Category Archives: US ECONOMY

FBI ‘spot the saboteur’ guide: Cash, snorkel, US Constitution

Shoppers line up at the cashiers' checkout at a Target store in Miami (Joe Raedle/  Getty Images / AFP)

Shoppers line up at the cashiers’ checkout at a Target store in Miami (Joe Raedle/ Getty Images / AFP)

TAGS: Human rightsTerrorismUSA

 

Fancy a quick scuba lesson before going on a last-minute trip to Hawaii? Paying in cash for a snorkel? Just shaved mustache because it doesn’t go with a dive mask? Big Brother will spot a terrorist: “See something, say something” policy in action.

The 25 flyers issued by the FBI and the Department of Justice give no mere Orwell creeps. Every area seems to be bursting with bombers: airports, beauty shops, construction sites, banks and internet cafes. Your tattoos master meets a bunch of them every day. Terrorists have taken to your favorite shop with train models across the street – remember how you pressed your nose against the glass after school? Now press harder: see something, say something, do something for your country.

‘Constant vigilance!’ – from fiction to action

The FBI and Department of Justice have streamed the “terrorist profiles” to every federal, state and local law enforcement agency across the country previous week. No one wants armed dangerous freaks invading a shopping mall on a Sunday, but now think about this. Are you:

– constantly impatient with your hair color?
– nervous in public spaces?
– inclined to show off before your girlfriend, even when taking your first ever dive?
– prone to staring around?
– obsessed with taking pictures?
– eager to keep your passwords to yourself in an internet cafe?

If yes, then you have all the chances to fall on the wrong side with the community and be referred to the police.

No encryption, no anonymity (forget about Skype, patriots), no cash, no hanging around, no heritage disputes at construction sites. Know your shopping list, show genuine interest, don’t avoid talking to assistants, but don’t ask for exits and sales days – you are not looking for crowds.

 

FBI’s Potential indicators of terrorist activities related to Internet Café (Click to enlarge)
FBI’s Potential indicators of terrorist activities related to Internet Café (Click to enlarge)

So the War on Terror is getting inward-bound and tens of millions of law abiding Americans will get a flavor of it. Putting aside proper instructions to identify a potential terrorist (nervous, sweating, unsure of own name and story, wearing too much clothing) and terrorist activity (using abandoned houses to store unidentified goods, driving a car without number plates, leaving packages in public areas) – where is the bottom line to assess “extreme” behavior?

The handouts stress to Americans that people who make suspicious comments regarding anti-US, radical theology, vague or cryptic warnings that suggest or appear to endorse the use of violence in support of a cause” are, well, terrorists. So, good-bye Occupy Wall Street, you won’t be flashing headlines any more soon. Not after several arrests on “assaulting police” charges.

 

FBI’s Potential indicators of terrorist activities related to Sleepers (Click to enlarge)
FBI’s Potential indicators of terrorist activities related to Sleepers (Click to enlarge)

Be careful to forget your Constitutional rights, too. Only those, who are looking for a thrashing from homeland security, know them by heart. And never, ever speak ill of Washington’s policies:

Fury at the West for reasons ranging from personal problems to global policies of the US is an attitude indicator of a “sleeper,” a person who camouflages their involvement in terrorist activity.” 

By the way, you will never believe who fits the description of a sleeper as an adjoining puzzle piece. War veterans! Consider those who have spent quite some time in countries where militant Islam rules, are missing hand/fingers,have burns and are inclined to show undesired interest in all security stuff – like “hey, which is the police frequency over here?” So, welcome home, Afghan troops.

Think wider – stay in limits

The leaflets conclude with two disclaimers fitting quite neatly with each other. First, just because someone’s…way of life is different, it does not mean that he or she is suspicious.

Then, The activities outlined on this handout are by no means all-inclusive.

So if you see a guy, meddling in the shop with a lobster, a witch’s hat he is using as a bag and a newspaper he is holding upside down, and somehow you feel he is conspiring for a delayed bombing out, tip him off to the police.

But if your dad has given you a hooked nose and dark curls and then one morning you trade for a model plane with the “maximum range remote control” for your little bro… Just don’t get a nasty shock if your neighbor reports you. It is not the FBI’s fault that Mr. Thompson is such a raging xenophobe, who does not care what next door people look like.

 

FBI’s Potential indicators of terrorist activities related to Shopping Malls and Entertainment Facilities (Click to enlarge)
FBI’s Potential indicators of terrorist activities related to Shopping Malls and Entertainment Facilities (Click to enlarge)

With the new 25 lists of security commandments, Americans now have a handout for every trip to the outer space. Still, the new instructions daze even some ex-law enforcers:

I spent some years in law enforcement, and some of those devoted to counter-terrorism. I can assure you that most federal, state and local law enforcement personnel abide by their oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution’ and are steadfastly accountable to that oath. In other words, they understand that broadly labeling as ‘terrorists’ those who support constitutional limits on government is offensive to that oath, reads the dedicated story in the Patriot Post.

Elena Medvedeva, Vitaliy Matveev, RT

Newt repeats ‘second Holocaust’ warning!

