and nutrient load stable. Fellow creator and professional engineer, Kenneth Lovell, says, “By converting carbon and nitrogen rich waste into fish and plant food we are effectively sequestering carbon turning it into a food before it escapes as a CO2 gas. The tables capture heat and warm the water within the fish tanks. On cool nights, the heated thermal mass of water returns to the beds, warming the plant area to extend the growing season into colder months.”

Optimizing Large Wind Farms

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) — Wind farms around the world are large and getting larger. Arranging thousands of wind turbines across many miles of land requires new tools that can balance cost and efficiency to provide the most energy for the buck

Charles Meneveau, who studies fluid dynamics at Johns Hopkins University, and his collaborator Johan Meyers from Leuven University in Belgium, have developed a model to calculate the optimal spacing of turbines for the very large wind farms of the future. Theyl presented their work November 23 at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

“The optimal spacing between individual wind turbines is actually a little farther apart than what people use these days,” said Meneveau.

The blades of a turbine distort wind, creating eddies of turbulence that can affect other wind turbines farther downwind. Most previous studies have used computer models to calculate the wake effect of one individual turbine on another.

Starting with large-scale computer simulations and small-scale experiments in a wind tunnel, Meneveau’s model considers the cumulative effects of hundreds or thousands of turbines interacting with the atmosphere.

“There’s relatively little knowledge about what happens when you put lots of these together,” said Meneveau.

The energy a large wind farm can produce, he and his coworkers discovered, depends less on horizontal winds and more on entraining strong winds from higher in the atmosphere. A 100-meter turbine in a large wind farm must harness energy drawn from the atmospheric boundary layer thousands of feet up.

In the right configuration, lots of turbines essentially change the roughness of the land — much in the same way that trees do — and create turbulence. Turbulence, in this case, isn’t a bad thing. It mixes the air and helps to pull down kinetic energy from above.
Using as example 5 megawatt-rated machines and some reasonable economic figures, Meneveau calculates that the optimal spacing between turbines should be about 15 rotor diameters instead of the currently prevalent figure of 7 rotor diameters.

China hits efficiency and pollution targets

China will have achieved its goal of a 20 per cent reduction of energy intensity and a 10 per cent cut in major pollutant emission against 2005 levels by the end of 2010, according to official figures reported yesterday.

Success in meeting the goals is largely thanks to hefty government investment coupled with draconian threats for non-compliance towards the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005-2010).

The China Daily cited a study by the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) showing that government funding of more than 200bn yuan ($ 301 bn) for energy conservation, emissions reduction, and environmental protection measures unlocked over 2 trillion yuan ($ 30bn) in green investment from the private sector.

The commission study also says that more than 70 per cent of coal-fired power stations have installed Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) systems, while 998 energy-consuming enterprises achieved energy-saving goals laid out by the government.

Earlier this year Chinese premier Wen Jiabao warned he would use an “iron fist” to ensure the targets were met, promising to close some of the country’s most inefficient factories and heavy manufacturing plants if they remained non-compliant with the targets.

It was also reported in the People’s Daily that some regions have carried out enforced power blackouts over the last few days to ensure the targets were met.

However China still remains the world’s second-largest energy user, consuming 2.146 billion tonnes of oil equivalent last year, versus 2.382 billion tonnes used by the US.

The NDRC report said “arduous efforts” would be needed to realize the country’s ambition of moving toward more environmentally-friendly economic growth by 2020, including decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 50 per cent per unit of GDP from 2005 levels, increasing non-fossil fuel energy share to 15 per cent in primary energy, and adding 40 million hectares of forest land.

A series of new policies are to be launched over the next few months for the forthcoming 12th Five-Year Plan which will run from 2011 to 2015. The plan is expected to include new national targets for energy and carbon intensity, as well as regional targets for provinces to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, plans to roll out carbon trading schemes, and measures to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles and renewable energy capacity.

Ontario feed-in tariffs creating solar jobs at the cost of a donut per month

Using a measure of cost that all Canadians understand, a provocative new report says the impact of Ontario’s feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaics (PV), which will create 70,000 jobs, is no more than one Tim Hortons donut per month.

Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian coffee-shop chain found in even the smallest village.

