Associated Press (Washington)
Researchers have a pair of new suspects in the mysterious collapse of honey bee colonies across America.
October 6, 2010 5:16 PM / CBS News
Posted by Stephanie Condon
The Treasury Department is investigating whether the White House improperly accessed and discussed the private tax information of a corporation run by conservative political donors.
The investigation comes at the request of Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, who wanted the department to find out why a senior administration official, identified as Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee, said on a conference call with reporters in August that Koch Industries does not pay corporate income tax.
In a letter first obtained by the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard, the inspector general for tax administration at the Treasury Department said he has ordered a review of the issue.
The inquiry stems from a conference call held in late August by the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) to discuss a report the board was issuing about the U.S. tax system. In a transcript of the call obtained by the Weekly Standard, a senior administration official reportedly said: "So in this country we have partnerships, we have S corps, we have LLCs, we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income tax. Some of which are really giant firms, you know Koch Industries is a multibillion dollar businesses."
A White House official said today: "The official's statement was not based on any review of tax filings, and we will not use this example in the future."
A White House official told CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid that if indeed Goolsbee had "snooped" into Koch Industries' tax filings he would have known they did pay taxes, as the company has stated.
The Republican senators requested the investigation after Koch Industries questioned where the Obama administration obtained the company's tax status and suggested it was concerned about being singled out for its political views.
Around the same time as the conference call, Charles and David Koch were featured in a New Yorker article that highlighted their conservative donations and characterized them as "waging a war against Obama." Democrats have spotlighted donations from the Koch brothers in their arguments for campaign finance reform.
Published October 07, 2010
President Barack Obama walks out to speaks at a campaign rally for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md. (AP)
President Obama will not sign into law a bill that would allow foreclosure documents to be accepted among multiple states, the White House said Thursday, arguing that it will make it easier to foreclose on homes.
But supporters of the legislation say the technical fix does nothing to accelerate the chance homeowners will face foreclosures, and the president doesn't even have the authority to "pocket veto" the legislation.
A "pocket veto" is a tactic that allows the president to not sign legislation while Congress is out of session, forcing it to go back to Capitol Hill. Supporters of the bill say the president can'teven use the measure because technically the Senate is not adjourned.
The bill had been criticized by consumer advocates and state officials who said it would make it difficult for homeowners to challenge foreclosure documents prepared in other states.
White House chief spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that officials across the country had raised concerns about "unintended consequences" from the bill. The administration would work with Congress to revise it, he said.
Some Democrats, who initially voted for the bill, voiced support for Obama's veto.
"Although I believe the bill was originally well intentioned, I now believe this issue requires more careful review and discussion before the law is changed," Michigan Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said in a written statement.
"There is substantial concern that this legislation may exacerbate the problems we are seeing with improprieties in the foreclosure documents being processed by mortgage lenders," he said, adding that he wants to investigate the issue for the first time since 2006.
But Republicans were not happy about the president's move, saying there is no connection between the bill and foreclosure problems.
"I first introduced this legislation in April of 2005 and obviously there was no concern about weakening the foreclosure documentation process at that time," said Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala. "This is a bill that would help people and I am disappointed that it was vetoed."
O. Max Gardner, a consumer lawyer in Shelby, N.C., said the bill would have made the problems with foreclosure documents worse. That's because mortgage companies would have been able to mass-produce documents and affix a digital version of a notary's seal rather than one on paper.
"They could process more foreclosure cases with improper and invalid documents and make it more difficult for consumers to try to fight," he said.
Meanwhile, three of the nation's largest mortgage lenders – Ally Financial, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America – have suspended foreclosures in 23 states after reports revealed that lenders were signing documents without reading them or filed inaccurate paperwork. That has led to several lawmakers and civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, to call for an investigation into the foreclosure process and a suspension of all home foreclosures.
"Neighborhoods across America are being destroyed as a result of the foreclosure crisis," the groups said in a press release. "The foreclosure crisis fallout is not limited to individual homeowners. Each foreclosure has enormous spillover effects, and communities, especially communities of color, are seeing their home vacancy and crime rates increase while home values and tax bases are eroded."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday urged five large mortgage lenders to suspend foreclosures in Nevada until they have set up systems to make sure homeowners aren't "improperly directed into foreclosure proceedings." Nevada is not among the states where banks have suspended foreclosures.
The Justice Department said Wednesday that it is probing accusations that mortgage lenders have been evicting homeowners using misleading foreclosure papers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
If we think back to what we already know that works, you don't have to go back that far. Successful economic systems require that there is a gaining of wealth at the citizen level giving everyone expendable cash.
The gold rush days are in that category. In a place where there was nothing, gold was discovered. Businesses are attracted to citizens with expendable cash. Over night there were hotels built, hardware stores, Soloons; every kind of business you can think of. And as long as there was gold coming out of the ground for a large number of people, the businesses prospered, hired employees and the economy grew.
If the gold that was mined was in the hands of one person, would a city be built? No. There would have been no business to support only one customer. The key to successful economic growth is that all the citizens have to prosper from the local business environment.
This kind of environment occurs any time there is a distribution of wealth to a large number of citizens giving them the expendable cash that is necessary to grow business: Cattle towns, oil towns, military base towns, vacation resorts etc.