By ALEXANDER BURNS |

1/27/12 11:40 AM EST

Newt Gingrich is standing by his warning that an Iranian nuclear weapon could cause a “second Holocaust.”

At a press conference here in Miami, a reporter noted to Gingrich that he was on the cover of casino mogul and Gingrich super PAC backer Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom. The headline declared that President Barack Obama’s policies could lead to another genocide against the Jews.

Asked if he would disavow that kind of rhetoric, Gingrich shrugged: “It’s probably my rhetoric.”

“I have said allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons … runs the direct risk of a second Holocaust. That is a fact,” Gingrich said.

However Jewish voters in Florida respond to his rhetoric, Gingrich’s most important audience for this kind of question is almost certainly Adelson, who has directed $10 million to the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future.

Gingrich is scheduled to address a rally of the Republican Jewish Coalition — another organization Adelson supports — elsewhere in Florida this afternoon.

The Consequences of a Strike on Iran: The IRGC Navy

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) is an integral component of Iranian defensive strategy and its forces are expected to be key players in any Iranian retaliatory strategy should the US attack Iranian nuclear facilities. IRGC-N doctrine is based on “access-denial” of the strategically vital Straits of Hormuz through which almost a third of all seaborne oil passes and could include directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping, mining and attempting to close the Straits of Hormuz, as well as attacking various energy and strategic installations in and around the Persian Gulf. The net effort of IRGC-N forces is likely to impact global energy security but Iran is unlikely to be able to close the Straits of Hormuz, particularly for any extended period of time.

Iran has two navies – the Shah-era conventional Iranian Navy (IRIN) – and the IRGC-N, which emerged as an independent entity in the 1980s and came of age during the Iran-Iraq War with successful amphibious operations in southern Iraq. Following post-Revolution mistrust of all Shah-era military formations, the IRGC-N was promoted and today wields substantial influence with the Supreme Leader as well as with influential defense, government and clerical figures, as a result of which it has primacy in resource and funding allocations, and has acquired several new platforms and capabilities even as the IRIN fleet ages. Especially after the Tanker Wars of the late 1980s, Iranian strategic planners appear to have concluded that in the event of large-scale hostilities, Iran’s larger conventional fleet would be of limited use (during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, US forces destroyed over 25 percent of Iran’s larger naval ships in one day) and as such have restructured their forces to wage asymmetric naval guerrilla warfare. This fleet is expected to be far more lethal than IRIN could hope to be and is now entrusted with “full responsibility” for operations in the critical Persian Gulf. The IRIN is now relegated to the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea.

The IRGC-N seeks to operate at the lower end of the conflict spectrum and exploit vulnerabilities in the larger conventional forces of its US and Gulf Arab enemies. IRGC commander Brigadier General Jafaari explicitly stated, “The enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called asymmetric warfare methods… our forces are now well prepared for it.” The IRGC-N operates a sizable fleet of small boats, small submarines, mine-laying units, anti-ship missiles, and naval infantry units to conduct naval guerilla war. It will likely rely upon its “mosaic defense” strategy to decentralize its command and control apparatuses and allow operational zones to operate autonomously. IRGC soldiers and sailors are also generally expected to be more ideologically committed than regular forces and could even be used to conduct suicide attacks.

Iran is generally believed to be a rational player that recognizes the consequences of full-scale engagement with the US – not least of which is the effect on Iran’s 87 percent of imports and 99 percent of exports that transit by sea, most through the Straits of Hormuz. Iran has also generally abstained from escalating conflict in the Gulf beyond limited engagements, although has shown a willingness to engage in brinksmanship. In March 2007, IRGC-N forces captured 15 British marines for several days for ‘entering sovereign Iranian waters’ and Iranian small boats have occasionally harassed and provoked US warships. One such incident in 2008 may have been designed to test US rules of engagement and involved IRGC-N boats making threatening maneuvers as well as a radio transmission that stated, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes.” It remains difficult to distinguish between Iranian rhetoric and reality, but the IRGC-N has carried out several wargames in recent years, and Iranian officials have sometimes threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz in the aftermath of tensions with the US.

Organizational Structure
The IRGC-N is under the command of Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, who was appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei in May 2010, to replace Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari. The Persian Gulf is divided into four main areas of responsibility.

District
Key Base, Location
Area of Responsibility
Commanding Officer
1st Naval District
Shahid Bahonar, Bandar Abbas
Straits of Hormuz
Reza Torabi
2nd Naval District
Shahid Mahalati, Bandar Bushehr
Central Persian Gulf
Ali Razmjou
3rd Naval District
N/A, Mahshahr
Northern Persian Gulf
Taghipour-Rezaei
4th Naval District
N/A, Babolsar
Caspian Sea
Seifolah Bakhtiarvand

Operating Bases
Click on the placemarks in the map for information on each base

The IRGC-N maintains operational control over the Persian Gulf and maintains several bases along the Persian Gulf as seen in the map below. The IRGC-N has also expanded its bases along the Sea of Oman towards the Pakistani border, moving outside its regional competency to potentially extend its “layered defense strategy” outside the Straits of Hormuz.

