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04 ноября 2015, 09:09

Крупнейшие банки Европы сократят 30 тыс. сотрудников

Standard Chartered стал третьим европейским банком менее чем за две недели, который объявил о масштабных сокращениях. Крупнейшие банки Европы сократят более 30 тыс. рабочих мест, или почти каждого седьмого сотрудника.

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10 сентября 2013, 21:19

EPR Properties a play on Hollywood blockbusters

Income fans can get in on big profits rolling into Hollywood from franchise films with EPR Properties (EPR -1.1%), writes Jack Hough in Barron's. The REIT derives more than half of its income from multiplex theaters - it yields 6.5% and payouts are likely to increase in coming years, says Hough.Not your standard office or retail rental REIT, EPR owns charter schools, ski resorts, and water parks, in addition to theaters. New leases typically have investment yields over 9%, occupancy is (currently) 98%, and almost all leases are triple-net.The shares trade at about 13x this year's expected FFO vs. 16x for net lease REITs, and the dividend yield of 6.5% is more than 100 bps higher than the group average.Earlier: Janney starts coverage on a number of equity REITs, EPR not among them.ETFs of interest: FRI, WREI, FTY, ICF, IYR, REZ, RTL, PSR, KBWY, SCHH, RWR, VNQ, DRN, URE, DRV, SRS, REK, ROOF. Post your comment!

10 сентября 2013, 15:12

JK Rowling and Hacked Off urge PM to reject press plans for own regulator

Campaign group accuses newspapers of 'cynical manoeuvre' to discredit Leveson inquiryJK Rowling, Kate and Gerry McCann and other supporters of Hacked Off, the lobby group campaigning for press reforms, have written to David Cameron urging him to reject newspaper plans to set up their own regulator.In an open letter to the prime minister, they accuse the press of engaging in a "cynical manoeuvre" to delay the approval of the charter that got cross-party agreement in March and said "several papers continue to abuse the power of the press in the attempt to discredit the Leveson inquiry".The letter was submitted ahead of a session on Tuesday of the Commons liaison committee at which Cameron is due to take questions about press reforms.Hacked Off said newspapers have shown "no real regret for the grave failures identified in the report of the Leveson inquiry, nor have they engaged in sincere dialogue with the public, with parliament or with us".Instead, it said, they have devised their own scheme for self-regulation in consultation with themselves, a reference to the industry's plan to set up an Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso).The country's main newspaper groups – including Associated Newspapers, Telegraph Media Group, News UK, Trinity Mirror, regional newspapers and leading magazines – have all swung behind the drive to set up Ipso by the new year.Three national newspapers – the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Independent – have reservations about Ipso's financing and independence but are actively involved in discussions trying to resolve the differences.Hacked Off urged Cameron to "make clear to leading newspaper publishers that they must change their approach if they are to win back the public's trust".If he does not do this, newspapers will continue to go on "marking their own homework" and create deeper distrust from the public, according to Hacked Off.The letter was also signed by 16 people including Bristol landlord Chris Jefferies, Jane Winter, who heads a charity in Northern Ireland that deals with unionist and nationalist communities, former police officer Jacqui Hames and Baroness Hollins.The letter argued that Ipso "clearly lacks the key elements of independence and effectiveness that the judge [Leveson] said were essential if the public is to be protected".• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email [email protected] or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".• To get the latest media news on your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook.Press regulationHacked Off campaignJK RowlingDavid CameronNewspapers & magazinesNational newspapersNewspapersPress intrusionLisa O'Carroll theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds 

13 марта 2013, 18:51

Великобритания: Vedanta планирует привлечь кредит на сумму $3,5 млрд

По сведениям из осведомленного источника, британская горнодобывающая компания Vedanta Resources, принадлежащая миллиардеру Анилу Агарвалу (Anil Agarwal), планирует привлечь кредит на сумму $3,5 млрд с целью рефинансирования долговых обязательств. Как стало известно, средства будут предоставлены такими банками, как Bank of America, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Royal Bank of Scotland Group и Standard Chartered.

13 марта 2013, 14:29

Британские банки скрывают потери на 47,4 млрд долларов

Крупные банки Великобритании скрывают с помощью «бухгалтерских уловок» потери, объем которых составил 47,4 млрд долларов. По подсчетам британской компании Pensions & Investment Research Consultants, банки использовали старые стандарты бухучета для того, чтобы не вычитать из прибылей различные расходы и потери, такие как расходы по проблемным займам и отложенные бонусы. Так, потери HSBC компания оценила в 15,5 млрд долларов, Royal Bank of Scotland - в 14 млрд, Barclays - 10,9 млрд, Lloyds Banking Group - 3,7 млрд, Standard Chartered - 3,2 млрд. Глава Казначейства Великобритании Джордж Осборн пригрозил банкам страны расчленением, если те не будут в полной мере соблюдать предписания регуляторов, направленные на стабилизацию финансовой системы страны. Осборн был вынужден поддаться политическому давлению и согласиться с тем, что налогоплательщики должны быть полностью защищены от очередного коллапса банковской системы.

13 марта 2013, 12:54

Британские банки скрывают $47,4 млрд потерь

Крупные финансовые банки скрывают с помощью "бухгалтерских уловок" потери, объем которых составил $47,4 млрд.Согласно подсчетам британской компании Pensions & Investment Research Consultants банки использовали старые стандарты бухгалтерского учета, для того чтобы не вычитать из прибылей различные расходы и потери, такие как расходы по проблемным займам и отложенные бонусы. Банк Потери, млрд £ Потери, млрд $ HSB 10,4 15,5 Royal Bank of Scotland 9,4 14 Barclays 7,3 10,9 Lloyds Banking Group 2,5 3,7 Standard Chartered 2,2 3,2 Общий объем 31,8 47,4 Ранее банкам уже угрожали "расчленением" в ответ на подобные схемы. Глава Казначейства Великобритании Джордж Осборн пригрозил банкам страны расчленением, в том случае если не будут в полной мере соблюдаться предписания регуляторов, которые направлены на стабилизацию финансовой системы страны.Осборн был вынужден поддаться политическому давлению и согласиться с тем, что налогоплательщики должны быть полностью защищены от очередного коллапса банковской системы.

13 марта 2013, 01:29

David Macaray: Labor Abuses Alleged at McDonald's

Last week (March 6), McDonald's, the international fast-food juggernaut, was surprised and, one hopes, publicly embarrassed when a group of student "guest workers" in central Pennsylvania called an impromptu strike to protest working conditions. According to the guest workers, McDonald's failed to comply with the terms of their agreement, and used intimidation and threats or retaliation to keep them at bay. These workers (from Latin America and Asia) came to the U.S. under the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Program, part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (AKA the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961). A J-1 visa is a "non-immigrant visa," given to visitors who participate in programs designed to promote cultural exchange. Inaugurated in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the program was both a valid attempt to introduce foreigners to the American Way of Life as well a standard propaganda tool. Originally, the program's charter had it focusing primarily on medical or business training, along with visiting scholars who were in the U.S. temporarily to teach and do research. And because it was specifically a cultural exchange program, the J-1 visa fell under the auspices of the now defunct USIA (United States Information Agency) rather than the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service). How it evolved from medical and business training to flipping hamburgers shouldn't be a mystery. Business interests lobbied hard for the expansion. These visiting workers have turned out to be a bonanza. Each year hundreds of thousands of them are brought to the United States under programs like J-1, and, according to the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the agency that keeps track of them (and who encouraged and supported the McDonald's protest), these so-called "cultural exchanges" have, over the years, been badly compromised. Given the overwhelming temptation to engage in mischief, employee abuse is now rampant. What's happened is that guest workers are now viewed by American businesses as a "captive workforce"--a gullible and needy workforce unschooled in American customs and expectations, and without recourse to labor laws or union representation. Not surprisingly, these visitors are being systematically victimized. According to the NGA, the McDonald's "employees" had paid their own way (approximately $3,000 each) for the opportunity to work in the United States. Presumably, that money went for transportation and fees to GeoVision, the for-profit organization that sponsored them. Among the "abuses" alleged by McDonald's guest workers: (1) They'd been promised full-time jobs, but most were given only a few hours a week. (2) They were nonetheless forced to be on call twenty-four hours a day, and were intimidated and threatened if they complained. (3) The company failed to pay them overtime they were entitled to. (5) According to NGA, their employer is also their landlord, and even though there are as many as half a dozen co-workers sharing a room, their rent (which is automatically taken out of their paycheck) renders them making less than minimum wage. Any complaints, and they're threatened with being sent back home. None of this should come as a surprise. When there's an opportunity to lower operating costs by exploiting labor, management will usually take advantage of it. Call it the Law of the Jungle, call it succumbing to market forces, call it "gaining a competitive edge." But whatever we call it, it's the workers who are expected to sacrifice. Southern California's restaurant and car-washing industries are sparkling examples of this phenomenon, notorious for exploiting frightened, undocumented Mexican workers by paying them less than minimum wage, and breaking with impunity every labor and safety statute in the book. Why? Because they CAN. Who's going to report them? David Macaray, an LA playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor"), was a former union rep.

