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Tag Archive: Morgan Stanley


 

JPMorgan Chase's offices in Hong Kong. The bank and its rivals have hired well-connected employees in China.
Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times JPMorgan Chase’s offices in Hong Kong. The bank and its rivals have hired well-connected employees in China.

In a series of late-night emails, JPMorgan Chase executives in Hong Kong lamented the loss of a lucrative assignment.

“We lost a deal to DB today because they got chairman’s daughter work for them this summer,” one JPMorgan investment banking executive remarked to colleagues, using the initials for Deutsche Bank.

The loss of that business in 2009, coming after rival banks landed a string of other deals, stung the JPMorgan executives. For Wall Street banks enduring slowdowns in the wake of the financial crisis, China was the last great gold rush. As its economy boomed, China’s state-owned enterprises were using banks to raise billions of dollars in stock and debt offerings — yet JPMorgan was falling further behind in capturing that business.

The solution, the executives decided over email, was to embrace the strategy that seemed to work so well for rivals: hire the children of China’s ruling elite.

“I am supportive to have our own” hiring strategy, a JPMorgan executive wrote in the 2009 email exchange.

In the months and years that followed, emails and other confidential documents show, JPMorgan escalated what it called its “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, adding scores of well-connected employees and tracking how those hires translated into business deals with the Chinese government. The previously unreported emails and documents — copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times — offer a view into JPMorgan’s motivations for ramping up the hiring program, suggesting that competitive pressures drove many of the bank’s decisions that are now under federal investigation.

The references to other banks in the emails also paint for the first time a broad picture of questionable hiring practices by other Wall Street banks doing business in China — some of them hiring the same employees with family connections. Since opening a bribery investigation into JPMorgan this spring, the authorities have expanded the inquiry to include hiring at other big banks. Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have previously been identified as coming under scrutiny. A sixth bank, UBS, is also facing scrutiny, according to interviews with current and former Wall Street employees. Neither JPMorgan nor any of the other banks have been accused of wrongdoing.

Still, the investigations have put Wall Street on high alert, said the current and former employees, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Some banks, they said, have adopted an unofficial hiring freeze for well-connected job candidates in China.

The investigation has also had a chilling effect on JPMorgan’s deal-making in China, interviews show. The bank, seeking to build good will with federal authorities, has considered forgoing certain deals in China and abandoned one assignment altogether.

The pullback comes just as JPMorgan had regained a significant share of the Chinese market. Its deal-making revived a few years after it escalated the Sons and Daughters program in 2009, an analysis of data from Thomson Reuters shows. In 2009, JPMorgan was 13th among banks winning business in China and Hong Kong. By 2013, once other banks had scaled back their Chinese business, it had climbed to No. 3. Other data shows that the bank was eighth in 2009 and — after losing market share in 2011 and 2012 — is now No. 4 in deal-making. While the hiring boom coincided with the increased business, the data does not establish a causal link between the two.

Yet the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, which are leading the JPMorgan inquiry, are examining whether the bank improperly won some of those deals by trading job offers for business with state-owned Chinese companies. The S.E.C. and the prosecutors, which might ultimately conclude that none of the hiring crossed a legal line, did not comment.

JPMorgan, which is cooperating with the investigation, also declined to comment. There is no indication that executives at the bank’s headquarters in New York were aware of the hiring practices. The six other banks facing scrutiny from the S.E.C. declined to comment on the investigations, which are at an early stage.

Economic forces fueled the hiring boom by Wall Street banks.

An era of financial deregulation in Washington coincided with a roaring economy in China, enabling questionable hiring practices to escape government scrutiny. The hiring became so widespread over the last two decades that banks competed over the most politically connected recent college graduates, known in China as princelings.

Goldman’s employee roster briefly included the grandson of the former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. And Feng Shaodong, the son-in-law of a high-ranking Communist Party official, worked with Merrill Lynch.

In recent months, though, federal authorities have adopted a tougher stance toward Wall Street firms suspected of trading jobs for government business. The S.E.C. and the Brooklyn prosecutors have bolstered enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which effectively bans United States corporations from giving “anything of value” to foreign officials to gain “any improper advantage” in retaining business. JPMorgan would have violated the 1977 law if it had acted with “corrupt” intent.

 

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Published time: November 06, 2013 14:24
Edited time: November 06, 2013 18:53

Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

A new law suit claims some of the world’s largest oil companies – including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, manipulated Brent Crude spot prices in collaboration with Morgan Stanley, Vitol Group, and other energy traders.