When the citizens have expendable cash, businesses will always spring up to take advantage of that wealth. As the people spend more, businesses are created and more people are hired creating even more wealth. As long as the reason for the distributed wealth exist, the economic system will spiral upwards.
How can a stimulus package do that? The easy answer is it can't. What would happen in the gold town if the people were told the gold would run out in 2 weeks. The most you would see in the city would be tents at best. And that is what you can expect from any temporary source of revenue as expendable cash.
This solution requires no taxes, no government involvement, no new legislation, no impact on the citizens, a truly commercial engagement of the business community with the government for the people's and government benefit.
There are five points that I am going to prove for you with this analogy. This is a real life situation and I chose it because you are familiar with it and it will make more sense to you. This gives you the methodology. This methodology is not about building bridges; bridges are just a business, it could be anything, and if applied properly, will be everything.
Consider now that there are no bridges going from San Francisco to Oakland.
What that would mean is: anyone going from Oakland to San Francisco would have to travel the full length of the peninsula, approximately 200 miles.
At a cost of gas of $3.00 a gallon and a gas mileage of 25 miles to a gallon, all citizens would be buying 8 gallons of gas at $3.00 a gallon for a total of $24.00 a day just to commute.
In this scenario the proposal might be: The private sector pays for and builds a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. To cover the cost there would be a $5.00 toll for use of the bridge. There are approximately 500,000+ commuters between the two every day. That's a return of 2.5 million dollars a day in revenue or 75 million a month. The bridge would be paid for in short order, then the bridge would be turned over to the state and the revenue would then be the state's. The state could also use the the revenue from the bridge to make a direct contract with a lender to receive funds in advance based on the revenue of the bridge.
The citizens were paying $24.00 to commute; now it is $5.00 saving the citizens $19.00 a day or $570.00 a month. That savings represents additional expendable cash for the citizens, and an increase in the economy of $285,000,000 a month.
In this scenario the state pays nothing. It does nothing. It receives 75 Million dollars a month in new revenue. The citizens' cost of living goes down by $570 dollars a month. And the economy is increased by $285,000,000 a month.
A business government partnership can be arranged with businesses interested in expanding as long as the effect of the arrangement lowers the cost of living of the citizens. I won't go into that here; it just serves to make the process complicated. Business will seek out expendable cash. If you create an environment for that to happen that is beneficial for the business, it will grow.
Frank Houck on Face book
The widespread damage to the bees has caused concern because the insects are needed to pollinate scores of crops.
Researchers say samples collected from hives affected by the syndrome indicated the presence of a virus as well as a fungus. The two pathogens were not found in bee colonies not affected by the syndrome, called colony collapse disorder, the researchers reported in Wednesday's edition of the journal PLoS ONE.
"We truly don't know if these two pathogens cause CCD or whether the colonies with CCD are more likely to succumb to these two pathogens," Jerry J. Bromenshenk of the University of Montana said in a statement.
Previous studies have looked at the possibility of multiple viruses found in the bee colonies as well as the potential harm from pesticides, but researchers have yet to pin down an exact cause.
They said it affects the abdomens of bees, and the tissues may take on a bluish-green or purplish hue. The fungus is called Nosema ceranae, and this can sicken bees if they ingest the spores.
Robert Cramer, a pathologist at Montana State University in Bozeman said, "There seems to be a correlation between the presence of these two pathogens together. We the bee gets an infection from one or the other, and this causes the bees to become stressed, which then allows the second infection to come in and more effectively cause disease."
The analysis of the bees was done at the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.
SINGAPORE — Oil closed in on $84 a barrel Thursday in Asia as a weak U.S. dollar fueled gains in commodity prices.
Benchmark oil for November delivery was up 36 cents to $83.59 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 41 cents to settle at $83.23 on Wednesday.
Oil has held above $80 over the last week amid a plunge in the dollar as investors anticipate that U.S. interest rates could head even lower if the Federal Reserve moves to buy Treasury bonds and takes other measures to lower long-term interest rates to boost the economy.
Dollar-based commodities, such as oil, become cheaper for investors with foreign currencies when the dollar drops. On Wednesday, the euro moved above $1.39 for the first time since February, while the yen struck a new 15-year high.
The euro rose Thursday to $1.3989 from $1.3929 on Wednesday while the dollar fell to 82.31 yen from 82.89 yen.
Wednesday's gain in the oil price "can mostly be placed on weakness in the dollar against the euro," energy consultant The Schork Report said.
Investors brushed off a jump in U.S. crude supplies, which suggests weak demand for fuel.
The Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that crude inventories increased last week by 3.1 million barrels and are now 7 percent above year-ago levels. Analysts expected a drop of 1.3 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
"The fundamental picture for crude was quite bearish," The Schork Report said. "Put simply, we are producing more crude oil and refining less of it, the textbook definition of over supply."
In other Nymex trading in November contracts, heating oil rose 0.81 cent to $2.316 a gallon and gasoline gained 0.44 cent to $2.160 a gallon. Natural gas was steady at $3.87 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude rose 41 cents to $85.46 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.