12 марта 2013, 22:13

Bedroom tax 'in chaos' after Iain Duncan Smith announces exemptions

Work and pensions secretary says foster carers and parents with children in armed forces will not have to pay for spare bedroomsThe work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has denied claims that his controversial bedroom tax policy has descended into "total chaos" after he announced a partial U-turn to exempt foster carers and parents of teenage armed forces personnel from the charge, just three weeks before it is due to come into force.The concessions came in a written ministerial statement after weeks of growing political pressure. The policy dominated exchanges last week at prime minister's questions in the Commons, where David Cameron defended what he called the "spare-room subsidy" from an attack by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.The changes will mean that about 5,000 approved foster carers will now be exempted from the bedroom tax, which from April will see people in social housing charged for empty bedrooms. They will be allowed an additional room as long as they have fostered a child or become a registered carer in the past 12 months.Parents whose children live at home but are away on operations with the armed forces will also not be charged for their child's "spare bedroom", as long as their offspring intend to return home.Duncan Smith said he had also issued guidance to local authorities emphasising that discretionary payments would be available to support "other priority groups" affected, including "people whose homes have had significant disability adaptations and those with long-term medical conditions that create difficulties in sharing a bedroom".However, the opposition and campaigners pointed out that the concessions would exempt just a tiny fraction of the 660,000 people affected by the bedroom tax.The shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "David Cameron's Bedroom Tax has descended into total chaos."Ministers have said nothing today to guarantee disabled children will be protected from his hated Bedroom Tax. They have said nothing to almost half a million households that are home to a disabled person who are set to lose over £700 at exactly the same time as millionaires receive a massive tax cut."However, the work and pensions secretary told ITV news that he remained committed to the basic principles of the bedroom tax: "It's a very good policy, the public knows it's a good policy. This is absolutely right. All we need to do here is make sure the guidance is very clear so that local authorities can deal with those exceptional items but the main policy is absolutely straight."The bedroom tax, due to come into effect in April, will be applied to working age claimants in social housing deemed to have more bedrooms than they require. Tenants affected will face a 14% cut in housing benefit for the first "excess" bedroom, and 25% where two or more bedrooms are "under-occupied". The government, which estimates the average household affected will lose £14 a week, says the policy will save the exchequer £500m a year.The bedroom tax row came as the TUC published research claiming that just over half of all children will be living in below minimum income poverty standards within two years as a result of the government's welfare and tax reforms.It said tax and welfare changes, including tax credit cuts, and the VAT rise to 20% would be compounded by wage freezes in the public sector, pushing 500,000 more children into poverty.TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "By the 2015 election, the majority of children in Britain will be living below the breadline. For any civilised society, that should be shaming."A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the bedroom tax concessions represented a "clarification" rather than a u-turn. "It was always our intention that foster carers and armed forces personnel would be covered by discretionary housing payments (DHPs) and therefore not affected. We will now adjust the regulations to give greater certainty."David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said: "The DWPs' continued claim that DHPs [additional funding to mitigate the worst effects] will protect all of the most vulnerable is simply not true. Even if DHP was divided equally only among those receiving disability living allowance, they would receive only £2.51 a week, compared to an average loss of £14 per week. It doesn't add up."Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, which has been lobbying for the change, said: "This change of policy means that foster carers can sleep easy knowing that they will not be punished for providing homes for some of the UKs most vulnerable children."Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: "Government must now act to exempt carers who cannot share with disabled partners, disabled children who cannot share with siblings, and families who need space for medical equipment or home adaptations. These families should not be forced to appeal to a limited pot of discretionary funding – they must be exempt from the changes."Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Grainia Long said: "These concessions are welcome but they are not enough. Other people are also unfairly affected, for instance, people who need a bigger home because of a disability should also be exempt."We know that the open market doesn't cater particularly well for these people, and they should not be penalised for living in social housing when in many cases there is nowhere else for them to go."Housing benefitSocial housingIain Duncan SmithHousingBenefitsCommunitiesPatrick Butlerguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

12 марта 2013, 21:35

Mark-To-Market Manipulation Hides $90 Billion Losses For UK Banks

Some have attributed the resurrection of the financial markets (or more appropriately the banks) from the March 2009 lows to the IASB/FASB changes to factual to fantasy accounting. The Telegraph reports today that from PIRC's and the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee that while banker bonuses continue to rise (for now), 'hidden' losses among UK banks could total GBP60 Billion (USD 90 Billion). HSBC topped the list with GBP10.4 Billion in bad debts that have yet to be written off and while the 'accounting' bodies are suggesting they will address criticism of this farce, as one analyst notes, they "can still make unprofitable lending appear profitable." Regulators expect to hear plans from lenders on how they intend to fill these holes before the end of the month to coincide either with the FPC’s meeting on March 19 or a statement scheduled for March 27. While outright recaps are unlikely, banks are expected to restructure and set out plans to raise their capital levels over the next couple of years. More fantasy...   Via The Telegraph, PIRC has calculated the amount of bad debts the banks may have to write off in coming years but have yet to subtract from profits, together with other items such as deferred bonuses not booked.   HSBC, which is the biggest bank by assets, was shown to have £10.4bn of hidden losses, the Royal Bank of Scotland has £9.4bn, and Barclays has £7.3bn. Lloyds Banking Group has £2.5bn and Standard Chartered £2.2bn. Together the undeclared losses total £31.8bn.   The research shows the distorting impact the accounting rules, which allow bad loans to remain hidden, have on bank results.   ...   Apart from Basel rules that require banks to declare half the expected losses over a year, bad loans and expected losses do not appear in the banks’ accounts under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).   Last week the London-based IASB, which sets accounting rules for all listed companies in a raft of countries, agreed to address criticism of IFRS with plans for tougher capital requirements against expected losses. However, the provisions only have to be for losses expect over 12 months. The US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) changed its rules in December to demand provisions for the life of the loan, as UK GAAP did too.   Tim Bush, head of financial analysis at PIRC and long-term critic of IFRS, said: “The 12 months expected loss is neither here nor there. It is clear that bad loans in RBS and HBOS on lending in 2006 and 2007 took four or five years to come through, the 12 month view can still make unprofitable lending appear profitable... ”   The warning follows regulatory pressure to force the UK’s banks and building societies to disclose their hidden losses, which supervisors at the Bank of England have suggested could total as much as £60bn. Lenders have just weeks left to clarify present the regulators with plans to fill the holes.   ...   An announcement on the industry’s response is expected before the end of the month to coincide either with the FPC’s meeting on March 19 or a statement scheduled for March 27.   Outright recapitalisations are unlikely, though. Banks are expected to restructure and set out plans to raise their capital levels over the next couple of years. ...