The plaintiffs accuse the companies of deliberately submitting false and misleading information about Brent prices to Platts, the energy and oil market news outlet, which is used by traders worldwide in daily transactions, Bloomberg reports.

“By providing false or inaccurate information and engaging in false or sham trading, defendants undermined the entire pricing structure for the Brent Crude Oil physical and futures markets,” the plaintiffs allege.

By fixing the North Sea oil benchmark, the oil companies and traders, not only manipulated the oil market, but petroleum, food, and other products that look to Brent as a guide for buying and selling across world exchanges.

Four traders – John Devivo, Robert Michiels, Anthony Insinga and Kevin McDonnell – filed the class act in a Manhattan court in New York on October 4.

Other companies accused of ‘fixing’ are Trafigura AG and Trafigura Beheer British Virgin Island, Dutch commodity trading firms, Phibro Trading LLC, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Vitol Group, a Swiss-based, Dutch-owned energy trader, S.A., and other unnamed traders.

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Foreclosure compensation checks arrive, but anger some homeowners

Families who endured years of anguish or lost their homes due to banks wrongly reporting they were behind on their mortgage payments are calling the compensation payments resulting from a government settlement, many of which number in the low hundreds, “insulting.” NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

Millions of American homeowners who have struggled with foreclosures are now receiving checks for compensation from the companies that serviced their mortgages — part of the federal government’s efforts to resolve the foreclosure crisis. But some of those receiving checks tell NBC News that the payments are an insult that neither punishes the banks enough for “deficient” practices nor helps harmed homeowners recover.

Karen Pooley, 50, of Seattle, told NBC News that she fell behind on her mortgage after losing her job in the building industry in early 2009, and received a notice of default in February 2010.

Pooley said she’s been fighting to save her home from foreclosure for the past three years.   Believing that her servicer did not follow legal procedures, she said she has contested the foreclosure through her state’s foreclosure process, and managed to stop three foreclosure sales.  She said she also has tried to get authorities to investigate.

Last month, she received her settlement payment, a check for $300.

“It was more than pathetic. It was insulting,” Pooley told NBC News. “I spent more in money on postage providing government agencies with detailed descriptions of what had happened in my case.”

Timothy Platt, 52, a truck driver from Indianapolis, told NBC News he’s also been fighting to save his home from foreclosure the past three years.  He claims his servicer made a mistake, declaring he and his wife behind on their mortgage when they were not.  Platt is suing the servicer, but has found trying to prove his case frustrating.

“They (the banks) have misrepresented the facts,” he wrote to NBC News in an email last month, “they have insisted on pursuing foreclosure.” 

On Thursday morning, Platt emailed NBC News, saying his settlement check had just arrived. It was for $500.

“It’s kind of like a, like a slap in the face,” Platt told NBC News during a stopover in Chicago.  “We’ve been trying to work through this for three years now, and we have no help whatsoever, and we’ve lost lots.”

Both homeowners believe their mortgage servicers are in the wrong.  Each has gone to court to prevent the servicers from taking their homes.  Their respective servicers declined to comment to NBC News.

The compensation payment checks, which range from $300 up to $125,000, are part of the Independent Foreclosure Review Payment Agreement announced in January between federal regulators and 13 mortgage servicing companies, which were subject to enforcement actions for “deficient practices in mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing.”  Deficient practices have included errors and misrepresentations and the “robo-signing” of documents.

The regulators are the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

The recipients of the checks are mortgage loan borrowers whose homes were in any stage of a foreclosure process during 2009 or 2010, and whose mortgage servicers were among the 13 companies, or their subsidiaries or affiliates.  Compensation payment checks, which began going out April 12, have so far been sent to 3.7 million homeowners. In all, 4.2 million eligible mortgage loan borrowers will receive them.

The 13 servicers are: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, Morgan Stanley, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.

According to the OCC’s online FAQ about the agreement, the servicers agreed “to provide more than $9.3 billion in cash payments and other assistance to help borrowers. The sum includes $3.6 billion in direct cash payments to eligible borrowers and $5.7 billion in other foreclosure prevention assistance, such as loan modifications and forgiveness of deficiency judgments.”

By comparison, the five largest banks alone – Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorganChase, Bank of America – earned $60 billion in total profits last year.

Payout guided by ‘the matrix’
What determines how much homeowners receive?

The largest payouts – $125,000 – are going to 1,082 members of the military wrongly foreclosed upon, and to just 53 homeowners across the country foreclosed upon even though they never missed a mortgage payment.  But most of the recipients – almost 2 million homeowners – will get the smallest payments of $300 to $600.

How much each homeowner gets depends on a complicated financial matrix designed by the regulators.