The confidential report comes at a time of heated political debate in the provincial capital of Toronto about the cost of the current government’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Ontario’s feed-in tariff program is the most visible — and the most controversial — aspect of the policy.

The report by ClearSky Advisors was prepared for private, and so far unnamed, clients. However, a summary has been released to the media. ClearSky says that by 2015, Ontario’s solar PV industry will have created 72,000 person-years of jobs.

Ontario plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. Generation by renewable sources, including solar PV, will be used to offset the coal-fired generation lost.

Program cost minimal

Critics of the program say that feed-in tariffs are the cause of what they claim are increasing electricity costs.
Not so, says ClearSky’s summary. Cost of electricity in the province will increase slightly to a maximum of about one percent of a typical household’s bill, then decline steadily as the initial contracts work their way through the system.

Solar PV is the most expensive of the new renewable energy technologies. Though costs are rapidly declining, generation from solar PV is still several times more costly than that from wind, hydro, or biogas. Thus, feed-in tariffs for solar PV are a lightning rod for critics of renewable energy.

In a previous report, ClearSky estimated that Ontario will install 3,000 megawatts of solar PV in the next five years. During the period studied in this report, ClearSky says Ontario will install a total of 6,000 megawatts of solar PV by 2021. For comparison, California is expected to have a total installed capacity of 800 megawatts and the U.S. 1,700 megawatts of solar PV by the end of 2010.

If ClearSky’s estimates become reality, Ontario will soon become the largest center of solar PV development in North America by a wide margin, and rival European countries, which are currently the leaders in solar generation.

More jobs from solar PV than coal or nuclear

The Green Energy Act was in part justified by the job-creation potential in Ontario’s industrial sector, which was hard hit by the collapse of North America’s auto manufacturers.
Implementation of the province’s feed-in tariff program by the Ontario Power Authority includes a controversial domestic content provision. In effect, a substantial portion of any solar system installed in Ontario must be manufactured in the province.
ClearSky’s summary suggests that this policy may in fact work as intended at creating new jobs. The report says solar PV creates 12 times more jobs than nuclear per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and 15 times more than coal.
More jobs per dollar invested

ClearSky calculates that while investment in solar PV results in 30 percent to 40 percent as much electricity as investment in conventional sources, the investment in solar PV pays dividends in job creation. According to ClearSky’s summary, investment in solar PV creates 2.4 to 6.4 times more jobs than a similar investment in conventional sources.

Ontario solar PV billion dollar market

At the current pace of development and with the limitations of a weak, antiquated grid in mind, ClearSky projects that between 2010 and 2015, Ontario’s burgeoning solar industry will attract nearly $ 7.8 billion (USD) in private capital.

Clean generation saves ratepayers 20 percent

On Oct. 17, 2010 the Ontario government announced a rebate of 10 percent on ratepayers’ electricity bills to compensate for what it calls the “Clean Energy Benefit” of the Green Energy Act. The rebate will be paid for from tax revenue.

In a posting on their website, “Why Ontario’s Clean Energy Benefit Makes Sense — Sort Of,” ClearSky argues that the rapid development of clean sources of generation to replace the existing coal-fired plants saves taxpayers money by eliminating coal’s social and environmental costs.

The posting has revised interest in a long-forgotten report on the cost of coal-fired generation. The 2005 report, Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation [PDF], tallied the then social cost of electricity from the province’s nuclear-powered and fossil-fired fleet of generators. The report says Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cost Ontario nearly $ 0.127 (USD) per kilowatt hour in environmental and social impacts.

According to ClearSky, new renewable generation under the Green Energy Act’s feed-in tariffs saves ratepayers the equivalent of 20 percent on their electricity bills. Thus, they reluctantly say, the province’s Clean Energy Benefit does appear justified and could be even higher.

While ClearSky’s market analysis won’t settle the debate on the future of Ontario’s electricity system, it clearly shows that the province is headed toward becoming a leader in renewable energy development, and especially in the creation of a solar PV industry.

Climate Progress

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Confirms Abbas Refused Olmert Offer Of Palestinian State Equal To West Bank and Gaza

November 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Rotter.net quotes Al-Hayat (London) that Olmert offered Abbas the West Bank and Gaza, But He Refused:

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Ereqat reveals that PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas refused an offer by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to establish an independent Palestinian on an area equal in size to the West Bank and Gaza, with a 6.5% land swap to accommodate the settlement blocs.

