surplus to political requirements
3 years ago
"I genuinely regret the unplanned injury of innocent civilians in Gaza and Khan Yunis. Who else understands the pain of bereavement as we do and who else suffers the loss of these innocent victims? At the same time, I must say that the Government of Israel under my leadership will continue to carry out preventative strikes against planned terrorist attacks and against all those involved in the attempt to harm our citizens. I am deeply sorry for the residents of Gaza, but the lives, security and well-being of the residents of Sderot is even more important. I reject the attacks on the IDF and its commanders. No one is more dedicated or more cautious, and will continue to be so in the future."
Even as many [large corporations, such as General Motors] ]reduce, freeze or eliminate pensions for workers -- complaining of the costs -- their executives are building up ever-bigger pensions, causing the companies' financial obligations for them to balloon.
Companies disclose little about any of this. But a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate filings reveals that executive benefits are playing a large and hidden role in the declining health of America's pensions.
• Boosted by surging pay and rich formulas, executive pension obligations exceed $1 billion at some companies. Besides GM, they include General Electric Co. (a $3.5 billion liability); AT&T Inc. ($1.8 billion); Exxon Mobil Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. (about $1.3 billion each); and Bank of America Corp. and Pfizer Inc. (about $1.1 billion apiece).
• Benefits for executives now account for a significant share of pension obligations in the U.S., an average of 8% at the companies above. Sometimes a company's obligation for a single executive's pension approaches $100 million.
• These liabilities are largely hidden, because corporations don't distinguish them from overall pension obligations in their federal financial filings.
• As a result, the savings that companies make by curtailing pensions for regular retirees -- which have totaled billions of dollars in recent years -- can mask a rising cost of benefits for executives.
• Executive pensions, even when they won't be paid till years from now, drag down earnings today. And they do so in a way that's disproportionate to their size, because they aren't funded with dedicated assets.
Imagine a retiree who is expecting and planned his retirement based on an annual income of $60,000. When the PBGC gets that pension, he immediately takes a pay cut of about $12,500. All this for doing nothing but working for a company for his entire life and expecting the company to make good on its promise to provide for the retiree's retirement.
Exxon Mobil, has left its employee pension plans with the biggest funding deficit. Its assets are $11.2 billion short of projected obligations, according to company figures as of Dec. 31. Exxon could write a check for its underfunding this afternoon. The oil giant has $27 billion in its coffers. It generated free cash of $9 billion last quarter -- almost enough to cover the pension shortfall. And it carries an AAA credit rating.
[. . .]
The fact is, Exxon could be topping off its tank for employees but isn't. It's declining to put more money away for a rainy day while the sun is shining on the oil industry. And it isn't apologizing, either. "We basically chose not to," says Gardner. "That's not an investment we want to put more into at this point. Our financial strength provides excellent security for any pension.
According to reporting by Seymour Hersh and Knight Ridder, the United States has dramatically stepped up the air war in Iraq, and it would appear “pacification by bombs” is also underway in Afghanistan.
U.S. spokesman Col. Tom Collins said the deaths in Tolokan were the fault of the Taliban. “The ultimate cause of why civilians were injured and killed is because the Taliban knowingly, willfully chose to occupy the homes of these people.”
If his statement is true, the Taliban would indeed be violating international law. So would the United States.
Article 48 of the 1977 addition to the Geneva Conventions, Part IV, states, “The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”
Article 50 is even more explicit: “The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.”
In short, if insurgents are mixed up with civilians, you can't call in air strikes, period. Anyone who does should be hauled before the International Court at The Hague.
Despite promises that rising medical malpractice insurance rates would be suppressed under new state laws, many of Georgia’s insurers have hiked their premiums since the sweeping reforms took effect last year, according to an Associated Press analysis of state insurance records.Six of the state’s top insurers of doctors and dentists have increased their liability rates - in some cases, by more than a third - since new restrictions on malpractice cases became law in February 2005, according to state Department of Insurance records obtained by the AP through an open records request.