“In determining the payment amounts,” reads a recent OCC press release, “borrowers were categorized according to the stage of their foreclosure process and the type of possible servicer error.  Regulators then determined amounts for each category, using the financial remediation matrix published in June 2012 as a guide, incorporating input from various consumer groups.”)

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Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone
Fri, 25 Jan 2013 08:00 CST
Mary Jo White

© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Mary Jo White

I was shocked when I heard that Mary Jo White, a former U.S. Attorney and a partner for the white-shoe Wall Street defense firm Debevoise and Plimpton, had been named the new head of the SEC.

I thought to myself: Couldn’t they have found someone who wasn’t a key figure in one of the most notorious scandals to hit the SEC in the past two decades? And couldn’t they have found someone who isn’t a perfect symbol of the revolving-door culture under which regulators go soft on suspected Wall Street criminals, knowing they have million-dollar jobs waiting for them at hotshot defense firms as long as they play nice with the banks while still in office?

I’ll leave it to others to chronicle the other highlights and lowlights of Mary Jo White’s career, and focus only on the one incident I know very well: her role in the squelching of then-SEC investigator Gary Aguirre’s investigation into an insider trading incident involving future Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack. While representing Morgan Stanley at Debevoise and Plimpton, White played a key role in this inexcusable episode.

As I explained a few years ago in my story, “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?”: The attorney Aguirre joined the SEC in 2004, and two days into his job was asked to look into reports of suspicious trading activity involving a hedge fund called Pequot Capital, and specifically its megastar trader, Art Samberg. Samberg had made suspiciously prescient trades ahead of the acquisition of a firm called Heller Financial by General Electric, pocketing about $18 million in a period of weeks by buying up Heller shares before the merger, among other things.

“It was as if Art Samberg woke up one morning and a voice from the heavens told him to start buying Heller,” Aguirre recalled. “And he wasn’t just buying shares – there were some days when he was trying to buy three times as many shares as were being traded that day.”

Aguirre did some digging and found that Samberg had been in contact with his old friend John Mack before making those trades. Mack had just stepped down as president of Morgan Stanley and had just flown to Switzerland, where he’d interviewed for a top job at Credit Suisse First Boston, the company that happened to be the investment banker for . . . Heller Financial.

Now, Mack had been on Samberg’s case to cut him in on a deal involving a spinoff of Lucent. “Mack is busting my chops” to let him in on the Lucent deal, Samberg told a co-worker.

So when Mack returned from Switzerland, he called Samberg. Samberg, having done no other research on Heller Financial, suddenly decided to buy every Heller share in sight. Then he cut Mack into the Lucent deal, a favor that was worth $10 million to Mack.

Aguirre thought there was clear reason to investigate the matter further and pressed the SEC for permission to interview Mack. Not arrest the man, mind you, or hand him over to the CIA for rendition to Egypt, but merely to interview the guy. He was denied, his boss telling him that Mack had “powerful political connections” (Mack was a fundraising Ranger for President Bush).

 

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Politics, Legislation and Economy News

Economic News  :  Banking/Financial – Austerity – Government Corruption – Fiscal irresponsibility – Special Interests – Elitist Privilege

The Banker Who’d Cut Social Security and Medicare – and May Become Treasury Secretary

Pollsters keep telling us that the public wants action on jobs, a higher tax rate for millionaires, and protection for Social Security and Medicare. Our best economists keep reminding us that job creation should be government’s top priority.

So why is the Administration talking about replacing Treasury Secretary Geither with a wealthy banker who wants to cut Social Security and Medicare, would lower taxes on his fellow rich people, and is trying to impose European-style job-destroying austerity on this country?

The Balloon

There was some consternation when the Administration floated a trial balloon which was prominently picked up by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, whose headline asked “Will Erskine Bowles be our next Treasury Secretary?”

Klein wrote that “as of today, I’m ready to name a frontrunner, at least if Barack Obama is re-elected: Erskine Bowles.” He also notes that Paul Ryan called Bowles “my favorite Democrat.”

It’s true that a Bowles nomination would, as Klein says, “ensure a smooth confirmation.” So would the nomination of Grover Norquist. There are reasonable compromises to be made in the name of governance. And there are those that aren’t.

The Candidate

Paul Ryan’s affection is understandable. And it’s reciprocated. Bowles said of Ryan: “I think he’s smart. I think he’s intellectually curious. I think he is honest, straightforward and sincere.”

Their mutual regard is perhaps reinforced by the fact that Bowles co-authored a “Ryan-lite” personal austerity proposal with conservative Republican Alan Simpson, a former Senator, which would cut Social Security and Medicare benefits while simultaneously lowering tax rates for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations.