Ereqat said that the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat had instructed him to uphold the Palestinians’ full rights, including their right to all the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Jerusalem, 37 kilometers of Dead Sea coast, 46 kilometers of no man’s land between Latrun and Jerusalem, the right of return for the refugees and a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza. Ereqat added that Abbas had given him similar instructions, and emphasized that no Palestinian would give up these rights. If Israel rejects the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, he concluded, it will be left only with the option of a bi-national state.

That account seems to support Olmert’s version of what he offered Abbas.
  In an interview in Novermber 2009, Olmert says he met with Abbas over 35 times-and made the following proposals to Abbas:

o 1967 Borders: Territorial solution to the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders with minor modifications on both sides. Israel will claim part of the West Bank where there have been demographic changes over the last 40 years. This would have involved Israel claiming about 6.4 per cent of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. All the lands that before 1967 were buffer zones between the two populations would have been split in half. In return there would be a swap of land (to the Palestinians) from Israel as it existed before 1967. Olmert proposed a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza-a tunnel fully controlled by the Palestinians but not under Palestinian sovereignty, otherwise it would have cut the state of Israel in two.
o Jerusalem. Olmert agreed that the city should be shared. Jewish neighbourhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty, Arab neighbourhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state.
o Palestinian refugees. Olmert told Abbas he would never agree to a right of return. Instead,  on a humanitarian basis Israel would accept a certain number every year for five years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. Olmert suggested 1000 per year. In addition, there would be an international fund that would compensate Palestinians for their suffering. 
o Security issues. Olmert says he showed Abbas a map, which embodied all these plans. Abbas wanted to take the map away. Olmert agreed, so long as they both signed the map. It was, from Olmert’s point of view, a final offer, not a basis for future negotiation. But Abbas could not commit. Instead, he said he would come with experts the next day.
According to Olmver, Abbas’s response was similar to his response to being invited to peace talks-Abbas ran:
“He (Abbas) promised me the next day his adviser would come. But the next day Saeb Erekat rang my adviser and said we forgot we are going to Amman today, let’s make it next week. I never saw him again.”
In light of Erekat’s confirmation that Abbas refused Olmert’s offer, it is worthwhile noting Olmert’s own suggestion for what Israel should demand of Abbas before agreeing to return to the negotiating table:
“To this day we should ask Abu Mazen to respond to this plan. If they (the Palestinians) say no, there’s no point negotiating.”

Thanks to Erekat, we now know that Abbas in fact did say ‘no’.
So: what’s the point?

Technorati Tag: .


Daled Amos

Photo of an oppressed West Bank Arab woman

November 19, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Veet sent me this picture he took at the Rami Levy supermarket in Gush Etzion, in the dreaded territories.

The Arab woman looks so oppressed as she is forced to find bargains while standing next to an evil, colonialist, land-grabbing, imperialist, Jewish settler.

 The very idea of Jews and Arabs living together in Judea and Samaria is self-evidently abhorrent. After all, every human rights activist on the planet thinks that this store shouldn’t exist, that this woman should not be subjected to shopping with Jews, and segregation – not coexistence – between Jews and Arabs is the very definition of peace.

And it is easy to see why, when pictures like this of melancholy Arabs get published.

Meanwhile, in the parking lot, peace-loving Palestinian Authority spies are taking pictures of the cars at the store with PA license plates, so they can be subjected to, I am sure, proper professional therapy for their harrowing experience at being subjugated and humiliated by Jews.



Elder of Ziyon

U.S. TAXPAYERS ARE PAYING FOR ISRAEL’S WEST BANK OCCUPATION

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


According to a June 2010 fact sheet on the USAID Internet site, last year American taxpayers funded the paving of 63 kilometers of asphalt roads in the West Bank.

By Akiva Eldar  –  Haaretz.com

Travelers along the “original” West Bank roads, the ones enabling drivers to bypass Palestinian villages, can see signs declaring “US AID from the American People.”

The roads are one of the initiatives of the United States Agency for International Development for building infrastructure in underdeveloped countries. Israel has already proudly left the club of developing countries and is not among the clients of USAID. Nevertheless, it appears the Smith family of Illinois is making the occupation a little less expensive for the Cohen family of Petah Tikva.

