Archive for July, 2008

A young soldier displays a tattoo reading “Walk Peacefully on Heavens Streets, You’ve Done You’re Time in Hell.”  Baghdad, Iraq – July, 2007.

© Zoriah/www.zoriah.com

© Zoriah/www.zoriah.com

If you had a credit card, loan or credit account, you could get benefits from a class action settlement.

A national credit bureau is willing to fork over at least $75 million to settle a lawsuit over sharing personal information.

If you’ve had any kind of credit account over the last 20 years, your privacy may have been sold.

A class action lawsuit claims TransUnion violated the privacy of millions of consumers with credit cards and loans, by selling their personal and financial information for marketing purposes.

TransUnion denies it, but agreed to settle out of court.

You’re eligible to be part of the settlement if you had any kind of credit card or any kind of loan – even student loans – between Jan. 1, 1987 and May 28, 2008.

But you have to file a claim – with your name, address, phone number and date of birth, and you won’t necessarily get money.

You get six months of free credit monitoring with a possible cash payment, or nine months of free enhanced credit monitoring with no chance for a cash payment.

You can skip the claim altogether and file an individual lawsuit. Or, you can do nothing, and get nothing.

Financial analyst Greg McBride of bankrate.com says free credit monitoring is an obvious choice – even if you may not get any cash to go with it.

“The cash amount you get may ultimately be very modest, but what’s really valuable is the ability to have access to that credit monitoring, as well as your TransUnion credit score, which again is very valuable information for consumer who’ve been in the marketplace for a long time,” said McBride.

McBride says that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to pay for credit monitoring services. If you utilize the free credit reports you get ever year from each of the three major bureaus, you can monitor you credit yourself.

The six months of free credit monitoring is worth about $60. Nine months of expanded monitoring is worth around $115.

TransUnion also agrees to donate $150,000 to non-profit organizations.

If you want to register for the monitoring or possible cash payment, the deadline is Sept. 24.

For more information:

https://www.listclassaction.com/claim/

Exxon posts record $11.68 billion profit

World’s largest publicly traded oil firm makes $11.68 billion in the quarter, but misses forecasts.

By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Exxon Mobil once again reported the largest quarterly profit in U.S. history Thursday, posting net income of $11.68 billion on revenue of $138 billion in the second quarter.

That profit works out to $1,485.55 a second.

That barely beat the previous corporate record of $11.66 billion, also set by Exxon in the fourth quarter of 2007.

But Exxon (XOM, Fortune 500) profit fell short of Wall Street estimates.

Analysts predicted the company, the world’s largest publicly traded oil firm, would make $12.1 billion in profit on $144.4 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.

Exxon shares fell about 2% in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Excluding money set aside for a recent damage award related to the Valdez tanker spill back in 1989, Exxon made $11.97 billion in the quarter.

Read the rest of the article here – if you can stomach it!

London Police Seize Eight Bankers in Dawn Raid in Biggest Ever Insider Trading Crackdown

From the Daily Mail – July 29, 2008

Eight people have been arrested in the biggest crackdown on insider trading the City has seen, it was revealed this afternoon.

City of London police and 40 officials from the Financial Services Authority raided addresses in London and the South-East.

It was described as part of  ‘a major ongoing investigation into insider dealing rings’. Most of the arrests were at homes rather than businesses. The unnamed men, aged between 27 and 48, are waiting to see if they will be charged.

The FSA has long believed that insider trading is rife in the City but has not managed to get any convictions so far.

City sources say computers and paperwork were seized as part of an investigation that has been going on for months.

Insider trading, where investors with knowledge of events place bets on share price movements ahead of formal announcements, is regarded as deeply unfair to honest investors. In 2006, the FSA said it believed that insider dealing had taken place ahead of a third of large takeover deals.

Bankers and stockbrokers involved in such deals would be foolish to invest personally in the shares of the companies concerned, but they could tip off friends or relatives.

With stock markets in turmoil and the economy rocked by the credit crunch, the FSA and the Government believe that clamping down on City fraud is more vital than ever.

The amount of money involved in the suspected insider trading ring under investigation is not known, but is likely to run into millions of pounds.

This latest move comes days after the FSA charged Malcolm Calvert, a former partner at the Queen’s stockbroker Cazenove, with 12 counts of insider dealing between 2003 and 2005. If found guilty, he can expect a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Lawyers say that if the FSA, led by former banker Hector Sants, gets a major scalp it would prove a huge deterrent to others. Its powers are being extended, including the introduction of US-style plea-bargaining to encourage people to give evidence.

White House Projects Record Deficit for 2009

(We colored portions below for emphasis.)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The White House on Monday predicted a record deficit of $490 billion for the 2009 budget year, a senior government official told CNN.