Before entering public life Bowles was a banker with Morgan Stanley. He now serves on Morgan Stanley’s board, and has done so through a series of that bank’s legal issues. As Dean Baker notes, Bowles was also on the General Motors Board “from June of 2005 until it went into bankruptcy in the spring of 2009,” and “joined the board of Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street investment bank, near the peak of the housing bubble in December of 2005.”

Bowles is also on the Board of Facebook, whose IPO has been the subject of controversy and scandal. (Baker offers a fun, interactive graph of the economic performance of the companies on whose boards Bowles has served. It isn’t pretty.)

The Pitchman

Bill Clinton, among others, has delivered one sales pitch after another for the Simpson/Bowles plan. He put one in his speech to the Democratic National Convention. I wonder if attendees understood what he was selling, or whether Democratic leaders noted that some of Clinton’s best-received lines were these:

Now, I think this plan is way better than Governor Romney’s plan. First, the Romney plan failed the first test of fiscal responsibility. The numbers just don’t add up. (Laughter, applause.)

The Simpson/Bowles numbers don’t add up, either — partly because they offer various options and exchange them at will, and partly because they set target goals but never explain how they plan to achieve them. Clinton:

I mean, consider this. What would you do if you had this problem? Somebody says, oh, we’ve got a big debt problem. We’ve got to reduce the debt. So what’s the first thing you say we’re going to do? Well, to reduce the debt, we’re going to have another $5 trillion in tax cuts heavily weighted to upper-income people. So we’ll make the debt hole bigger before we start to get out of it.

The baseline Simpson/Bowles proposal reduces the tax rate for millionaires and billionaires, which is already at a historical low of 35 percent, to 27 percent. And it cuts the corporate tax rate, too.

Now, when you say, what are you going to do about this $5 trillion you just added on? They say, oh, we’ll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code. So then you ask, well, which loopholes, and how much? You know what they say? See me about that after the election. (Laughter.)

“I’m not making it up. That’s their position. See me about that after the election.”

It is funny, until you realize that’s Bowles’ and Simpson’s position too — and that Bowles might be our next Treasury Secretary.

The Plan

The Simpson/Bowles proposal is often marketed — falsely — as the product of their deadlocked and failed Presidential Deficit Commission. It claims to be “centrist” because it offers unspecified tax increases as well as cuts — probably by decimating the middle class by eliminating tax deductions for employer health care, dependent children, and home mortgage interest. It also claims “bipartisanship” because Bowles the banker is also Democratic Party insider.

The “Simpson Bowles” austerity cuts to U.S. government spending closely resemble the cuts that have devastated the economies of Europe and Great Britain. Their plan would also cut Medicare and Social Security benefits — while providing drastically lower tax rates for billionaires and millionaires.

When you look at it carefully, Simpson/Bowles only differs from the radical right-wing Republican budget in a few areas, the most important of which is this: While the Republican plan calls for no tax increases at all, the Simpson/Bowles plan says it would offset its billionaire tax cuts. But since they also lower tax rates for billionaires, millionaires and corporations, they’re left to rely like Romney on unspecified loopholes, or “tax expenditures,” which could eviscerate the tax deductions that help the middle class get health insurance and pay their mortgages.

The Voters

Washington insiders scoff at anybody who dares question the sanctity of the “Simpson Bowles” concept. But once you leave Washington, that includes pretty much everybody. About 96 percent of the country’s voters reject their emphasis on deficits as our top priority, according to recent polling. The same poll showed that 37 percent of those polled considered “the economy and jobs” their top priority. That’s nearly ten times as many people.

That tracks closely with other poll results which showed that seventy percent of Americans were either “very uncomfortable” or “somewhat uncomfortable” with the Simpso/ Bowles plan when it was released.

Meanwhile polls show that Medicare is a key issue in three battleground states, with Paul Ryan’s unpopular plan giving Democrats a decided edge on that issue. The selection of Bowles would damage that advantage if it was announced before the election, and would create a sense of betrayal if announced afterwards.

That particular form of right-wing wealth redistribution is what allows Simpson, Bowles, their funders and supporters to keep bragging that their plan is “brave.” If they were really brave they’d admit that they’re offering a right-wing austerity plan, not a “nonpartisan” solution to a long-term issue that’s receiving attention that should be focused on today’s jobs crisis.