The wage would go from its current $6.15 per hour to $7.15 an hour during the next two years in two steps. Starting next year, the wage would go to $6.85 per hour, and in 2008 the wage would go to $7.15. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.
The amendment was attached to a fiscal 2007 bill to fund health and education programs. The committee does not have jurisdiction over labor issues, so the provision likely will be stripped from that bill when it comes up for a vote this fall.
"I don't see how in good conscience members of Congress could turn their back on the minimum wage," Kennedy said.
Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez, Brazil’s president Lula Inacio da Silva, and Nestor Kirchner, president of Argentina, met in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 26 to discuss possibilities for integration and collaboration. On April 29, Cuba’s president Fidel Castro met with Chávez and newly elected Bolivian president Evo Morales to sign a People Trade Agreement (TPC), which is seen as a step towards the alternative trade agreement being proposed by Chávez, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA>.
The failures of the Washington Consensus and popular discontent with Free Trade Agreements have generated new revolutionary models of solidarity, cooperation and unification in the Americas. After decades of austerity, growing inequalities, and US domination of the region, national governments are beginning to reject Washington’s recipe for corporate-led growth in favor of social development models. Whether the region can truly begin to carve out an alternative path will depend on the outcomes of upcoming elections in Peru, Colombia, and Mexico; the extension of ALBA beyond a small group of countries; and the ability of social movements to shift the focus away from further exploitation and mega-projects as the basis for regional integration.
The Bush administration has openly acknowledged that its aim is Iranian "regime change," and it has engaged in a series of aggressive and provocative moves designed to achieve that outcome, including subsidizing internal dissidents within Iran, encouraging cross-border attacks from Iraq by Iranian expatriate terrorists, collecting data on Iranian targets by spy drones and on-the-ground incursions, and threatening to attack its latest target. It sabotaged the EU effort to negotiate a deal with Iran by refusing to agree to security guarantees to Iran as a part of the settlement. Why would it do that if its worry was only about Iran's possible development of a nuclear weapons capability? But just as the media didn't suggest a Johnson hidden agenda of surrender [to the North Vietnamese], so the media today refuse to focus on the agenda of regime change in interpreting the new offer even as it stares them in the face.
Given the objective of regime change, and the fact that the United States has been subject to criticism for its long unwillingness to negotiate with Iran, an obvious hypothesis is that, like the Johnson peace offers of the 1960s, the new U.S. offer is intended to be rejected while giving the cooperative media and "international community" a public relations bone to chew on. If the latter are sufficiently gullible they will congratulate the Bush administration for its new openness and allow the onus to be put on Iran if it rejects an offer intended to be rejected.
The Bush administration is only prepared to "negotiate" after Iran terminates its nuclear activities, the termination to be established by intensive inspections. Why should any conditions for negotiations be imposed on Iran? Why not just negotiate? Wouldn't the condition demanded by the Bush administration open the door to further U.S. insistence on endlessly intrusive inspections that never satisfied the Bushies in Iraq and could well stall "negotiations" with Iran indefinitely? Why should Iran have to make serious concessions in advance as a condition of negotiations and the United States make none? Ms. Rice has insisted on Iraq's suspension of nuclear activities on the ground that the administration doesn't want a gun pointed at its head, but as Selig Harrison points out, "then she points a gun at their head by saying that 'all options are on the table.'
In this new environment, it is harder to assess whether opportunities for upward mobility are still open or are being thwarted, especially if Americans continue to assume, in a kind of historical lag, that all growth is equitable growth. What is needed is a way to look beyond an array of truly positive economic developments—low unemployment, a strong stock and housing market, technological competitiveness, to name a few—to the question of whether economic opportunity is nevertheless unfairly limited. Because it is possible that Americans would accept some degree of unfairness if they think it is necessary to maintain overall growth, economic conditions that seem unnecessary as well as unfair are the most likely to unsettle Americans’ faith in the American Dream.
Social conservatives, who are a lot smarter than their leaders think, should watch the Senate closely this month. My bet is that their so-called champions will fight much harder on behalf of the interests of the affluent than for the "values" that conservative politicians proclaim with such pious urgency whenever they're in danger of losing an election.