21 December 2007
By Jonathan Fairbank, Editor-in-Chief
At this time last year, the situation in Iraq was abysmal. American and coalition casualties – not to mention the tremendous tolls on Iraqi civilians – were mounting in unbearable numbers. Iraq seemed like a lost cause – perhaps it still is. Even the senior editor of this Report in his January 2007 piece, on the eve of “The Surge,” called for a complete withdrawal from Iraq.
Flash to a year later. Both American liberator and Iraqi civilian casualties are dramatically down. In fact, markets in Baghdad are open again, and according to media reports, normal life – as normal as it can get in war-torn Iraq – seems to have resurfaced.
We are unsure whether this is the respite before a larger storm. We hope that the surge has worked and that evil militants are being killed off in sufficient quantity. We also earnestly hope that the hitherto effete Iraqi military and police forces will demonstrate courage and moral fiber to defend their soil and their people.
We also wonder out loud how is it that all it takes is the addition of 21,000 American troops on the ground. We are optimistic this year – even if it is nervously so.
18 December 2007
To Grace C. from Lost in Emotions
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
|by Elizabeth Barrett Browning|
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Fed passes reforms to combat subprime mortgage crisis
The measures promise to protect borrowers from prepayment penalties and misleading loans.By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
New York - The federal regulatory process to fix some of the worst mortgage abuses is now moving ahead with greater speed.
The Federal Reserve, the nation's central bank, voted to take a wide range of actions that might prevent future malpractice, but will likely do little to help borrowers facing foreclosure. The Fed's main thrust appears aimed at banks who made loans to subprime borrowers, those with less than stellar credit ratings, and those who took out loans without proof of income or other documentation.
"This is a huge step," says Kurt Eggert, a law professor at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif. and a past member of the Federal Reserve's Consumer Advisory Council. "If these steps had been taken five years ago we may not have had the meltdown, or at least it would have said there is a sheriff in town trying to force some reasonable basic rules of good lending."
The Fed's actions, announced on Tuesday, included:
•Giving protection to subprime borrowers from prepayment penalties if they payoff their loans early.
•Requiring lenders to ascertain that borrowers are aware of the need to set aside money for taxes and insurance in their monthly payments.
•Clamping down on so-called no documentation loans, which have been made to the self-employed or other people without a conventional income.
•Setting new standards to determine a borrower's ability to repay a loan.
The Fed's board of governors passed these proposals unanimously on Tuesday. The next phase for these new regulations will be opening them to public comment.
"These sound like reasonable proposals to me," says Lyle Gramley, a former Fed governor, now at Stanford Policy Research in Washington. "Subprime loans are made to those people least able to understand the terms and conditions and they need protection so this is an important step forward."
Few of the measures would have an immediate impact – the Fed has indicated it would start to implement them next year.
However, the new regulations are also taking place after the financial markets have already made changes. Banks have become particularly wary about making mortgage loans to anyone but the best borrowers because of enormous losses. Many of the mortgage brokers who made the most egregious loans are now out of business.
"The market has instilled discipline," says Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City, a bank holding company in Cleveland.
"Much of this is insuring we don't repeat the problems going forward," he says.
Foreclosures are now at record levels and some 20 percent of subprime loans are now delinquent. And, the numbers may still rise since many of the borrowers took out loans with low "teaser rates" that will readjust upward over the next two years.
However, Mr. DeKaser says some will make the argument that the Fed's new rules may act to stifle innovation. "If I want to lend you money, who should say what the terms are to limit the extension of credit," says DeKaser. "By codifying restrictions there will be more safety in mortgage lending, but potentially limited innovation."
Some members of Congress have been jawboning the Fed to become more active. And, there is legislation pending in both the House and Senate that would make it easier for subprime borrowers to repay loans without penalty.
One of the spillover effects of the mortgage crisis has been a developing credit crunch as banks have become reluctant to lend each other money. Yesterday, in a separate action designed to remedy the situation, the European Central Bank announced it has lent out $500 billion to member banks. After the announcement, international interest rates, known as the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR), fell. Since many short-term loans use LIBOR as a benchmark, this rate reduction will help individuals who carry balances on credit cards, those borrowing money for car loans, and some business loans.
15 December 2007
Diplomat 'dumps' adopted daughter
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
The Telegraph, UK
A senior Dutch diplomat and his wife have sparked a furore by giving up the Asian baby they adopted seven years ago because she had not "bonded" with them.
Dutch Vice-Consul Raymond Poeteray and his wife, Meta, adopted Jade while posted in South Korea, because they believed they were unable to conceive.
The couple have since had two children of their own and last year handed Jade to authorities in Hong Kong, saying she had not adapted to her new family.
But a nanny who cared for Jade has accused them of showing the girl little affection, saying they did not treat her like "a normal daughter", in stark contrast to their natural children.
De Telegraaf, a leading Dutch newspaper, has accused the couple of discarding the little girl "like household rubbish".
But in a press statement, the Poeterays claimed Jade suffered from such a severe "fear of bonding" that medical specialists advised she be placed in temporary care.