View IRGC Naval Bases in a larger map

Small Boat “Swarming” Attacks

The IRGC-N has prioritized the use of small missile-equipped craft to implement “swarming” tactics against warships and merchant shipping in the narrow Persian Gulf. Given US conventional superiority and air dominance, the IRGC-N is likely to have dispensed with ‘mass swarming’ tactics in favor of ‘dispersed swarming’ where highly agile small craft converge from various concealed bases to surprise and attack targets. Swarming is a crude but potentially effective asymmetric tactic to overwhelm superior conventional forces, particularly if coupled with effective anti-ship missiles. In a 2002 US Navy simulation “sunk” 16 ships including an aircraft carrier while copying Iranian asymmetric capabilities. Since then, obviously this need has been recognized, and amongst other changes, the US’s new Littoral Combat Ships are designed for precisely such encounters. In naval wargames, Iran often highlights its small-boat capacity.

The IRGCN operates a sizable fleet of small but heavily armed boats. These include the Azaraksh (China Cat) and Thondar (Hudong) fast-attack missile craft armed with the Kowsar and C-802 anti-ship missiles (ASM), the North-Korean acquired Peykaap I and II (IPS-16/IPS-16 modified) and Tir (IPS-18) missile boats, as well as patrol craft the Ashura, Tareq and Boghammer speedboats. The C-802 ASM is the same missile used to destroy an Israeli corvette during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Iran is also unveiling new lines of high-speed and “stealth” boats including the Ya Mahdi, Seraj and Zolfaghar craft and in a daring international scheme Iran acquired and intends to mass produce the Bladerunner-51, the world’s fastest speedboat.

Iranian small boats have obvious disadvantages and on their own are highly vulnerable to US firepower. Surprise will be their most important asset for any successful confrontation, a requirement acknowledged by the IRGCN. Many vessels are designed to be capable of being “launched discreetly…off the back of a flatbed truck under cover of darkness, during high tide without any special accommodations.” Many are dispersed along “small inlets, small fishing ports and hardened sites,” and the IRGC is believed to have a presence on many islands and coastal villages along the Persian Gulf.

Mining Operations

Iranian mine-laying craft Iran Ajr captured by US Navy in Sep. 1987
Iran operates multiple platforms capable of mining the Straits of Hormuz including at least three ships with dedicated mine-laying capabilities, three RH-53D Sea Stallion mine-laying helicopters, as well as the option of adapting virtually any other small boat, disguised fishing trawler or larger missile craft for the purpose of deploying mines. Submarines, particularly the Ghadir midget-class submarines are also ideal for mine-laying operations in the shallow coastal waters of the Persian Gulf. The Iranian stockpile is believed to consist of between 3,000-5,000 mines acquired from Russian, Chinese and North Korean sources, as well as developed indigenously notably the Chinese EM-11 and EM-52 and the Russian-made M-08, M-26 and MDM-6.

US and Gulf surveillance and naval capabilities make prolonged mine-laying operations exceeding difficult, but the possibility of mine-laying boats escaping undetected is not unlikely. Iran operates dhows disguised as fishing vessels in addition to regular craft, making detection difficult, and during the Tanker Wars of 1987-98, IRGC-N boats were able to lay 12 mines right in the path of Kuwaiti supertanker MV Bridgeton, while in visual range of escorting US navy warships.

Additionally, even a limited mine-laying operation would be economically costly. STRATFOR notes that even a 10 percent chance of a mine strike would entail the need to clear a Q-route, which could take a week or more, a substantial amount of time and disruption to energy flows and maritime insurance costs. Moreover, given the density of traffic transiting the Straits, it is possible that even a cleared route would restrict normal tanker traffic.

Amphibious Raiding

Iran’s amphibious raiding strategy would seek to replicate its successful operations in the southern Iraqi marshlands during the Iran-Iraq War to attack oil terminals, merchant ships and other strategic targets. Amphibious assaults would be highly vulnerable to US/Gulf military superiority, but Iran has made concerted efforts to deploy frogmen far out into the Gulf. The IRGC-N now maintains a brigade strength contingent of about 5,000 Iranian Marines, a large underwater training center at Bandar Abbas and the largest amphibious fleet amongst its Arab neighbors, barring the U.A.E. The IRGCN has modified logistics ships to deploy frogmen and sought to disguise its ships to resemble normal commercial traffic. Iran has also experimented with submersible-delivery vehicles including the Ghadir midget submarine, which contains provisions for mounting a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV).

Iranian Admiral Sajjad Kouchaki claimed that Iran has “1,500 special operation teams” with 23 landing ships and vessels, which all told could in theory transport a few thousands troops and tens of tanks. Iran also operates about 5 M-171 helicopters and could utilize civilian craft to move troops. In general, however, aside from intercepting merchant ships or attacking lightly defended areas in surprise attacks, Iran naval infantry forces are ill-equipped to move amphibious forces across the Gulf in combined operations.