08 марта 2013, 13:56

US airline staff oppose plan to allow small knives on planes

Flight crews, pilots and air marshals join growing protest against TSA plans to allow pen knives and sporting goods in cabinsAmerican flight attendants, pilots, air marshals and insurance companies are part of a growing opposition to plans to allow passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment, such as souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs, on to planes.The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which represents nearly 90,000 air stewards, said it was co-ordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy announced by the Transportation Security Administration this week. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House's website urging the administration to tell the TSA to keep knives off planes had more than 9,300 signatures by Friday morning."Our nation's aviation system is the safest in the world thanks to multilayered security measures that include prohibition on many items that could pose a threat to the integrity of the aircraft cabin," the coalition, which is made up of five unions, said in a statement. "The continued ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security and must remain in place."Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose 26,000 members include federal air marshals, complained that he and other "stakeholders" were not consulted by TSA before the "counter-safety policy" was announced. He said the association would ask Congress to block the policy change.The Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations, which represents 22,000 pilots, said it opposed allowing knives of any kind in airliner cabins."We believe the [terrorism] threat is still real and the removal of any layer of security will put crew members and the flying public unnecessarily in harm's way," Mike Karn, the coalition's president, said.The policy, which comes into effect on 25 April, permits folding knives with blades that are 60mm (2.36in) or less in length and are less than 12.7mm wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other small knives.Passengers will also be allowed to include in their carry-on luggage novelty-sized baseball bats less than 610mm long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs. Items such as box cutters and razor blades are still prohibited.There has been a gradual easing of some of the security measures applied to airline passengers after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.The new policy conforms US security standards to international standards and would allow the TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said when it announced the change. The change was based on a recommendation from an internal TSA working group, which decided the items represented no real danger, it said.A TSA spokesman said the presence on flights of gun-carrying pilots travelling as passengers, federal air marshals and airline crew members trained in self-defence provide additional layers of security to protect against misuse of the newly allowed items.Not all flights, however, have federal air marshals or armed pilots on board.The policy has triggered a debate over the mission of the TSA and whether it is supposed to concentrate exclusively on preventing terrorists from hijacking or blowing up planes, or whether it should also help protect passengers and crews from unruly and sometimes dangerous passengers."The charter, the mission of TSA is to stop an airplane from being used as a weapon and to stop catastrophic damage to that aircraft," said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the agency, adding: "These small knives, these baseball bats, these sporting items aren't going to contribute to bringing an airplane down."In era of reinforced cockpit doors and passengers who have shown a willingness to intervene, the threat from terrorism had been greatly reduced, said Andrew Thomas, a University of Akron business professor and author of several books on the airline industry and security. Rather, "acts of aberrant, abusive and abnormal passenger behaviour known as air rage remain the most persistent threat to aviation security".US national securityUnited StatesAirline industryAir transportGlobal terrorismguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

07 марта 2013, 16:44

Joy Resmovits: Ed Today: Michelle Rhee Group Opens South Carolina Outfit; Common Core Supporters Strike Back

Michelle Rhee Sets Up Shop In SC StudentsFirst, the former D.C. chancellor's national lobbying group, is branching out into South Carolina, reports the Post and Courier. The paper notes that SC received a "D" grade on SF's recent policy report card -- not exactly stellar. On the group's SC agenda: turnarounds, teacher evaluations, charter school accountability, and the parent trigger. Oh, and here's how one Carolina teacher reacted to the news. Though it should be noted that the SF teacher fellow quoted by the P&C was more positive. Different Goals For Different Races? Under No Child Left Behind waivers, 34 states have been approved to have accountability plans that differ from the blunt yardstick of annual yearly progress ("AYP") as determined by the law. In fact, as you can see on this map created by Education Nation, many states have different academic goals for different races or ethnic groups. This variation set off major alarm bells in places like Virginia last year. Apparently, the map sets the state for an NBC Nightly News segment on the issue. New Mexico Tosses School Grades? Lawmakers in New Mexico think the state's school-grading formula is "an inaccurate mess," according to the Current-Argis, so they voted to scrap it and replace it with a new one. Now, standardized tests constitute 90 percent of a school's grade -- a number too high for some senators. Anti-Common Core Fight Slows In Alabama? A vote to scrap Alabama's participation in the Common Core standards, a set of learning goals most states have adopted, has been delayed, reports al.com Why the wait? "To give people on both sides of the issue more time to get unconfused," the site reports. Meanwhile In Florida... Pols down south don't think they can make the Common Core deadlines, reports the Tampa Bay Times. "Many teachers have not been trained. The FCAT's successor is still being developed," the paper reports. "State officials have yet to figure out how it will mesh with Florida's school accountability system." And In Indiana... National advocacy group Stand for Children is going to the mat to protect the Common Core in the Hoosier state. The push includes TV and radio advertisements.

25 февраля 2013, 22:15

Ed Crego, George Muñoz and Frank Islam: National Service Not Military Service

A debate has erupted over the past year or so regarding reinstating the military draft. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) has introduced a bill for this purpose. Proponents of the reinstatement include Thomas Ricks, a fellow at the Center for New American Security, and Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. Their primary arguments center on the points a draft would cause greater deliberation before entering a conflict, shorten the length of engagement due to public pressure, and provide relief to an all volunteer army during extended periods of combat. Opponents of the reinstatement include Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense under President Nixon, and Elliot Feldman, a special project officer and consultant in the Defense Department in the Reagan administration. Their primary arguments center on the points that an all volunteer force is: highly professional and well trained, more cost effective than the alternative; and, it would be difficult to make the draft equitable. Given the nature and consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in terms of blood and treasure, this is an important debate to have. In our opinion, however, the debate is too narrowly framed. It should be about whether we should have a program of mandatory national service not military service. We first proposed such an initiative in our book, Renewing the American Dream: A Citizen's Guide for Restoring Our Competitive Advantage. If there were a requirement for national service for those youth of a certain age, military service could be one of just many options they could select. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson called upon us to build a "Great Society." Note that President Johnson used the word "society" and not "country." In the mid 1970s, President Jimmy Carter asked that we sacrifice by reducing our gas consumption. Since the early 1980s, requests for shared commitments or sacrifices have not been too visible on the country's radar screen. Until the past few years, the national refrain appears to have been "Ask what you can do for yourself." Service to country seemed to belong to those in the armed forces, the well off or the do-gooders. We are not recommending that the draft be reinstated to correct. We believe, however, that some type of national service should be made mandatory. The service could take one of many forms, for example, military, community, or education. During the 2008 campaign for the presidency, John McCain and Barack Obama both expressed a desire for more Americans to be engaged in national service when they shared the stage at Columbia University at a forum commemorating the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. However, it is Jim Lehrer who speaks most articulately on this topic. As the commencement speaker at Harvard University in 2006, Mr. Lehrer stated, I have come with only one major commencement-like point to make... I believe we should consider adapting some form of national service. No, not a return to the military draft -- something entirely different, and completely new for us. National service in its fullest meaning. Jim proceeded to recall the lessons he learned about life and himself in the diverse company of his fellow marines during his three years of service. He then observed why he felt national service was so necessary: ... I have never seen us more disconnected from each other than we are right now....We are splintering off into segments, interest groups, lobbies, target audiences, blogs, boxes...Our racial, cultural and religious differences -- always our great strength -- have become an instrument in our great disconnection. Our growing economic differences... are feeding this. Our politics at the moment actually seem to be encouraging it; and our otherwise terrific explosion in new media outlets for information and debate... Fast forward. Have we as a nation become less disconnected and have things gotten less divisive over the past six years? Overall, we think not. The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 and other initiatives such as service learning projects for students moved us in a more collaborative and interdependent direction. But, the explosion of the Tea Party upon the scene, the dysfunction of the 112th Congress, the highly charged and negative tone of most of the presidential contest of 2012, and a Pew Research survey that shows the partisan "values" gap between us as citizens at an all time high provide ample evidence that we have grown more divided rather than more united as a nation over the past six years. In 1930, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote an article for the Pictorial Review titled "Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education." In her article Ms. Roosevelt eloquently made the case that the schools and parents are mutually responsible for developing citizens and a commitment to a set of common core values. She observed, If the elders look upon public questions from purely selfish angles, with a view as to how they will be affected personally, and not as to what are the needs of the country or the world, then it is safe to predict that youth will do the same. This teaching of citizenship in the schools must be supplemented by teaching and example in the home. She concluded by stating, As the great majority of our children are being educated in public schools, it is all-important that the standards of citizenship should be of the best.... we should take a constant interest in all educational institutions and remember that on the public school largely depends the success or failure of our great experiment in government 'by the people, for the people.' It is 2013. Our public schools today pay little to no attention to the cultivation of citizenship. They devote the majority of their time to STEM and teaching to the test. Soon, they may very well not be teaching the majority of our children. Charter schools, home schools, private schools, other schools. Where do they stand and what do they do to promote the cause of citizenship, bringing us together, and service to the country? We are indeed at a pivot point for the "success or failure of our great experiment" in government." Schools and families must play an essential role in building citizenship and the character of the nation. So too should national service. In his Harvard comment speech, Jim Lehrer said, "I believe what we need is a new hard real-world dose of shared experience." We couldn't say it any better. National service provides a basis for sharing and potentially bridging divides. In the United States today, service remains somebody else's business. We need to make it the nation's business -- service to our country and our fellow citizens. That is the measure of true patriotism. It is not about waving the flag or pledging allegiance. It is about standing up and doing what is required to make America the very best it can be. A program of national service provides the means for accomplishing that. That is why we are advocates for it. To get regular updates on what Ed, George and Frank are writing and reading, subscribe to their newsletter by going to the following link: http://bit.ly/pivotsignup