The Job

What does the Treasury Secretary do? She or he is, among other things, the country’s Chief Financial Officer or CFO. (That makes the past performance of Bowles’ companies more than just a game.) The Treasury Department website says that

The Secretary of the Treasury is the principal economic advisor to the President and plays a critical role in policy-making by bringing an economic and government financial policy perspective to issues facing the government … (and) is responsible for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy… the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing the public debt.

The website adds: “The Chief Financial Officer of the government … serves as Chairman Pro Tempore of the President’s Economic Policy Council, Chairman of the Boards and Managing Trustee of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds” — uh-oh! — “and as U.S. Governor of the International Monetary Fund” as well as other multilateral institutions.

The Treasury Secretary also controls the Emergency Economic Stabilization Fund – better known as “TARP.” Should a banker run TARP?

Among its many fines and violations, Morgan Stanley recently signed a Consent Order with the Federal Reserve regarding its “pattern of misconduct and negligence in residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing.””

If a national tragedy occurs, the Treasury Secretary of the United States is fifth in the line of Presidential succession.

Environmental

What the future of water means to business

by David Unger, Medill News Service
Washington (UPI) Apr 5, 2012


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Over the past decade, Ford Motor Co. has set out to reduce the amount of an important natural resource it uses in the production of its vehicles. What precious liquid has the automotive company set its sights on? The humble three-atom compound H2O.

“World Water Day is March 22,” reads a company news release, “but every day is Water Day for Ford Motor Company.”

The rising price of nature’s other most valuable resource — oil — may dominate the headlines but Ford and other companies are quietly examining how water, regarded for decades as virtually free, may one day have a bigger affect on their bottom line.

PepsiCo Inc., a company that relies heavily on water for its products, draws a direct line between water efficiency and business growth.

“A broader range of stakeholders — large investors, financial analysts, insurance companies and others — now recognizes that water scarcity poses business risks for all companies in a host of sectors,” the recent PepsiCo water stewardship report states.

It’s no secret that water is an important factor in the production of goods. Apart from being necessary for human life, water has long been a catalyst for economic growth, serving as a crucial ingredient in agriculture and manufacturing. It is little coincidence that the majority of the world’s population is centered on a river, lake or other body of water.

In the early 20th century, as water filtration and distribution technology evolved rapidly, access to clean, relatively cheap water became commonplace in much of the United States. No longer was economic growth inextricably linked to naturally occurring bodies of water. People, along with the industries that employ them, were free to move to drier, more arid regions in large numbers.

That trend could change in the coming decades, said Steven Maxwell, the author of “The Future of Water” and the managing director of TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group.

“Water is so plagued with all sorts of subsidies that the broad public assumption is that it’s free,” Maxwell says.

As the world population increases so too will demand for what is ultimately a finite resource, he and other experts say.

“As it becomes more expensive, it will drive economic and individual decisions,” Maxwell says.

It’s a vision of the future that resonates with Sharlene Leurig, a senior manager at Ceres, a sustainability leadership advocacy organization.

Leurig advises insurers and insurance regulators on climate risk and says that companies should pay more attention to the liquid that covers roughly 70 percent of the planet’s surface.

“Water is the next big thing,” she said during a panel in Washington on water risk hosted by The Environmental Law Institute and ZAG/S&W LLC. “Water is the next real asset.”

A more serious corporate focus on water While experts say it’s a while before water plays a predominant role in the global marketplace, some companies have started taking the resource more seriously. In the past 10 years, companies like Ford, Coca-Cola Co., IBM and Intel Corp. have made water conservation or stewardship a part of their company profile.

IBM developed technology that cut water usage in its Burlington, Vt., semiconductor factory 29 percent. Coca-Cola employs a director of global water stewardship and has issued an annual “Global Water Stewardship and Replenish Report” for the past five years. A November 2011 report by Morgan Stanley examines the notion of peak water and concludes that “water may turn out to be the biggest commodity story of the 21st century, as declining supply and rising demand combine to create the proverbial “perfect storm.”

Part of the corporate focus on water is an extension of the rise of environmental sustainability as a cultural and corporate zeitgeist. But the interest in water also stems from a growing awareness of water risk management, says Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst.”

“It’s not just good business,” Fishman says. “It gives you an incredible competitive edge.”

Companies attentive to water needs and usage, Fishman says, are in a position to continue operations even during severe water shortages.

There’s a social and political component to water risk as well, he says. If a company is seen as depleting a community’s water assets for non-vital purposes, it becomes a public perception issue. In times of water scarcity, Fishman says, people wonder, “Do we let the car factory have the water or the farm?”

A growing corporate interest in water will translate to cities and other local governments leveraging their water resources to attract new businesses and economic growth, Maxwell said. Companies determine where to locate based on a variety of different factors including tax rates, education levels and infrastructure.