“Static Warships” and Coastal Missile Batteries

The IRGC-N has geography to its advantage and is able to use the many islands dotting the Persian Gulf to create a crescent of shore-based missile batteries that ring the Straits of Hormuz. On these islands, a variety of anti-ship and ballistic missiles platforms are located using extensive networks of tunnels and underground missile bunkers that create “static warships” with which to attack enemy forces. In theory, the US could face a formidable threat with “several dozen batteries and several hundred anti-ship cruise missiles spread across an area roughly the size of Kosovo.” In reality, however, the IRGC-N may suffer from maintenance and training deficiencies, whereas US surveillance and countermeasure capabilities continue to improve.

Iranian coastal defense systems are armed with a variety of anti-ship missiles of varying sources and capabilities including but not limited to variants of the Chinese-made Silkworm (the HY-2 and HY-2G Seersucker), and the C-801 Sardine (Raad) and C-802 Saccade (Noor) missile based off the French Exocet missile. Iranian missiles have been adapted to several platforms including truck-mounted batteries, and it is not always easily apparent which service branch maintains operational control over specific coastal batteries. Some missiles are capable of hitting Gulf Arab ports, especially if forward-deployed on island chains.

Eurozone’s ‘big bazooka’ bail-Out fund is left in tatters by S&P downgrade

Plans for a €1 trillion “big bazooka” to stem the debt crisis were crushed on Monday night as Standard & Poor’s stripped the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) of its AAA credit rating.

Eurozone's 'big bazooka' bail-out fund is left in tatters by S&P downgrade

S&P said the EFSF’s rating would be cut again if member states’ creditworthiness eroded further. Photo: RPStudio / Alamy

10:37PM GMT 16 Jan 2012

The EFSF, which is tasked with supporting indebted countries, was itself hobbled as S&P gave it a AA+ rating, reflecting the downgrade of France and eight other eurozone countries on Friday.

As the standoff with Greece’s creditors continued and Italy pleaded for help to reduce the cost of borrowing, S&P said the EFSF’s rating would be cut again if member states’ creditworthiness eroded further.

Leaders appeared to abandon hopes for the EFSF and turned their focus on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) instead. Herman van Rompuy, co-president of the European Union, said he would assess the size of the ESM “without delay” and ensure it is operational by July.

Klaus Regling, chief executive of the EFSF, said the fund would have “sufficient means to fulfil its commitments under current and potential future adjustment programmes until the ESM becomes operational in July 2012”.

S&P was severely criticised across the eurozone, even before the EFSF decision was announced. Olli Rehn, an EU Commissioner, said ratings agencies are the tools of “American financial capitalism”.

Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, said rating agencies’ influence should be curbed and insisted German guarantees for the EFSF were sufficient. The governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, said S&P’s mass downgrades “constitutes an additional challenge”.

A bigger hurdle was emerging as Greece’s international creditors warned that crucial talks would not resume without “progress” from Athens and the troika, made up of the nternational Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and EU.

Private holders of Greek bonds are thought to have urged Germany and France to use their weight to persuade troika officials to relax their demands.

Charles Dallara, director of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) who is negotiating on behalf of creditors, has argued that bondholders will accept 50pc losses on their debt but not artificially low coupons on new Greek paper. Efforts to reach a deal, which Greece must do to avert default in March, were suspended on Friday.

Frank Vogl, a spokesman for Mr Dallara, said: “Charles has a plan to go back to Athens but that depends on further progress from official parties that can lead to an agreement.”

The euro fell to an 11-year low against the yen and a 17-month low against the dollar. Stockmarkets rose marginally after a successful sale of French Treasury bills but the Paris faces a bigger test at a bond auction on Thursday.

A summit between Germany, France and Italy, scheduled for Friday in Rome, has been postponed until February.

Stresses in the European banking sector were shown by a record €493bn of deposits being parked with the ECB on Friday night. Latest figures showed that the central bank also bought €3.766bn of eurozone bonds last week, up from €1.104bn the previous week.

Full-Blown Civil War Erupts On Wall Street – Financial Elite Start Turning On Each Other

By David DeGraw – ampedstatus.org

Finally, after trillions in fraudulent activity, trillions in bailouts, trillions in printed money, billions in political bribing and billions in bonuses, the criminal cartel members on Wall Street are beginning to get what they deserve. As the Eurozone is coming apart at the seams and as the US economy grinds to a halt, the financial elite are starting to turn on each other. The lawsuits are piling up fast. Here’s an extensive roundup:

Time to put your Big Bank shorts on! Get ready for a run… The chickens are coming home to roost… The Global Banking Cartel’s crimes are being exposed left & right… Prepare for Shock & Awe…

Well, well… here’s your Shock & Awe:

First up, this shockingly huge $196 billion lawsuit just filed against 17 major banks on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bank of America is severely exposed in this lawsuit. As the parent company of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch they are on the hook for $57.4 billion. JP Morgan is next in the line of fire with $33 billion. And many death spiraling European banks are facing billions in losses as well.

FHA Files a $196 Billion Lawsuit Against 17 Banks

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), today filed lawsuits against 17 financial institutions, certain of their officers and various unaffiliated lead underwriters. The suits allege violations of federal securities laws and common law in the sale of residential private-label mortgage-backed securities (PLS) to the Enterprises.