15 февраля 2013, 11:00

Surge in students studying for UK degrees abroad

International students sign up for UK degrees as British universities set up branches and franchises across the world• Why did Oxford Brookes top the table?The number of students studying for UK degrees in overseas countries increased 13% last year, as universities focused their energies on international recruitment.International offshoots of UK universities, partnerships with foreign institutions and online study mean there are now more students on UK university courses abroad than there are international and EU students coming to the UK to study.Some 571,000 students studied abroad in 2011-12, a third more than in 2009-10, with universities enrolling most students in Malaysia, Singapore and Pakistan.Oxford Brookes, which offers students training with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca) the option to also study for a degree in applied accounting, recruited by far the most students overseas (251,990 or 44% of those studying UK degrees abroad). It was followed by the University of London (45,680), the Open University (42,685) and the University of Wales (16,250).The rise in UK transnational educational – where students are located in a country different from the one where their awarding university is based – comes as the number of students from India and Pakistan studying in Britain fell for the first time last year. University leaders fear that new visa rules and negative rhetoric from government prompted the slump in enrolments.By running courses overseas, UK universities can take their education to students who cannot make the trip to the UK, says Joanna Newman, director of the UK Higher Education International Unit."There will continue to be demand from students who want to study in the UK. Despite this year's fall in applications from some countries, overall numbers are holding up. But if you look at the demographics of countries like Brazil and Indonesia, it's always a very small proportion of their population that would make the trip to the UK."Most of their students need to be catered for in their own country – UK universities can do this by offering joint degrees and co-regulating."Such arrangements help universities boost their brand abroad, says Alex Bols, executive director of the 1994 Group, which represents smaller research-intensive universities."Opening an international campus is a way of developing a strong physical presence in other countries and attracting students to the UK."However," he warns, "there are also major reputational risks if it goes wrong – both for the institution involved and for the sector more generally."Where universities are one step removed from the teaching offered, it is much harder for them to monitor student experience, adds Bols.News that universities such as UCL are opening branches as far afield as Qatar has attracted headlines over recent years, but it reality, international campuses account for very few (6.7%) transnational students.Most are studying on distance learning (51.2%) courses or collaborative programmes (42%), run in conjunction with local partners.One way universities collaborate is using a validation model, where the UK university validates the degree and has a joint say in the course curriculum but the local partner oversees recruitment, teaching and marketing.An alternative is franchising, which gives the UK university greater control of teaching and assessment. Courses are usually very similar to those in the UK.Bols has reason to warn of the dangers as universities scramble to find a foothold in a lucrative overseas market. The University of Wales's overseas collaborations ran into problems with the Quality Assurance Agency, the body that regulates UK higher education, over standards on courses run by partner institutions.Courses accredited or taught by UK institutions abroad should be as academically rigorous as those taught at home, says Newman, though she admits that the sudden surge in transnational provison is a challenge and the QAA "is stretched".The QAA has already changed the way it regulates universities' overseas partnerships, says a spokesperson for its international team, Carolyn Campbell: "When we began reviewing overseas provision, we were looking only at very small samples abroad. Now we talk directly to students and publish review reports and case studies highlighting what works and what could work better."StudentsHigher educationInternational studentsRebecca Ratcliffeguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

13 февраля 2013, 20:38

Ben Hallman: Rubio Blames Government For Housing Crisis; Contradicts Most Experts

More government, more problems. That was theme of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's televised response to the State of the Union address last night. As evidence, Rubio offered up the lesson of the housing crisis, created, he said, "by reckless government policies." But academics, independent commissions, regulators and others who have studied the crisis have come to a very different conclusion. The federal government certainly deserves its share of blame for not moving to prevent the wild risk-taking that expanded the subprime mortgage bubble to Mall of America-sized proportions, they say. But to say the government was a "major cause," as Rubio said, simply isn't true. The real culprits, they say, were Wall Street and the mortgage industry, which generated huge profits by issuing, packaging and selling off bundles of home loans with little regard for their quality or the ability of borrowers to pay them back. The Republican argument goes something like this: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-chartered mortgage giants, bought risky mortgages in order to meet affordable housing goals. The implicit government guarantee on these loans -- a belief by the market that the government would not allow the mortgage giants to fail -- encouraged even more risk taking. The 2008 taxpayer bailout of Fannie and Freddie, which cost $180 billion, proves this point, they say. There's no question that Fannie and Freddie lowered their standards and bought up bad loans. But the companies did not start making a big move into riskier mortgages until the mortgage boom was well under way. Even then, they were more cautious than the investment banks: just over 15 percent of borrowers with Fannie and Freddie-backed loans made in 2007 have been seriously delinquent, compared to nearly 42 percent of Wall Street-financed mortgages, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. All told, the Center for Public Integrity reported in 2011, mortgages financed by Wall Street from 2001 to 2008 were 4½ times more likely to be seriously delinquent than mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie. Writing for the Washington Post's Wonkblog today, Mike Konczal, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute, cited reports that more than 84 percent of subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lenders. Konczal also noted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac actually lost market share from 2002 during 2005, as the Wall Street mortgage machine kicked into its highest gear. The companies' share of mortgage originations dropped to 30 percent to 50 percent. So rather than driving the mortgage crisis, Fannie and Freddie were trying to play catch up. The most comprehensive study of the housing crisis, by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a bipartisan group appointed by President Obama to report on what had gone wrong blamed "a combination of excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency" and "dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions" for the crisis. The problem wasn't too much government, the commission said. The problem was not enough effective government. "We conclude widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision proved devastating to the stability of the nation's financial markets," the commission wrote.

