Society's ChildS


Bad Guys

US: $26B bank foreclosure fraud settlement to be announced

mortgage protest
© Richard A. Lipski / Washington PostLast year, some mortgage lenders and government officials took action after discovering that many mortgage documents were mishandled.
State and federal officials on Thursday will announce a landmark settlement with five of the nation's banks over their flawed and fraudulent foreclosure practices.

The $26 billion deal, which officially will be unveiled at a 10 a.m. Department of Justice news conference, aims to help troubled borrowers by reducing the amount they owe on their mortgages, lowering their interest rates and paying restitution to homeowners who suffered mortgage-related abuses.

Long-running negotiations over the settlement received a major boost Wednesday when California ­Attorney General Kamala Harris agreed to back the effort after withdrawing her support last fall, according to three people with knowledge of the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized.

Airplane

Air Canada Headed for Threat of Labour Disruption as Pilots Start Strike Vote

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© unknown
Air Canada headed closer to another possible labour disruption Thursday after its pilots began a strike vote in response to what they said was a "rigid" company position that appeared aimed at escalating their contract dispute.

A strike mandate after the schedule five days of voting would put the airline's 3,000 pilots in a legal strike position early on Feb. 17, or 72 hours after the end of a legally manadatory cooling off period.

The strike vote doesn't mean the pilots will actually initiate a labour stoppage, but it gives the union the ability to respond to any unilateral moves by the company.

"The corporation has tabled a position that asks for more concessions and threatens our entire careers through scope changes that would ship much of our flying outside Air Canada, possibly offshore," Captain Gary Tarves, chairman of the Air Canada Pilots Association, said in a memo to pilots.

Tarves said the airline's "rigid position" raises "the possibility that it simply seeks to run out the legislated time clock and lead us toward an escalation."

Pistol

US: Facebook unfriending leads to 2 Tennessee shooting deaths

Father upset after couple deletes daughter, charged in double-homicide
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© UnknownMarvin Potter (right) Jamie Curd (left)

Mountain City - A father who was upset after a Tennessee couple deleted his adult daughter as a friend on Facebook has been charged in the shooting deaths of the couple, authorities said Wednesday.

The victims had complained to police that Marvin Potter's daughter was harassing them after they deleted her as a friend on the social networking site, Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said Wednesday.

Potter, 60, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in last week's slayings of Billy Payne Jr. and his girlfriend, Billie Jean Hayworth. The couple was shot to death in their Mountain City home in the far northeast corner of the state. Their 8-month-old baby was found unharmed in Hayworth's arms.

"It's a senseless thing," the sheriff said.

USA

US: Marines posed with flag resembling Nazi SS logo in Afghanistan

San Diego - The U.S. Marine Corps confirmed Thursday that a sniper team in Afghanistan posed for a photograph in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS.
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© UnknownScout snipers in the Marine Corps shown with a flag bearing an "SS" similar in design to one used in Germany by the SS, a paramlitary force that operated under the Nazi party.

Use of the SS symbol is not acceptable, and the Marine Corps has addressed the issue, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton said in a statement. He did not specify what action was taken.

Upton said the Marines in the photograph, posted on an Internet blog, are no longer with the unit. The picture was taken in September 2010 in Sangin province, Afghanistan.

The photo shows a flag with what appear to be the letters "SS" in the shape of jagged lightning bolts. The symbol resembles that used by SS units in World War II.

Comment: Are Marines making a point to show how the U.S. Empire is looking globally?


Boat

Why Is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?

loading ship @ dock
© n/a
If the global economy is not heading for a recession, then why is global shipping slowing down so dramatically? Many economists believe that measures of global shipping such as the Baltic Dry Index are leading economic indicators. In other words, they change before the overall economic picture changes. For example, back in early 2008 the Baltic Dry Index began falling dramatically. There were those that warned that such a rapid decline in the Baltic Dry Index meant that a significant recession was coming, and it turned out that they were right. Well, the Baltic Dry Index is falling very rapidly once again. In fact, on February 3rd the Baltic Dry Index reached a low that had not been seen since August 1986. Some economists say that there are unique reasons for this (there are too many ships, etc.), but when you add this to all of the other indicators that Europe is heading into a recession, a very frightening picture emerges. We appear to be staring a global economic slowdown right in the face, and we all need to start getting prepared for that.