Complaints have been filed against the following lead defendants, in alphabetical order:

1. Ally Financial Inc. f/k/a GMAC, LLC – $6 billion
2. Bank of America Corporation – $6 billion
3. Barclays Bank PLC – $4.9 billion
4. Citigroup, Inc. – $3.5 billion
5. Countrywide Financial Corporation -$26.6 billion
6. Credit Suisse Holdings (USA), Inc. – $14.1 billion
7. Deutsche Bank AG – $14.2 billion
8. First Horizon National Corporation – $883 million
9. General Electric Company – $549 million
10. Goldman Sachs & Co. – $11.1 billion
11. HSBC North America Holdings, Inc. – $6.2 billion
12. JPMorgan Chase & Co. – $33 billion
13. Merrill Lynch & Co. / First Franklin Financial Corp. – $24.8 billion
14. Morgan Stanley – $10.6 billion
15. Nomura Holding America Inc. – $2 billion
16. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC – $30.4 billion
17. Société Générale – $1.3 billion

These complaints were filed in federal or state court in New York or the federal court in Connecticut. The complaints seek damages and civil penalties under the Securities Act of 1933, similar in content to the complaint FHFA filed against UBS Americas, Inc. on July 27, 2011. In addition, each complaint seeks compensatory damages for negligent misrepresentation. Certain complaints also allege state securities law violations or common law fraud. [read full FHFA release]

You can read the suits filed against each individual bank here. For some more information read Bloomberg: BofA, JPMorgan Among 17 Banks Sued by U.S. for $196 Billion. Noticeably absent from the list of companies being sued is Wells Fargo.

And the suits just keep coming…

BofA sued over $1.75 billion Countrywide mortgage pool

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) was sued by the trustee of a $1.75 billion mortgage pool, which seeks to force the bank to buy back the underlying loans because of alleged misrepresentations in how they were made. The lawsuit by the banking unit of US Bancorp (USB.N) is the latest of a number of suits seeking to recover investor losses tied to risky mortgage loans issued by Countrywide Financial Corp, which Bank of America bought in 2008. In a complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, U.S. Bank said Countrywide, which issued the 4,484 loans in the HarborView Mortgage Loan Trust 2005-10, materially breached its obligations by systemically misrepresenting the quality of its underwriting and loan documentation. [read more]

Bank of America kept AIG legal threat under wraps

Top Bank of America Corp lawyers knew as early as January that American International Group Inc was prepared to sue the bank for more than $10 billion, seven months before the lawsuit was filed, according to sources familiar with the matter. Bank of America shares fell more than 20 percent on August 8, the day the lawsuit was filed, adding to worries about the stability of the largest U.S. bank…. The bank made no mention of the lawsuit threat in a quarterly regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission just four days earlier. Nor did management discuss it on conference calls about quarterly results and other pending legal claims. [read more]

Nevada Lawsuit Shows Bank of America’s Criminal Incompetence

As we’ve stated before, litigation by attorney general is significant not merely due to the damages and remedies sought, but because it paves the way for private lawsuits. And make no mistake about it, this filing is a doozy. It shows the Federal/state attorney general mortgage settlement effort to be a complete travesty. The claim describes, in considerable detail, how various Bank of America units engaged in misconduct in virtually every aspect of its residential mortgage business. [read more]

Nevada Wallops Bank of America With Sweeping Suit; Nationwide Foreclosure Settlement in Peril

The sweeping new suit could have repercussions far beyond Nevada’s borders. It further jeopardizes a possible nationwide settlement with the five largest U.S. banks over their foreclosure practices, especially given concerns voiced by other attorneys general, New York’s foremost among them…. In a statement, Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said reaching a settlement would bring a better outcome for homeowners than litigation. “We believe that the best way to get the housing market going again in every state is a global settlement that addresses these issues fairly, comprehensively and with finality. [read more]

FDIC Objects to Bank of America’s $8.5 Billion Mortgage-Bond Accord

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is objecting to Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s proposed $8.5 billion mortgage-bond settlement with investors, joining investors and states that are challenging the agreement. The FDIC owns securities covered by the settlement and said it doesn’t have enough information to evaluate the accord, according to a filing today in federal court in Manhattan. Bank of America has agreed to pay $8.5 billion to resolve claims from investors in Countrywide Financial mortgage bonds. The settlement was negotiated with a group of institutional investors and would apply to investors outside that group. [read more]

Fed asks Bank of America to list contingency plan: report

The Federal Reserve has asked Bank of America Corp to show what measures it could take if business conditions worsen, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation. BofA executives recently responded to the unusual request from the Federal Reserve with a list of options that includes the issuance of a separate class of shares tied to the performance of its Merrill Lynch securities unit, the people told the paper. Bank of America and the Fed declined to comment to the Journal. Both could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours. [
read more]

Bombshell Admission of Failed Securitization Process in American Home Mortgage Servicing/LPS Lawsuit

Wow, Jones Day just created a huge mess for its client and banks generally if anyone is alert enough to act on it. The lawsuit in question is American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc. v Lender Processing Services. It hasn’t gotten all that much attention (unless you are on the LPS deathwatch beat) because to most, it looks like yet another beauty contest between Cinderella’s two ugly sisters. AHMSI is a servicer (the successor to Option One, and it may also still have some Ameriquest servicing).