Access to water is only one factor but those who study water say that its relevance to economic vitality will grow in the coming decades.

Milwaukee: How one city markets water resources At least one city is building on its proximity to fresh water to spur economic growth. In 2009, the Milwaukee Water Council, a non-profit, was formed to promote collaboration among the city’s growing water industry. The group also works to attract water industry businesses to Milwaukee, likening the city to a water hub in the way other cities brand themselves as a hub for the arts or technology.

The council’s Web site opens with a dominant image of Lake Michigan waters flowing smoothly past downtown Milwaukee.

“Milwaukee numbers among the world’s most significant hubs for water research and industry,” the message on the Web site reads. “Whether you are in industry, academia or government, you will find a confluence of expertise and resources in the Milwaukee region, needed to succeed in the world water marketplace.”

Alexis Morgan, Global Water Roundtable coordinator for The Alliance for Water Stewardship, says Milwaukee is ahead of the game in terms of branding itself as water rich.

“Milwaukee is actually beginning to think about [water] as a municipal or city-level pitch or competitive advantage to recruiting companies,” Morgan says.

Other water-rich cities may follow suit. Maxwell said he envisions a future where water-rich cities like Milwaukee — Buffalo, N.Y., and Cleveland for example — may use cheap, direct and sustainable access to water as an incentive to attract companies.

Water, after experiencing a period of relative financial irrelevance, may one day return to being an important consideration in job creation efforts and sound investing. At a time when the average price of a gallon of another important factor of production creeps toward $4, the pennies paid for water seem like drops in the bucket.

Water experts, however, say those days are numbered and companies, like individuals, are beginning to catch on.

“Water was a critical economic tool and then the water people were so good at their jobs that their work ended up completely hidden from ordinary people,” Fishman says. “I think now we’re headed into an era where the pressure on our supplies will force people to think about water and its connection to economic development in a way that we haven’t thought about it in a long time.”

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Cyber Space

Cellphone Radiation Detector App Banned by Apple

Mike Barrett
NaturalSociety

cellphonetouch1 220x137 Cellphone Radiation Detector App Banned by AppleAlthough many individuals think nothing of radiation emitted by cell phones, or even believe it to be true, there is a large amount of evidence showing how damaging cell phone use can actually be. In response to the released information and growing fear of cell phone radiation, a company has ironically released a mobile app which reportedly measures radiation levels emitted by smart phones.

Company Creates Radiation Detector App, Apple Bans it from App Store

The app was created by an Israeli company named Tawkon, and while not necessarily brand new, is relatively unknown. The lack of popularity probably has much to do with Apple’s banning of the app from their online app store since Apple rules the smartphone market. The company instituted the ban because it felt the app would be confusing to customers, though the ban was likely due to the fact that the app could only decrease sales for Apple’s iPhone. Whether Apple’s decision was driven by profit or not, there are some valid questions and concerns regarding the app’s accuracy.

Cyber expert on SMART GRID: massive vulnerability, who’s accountable?

Published on Apr 12, 2012 by

Cyber security expert David Chalk weighs in on the smart grid and its outright lack of security.

http://ThePowerFilm.org

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Survival / Sustainability

Storing food -vs- being prepared

by M.D. Creekmore on April 13, 2012

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Sioux0624

I have noticed that a lot of people storing food are setting themselves up for problems down the road because they won’t be able to prepare and eat what they stored.  One neighbor proudly stated that she had 400 pounds of wheat stored. I asked what she would do with it if she had to get it out and use it tonight. She had no idea. She had no clue how to grind, pop or sprout wheat. She knows how to make bread but admitted she has not stored yeast, salt, honey or other items to make bread. She doesn’t even have a grinder to make flour, so is ill prepared to make bread even if she did have all the ingredients.  Hopefully she can smash wheat with a hammer and whip up some rough tortillas (assuming she has shortening and salt).

People who store rice must cook it in water, but have they stored water or can they purify water found locally? How about having bouillon, herbs, soups, spices, and other things to mix with the rice? How many bowls of unflavored white rice will family members want to eat every week?

For preppers, the “basic foods” are wheat, rice, beans, dried milk and honey/sugar, but a lot more is needed to make those things pleasantly edible. If you’re stuck on storing just the basics and then calling yourself “prepared,” you are falling way short of actually being prepared.  Here are some steps to nudge you up a level:

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Activism

Earth defenders destroy GM trees in New Zealand

By Global Justice Ecology Project

Police are investigating the attack over Easter weekend when 375 radiata pines at Scion’s forestry research institute were either cut or pulled out, reports NZ Newswire.