According to a June 2010 fact sheet on the USAID Internet site, last year American taxpayers funded the paving of 63 kilometers of asphalt roads in the West Bank. It also says completion of a road in the southern part of the West Bank dramatically increased the amount of trade between Dahriya and Beer Sheva.

What the site doesn’t say is that a significant segment of the road goes through Area C – the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli civilian and military control and responsibility under the interim agreement of 1995 (the second Oslo agreement ). The agreement states: “Territorial jurisdiction includes land (and ) subsoil.”

This is not the only occupation-perpetuating road funded by American money. Dror Etkes, an expert on the settlements, noticed a few days ago USAID workers energetically laying asphalt on two roads in the Samaria region (northern West Bank ) that crosses Area C. Israelis haven’t been traveling these roads for years now because the taxpayer (in this case, the Israeli taxpayer ) has already paved separate, wide, modern roads for them.

Etkes wondered how it is possible that the Obama administration, which is vociferously opposed to the continuation of the status quo in the West Bank, continues to subsidize the road for Israel. “If the state of Israel is insisting on continuing to hold on and de facto annex the West Bank,” he says, “it should also be allocating the money needed to take care of the infrastructure.”

I asked an American official why the administration isn’t demanding of Israel that it fulfill its obligations and pay the price of the occupation out of its own pocket.

“Who told you we aren’t demanding that?” replied the official. “We are also demanding a construction freeze in the settlements and you know at least as well as anyone else what is happening on the ground.”

It is worth mentioning that the when the Palestinians sought permission to pave a short road in Area C to enable access to the planned town of Rawabi, Israel pulled out the Oslo accord and kicked them down the stairs. The USAID tractors don’t have access to the area either.

However, when it suits his interest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a stickler for Oslo. A few days ago he announced that unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state would be considered a violation of the agreement. Tomorrow, incidentally, will mark the eighth anniversary of Foreign Minister Netanyahu’s statement on Israel radio that “all the Oslo agreements are null and void.”

A USAID spokeswoman responded that the program’s infrastructure projects “respond to the needs of the Palestinian people and are implemented in response to requests from the Palestinian Authority. Many of the USAID funded projects cross from one area to another in accordance with the needs of the Palestinian communities and the specific project. There are roads and water pipelines that cross through Area C or are adjacent to Area C as designs require and agreements with Civil Authorities allow.”

No way home

The Oslo agreement, which is so close to Netanyahu’s heart, also states that both sides see “the West Bank and Gaza Strip territory as a single territorial unit.”

Nevertheless, since the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel has cut off almost entirely the connection between these two areas.

Security authorities make a point of expelling Gazans from the West Bank and they do not allow residents of Gaza to reunite with their families in the West Bank.

A year ago, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, the State Prosecutor’s Office said the policy does not apply to individuals who took up residence in the West Bank before the year 2000 and “about whom there exists no negative security material.”

Be that as it may, during this past year a number of Palestinians have been expelled from the West Bank even though they arrived their prior to the cut-off date, and had no “negative security material” against them. Several have applied to Hamoked for help.

One of them, M.N., 29, went to Gaza in 2004 to participate in the mourning for his father. Since then he has been stuck and is in hiding from Hamas, which has issued an arrest warrant for him.

The coordinator of permits at the Coordination and Liaison Office in the Israel Defense Forces has recommended that M.N.’s request to return to the West Bank be granted. In the opinion appended to the recommendation, the aforementioned response by the prosecutor to the High Court of Justice is cited.

But the High Court of Justice is one thing and the reality is another. The Liaison Office’s legal adviser rejected the recommendation and wrote that it is necessary “to be strict about consistency, paying attention to the fact that approving the request might be a precedent for approving similar requests.” In another case handled by Hamoked, the adviser wrote that G.J. entered the West Bank in 2000 and should not be expelled under the guidelines. So why has  G.J. been sent to Gaza and not allowed back in the West Bank?

“The aforementioned is a bachelor and he has no family connection in Judea and Samaria,” was the response. Truly an excellent reason. The time has come for him to find a bride in Ramallah and marry.

Akiva Eldar is the chief political columnist and an editorial writer for Haaretz. His columns also appear regularly in the Ha’aretz-Herald Tribune edition. In May 2006 The Financial Times selected him among the most prominent and influential commentators in the world, “whose comments inspire callers from across the political spectrum”.