31 января 2013, 17:52

Israeli Attack: Desperate Bid to Save Failed Syrian Campaign

Tony Cartalucci, ContributorActivist Post Israel has conducted airstrikes in Syria based on "suspicions" of chemical weapon transfers, in a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, international law, and in direct violation of Syria's sovereignty. The Guardian in its report titled, "Israel carries out air strike on Syria," claims:Israeli warplanes have attacked a target close to the Syrian-Lebanese border following several days of heightened warnings from government officials over Syria's stockpiles of weapons.It also stated: Israel has publicly warned that it would take military action to prevent the Syrian regime's chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon or "global jihadists" fighting inside Syria. Israeli military intelligence is said to be monitoring the area round the clock via satellite for possible convoys carrying weapons. In reality, these "global jihaidists" are in fact armed and funded by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel since at least as early as 2007. They are also in fact the direct beneficiaries of Israel's recent aggression. The Israeli "suspicions" of "weapon transfers" of course, remain unconfirmed, because the purpose of the attack was not to prevent the transfer of "chemical weapons" to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but to provoke a wider conflict aimed not at Israel's defense, but at salvaging the West's floundering proxy terrorist forces inside Syria attempting to subvert and overthrow the Syrian nation. The silence from the United Nations is deafening. While Turkey openly harbors foreign terrorists, arming and funding them with Western, Saudi, and Qatari cash as they conduct raids on neighboring Syria, any Syrian attack on Turkish territory would immediately result in the United Nations mobilizing. Conversely, Turkey is allowed, for years, to conduct air strikes and even partial ground invasions of neighboring Iraq to attack Kurdish groups accused of undermining Turkish security. It is clear the same double standard has long applied to Israel. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; Israel, along with the US & Saudi Arabia, are Al Qaeda's chief sponsors.  It must be remembered that as far back as 2007, it was admitted by US, Saudi and Lebanese officials that the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia were intentionally arming, funding, and organizing these "global jihadists" with direct ties to Al Qaeda for the explicit purpose of overthrowing the governments of Syria and Iran. Reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article, "The Redirection," it was stated (emphasis added): To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.Of Israel it specifically stated:The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.Additionally, Saudi Arabian officials mentioned the careful balancing act their nation must play in order to conceal its role in supporting US-Israeli ambitions across the region: The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.” It may interest readers to know that while France invades and occupies large swaths of Mali in Africa, accusing the Qataris of funding and arming Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in the region, France, the US, and Israel are working in tandem with the Qataris to fund and arm these very same groups in Syria.In fact, the US-based think-tank, the Brookings Institution literally has a "Doha Center" based in Qatar while US-Israeli citizen Haim Saban's Brookings "Saban Center" conducts meetings and has many of its board of directors based likewise in Doha, Qatar. Doha also served as the venue for the creation of the West's most recent "Syrian Coalition," headed by an unabashed supporter of Al Qaeda, Moaz al-Khatib. These are part of the brick and mortar manifestation of the conspiracy documented by Seymour Hersh in 2007. The Wall Street Journal, also in 2007, reported on the US Bush Administration's plans of creating a partnership with Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, noting the group is the ideological inspiration for linked terror organizations including Al Qaeda itself. In the article titled, ""To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers," it states: On a humid afternoon in late May, about 100 supporters of Syria's largest exile opposition group, the National Salvation Front, gathered outside Damascus's embassy here to protest Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule. The participants shouted anti-Assad slogans and raised banners proclaiming: "Change the Regime Now." The NSF unites liberal democrats, Kurds, Marxists and former Syrian officials in an effort to transform President Assad's despotic regime. But the Washington protest also connected a pair of more unlikely players -- the U.S. government and the Muslim Brotherhood. The article would also report:  U.S. diplomats and politicians have also met with legislators from parties connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Egypt and Iraq in recent months to hear their views on democratic reforms in the Middle East, U.S. officials say. Last month, the State Department's intelligence unit organized a conference of Middle East experts to examine the merits of engagement with the Brotherhood, particularly in Egypt and Syria. It describes the ideological and operational links between the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda:  Today, the Brotherhood's relationship to Islamist militancy, and al Qaeda in particular, is the source of much debate. Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders cite the works of the Brotherhood's late intellectual, Sayyid Qutb, as an inspiration for their crusade against the West and Arab dictators. Members of Egyptian and Syrian Brotherhood arms have also gone on to take senior roles in Mr. bin Laden's movement. Yet despite all of this, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, along with Israel and Turkey are openly conspiring with them, and have now for years been arming and funding these very sectarian extremist, terrorist groups across the Arab World, from Libya to Egypt, and now in and around Syria. Israel's fears of these terrorists acquiring "chemical weapons" is absurd. They have already acquired them with US, NATO, British, Saudi, Qatari and even Israeli help in Libya in 2011. In fact, these very Libyan terrorists are spearheading the foreign militant groups flooding into Syria through the Turkish-Syrian border. What Israel's strike may really mean. Indeed, Israel's explanation as to why it struck neighboring Syria is tenuous at best considering its long, documented relationship with actually funding and arming the very "global jihaidists" it fears weapons may fall into the hands of. Its fears of Hezbollah are likewise unfounded - Hezbollah, had it, the Syrians, or the Iranians been interested in placing chemical weapons in Lebanon, would have done so already, and most certainly would do so with means other than conspicuous convoys simply "crossing the border." Hezbollah has already proven itself capable of defeating Israeli aggression with conventional arms, as demonstrated during the summer of 2006.  In reality, the pressure placed on Syria's borders by both Israel and its partner, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey in the north, is part of a documented plan to relieve pressure on the Western, Israeli, Saudi-Qatari armed and funded militants operating inside Syria. The above mentioned, Fortune 500-funded (page 19), US foreign-policy think-tank, Brookings Institution - which has blueprinted designs for regime change in Libya as well as both Syria and Iran - stated this specifically in their report titled, "Assessing Options for Regime Change." Image: The Brookings Institution, Middle East Memo #21 "Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf)," makes no secret that the humanitarian "responsibility to protect" is but a pretext for long-planned regime change. Brookings describes how Israeli efforts in the south of Syria, combined with Turkey's aligning of vast amounts of weapons and troops along its border to the north, could help effect violent regime change in Syria:  In addition, Israel’s intelligence services have a strong knowledge of Syria, as well as assets within the Syrian regime that could be used to subvert the regime’s power base and press for Asad’s removal. Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Asad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training. Such a mobilization could perhaps persuade Syria’s military leadership to oust Asad in order to preserve itself. Advocates argue this additional pressure could tip the balance against Asad inside Syria, if other forces were aligned properly. -page 6, Assessing Options for Regime Change, Brookings Institution.Of course, airstrikes inside Syria go beyond "posturing," and indicate perhaps a level of desperation in the West who appear to have elected their chief villain, Israel, to incrementally "intervene" just as they had planned in regards to attacking Iran - also documented by Brookings in a report titled, "Which Path to Persia?" In regards to Iran, in Brookings' "Which Path to Persia?" report, it states specifically (emphasis added): Israel appears to have done extensive planning and practice for such a strike already, and its aircraft are probably already based as close to Iran as possible. as such, Israel might be able to launch the strike in a matter of weeks or even days, depending on what weather and intelligence conditions it felt it needed.  Moreover, since Israel would have much less of a need (or even interest)  in securing regional support for the operation, Jerusalem probably would feel less motivated to wait for an Iranian provocation before attacking. In short, Israel could move very fast to implement this option if both Israeli and American leaders wanted it to happen. However, as noted in the previous chapter, the airstrikes themselves are really just the start of this policy. Again, the Iranians would doubtless rebuild their nuclear sites. They would probably retaliate against Israel, and they might retaliate against the United States, too (which might create a pretext for American airstrikes or even an invasion). -page 91, Which Path to Perisa?, Brookings Institution. And in this statement we can gather insight behind both Israel's otherwise irrational belligerent posture throughout its brief history, as well as its most recent act of unprovoked aggression against Syria. Israel's role is to play the "bad guy." As a regional beachhead for Western corporate-financier interests, it provides a "foot in the door" to any of the West's many desired conflicts. By bombing Syria, it hopes to provoke a wider conflict - an intervention the West has desired and planned for since it tipped off Syria's violent conflict in 2011. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 7/28/12 */ google_ad_slot = "9833874419"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; For Syria and its allies - the goal now must be to deter further Israeli aggression and avoid wider conflict at all costs. If NATO's proxy terrorist forces are as weak as they appear - incapable of tactical or strategic gains, and tapering off into desperate terrorist attacks, it is only a matter of time before NATO's campaign grinds to a halt. As mentioned before, such a failure on NATO's part will be the beginning of the end for it, and the Western interests that have been using it as a tool to achieve geopolitical hegemony. Israel should be expected to commit to increasingly desperate acts to provoke Syria and Iran - as its leadership represent directly corporate-financier interests abroad, not the Israeli people, or their best interests (including peace and even survival). For the people of Israel, they must realize that their leadership indeed does not represent them or their best interests and is able, willing, and even eager to spend their lives and fortunes in the service of foreign, corporate-financier interests and global hegemony. Tony Cartalucci's articles have appeared on many alternative media websites, including his own at  Land Destroyer Report, Alternative Thai News Network and LocalOrg. Read other contributed articles by Tony Cartalucci here. var linkwithin_site_id = 557381; linkwithin_text='Related Articles:' Enter Your Email To Receive Our Daily Newsletter Close var fnames = new Array();var ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';var err_style = ''; try{ err_style = mc_custom_error_style; } catch(e){ err_style = 'margin: 1em 0 0 0; padding: 1em 0.5em 0.5em 0.5em; background: FFEEEE none repeat scroll 0% 0%; font- weight: bold; float: left; z-index: 1; width: 80%; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz- initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial; color: FF0000;'; } var mce_jQuery = jQuery.noConflict(); mce_jQuery(document).ready( function($) { var options = { errorClass: 'mce_inline_error', errorElement: 'div', errorStyle: err_style, onkeyup: function(){}, onfocusout:function(){}, onblur:function(){} }; var mce_validator = mce_jQuery("#mc-embedded-subscribe-form").validate(options); options = { url: 'http://activistpost.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe/post-json? u=3ac8bebe085f73ea3503bbda3&id=b0c7fb76bd&c=?', type: 'GET', dataType: 'json', contentType: "application/json; charset=utf-8", beforeSubmit: function(){ mce_jQuery('#mce_tmp_error_msg').remove(); mce_jQuery('.datefield','#mc_embed_signup').each( function(){ var txt = 'filled'; var fields = new Array(); var i = 0; mce_jQuery(':text', this).each( function(){ fields[i] = this; i++; }); mce_jQuery(':hidden', this).each( function(){ if ( fields[0].value=='MM' && fields[1].value=='DD' && fields[2].value=='YYYY' ){ this.value = ''; } else if ( fields[0].value=='' && fields [1].value=='' && fields[2].value=='' ){ this.value = ''; } else { this.value = fields[0].value+'/'+fields[1].value+'/'+fields[2].value; } }); }); return mce_validator.form(); }, success: mce_success_cb }; mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').ajaxForm(options); }); function mce_success_cb(resp){ mce_jQuery('#mce-success-response').hide(); mce_jQuery('#mce-error-response').hide(); if (resp.result=="success"){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(resp.msg); mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').each(function(){ this.reset(); }); } else { var index = -1; var msg; try { var parts = resp.msg.split(' - ',2); if (parts[1]==undefined){ msg = resp.msg; } else { i = parseInt(parts[0]); if (i.toString() == parts[0]){ index = parts[0]; msg = parts[1]; } else { index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } } } catch(e){ index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } try{ if (index== -1){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } else { err_id = 'mce_tmp_error_msg'; html = ' '+msg+''; var input_id = '#mc_embed_signup'; var f = mce_jQuery(input_id); if (ftypes[index]=='address'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-addr1'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else if (ftypes[index]=='date'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-month'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else { input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]; f = mce_jQuery().parent(input_id).get(0); } if (f){ mce_jQuery(f).append(html); mce_jQuery(input_id).focus(); } else { mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } catch(e){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } BE THE CHANGE! 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24 января 2013, 13:06