AHMSI is mad at LPS because LPS was supposed to prepare certain types of documentation AHMSI used in foreclosures. AHMSI authorized the use of certain designated staffers signing with the authority of AHSI (what we call robosinging, since the people signing these documents didn’t have personal knowledge, which is required if any of the documents were affidavits). But it did not authorize the use of surrogate signers, which were (I kid you not) people hired to forge the signatures of robosigners. The lawsuit rather matter of factly makes a stunning admission… [read more]

Fraudclosure: MERS Case Filed With Supreme Court

Before readers get worried by virtue of the headline that the Supreme Court will use its magic legal wand to make the dubious MERS mortgage registry system viable, consider the following:

1. The Supreme Court hears only a very small portion of the cases filed with it, and is less likely to take one with these demographics (filed by a private party, and an appeal out of a state court system, as opposed to Federal court). This case, Gomes v. Countywide, was decided against the plaintiff in lower and appellate court and the California state supreme court declined to hear it

2. If MERS or the various servicers who have had foreclosures overturned based on challenges to MERS thought they’d get a sympathetic hearing at the Supreme Court, they probably would have filed some time ago. MERS have apparently been settling cases rather than pursue ones where it though the judge would issue an unfavorable precedent

3. The case in question, from what the experts I consulted with and I can tell, is not the sort the Supreme Court would intervene in based on the issue raised, which is due process (14th Amendment). But none of us have seen the underlying lower and appellate court cases, and the summaries we’ve seen are unusually unclear as to what the legal argument is. [read more]

Iowa Says State AG Accord Won’t Release Banks From Liability

The 50-state attorney general group investigating mortgage foreclosure practices won’t release banks from all civil, or any criminal, liability in a settlement, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said. [read more]

Fed Launches New Formal Enforcement Action Against Goldman Sachs To Review Foreclosure Practices

The Federal Reserve Board has just launched a formal enforcement action against Goldman Sachs related to Litton Loan Services. Litton Loan is the nightmare-ridden mortgage servicing unit, a subsidiary of Goldman, that Goldman has been trying to sell for months. They penned a deal to recently, but the Fed stepped in and required Goldman to end robo-signing taking place at the unit before the sale could be completed. Sounds like this enforcement action is an extension of that requirement. [read more]

Goldman Sachs, Firms Agree With Regulator To End ‘Robo-Signing’ Foreclosure Practices

Goldman Sachs and two other firms have agreed with the New York banking regulator to end the practice known as robo-signing, in which bank employees signed foreclosure documents without reviewing case files as required by law, the Wall Street Journal said. In an agreement with New York’s financial-services superintendent, Goldman, its Litton Loan Servicing unit and Ocwen Financial Corp also agreed to scrutinize loan files for evidence they mishandled borrowers’ paperwork and to cut mortgage payments for some New York homeowners, the Journal said. [read more]

Banks still robo-signing, filing doubtful foreclosure documents

Reuters has found that some of the biggest U.S. banks and other “loan servicers” continue to file questionable foreclosure documents with courts and county clerks. They are using tactics that late last year triggered an outcry, multiple investigations and temporary moratoriums on foreclosures. In recent months, servicers have filed thousands of documents that appear to have been fabricated or improperly altered, or have sworn to false facts. Reuters also identified at least six “robo-signers,” individuals who in recent months have each signed thousands of mortgage assignments — legal documents which pinpoint ownership of a property. These same individuals have been identified — in depositions, court testimony or court rulings — as previously having signed vast numbers of foreclosure documents that they never read or checked. [read more]

JPMorgan fined for contravening Iran, Cuba sanctions

JPMorgan Chase Bank has been fined $88.3 million for contravening US sanctions against regimes in Iran, Cuba and Sudan, and the former Liberian government, the US Treasury Department announced Thursday. The Treasury said that the bank had engaged in a number of “egregious” financial transfers, loans and other facilities involving those countries but, in announcing a settlement with the bank, said they were “apparent” violations of various sanctions regulations. [read more]

This Is Considered Punishment? The Federal Reserve Wells Fargo Farce

What made the news surprising, of course, was that the Federal Reserve has rarely, if ever, taken action against a bank for making predatory loans. Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman, didn’t believe in regulation and turned a blind eye to subprime abuses. His successor, Ben Bernanke, is not the ideologue that Greenspan is, but, as an institution, the Fed prefers to coddle banks rather than punish them.

That the Fed would crack down on Wells Fargo would seem to suggest a long-overdue awakening. Yet, for anyone still hoping for justice in the wake of the financial crisis, the news was hardly encouraging. First, the Fed did not force Wells Fargo to admit guilt — and even let the company issue a press release blaming its wrongdoing on a “relatively small group.”