A colleague from Aotearoa, New Zealand writes, “…a bulletin on a break-in at the Scion site where people cut through the outer perimeter fence and dug under the inner security barrier to destroy the young [GM pine] saplings…GE Free NZ stopped short of condemning the action… I expect that the next few weeks will see raids on the homes and offices of known political activists over the Scion action. It will be sold to the public as an attempt to stop political insurrection. Wish us all luck. ” [Image: 375 genetically modified radiata pine trees at a research site have been destroyed by vandals. Photo / APNZ]

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Spain Proposes ‘Draconian’ Anti-Protest Measures

– Common Dreams staff

Spain announced yesterday proposed changes to the country’s penal code that many see as an attempt to clamp down on protests, silence dissent and dismantle democracy.Sign reads: Article 21 of the Constitution: The right to peaceful meeting without arms is recognized. The exercising of this right does not require prior authorization. (photo: Adolfo Indignado Cuartero)

The changes, Spanish interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said, were needed to toughen up punishment against street vandalism that “disturb public peace” and would include criminalizing intent to organize violent demonstrations through “any means including the Internet.”

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Day 210: Live Coverage of the Occupy Movement

Josh Harkinson, Special Coverage:

As we enter Day 210 of the Occupy movements the protests have spread not only across the country but all over the globe. Thousands of activists have descended on Wall Street these past weeks as part of the #OccupyWallStreet protest organized by several action groups. What follows is a live video stream and live Twitter feed of this event.

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 Articles of Interest

 

Fluoride Toothpaste Poison for your Brain Reducing Kids IQ’s!

Published on Apr 11, 2012 by

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Politics and  Legislation

McConnell vows full-fledged assault on health law amid threat to his leadership

By Julian Pecquet and Alexander Bolton – 03/01/12 06:42 PM ET

Top Dem on House Approps committee announces retirement

By Russell Berman – 03/02/12 11:25 AM ET

Watch Andrew Breitbart’s Fiery CPAC Speech: I Have ‘College Days’ Obama Videos

by James Crugnale | 8:58 am, March 1st, 2012

Economy

The trillions the government doesn’t account for

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trillions-the-government-doesnt-account-for/2012/02/17/gIQABgdZlR_story.html

Saudi Officials Deny Reports Of Pipeline Explosion After Crude Oil Hits $110, But We Have Photos That Could Tell A Different Story

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-03-01/markets/31115532_1_pipeline-area-qatif-price-of-oil-shot#ixzz1o21xvmKO

German prosecutors launch 80 raids in insider probe

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/01/uk-germany-raids-idUKTRE8201NK20120301

Americans Will Need “Black Markets” To Survive

http://www.alt-market.com/articles/606-americans-will-need-black-markets-to-survive

Federal Reserve Banker Fraud Exposed In The Mainstream

http://www.alt-market.com/articles/605-federal-reserve-banker-fraud-exposed-in-the-mainstream

Mass Resignations Of Major Bankers And Political Figures- Economic Financial Collapse?

http://beforeitsnews.com/story/1838/087/NL/

Oil Companies Earn Billions While Americans Pay More

By Daniel J. Weiss, Jackie Weidman and Richard W. Caperton

http://www.nationofchange.org/oil-companies-earn-billions-while-americans-pay-more-1330707050

Plan for an economic 9/11′: Analysts warn Americans to buy guns and gold, predicting market crash and street riots within a year

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2107315/Market-crash-street-riots-year-Americans-plan-economic-9-11.html

Wall St slips but S&P up for 3rd straight week

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/stock-index-futures-point-lower-103407679.html

How Gold rises above $5000 per Ounce but is only Worth 500

ByJohn GaltMarch 1, 2012

Fannie and Freddie drop the ball

Mortgage write-downs have been rejected by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That decision hurts borrowers, their neighbors and taxpayers.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-foreclosure-20120301,0,4557762.story

Stockton could become biggest city to goStockton

Stockton council votes for mediation; city could become biggest in US to go bankrupt

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/stockton-could-become-biggest-city-062559370.html

European funding sows seeds of next crisis

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-funding-sows-seeds-of-next-crisis-2012-03-02?link=MW_latest_news

RBS raises mortgage rates as Halifax prepares to follow suit

Millions of financially stretched households are likely to lose the lifeline of low interest rates keeping them afloat, mortgage experts warned after the Halifax prepared the ground for a rise in mortgage rates and RBS announced an increase.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/borrowing/mortgages/9118253/RBS-raises-mortgage-rates-as-Halifax-prepares-to-follow-suit.html