Standard Chartered forms partnership with Ping An Life

STANDARD Chartered Bank formed alliance with Ping An Life Insurance, the subsidiary of Ping An Insurance Group, in a bid to further expand its wealth management business and retail network, the lender said in a statement today.

18 января 2013, 09:01

The Road Forward: White House Assessing Major Preschool Plan

Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama's education secretary, has a slogan that summarizes his tenure and the view of his mission that he shares with his boss. "Education is the civil rights issue of our generation," Duncan says. Maybe so, but if Duncan is right, the country remains very far from being "free at last" -- and the president faces mighty challenges in leading us to the mountaintop in his second term. Ironically, as Obama begins anew, it is the civil rights community that is raising some of the most urgent questions about Duncan's ideas for education reform. Despite the administration's emphasis on raising standards, tremendous performance gaps still persist between different ethnic groups. Black students in particular are not improving their upper-grade test scores as quickly as their peers. "A rising tide doesn't lift all boats," said Amy Wilkins, a vice president of the Education Trust who was recently tapped by the College Board to work on diversity issues. "When you start with a system that has inequities as deep and damaging as ours, policies have to have intentionality about remedying those. I don't think there's been that intentionality." Andy Rotherham, a former special assistant to President Bill Clinton on domestic policy who now works as an education consultant at Bellwether Education Partners, echoed Wilkins' concern about the Obama administration's lack of focus on minority students. "What are they going to do about equity?" he asked. To address these and other issues, the White House is considering a major step to boost early childhood education. According to sources close to the administration, Duncan and the Department of Health and Human Services are outlining a plan to create universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds from low- and some middle-income families -- approximately 1.85 million children. The plan, which is projected to cost as much as $10 billion to implement in full, is still under review by the White House, but sources said that last Tuesday, Linda Smith, an HHS official, discussed the proposal at a meeting of early childhood advocates. Currently, about 800,000 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families receive support through the federally funded Head Start program. In addition, about 100,000 families are enrolled in Early Head Start, which provides support to expectant mothers and infants. Whereas Head Start emphasizes things like health, nutrition and emotional development, the new program would integrate preschool into the existing K-12 school system and focus more on academics. It would also expand access to early childhood education beyond lower-income families to eventually include the middle class. Depending on how the final proposal works, the push could be very controversial. Most advocates believe any expansion of preschool seats would be a good thing. But some worry that the change takes a holistic, somewhat successful federal program targeted at poor kids and turns it into a broader, more academic one -- and turns it over to the states, making the whole thing vulnerable to state budget cuts. "These ideas have been floated before and shut down by Head Start folks who worry that it's letting Head Start wither on the vine," said Lisa Guernsey, an early education expert at the New America Foundation. "Head Start is for the poorest of the poor … so if you say, 'Let's stretch the program so that it's helping the middle class with pre-K access,' you risk not being able to reach all those children in poverty." Experts and advocates on both sides of the partisan divide have recognized the importance of early childhood education. Without the opportunity to learn about things like sounds, shapes and colors in their earliest years, when brains are most malleable, children walk into their first days of kindergarten already far behind. Research has shown that this early educational disadvantage follows students throughout their academic lives, translating into yawning achievement gaps in later grades. Early childhood education attainment -- and Head Start in particular -- has also been tied to better life outcomes. In 2012, several police chiefs highlighted the need for more and better preschool as a long-term crime reduction tool. James Heckman, a Nobel prize-winning economist, has shown that every dollar spent on Head Start yields $7 to $9 as the program's graduates begin contributing to the economy. "I would hope that [Obama] takes on early childhood education," Dennis van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said in a recent interview. "If we're ever going to tackle this issue about equity, that's where you start. I've been hounding Secretary Duncan about it for a year." The American public on the whole is not so emphatic in its support for increased preschool access. Although 40 percent of Americans do not "think that most parents of young children have access to affordable pre-kindergarten," according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, there are 33 percent who believe they do, and 27 percent who weren't sure. Thirty-seven percent of respondents indicated they thought the feds should spend more on early childhood education, but 23 percent thought they should spend less, and 24 percent thought spending levels should remain the same. But expanding access to early education could help Obama secure his legacy with the middle class. The program could also be advantageous politically, helping him mend fences with teachers unions, a stalwart of the Democratic base. Obama appeased them to an extent during his first term by using more stimulus money to preserve the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers during the recession. But teachers continue to criticize the administration over its support for teacher evaluations and charter schools. The unions say they're concerned about student preparedness when entering the classroom, something the new pre-K program would address. It also wouldn't hurt that, in tying pre-K to the existing K-12 system, the plan would likely create thousands of new NEA and AFT members -- after a post-recession trend of membership drops. The details of the new pre-K program have yet to be worked out, though Smith reportedly said kids in families that make below 200 percent of the poverty line would be eligible. Sources told HuffPost that Smith declined to say how the administration would pay for it. Duncan and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have reportedly met in recent weeks to discuss the early childhood push. Philanthropist Susie Buffett is also said to have lobbied for the issue with the White House over the summer. When asked about the early education plan, an administration official said that the White House is in constant conversation with HHS but declined to give further details, citing a desire not to get out in front of the president. At the meeting of early childhood advocates, sources say Smith described the administration's plan as a 10-year project "to transfer responsibilities for public funding of 4-year-olds' education to states from the feds and supporting states." Another senior administration official is said to have suggested that instead of paying for the entire expansion itself, the administration would try to "incentivize" change, as it did with the Race to the Top competition. That contest had states vie to adopt parts of the Obama administration's education agenda, such as charter schools and test-based teacher evaluations, in exchange for their share of $4.35 billion in stimulus funding. Smith could not be reached for comment. If the administration can't get a new funding stream to pay for or incentivize the pre-K program -- a likely outcome in 2013's fiscal climate -- experts worry that funding could be taken from other programs, such as Head Start. Former Sen. Mike Castle (R-Del.) proposed a similar plan several years ago, which would have pulled federal funding from Head Start and replaced it with block grants to states, though it ultimately failed to pass. Shifting Head Start to states might also yield further cuts. Over the past decade, cash-strapped states have cut millions, or $700 per child, from their preschool budgets. "The big concern in the current environment is that states have been cutting childcare and pre-K funding, so any effort to move Head Start to the states would need to include some really careful work around preventing states from using Head Start money to result in additional cuts or reduce the overall amount of money going to early childhood in the states," said Sara Mead, an early education analyst at Bellwether Education Partners. In addition to the push for early childhood education, the