The $85 million fine was a joke; in just the last quarter, Wells Fargo’s revenues exceeded $20 billion. And compensating borrowers isn’t going to hurt much either. By my calculation, it won’t top $20 million. [read more]

Exclusive: Regulators seek high-frequency trading secrets

U.S. securities regulators have taken the unprecedented step of asking high-frequency trading firms to hand over the details of their trading strategies, and in some cases, their secret computer codes. The requests for proprietary code and algorithm parameters by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a Wall Street brokerage regulator, are part of investigations into suspicious market activity, said Tom Gira, executive vice president of FINRA’s market regulation unit. [read more]

And here’s part of the Collapse Roundup I wrote on August 25th, referenced in the beginning of this report – as you will see, I would probably make a lot more money as an investment adviser:

Collapse Roundup #5: Goliath On The Ropes, Big Banks Getting Hit Hard, It’s A “Bloodbath” As Wall Street’s Crimes Blow Up In Their Face

Time to put your Big Bank shorts on! Get ready for a run…

The chickens are coming home to roost. Reality is catching up with the market riggers (Fed, ECB, PPT, CIA) and the “too big to fail” banks are getting whacked. Trillions of dollars in bailouts and legalized (FASB) accounting fraud cannot save these insolvent zombie banks any longer. The Grim Reaper is on the horizon and his sickle will do what paid off politicians won’t, cut ‘em down to size. So get your silver stake ready, time to plunge it into their vampire squid hearts….

What about Warren Buffet? He saved Goldman Sachs with a bailout in 2008. Can he save Bank of America?…

Warren’s bailout will help BofA over the short run, but $5 billion is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to their problems. The only thing his $5 billion will accomplish is a temporary run up in stock value so everyone who has been killed on the plummeting stock price can then jump out without complete loss….

Trouble a-comin’…

Goldman Sachs TANKS After CEO Lloyd Blankfein Hires Famous Defense Lawyer

Is the Goldman Sachs CEO facing a new lawsuit?

The market seems to think so. Goldman Sachs just tanked in minutes before the close after news that Lloyd Blankfein hired a lawyer famous for defending vilified execs. It’s back up a bit since dropping over 5%, but the news is still concerning.

It’s unclear whether the lawyer is for him, Goldman Sachs, or both, but Goldman Sachs’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein hired Reid Weingarten, a high profile defense attorney who says “I’m used to these monstrously difficult cases where everybody hates my clients,” according to Reuters.

Reuters says the hire might have something to do with accusations of Blankfein’s committing perjury. Or something else:

One former federal prosecutor, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Blankfein may have hired outside counsel after receiving a request from investigators for documents or other information. [read full report]

Speaking of hiring lawyers…

The Global Banking Cartel’s Crimes Are Being Exposed Left & Right… Blowing Up In Their Face… Prepare for Shock & Awe… BOOM!

Moody’s exposed:

MOODY’S ANALYST BREAKS SILENCE: Says Ratings Agency Rotten To Core With Conflicts

A former senior analyst at Moody’s has gone public with his story of how one of the country’s most important rating agencies is corrupted to the core.

The analyst, William J. Harrington, worked for Moody’s for 11 years, from 1999 until his resignation last year.

From 2006 to 2010, Harrington was a Senior Vice President in the derivative products group, which was responsible for producing many of the disastrous ratings Moody’s issued during the housing bubble.

Harrington has made his story public in the form of a 78-page “comment” to the SEC’s proposed rules about rating agency reform….

Here are some key points:

* Moody’s ratings often do not reflect its analysts’ private conclusions. Instead, rating committees privately conclude that certain securities deserve certain ratings–but then vote with management to give the securities the higher ratings that issuer clients want.

* Moody’s management and “compliance” officers do everything possible to make issuer clients happy–and they view analysts who do not do the same as “troublesome.” Management employs a variety of tactics to transform these troublesome analysts into “pliant corporate citizens” who have Moody’s best interests at heart.

* Moody’s product managers participate in–and vote on–ratings decisions. These product managers are the same people who are directly responsible for keeping clients happy and growing Moody’s business.

* At least one senior executive lied under oath at the hearings into rating agency conduct. Another executive, who Harrington says exemplified management’s emphasis on giving issuers what they wanted, skipped the hearings altogether. [read full report]

Breaking.Nuclear scientist killed in blast in Tehran

Iran accuses Western powers and Israel of being behind the recent assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist

A university professor and nuclear scientist was killed by a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist in Tehran on Wednesday morning, Iranian fars news reported.

Iran’s TV identified the victim as nuclear expert Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a professor at Tehran’s technical university. Roshan, 32, was a graduate of oil industry university and supervised a department at Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan province.

Wednesday’s blast was similar to the 2010 bomb attacks against the then university professor, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. He survived the attack. However, his colleague Majid Shahriari was assassinated in separate terrorist bomb attack in Tehran with the latter killed immediately after the blast.

Another Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was assassinated in a bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010.

The Tehran deputy governor said that Israel was behind the “assassination” that occurred in Tehran today.He added that it was aimed at “militarizing” situation, disrupting Iranian elections the Fars news agency reported.

Oil executive threatens Obama over Keystone XL

Published: 06 January, 2012, 02:48

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

TAGS: ObamaPoliticsLawUSANorth America

 

The largest energy firm in America is attacking President Obama, insisting that the White House’s refusal to cooperate with the Keystone XL pipeline will cause the commander-in-chief to suffer in the 2012 election.