Spain planning to breach EU budget targets, warns prime minister Mariano Rajoy

Spain is already planning to breach its budgetary targets, defying European leaders on the day they signed their historic fiscal pact.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9119376/Spain-planning-to-breach-EU-budget-targets-warns-prime-minister-Mariano-Rajoy.html

Taxpayers’ ‘bad bank’ repossesses nearly 9,000 homes

Britain’s taxpayer-backed “bad bank” repossessed nearly 9,000 homes in 2011 as its profits more than doubled, allowing it to repay £2.1bn in loans to the government.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9118489/Taxpayers-bad-bank-repossesses-nearly-9000-homes.html

Oil price rise a bigger threat to global economy than Greece, says HSBC

The runaway oil price has overtaken fears of a Greek sovereign debt default as the biggest threat to the global economy, according to HSBC.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/oilprices/9119431/Oil-price-rise-a-bigger-threat-to-global-economy-than-Greece-says-HSBC.html

BP reaches £4.9bn Gulf oil spill deal

BP has reached a £4.9bn ($7.8bn) deal with thousands of people hit by by the oil giant’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/9120462/BP-reaches-4.9bn-Gulf-oil-spill-deal.html

Citigroup Chairman Parsons stepping down

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/citigroup-chairman-parsons-stepping-down-003540131.html;_ylt=Auc7NokErY10r0aEezEexSqiuYdG;_ylu=X3oDMTQ0bGllaGpiBG1pdANGaW5hbmNlIEZQIFRvcCBTdG9yeSBSaWdodARwa2cDNDMwMTBmMjMtMWUwNC0zNDJiLTk4ZWQtNWUxMDUxNTY2MDMzBHBvcwMyBHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzAyOTIxZTAwLTY0YzktMTFlMS1iZmJiLTM5ZjkzN2IxZjk1Yw–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

Credit Suisse to face National Century fraud case

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/credit-suisse-face-national-century-213850783.html;_ylt=An5vPMLMjfXkPBcs3k.CL_.iuYdG;_ylu=X3oDMTQ0N2RncWNiBG1pdANGaW5hbmNlIEZQIFRvcCBTdG9yeSBSaWdodARwa2cDZTIyMTNkZTYtNGFmZC0zOGJkLThkOGQtMTBhZjQ1OGVmNTFlBHBvcwMzBHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzRlYjIzN2IwLTY0YmItMTFlMS1iYmZmLWY5NWQ5MGM2NmM5Mw–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

Morgan Stanley banker charged with hate crime

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/morgan-stanley-banker-placed-leave-163156246.html;_ylt=AoO6oQkabbsAMyzHGHhYbjCiuYdG;_ylu=X3oDMTQ0MXRjN2hlBG1pdANGaW5hbmNlIEZQIFRvcCBTdG9yeSBSaWdodARwa2cDN2UzOTBhODUtNWJmYy0zMDY1LTg2YzUtMTU5NDllYjRlY2FhBHBvcwM3BHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzc0MDA5M2UwLTY0YTItMTFlMS1iZmZkLTU0YzM3ZTcxZTJkNA–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

Wars and Rumors of War

U.S. has military plan should Iran conflict erupt, says air force chief

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-has-military-plan-should-iran-conflict-erupt-says-air-force-chief-1.415734

Ex Senators Say Saudi Arabia May Be Linked to 9/11

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/senators-saudi-arabia-linked-911/story?id=15827925#.T1GwQLQycdR

‘Qatar, KSA seek bloodshed in Syria by arming rebels’

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/229310.html

NSA Power Grab: New Legislation Would Give It Broad Powers To Spy On ‘Critical’ Private Networks

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120229/17512717918/nsa-makes-its-power-play-to-spy-key-private-networks-pretending-that-only-it-can-protect-everyone-attack.shtml

Libyan Gov’t to Give $100M to Syrian Rebels

The Libyan government – formerly Libya’s opposition forces – says it will give $100 million in food and medicine to Syria’s rebel forces.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/153330#.T1G4PrQyega

Ireland Signs Controversial ‘Irish SOPA’ Into Law; Kicks Off New Censorship Regime

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120229/13541517916/ireland-signs-controversial-irish-sopa-into-law-kicks-off-new-censorship-regime.shtml?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Obama says he’s not bluffing on Iran nukes

By Joe Sterling, CNN
updated 8:48 PM EST, Fri March 2, 2012

Israel confirms plans to test missile system as Obama meeting looms

First test of Arrow 3 interceptor system intensifies speculation Israel is planning for military confrontation with Iran