administration is focusing on implementing the reforms it passed in Obama's first term. (Duncan must also implement the school safety recommendations the White House issued this week in light of the Newtown, Conn. shooting.) The country's public school system still faces crippling problems, with students learning less as they grow older and progress through higher grades. Teachers, who in recent years have faced budget cuts, increased class sizes and curtailed collective bargaining rights, are generally unhappy about their jobs. And according to a recent Gallup poll, Americans' opinion of public schools is at an all-time low. According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, 39 percent of Americans approve of Obama's handling of education, 33 percent disapprove and 28 percent were unsure. A full 41 percent indicated that they thought Obama could make "a major difference" in education -- a notable number given that the federal government controls less than one-tenth of public school funding nationwide. In response to governors' gripes that the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act was too punitive, Obama and Duncan waived the law in more than half of all U.S. states. More states may seek waivers during Obama's second term. But these waivers eventually sunset -- and so as long as Congress hasn't reauthorized the law to the administration's liking, Obama's legacy on this will be flimsy at best. Duncan has conceded that in order to preserve the gains made by Race to the Top, he must also make sure that all states and school districts comply with their commitments to the program, including implementation of the Common Core standards -- a new way of teaching and learning that emphasizes depth over breadth and will purportedly enable the next generation of Americans to compete in a global economy that values critical thinking and data evaluation. One major challenge will be managing the rollout and reaction to the Common Core exams in 2014. Since the tests are much tougher than current state standardized tests, parents and school districts will likely see scores appear to plummet at first. Duncan has said said he will continue to support the Common Core and direct the administration's attention to evaluating principals. Wilkins of the Education Trust worries, however, that merely mandating the implementation of the Common Core's higher learning standards -- without sufficiently supporting them -- will cause minority students to lose out. "We're going to give teachers the bun -- the standards and the test -- but we're leaving out the meat, which is how it should be taught," Wilkins said. "The federal government should help pay some states to help get teachers the tools they need." This article is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post that closely examines the most pressing challenges facing President Obama in his second term. To read other posts in the series, click here.

15 января 2013, 17:00

Business Can't Solve the World's Problems — But Capitalism Can

Business and capitalism get conflated — in our media, our language and in our thinking. They are not the same thing. One is a sector, the other a methodology. By inextricably linking the two, we confine the practice of real, turbo-charged capitalism to business, and we dangerously limit the capacity of non-business organizations to innovate, fund, and bring to scale the kind of breakthrough ideas that will begin to solve the huge social problems we face today. To be sure, business can change the world. That is one of the things it does, consistently. Innovations such as the assembly line, the car itself, the distribution of electricity and gasoline, now the iPad, Google, and so on, have by many measures made the world a better place. Indeed, as Carl Schramm writes in his provocative essay, "All Entrepreneurship Is Social," the fashionable new term "social business" in some ways "diminishes the contributions of regular entrepreneurs...people who... create thousands of jobs, improve the quality of goods and services available to consumers, and ultimately raise standards of living." He uses the refrigerated box car and its achievements in reducing food-borne illness and saving millions of lives in the process to make his point. Business will move the great masses of humanity forward with advancements in pharmaceuticals, materials, process, and technology — but it will almost always leave 10% behind. It will almost always leave unaddressed humanity's most disadvantaged and unlucky. Even social business will not address those issues for which markets cannot be developed. I serve on the board of a center for the developmentally disabled. More than anything, its clients need love. How do you monetize that? This is where philanthropy comes in. Philanthropy is the market for love. The word itself derives from the Greek for "love of humanity." Philanthropy and, specifically, the charities that benefit from it and that are chartered to solve social problems can address those people and issues that business leaves behind. But they can do so effectively only if we allow them to use the tools of capitalism — tools that the sector has thus far been denied, nearly wholesale. We have two rulebooks — one for charity and one for the rest of the economic world. We blame capitalism for creating huge inequities in our society, and then we refuse to allow the "nonprofit" sector to use the tools of capitalism to rectify them. This nonprofit rulebook discriminates against charities in at least five different areas: compensation, marketing, risk taking, time horizons, and capital itself. We allow people to make a fortune doing any number of things that will harm the poor but crucify anyone who wants to make money helping them. This sends the top talent coming out of the nation's best business schools directly into the for-profit sector and gives our youth the mutually exclusive choice between making a difference and making money. This we call ethics. We let Apple and Coca-Cola plaster our billboards and television sets with advertising, but we are appalled at the notion of important causes "wasting" money on paid advertising. So the voices of our great causes are all but silenced, and consumer products get lopsided access to our attention, 24/7. This we do in the name of frugality. Amazon was permitted to forgo investor returns for six years to build market dominance. But if a charity embarks on a long-term plan with no return for the needy for six years, we are outraged. This we call caring. We aren't upset when Disney makes a $200 million movie that flops, but if a $1 million charity walk doesn't make a 75% profit to the cause in year one, we want the attorney general to investigate. So charities are petrified of exploring new revenue-generating methods and can't develop the powerful learning curves that the for-profit sector can. This we call prudence. We let for-profit companies raise massive capital in the stock market by offering investment returns, but we forbid the payment of a financial return ("profit") in charity. The result? The for-profit sector monopolizes the capital markets, while charities are left to beg for donations. This we call philanthropy. Combine those five things and you have just put the humanitarian sector at an extreme disadvantage to the for-profit sector. Yet we still expect it to solve the world's problems. Our social problems are gigantic in scale. We need gigantic responses to them. And if we freed the humanitarian sector to use the tools of capitalism, we could bring private ingenuity to bear on those problems, and we wouldn't have to depend on the government to fill the gaps. Where would all the money come from? From us! If we were to give the humanitarian sector the right capital, talent, time, and ability to innovate, it could build the kind of demand for philanthropy that, say, Apple builds for music on iTunes (which, by the way, stimulates the same reward centers in the brain as giving). Then we'd be on our way to the kind of scale we need. Americans give about $300 billion to nonprofit organizations annually, most of it to education and religious institutions. Only about 15% of that — $45 billion — goes to health and human services causes. If we could use the tools of capitalism to increase charitable giving in the U.S. from 2% of GDP to just 3%, that would amount to an additional $150 billion in annual giving. If that money went disproportionately to health and human services causes, it would amount to a quadrupling of donations to that sector. Now we're talking scale. Now we're talking about big change. Business cannot solve all the world's problems. But capitalism can. Follow the Scaling Social Impact insight center on Twitter @ScalingSocial and register to stay informed and give us feedback. Scaling Social ImpactInsights from HBR and the Bridgespan Group Every Business Is (Or Should Be) a Social Business To Grow, Social Enterprises Must Play by Business Rules New Research: If You Want To Scale Impact, Put Financial Results First Collaboration is the New Competition Go to the Insight Center