The proposed pipeline would stretch roughly 1,700 miles into America out of the Canadian oil sands to the north and across a massive span of the US. Although backers insist that the effort would bring thousands of jobs and add to America’s reserve of natural resources, activists opposed to the plan have been largely agitated over the detrimental toll the pipeline would cause for the country’s environment.

Facing increased opposition, including but not limited to a series of sit-ins and protests outside his own front door, President Obama delayed offering a decision on a permit that would have let the pipeline start immediately. Instead, said the president, it won’t be until 2013 when the White House will officially give Keystone the thumbs up or thumbs down on the project.

The American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas lobbying group in the country, says that could be a problem for the president.

“This issue is very simple and straightforward, it’s about jobs and national security,” API President Jack Gerard told reporters in a speech this week.

“Anything less than approval or acquiescence in allowing the pipeline to go forward would be inconsistent with the vast majority of Americans,” he added, and insisted that the failure to comply with the API and allegedly the American public would be a bad decision for the Obama administration.

“After waiting more than three years for this pipeline while the country faces prolonged unemployment, the American people are fed up with the president’s inaction on a project that can quickly create jobs,” Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, added in a statement of his own.

On the contrary, a recent Pew poll found that 71 percent of Americans think “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” Barely a quarter of those polled by Pew said they favored expanding exploration and production of fossil fuels.

The impact the API could have on Washington is nothing worth shrugging at. In 2011 alone, the group lobbied to the tune of nearly $6 million on Capitol Hill. At the same time, however, the API has made it abundantly clear that an Obama White House in 2013 is something they aren’t all that keen on. At the dawn of the election cycle, the API sponsored the New Hampshire Energy Freedom Family Festival in New Hampshire, an event attended by around 350 people that attacked the EPA and taxes on the oil industry.

Speaking at the event in support of their goals? GOP contender and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Last February, Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg News that the group was looking to throw their support behind someone come 2012 — and that would be an award welcomed only to a candidate deserving of their profits made by pilfering the Earth for oil

“At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate,” said Durbin.

The API has previously paid for ads that attack policy issues they feel are against what the oil industry stands for, although the Obama administration, much to the API’s chagrin, continues to consider ending tax breaks for energy companies included in API.

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Obama signs new Iran sanctions into law, enjoy US gas prices!

US President Barack Obama Saturday signed into law tough new sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector, in a move that could intensify a brewing Gulf showdown.
The measures, meant to punish Iran for its nuclear program, were contained in a mammoth $662 billion defense bill, which Obama signed despite having reservations that it ties his hands on setting foreign policy.
The sanctions are meant to hit Iran’s crucial oil sector and require foreign firms to make a choice between doing business with Tehran’s financial sector and central bank or the mighty US economy and financial sector.
Foreign central banks which deal with the Iranian central bank on oil transactions could also face restrictions, sparking fears of damage to US ties with key nations such as Russia and China which trade with Iran.
Obama signed the bill in Hawaii where he is on vacation, at a time of rising tension with Tehran, which has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — through which more than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes.
The United States has warned it will “not tolerate” such an interruption.
In comments reported Saturday, Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili warned that Iran would “give a resounding and many-pronged response to any threat” made against it.
But Jalili also said Iran was ready to rejoin EU-led talks with major powers on assuaging Western concerns over its nuclear program.
The White House held intense negotiations with Congress on the terms of the law’s implementation, given concern that sanctions on Iran’s central bank could spark chaos in the global financial system and hike the price of oil.
Obama said in a statement issued as he signed the bill that he was concerned the measure would interfere with his constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by tying his hands in dealings with foreign governments.
The bill, which passed with wide majorities in Congress, did reserve some wiggle room for Obama, granting him the power to grant 120-day waivers if he judges it to be in the national security interests of the United States.
Earlier this month, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote to Congress to express concern against an earlier, tougher sanctions measure along the same lines saying it could harm the US push with its partners to isolate Iran.
Geithner argued that foreign allies could resent the new US measures and make it less likely they would cooperate and the sanctions would have the “opposite effect” of their intended purpose of isolating Iran.
Senior US officials said Saturday that they would try to implement the new sanctions guidelines in a way that protected the global economy and US foreign policy priorities, in a way which would still inflict pain on Iran.
There are fears that increased sanctions on Iran’s central bank could force the global price of oil to suddenly soar, and actually give Tehran a financial windfall on its existing oil sales.
Rising oil prices could also crimp the fragile economic recovery in the United States and inflict pain on American voters in gas stations — at a time when Obama is running for reelection next year.
The Obama administration argues that it has imposed the toughest-ever sanctions on Iran by the United States and its allies and says the measures are now having a punishing impact on the Iranian economy and petroleum sector.
The West alleges Tehran is seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear research program. Iran denies any such ambition and says its work is only for civil energy and medical purposes.
In recent weeks, Iranian officials have insisted the country was ready to face new sanctions against the oil sector and central bank.
The Wall Street Journal reported this month that US and European officials were seeking assurances from major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, that they would increase exports to the West and Asian nations if tighter sanctions on Tehran’s energy exports are enforced.

US navy crosses Strait of Hormuz after Iranian oil threats

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