If you don't read about economics much, you might not know what the Baltic Dry Index actually is.

Investopedia defines the Baltic Dry Index this way....
A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea.
When the global economy is booming, the demand for shipping tends to go up. When the global economy is slowing down, the demand for shipping tends to decline.

And right now, global shipping is slowing way, way down.

Comment: The reader may be interested in reading The Baltic Dry Index Panic.


Mail

US: Postal Service posts $3.3 billion loss

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© United States Postal Service (USPS)The United States Postal Service stamp showing the face of Liberty from the New York NY Casino in Vegas.
The U.S. Postal Service reported quarterly losses of $3.3 billion, and says that at the rate it's going, it will run out of money by October.

The agency was hurt by declining mail volume and mounting costs for future retiree health benefits.

From October through December of 2011, losses were $3 billion more than during the same period in 2010 - even though the final quarter is typically the strongest, due to increased holiday shipping.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is warning of a possible suspension in postal operations this fall unless Congress acts to address long-term money problems.

He wants new leeway to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, raise stamp prices and reduce health and other labor costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comment: A reflection of the United States economy? Or, US: Surprised? Twisted government accounting behind Postal Service woes


People

US: Fewer Young Adults Hold Jobs Than Ever Before

youth job interview
© Thinkstock
The share of young adults with jobs has hit its lowest level since the government started keeping records just after World War II.

By the end of 2011, only 54.3% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 were employed, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday. And the gap in employment between the young and all working-age adults is roughly 15 percentage points -- the widest on record.

The Great Recession hurt the young more than most other age groups. Their employment decline has been steeper and their median weekly earnings fell by 6%, while holding steady for others, Pew found.

Only part of this can be explained by the growth in college attendance. While a greater share of 18- to 24-year-olds are in school than ever before, the employment rate has fallen regardless of enrollment.

Dollar

Hungary's Central Bank Burns Old Currency Notes to Help Needy in Cold Snap

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© Agency France Presse/Getty ImagesThousands of old Hungarian banknotes are processed at a logistics center at the Central Bank in Budapest.
Hungary's central bank is burning old monetary notes to help the needy in Europe's deadly cold snap.

The bank is pulping wads of old notes into briquettes to help heat humanitarian organisations.

"It's a very useful charitable act, a vital aid for our foundation because we can save part of our heating costs," said Krisztina Haraszti, the head of a centre for autistic children in the impoverished northeastern town of Miskolc.

It helped the centre, which also provides aid to autistic adults, save between 50,000 and 60,000 forints (£200) a month, which is a "considerable sum in this time of crisis," she told AFP.

Since the briquettes have a high calorific value, "one only needs to add a few bits of wood and the rooms are really warm," said Haraszti.

Bizarro Earth

Martians Landing or Putin's New Bomb? Mysterious Flash in the Sky Sparks Conspiracy Theories in Moscow

The Russian web was ablaze with bizarre theories today at an extraordinary explosion seen by thousands of commuters in St Petersburg.

It must have seemed like the end of the world was nigh when motorists driving along this busy motorway saw a huge flash light up the night sky on the horizon.

So far, conspiracy theories of martians and bomb-testing have emerged to explain the astonishing sight. However, the reality was far less exciting.

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© Russia TodayThe calm before the electric storm: Unsuspecting motorists were driving along this motorway when the huge flash appeared on the horizon in front of them.

Dollar

US, California: Los Angeles County OKs $1,000 Fine For Throwing Football, Frisbee On Beaches


When you head down to the beach for a little fun this summer, county officials want you to leave the pigskin at home.

The Board of Supervisors this week agreed to raise fines to up to $1,000 for anyone who throws a football or a Frisbee on any beach in Los Angeles County.

In passing the 37-page ordinance on Tuesday, officials sought to outline responsibilities for law enforcement and other public agencies while also providing clarification on beach-goer activities that could potentially disrupt or even injure the public.