08 января 2013, 11:28

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Two New Fraud Deals Show Wall Street's Washington Insiders At Work

It must've been like old home week when the old gang of Wall Street and Washington insiders finalized a couple more cushy settlements last week. Everybody knew the drill: Ignore the potential criminal charges and agree on settlement figures they think the public will swallow - figures that are big enough to sound impressive but far smaller than the banks' ill-gotten gains.  They've done this dozens of times before. But there was an empty chair at the negotiating table. Bank of America was there, as it has been so many times before. So were the other too-big-to-fail banks.  Representatives from the Attorney General's office were undoubtedly there, too. The Attorney General was a high-priced Wall Street attorney. The banks' "independent" reviewers were there, too, or at least their reports were. Those reports said that there were very few problems with the banks' transactions.  That should've have raised some red flags around the negotiating table: An audit in San Francisco found that 84 percent of foreclosures were performed illegally, while another in North Carolina found "singular irregularities"  in roughly three-quarters of the mortgages reviewed. So i shouldn't have been such a surprise when an as-yet unpublished GAO report showed that these rosy reviews were disastrously flawed. But then, the insiders had it wired. The reviewers included Promontory Financial Group, whose CEO was Comptroller of the Currency under President Bill Clinton. Then he became a senior attorney at Wall Street defense firm Covington & Burling. Small world: The Attorney General of the United States worked at Covington & Burling too. Promontory and the other reviewers have an underlying conflict of interest: they're reviewing their own client base. That's the same conflict of interest that corrupted the for-profit "ratings agencies," leading them to rate their clients' toxic mortgage-backed securities as "AAA." Promontory was also the firm that said "well over 99.9 percent" of the loans issued by Standard Chartered bank complied with the law and only $14 million of them were illegal. Then the bank admitted that $250 billion of its deals, not $14 million, were illegal. That's 17,000 times as much illegality as Promontory found in its 'review.' (17857.142 as much, to be precise, but who's counting?) Promontory kept the foreclosure gig anyway, with no objection from Washington's regulators or law enforcement officials. But then, who around that table would question Promontory? We know them, they probably thought. We've always known them. Promontory and the other "independent" reviewers collected $1.5 billion in fees for worthless work, from a settlement that was supposed to help the occupant of that empty chair. But of course the chair was empty. The occupant's invitation was never sent out.  It never is. The Securities and Exchange Commission has attended many such meetings - meetings in which senior bankers bind their shareholders to billions in fines and restitution, sometimes as penalty for fraud against those very same shareholders.(The banks also have a knack for covering their obligations with money from investors they've already defrauded, including working people's pension funds)  The SEC's senior attorney always has a seat at the table,either  literally or figuratively, whenever a big bank settlement is negotiated. A new person was appointed to that position just today. The SEC's new chief counsel held a senior regulatory position under President Clinton, too. But if you think he went to work for Covington & Burling after leaving public service like his colleague did, you're wrong. He worked for Arnold & Porter. After joining Covington's biggest competitor the SEC's new legal chief moved on to another law firm, still defending banks and bankers from the agency he now represents. He had one last high-profile case before rejoining the government: MF Global. That's the firm that stole its investors' money instead of investing it. He defended one of its' executives. One of this weekend's settlements with Bank of America addressed the fraudulent sale of mortgages to Fannie Mae. (Fannie Mae: That's the government agency that was "privatized," ruined by privatized greed, and then rescued by the taxpayers who now own it.)  The agreement was undoubtedly hammered out between Bank of America and Fannie Mae's CEO, who represented the people's interests in this case. Fannie Mae's CEO hasn't been there long. His last job was as General Counsel for ... Bank of America. In fact, he was BofA's top attorney in 2008, at the height of its foreclosure misdeeds. Now he's settling those misdeeds as part of a wave of deals that will allow the bank's executives to escape criminal prosecution. So he had a seat at both sides of the table. That happens a lot in these deals. Get used to it. Bank of America's agreed-upon payment to Fannie Mae sounds big - $3.6 billion. But that comes to exactly one percent of the outstanding debt on those loans - debt that's still owed by the occupant of that empty chair.  The bank's total settlement costs are roughly 0.75 percent of the total loan value. BofA also agreed to sell the servicing rights to these mortgages ... undoubtedly to another one of the banks sitting around that frequently-used table.  The buyer will need to recoup their investment, of course -- and loan servicers boost their income by overcharging the occupant of that empty chair. So whose chair is it?  You already know. That chair belongs to the borrower whose home value was artificially inflated by a bank-hired appraiser. It belongs to the homeowner who paid her mortgage on time every month, but was still hit with unjustified 'servicing charges' that caused her to fall behind ... and lose her home. That empty chair belongs to the minority communities targeted for predatory lending, then left to wither and die. It belongs to the bedroom communities whose residents invested their life's savings in real estate whose value had been artificially pumped up by by bank speculation.   It belongs to millions of families - in Hendersonville, in West Garfield Park, in Baltimore and Jacksonville and Bakersfield and thousands of other communities across the country. That chair belongs to the family who lost $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 when they lost their homes, and then got $1,200 back in that "big" $25 billion deal -  and only then if they were "lucky." It belongs to all the Americans who lost trillions of dollars in housing value when the bank-created bubble finally burst, and who were then left holding the debt. That chair belongs to all the people who can't find work because nobody's hiring. Nobody's hiring because nobody's buying. And nobody's buying because so many people are struggling to pay their overpriced loans. That chair belongs to you, and it belongs to me. And as long as it's empty these deals will all turn out the same. A small circle of friends will keep cutting the same cushy deals over and over again until we go to Washington and demand a change, this change: No more deals.  No more negotiations. Not until we're in the room. Not until we're  seated in the chair, at the table, in the chambers of justice, that have always rightfully belonged to us - and only us.

04 ноября 2015, 09:09

Крупнейшие банки Европы сократят 30 тыс. сотрудников

Standard Chartered стал третьим европейским банком менее чем за две недели, который объявил о масштабных сокращениях. Крупнейшие банки Европы сократят более 30 тыс. рабочих мест, или почти каждого седьмого сотрудника.