Intifada Palestine

Bank of America shuts down Angolan embassy’s checking account

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This seems embarassing:

The Angolan Embassy here canceled tonight’s celebration planned to mark
the country’s 35th independence anniversary, following a decision by
Bank of America to close the embassy’s checking accounts. […]

The Angolan embassy began doing business with Bank of America three
months ago after HSBC Bank USA closed all embassy accounts, apparently
as part of a broader move to reduce or cut ties with the oil-rich
African nation.

In a letter dated October 25, 2010, Bank of America advised the
embassy to stop writing checks and stated that all embassy accounts
would be closed by November 9. But the letter gave no reason for the
action, and no additional information has been provided. Embassy funds
on deposit with the bank remain frozen, leaving mission staff in
Washington without operating funds, according to sources familiar with
the situation.

Bank of America declined to comment on why the account was shut down, but Angola was one of four countries cited in a recent Senate investigation into how corrupt governments exploit the U.S. financial system to launder money. 

According to the AllAfrica.com story, Angola’s is one of 16 African missions in the United States whose accounts have recently been shut down by U.S. banks.

FP Passport

David Cameron signals that there will be a Bank Holiday to mark the Royal Wedding

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

thetorydiary

12 acres of West Bank land burned – by “peace activists”

November 18, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

From YNet:

Twelve anarchists – five Israelis and seven foreign nationals – were arrested by security forces Thursday morning on suspicion that they had set fire to a field owned by Jewish settlers.

The fire consumed some 50 dunams (about 12 acres) of land near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin.

The incident began at around 8 am when a group of 30 anarchists, accompanied by a number of photographers from the Al-Jazeera television network, arrived at the site. The anarchists set the field on fire and planted olive trees in the torched soil.

According to the settlers, the method is commonly used to take over land. “When the olive trees grow the Civil Administration has a difficult time determining who the land belongs to,” one of them said.

The grove has been set on fire three times over the past few weeks by anarchists.

The disputed land is located some 100 meters (330 feet) from Bat Ayin. “These lands have been under Jewish ownership since 1934,” said Yaki Morag, the head of security at the settlement. “However, we have no claims to these fields and we do not plan on cultivating them or settling on them. So we don’t understand what the frenzy is about or why they repeatedly target us.

“This has been going on for a year and a half now, on an almost weekly basis,” he said. “Yesterday and the day before anarchists burned 90-year-old trees on land that belongs to the Jewish National Fund near Kfar Etzion.”

In a related story, the “peace activists” denied earlier reports that they were setting fires in state lands in order to blame Jews. Instead, they said they have video showing that they are setting fires to clear land for Arabs to plant.

But they didn’t deny that the fields did not belong to Arabs or that they use this as a land-grab.

Now, especially during a drought, what happens when one of those “controlled fires” gets out of control? The same people call the media and blame the Jews!

In that earlier story, Ma’an posts a bizarre video meant to support allegations of Jewish arson – but the video shows a few Jews doing absolutely nothing. If you want to waste 79 seconds of your life, check out Ma’an’s evil settlers:

(h/t EoL)



Elder of Ziyon

A Bank Robber’s Great Economic Insight

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In recent days we’ve been presented with two bipartisan plans to address America’s horrific annual deficits. The spending cuts suggested in both these plans are similar. They envision extremely painful reductions in Social Security payments, much higher co-pays for Medicare recipients, and a sharp decrease in military spending.

The tax-related ideas in these plans, however, are not so straight forward. Rather, they feature complex tweaks and reshapings of the tax code. Neither plan mentions, much less suggests, the most obvious thing to be done on the revenue-enhancing side to reduce deficits — taxing the very rich far more heavily.

Why should we do this? Willie Sutton, America’s most famous bank robber, summed up the operative reality here as it applied to his own specialty. When asked why he robbed banks he replied: “Because that’s where the money is.”

In 1976 the top 1 percent of earners garnered 9 percent of total national earnings. Today, that figure is almost 24 percent. Why should we tax the very rich far more heavily? Because this is where the money is!