"Contrary to what has been written in the media, we do not want to get rid of our daughter," the couple said. "We never even considered giving her up.
"To our great disappointment, things didn't get better, they got worse, and the rest of the family began to suffer hugely from that."
The family had been undergoing counselling, but were pessimistic about the chance of Jade ever returning to their Netherlands home.
"Although the specialists now think it is not possible that Jade can be brought home, we continue to hope," the couple added. "We will do our best to find a solution allowing her to find happiness in her life.
"This is a private matter, for which we as parents bear the responsibility. The publicity itself is already painful enough, but what's worse is it doesn't help us find a solution for our problems."
Jade, who speaks English and Cantonese but not Korean, does not have Dutch nationality or Hong Kong residency, throwing her future into doubt.
The couple claimed their failure to apply for Dutch citizenship for the girl was merely an oversight, not an indication of their intention to abandon her.
The girl's plight has sparked anger in Korea and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Hilbrand Westra, chairman of the Dutch department of United Adoptees International, has called on the Netherlands to take responsibility for Jade.
"Morally and ethically, the Dutch government must take responsibility for the plight of this child and look after her," Mr Westra said.
The Child Protection Agency in Hong Kong is now searching for new foster parents for Jade, with little response, despite having placed advertisements in newspapers.
14 December 2007
I'M A REALLY TALL WOMAN WHO OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER, BUT I STILL CAN'T CONNECT WITH SHORTER MEN
BY FRANCEY RUSSELL
He's amazing, I say. He's practically perfect. "And you're just friends?" asks Amy, incredulous. The reason we haven't taken our relationship to the next level feels a little superficial, but when I tell her, she has no problem understanding. The thing is, he's shorter.
The fact that I'm not dating this really wonderful guy because of his diminutive stature, and that my friend deemed that a valid reason, got me thinking about my knee-jerk resistance to dating small men.
Why do girls prefer bigger boyfriends? It's obvious that male domination still plays a role in making a 21st-century woman want to be more petite than her man. Traditionally, men are supposed to be stronger in every sense to protect the meek members of the "weaker sex." So the act of dating a shorter guy could be seen as bucking the status quo, if one wanted to go there.
I've dated short men. For whatever reason, none of the shorties worked out, but I doubt that the demise of any of those relationships had anything to do with my exceptional height.
The size thing only comes up once in a while when dating a wee man. Kissing standing up is good for a laugh. In heels, I clear these guys; for them, staring straight ahead means staring straight at my tits. Even holding hands feels a little weird and a lot like a mother leading her child, which I'm not into with guys I'm sleeping with. Fortunately, most of these problems disappear when you're both horizontal. Good sex is good sex is good sex. Height doesn't matter in bed.
A lesser man (I'm talking moral fibre here, not measurements) can't handle having a tall lady friend. The combination of smaller-than-average stature and lack of self-confidence makes some men feel threatened by tall women. They become brash and are prone to making cracks, continually observing, "Shit, you're really fucking tall!" Never does a man seem shorter than when he can't get over how tall you are.
When the traditional male-female order has been disrupted, it's no longer obvious who's physically stronger. For some guys, that's too much to deal with.
Luckily (hallelujah!), since graduating high school I've witnessed a steady decline in the number of sassy, insecure short boys. As boys grow into men, and as we accept less rigidly defined gender roles, the great height divide loses its significance.
Nine times out of 10, the media depicts a heterosexual couple as a tall man and a pocket-sized woman. We find it appealing when a man can whisk you away or tuck you under his arm. Even though we see statuesque women in the media, they're rarely shown towering over men. I'm always grateful to see an image of a guy tilting his chin upwards to kiss a girl – unless the image is played for laughs, .
I saw photos of Pharrell Williams (5-foot-7 tops) parading around New York with a tall filly. It was so sexy, it made me want a shorter (hot, stylish, music-producing) man tilting his chin up at me. For whatever reasons, seeing a version of yourself out there in the visual culture provides a sense of affirmation. And seeing lil' Pharrell's tall woman made me think about lowering my dating height requirements.
Actually, it made me think of my practically perfect tiny guy friend. From my perspective (up here in the trees with the giraffes), our respective sizes have been the only incompatible aspect of our relationship. Like a fence, it's kept us on just-friends terms. It's not like there isn't something there between us.
Sometimes, when I'm staring down into those big brown eyes, I think we could really be something. Maybe one of these days I'll jump the just-friends fence. I'll embrace all the quirks of being with a tiny man, like bending down to kiss him or having a boyfriend who is constantly at eye-level with my nipples. Mmmm. Doesn't sound too bad
NOW AUG 19 - 25, 2004 VOL. 23 NO. 51
09 December 2007
07 December 2007
Sure, Congressman Ron Paul (R- Texas) was featured on one of the network evening news programs back in November. That’s because they could no longer ignore the Internet. Paul has done exceedingly well in terms of Net presence and Net-based fund-raising.
His ideas are solidly based on Constitutional principles. Like reducing the size and scope of the Federal government. Radical, huh? And he has NOT flipped/flopped on the War. He had opposed it from day one!