The deficit would amount to roughly 3.5 percent of the nation’s $14 trillion economy.

The official pointed to a faltering economy and the bipartisan $170 billion stimulus package that passed earlier this year for the record deficit.

The fiscal year begins October 1, 2008.

The federal deficit is the difference between what the government spends and what it takes in from taxes and other revenue sources. The government must borrow money to make up the difference.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak publicly ahead of an official briefing later Monday by Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle.

President Bush inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001 but has since posted a budget deficit every year.

The Bush administration has spent heavily on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and faces a large budget shortfall in tax revenue because of Bush’s tax cuts and a souring economy.

But the senior administration official says the budgetary problems stem from what is believed to be inadequate defense, intelligence and homeland security resources that were handed down from President Bill Clinton.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in March projected the deficit for the 2008 fiscal year, which ends September 30, would be $396 billion. It predicted the 2009 deficit to be $342 billion, if the president’s proposals were adopted.

Nancy Pelosi Calls Bush a “Total Failure”

(CNN) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Bush “a total failure” on Thursday, among the California Democrat’s harshest assessments to date of the president.

“God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States — a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject,” Pelosi told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview.

The comments came two days after the president sharply criticized Congress over what he described as relative inaction over the course of the legislative term. At the White House on Wednesday, Bush noted that there were only 26 legislative days left in the fiscal year and said Congress would need to pass a spending bill every other day to “get their fundamental job done.”

“This is not a record to be proud of, and I think the American people deserve better,” Bush said.

In the interview, Pelosi said the president was in no position to criticize Congress and brushed aside the criticisms as “something to talk about because he has no ideas.”

“For him to be challenging Congress when we are trying to sweep up after his mess over and over and over again — at the end of the day, Congress will have passed its responsibility to pass legislation,” she said.

But Pelosi’s comments come as a new Gallup poll registers the lowest level of congressional approval among Americans in the polling organization’s 30-year history of conducting that survey.

That poll showed that its approval rating had reached an anemic 14 percent, while more than 70 percent of those polled said they disapproved of the job Congress is doing.

The House speaker said she doesn’t consider those numbers a negative referendum on the Democrats in charge, saying she thinks they stem largely from Congress’ failure to end the war in Iraq.

“Everything I see says this is about ending the war — ‘I disapprove of Congress’ performance in terms of ending the war,’ ” she said. “In the House, we, of course, have over and over, five or six times, sent to the Senate legislation for a time certain to reduce our deployment in Iraq and bring our troops home safely, honorably and soon. We haven’t been able to get it past the Senate or the president of the United States.

“So, on the basis of that, count me among the 70-some percent,” she continued. “But that is one measure. The other measure that I’m more interested in is the one that talks about what is their view of Democrats. And the generic, who do you prefer to run the country on all of these issues? We’re in double digits in any poll that you can take.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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This is from the Washington Times – we can’t even bring ourselves to comment on it.

By Jeffrey Denning

Just when you thought you’ve heard it all…

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

This bracelet would:

• take the place of an airline boarding pass

• contain personal information about the traveler

• be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

• shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.”  Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line?

Clearly the Electronic ID Bracelet is an euphuism for the EMD Safety Bracelet, or at least it has a nefarious hidden ability, thus the term ID Bracelet is ambiguous at best. EMD stands for Electro-Musclar Disruption. Again, according to the promotional video the bracelet can completely immobilize the wearer for several minutes.

So is the government really that interested in this bracelet? Yes!

According to a letter from DHS official, Paul S. Ruwaldt of the Science and Technology Directorate, office of Research and Development, to the inventor whom he had previously met with, he wrote, “To make it clear, we [the federal government] are interested in…the immobilizing security bracelet, and look forward to receiving a written proposal.” The letterhead, in case you were wondering, came from the DHS office at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City International Airport, or the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters.

In another part of the letter, Mr. Ruwaldt confirmed, “It is conceivable to envision a use to improve air security, on passenger planes.”

Would every paying airline passenger flying on a commercial airplane be mandated to wear one of these devices? I cringe at the thought. Not only could it be used as a physical restraining device, but also as a method of interrogation, according to the same aforementioned letter from Mr. Ruwaldt.

Would you let them put one of those on your wrist? Would you allow the airline employees, which would be mandated by the government, to place such a bracelet on any member of your family?

Why are tax dollars being spent on something like this? Is this a police state or is it America?

As we approach July 4th, Independence Day, I can’t help but think of the blessing we have of living in America and being free from hostile government forces. It calls to mind on of my favorite speeches given by an American Founding Forefather, Patrick Henry, who said,

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”