Failure to understand this necessity does not so much anger as confuse me. The necessity here is not just simple arithmetic, its grounded in natural law. In the animal kingdom, the alpha male gorilla or baboon gets his choice of mates, but he’s also the one that must confront a leopard threatening his tribe. The hyena queen always gets first crack at the kill, but when the time comes to bait a lion away from the pack, she’s the bait.

With great privilege comes great responsibility. This is not only true in the animal kingdom, every human society with the slightest pretense to being civilized has always understood the same thing. Certainly, it has been copiously in evidence in our own American society. When the Declaration of Independence signers gathered in 1776, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor toward the creation of a new nation. And they knew they were indeed putting their entire fortunes at risk by doing so.

A generation of parvenus who’ve attended some of our leading B-schools may have convinced themselves that they need contribute nothing to this country’s present financial crisis other than continued giant swilling at the national income trough. Now it’s time for a better spirit to appear among them — and also time for a libertarian claque to stop pretending that the rich and the poor should be taxed at the same rates because they have an equal right to sleep under a bridge.

Taking big chunks out of the standard of living of the elderly and poor, without a giant matching bite from the gluttonous compensation of the top one percent earners, is so dumb, so skewed, so fundamentally unnatural and unAmerican. that it couldn’t even pass the common sense “where the money is” reckoning of a bank robber.

More from this writer at wallstreetpoet.com

****************


The Moderate Voice

FDIC: Broadway Bank failure tied to too many bad loans outside Chicago

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Earlier today the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation released its final report on the failure of Broadway Bank, the financial institution owned by the family of defeated Democratic US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. Surprisingly, there are no bombshells, but the report shoots a hole in Giannoulias’ claim that Broadway was a modest community bank serving the needs of North Side Chicagoans-and that it was just an innocent bystander when the recession hit a couple of years ago.

Simply put-too much money was loaned too far from home on bad deals. One of those non-performing loans went to convicted mob pimp Michael “Jaws” Giorango-for a Florida property purchase.

Not addressed in the report is the $ 30 million in net dividends the Giannoulias’ took from the bank late in the last decade-shortly before the started dimming on Broadway.

Typically, FDIC post-mortems are released six months after a bank failure. If that was the case with Broadway Bank, its report would have come out shortly before Election Day.

Technorati tags:

Marathon Pundit

Potential Financial Services Chairman: Bank Regulators Should Have ‘Final Say’ Over Consumer Bureau

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

At the moment, the top two candidates to chair the House Financial Services Committee next year — Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and Ed Royce (R-CA) — are going back and forth, one-upping each other on who would be most aggressive in rolling back the financial reforms enacted by the Dodd-Frank law. Bachus has announced his intention to deny the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau funding, roll back the Volcker rule, and remove the government’s new powers to dismantle failing financial firms without using taxpayer dollars.

Today, Royce appeared on CNBC to lay out which sections of Dodd-Frank he wants to “revisit,” and first on the list is the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Royce explained that he wants to revive an amendment he proposed during the financial reform debate that would have allowed bank regulators to veto the Bureau’s rules:

One of the ones that I think is most important that we revisit — and of course, the Democrats had the votes to prevent this — but the prudential regulators, the regulators for safety and soundness warned us, ‘do not set up a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is able to trump safety and soundness.’ The safety and soundness regulator needs to have a say, needs to have final say in this. My amendment during the markup on the Dodd-Frank bill would have given the prudential regulator that say in the process, so that we didn’t repeat some of the mistakes that we made with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We have to revisit that issue.

Watch it:

There were clearly rampant consumer protection violations that occurred in the subprime lending market, and the bank regulators were completely disinterested in policing such lending, even when they had the authority to do so. Royce would put those same regulators right back in charge, handcuffing the one agency whose explicit mission is protecting consumers from the banking industry’s excess.

The CFPB is already subject to veto by the bank regulators. A two-thirds vote of the Financial Stability Oversight Council — a nine member board composed of the heads of the bank regulators, the Treasury Secretary, and an “insurance expert” — can nullify any CFPB regulation. Royce is clearly trying to set the bar even higher, giving individual regulators the ability to blunt any rule they don’t like.

In the end, both Royce and Bachus have made it abundantly clear that the next chairman of the Financial Services Committee is going to be interested, first and foremost, in protecting the ability of banks to do whatever they want, regardless of the effect on consumers.

Wonk Room

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