30 April 2008
27 April 2008
30 November 2007
The So-called Mortgage Crisis: Rogue Lenders and Scheming Borrowers Gaming the System
By Bian-lian HuangDemocracy in America is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. For many years in the United States, welfare recipients have voted themselves pay increases at the ballot box. Now the nanny state is at it again. The putative mortgage crisis currently facing the country has many politicians talking about bailing out both rogue lenders and scheming borrowers. We have been reporting for years here at the Fairbank Report that many people have been playing with OPM (other people’s money) when it came to easy mortgage financing.
No income verification. No money down. In fact, why not borrow up to 125% of the value of the property? People making minimum wages were buying million-dollar homes. Both lenders and borrowers knew what they were doing. They were gaming the system and more significantly getting away with it.
Now the wolves are voting themselves, at the expense of the sheep, a federal bailout. It only goes to show that if bad behaviour occurs in a large enough number, there won't be any consequences. What about the people who forwent vacations and fancy restaurant meals in order to scrimp and save for the 20% down payment? They are, in a phrase, royally screwed!
I oppose any government – federal or state – bailout of this mortgage debacle. I even object to the Bush Administration’s proposal, currently being circulated among lenders, to artificially freeze mortgage rates at an “affordable level.”
These rogue lenders and scheming borrowers knew precisely what they were getting into when they executed these exotic loans. Now a few crocodile tears down their fat cheeks are leading the weak-knee politicians to propose a taxpayer bailout and other counter-market measures. There must be severe consequences to bad behaviour, or else, there won’t be anything but bad behaviour.
# posted by The FAIRBANK REPORT @ 11/30/2007 09:23:00 PM 0 comments
24 April 2008
The herd mentality of the Asian immigrant population in Los Angeles has led to a fictive rice shortage and thus the subsequent run on rice. The scenes of aged, copper-faced orientals fighting over bags of rice are quite pathetic and lead one to conclude that, despite their inexplicable ability to memorize useless facts and numbers, the Asian immigrants are quite prosaic. They along with their browner (distant) Mexican cousins are turning L.A. into the poop town it is.
Ah, the glorious days of yore when blond-haired and blue-eyed rational men ruled Los Angeles...
19 April 2008
ENFORCE THE LAW, DAMN IT!
(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection;
misrepresentation and concealment of facts
Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States
at any time or place other than as designated by immigration
officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration
officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United
States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the
willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first
commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or
imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent
commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or
imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
(b) Improper time or place; civil penalties
Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to
enter) the United States at a time or place other than as
designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil
penalty of -
(1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or
attempted entry); or
(2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of
an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under
Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not
in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be
(c) Marriage fraud
Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the
purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be
imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than
$250,000, or both.
(d) Immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud
Any individual who knowingly establishes a commercial enterprise
for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws
shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined in accordance
with title 18, or both.
This story reminds me of the old zinger Trent Lott used to tell: "The only things in the middle of road are road kills and moderates."
On April 9, 2008 at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, two high-profile student 'protests' for and against Tibetan independence took place. Grace Wang (Wang Qianyuan 王千源), a 21 year old girl from Qingdao, Shandong, joined in the protest on the campus. Wang is a student at Duke University.
To the shock of many Chinese students at Duke and also at home in China, Wang was protesting for some kind of middle-ground between the foreign pro-Tibetan independence group and the Chinese anti-Tibetan independence group. She wrote ‘Free Tibet’ on the back of a student and also communicated with the Chinese side in Chinese.
In videos of the so-called ‘protests’ (see links at bottom of article), Wang makes a public speech in English, facing the Chinese students, and with the non-Chinese students behind her. Her comments include, “Just because I am Chinese does not mean that I can't think for myself."
On forum websites such as Han Wang and Tianya, photos of Wang as a schoolgirl in Shandong have appeared, along with Chinese netizens’ defamatory comments. Their comments range from "race-traitor" (汉奸) to "she can only marry one of the lamas now" (他现在只能嫁给喇嘛了).
In the last few days a pot of human faeces was emptied outside the door of Wang’s parents flat in Qingdao.
Global Voices Online has transcribed a letter from a friend of Wang's at Duke, dated April 15, stating that her parents' residence in Qingdao has been attacked by rocks, and that they are in hiding.
Certain netizens expressed doubt as to whether Wang's motive was to support Tibetan independence, instead saying it was more akin to self-promotion. Some commentators asked why she did not speak in Chinese when she was making the public statement on the Duke campus on April 9 (instead, using "broken English"), saying that her purpose was to show off to foreign students, as well as foreign media, such as NPR (who supposedly interviewed her there).
There was some support of Wang though: one comment on Tianya read, "Good classmate Wang, unfortunately I'm on the Mainland so I can only support you in spirit." And from the Han Wang BBS: “She has the freedom to express her own views, her choice to support Dalai is a demand for democratic rights. How could you cover her doorstep with a pot of faeces – using this kind of rough and uncivilized method to object?"
Wang’s phone number and address in the US was revealed online, as was her parents’ address in Shandong. The FBI are said to be involved after Wang has received online and offline threats.
Wang wrote an email to the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association on the day of the April 9 protest, and has since participated in discussions about it on campus. In her e-mail, Wang quotes ancient Chinese sages Sunzi (孙子) and Laozi (老子), and argues for the focus to be on mutual understanding. She tells her Chinese compatriots not to act rashly. “Take away your anger, and your heads will become clear, your minds will become sharper, and then your judgments correct” (消除怒气，头脑才会清晰，思维才能敏捷，决断才会正确).
Today The New York Times published an article by Shaila Dewan about Wang, who met the Chinese student at Duke. It seems that Wang is still in a state of excitement. Dewan writes at the close of the article, “for a woman under threat of dismemberment [netizens have threatened to tear her to pieces if she returns to the mainland], she seemed remarkably sanguine – even upbeat.”
Also today, the front page of the CCTV website showed a picture of Wang, together with a video of the protest and the caption “Most hideous Chinese student abroad” (最丑陋留学生).
11 April 2008
10 April 2008
05 April 2008
Drug-resistant staph found to be passed in gay sex
Amanda Beck, Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO - A drug-resistant strain of potentially deadly bacteria has moved beyond the borders of U.S. hospitals and is being transmitted among gay men during sex, researchers said on Monday.
They said methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is beginning to appear outside hospitals in San Francisco, Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
Sexually active gay men in San Francisco are 13 times more likely to be infected than their heterosexual neighbors, the researchers reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable," said Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who led the study. "That's why we're trying to spread the message of prevention."
According to chemical analyses, bacteria are spreading among the gay communities of San Francisco and Boston, the researchers said.
"We think that it's spread through sexual activity," Diep said.
This superbug can cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections and can often only be treated with expensive, intravenous antibiotics.
It killed about 19,000 Americans in 2005, most of them in hospitals, according to a report published in October in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
About 30 percent of all people carry ordinary staph chronically. It can be passed by touching other people or by depositing the bacteria on surfaces or objects.
The bacteria can cause deep-tissue infections if they enter the body through a wound in the skin.
Of those people who carry staph, most carry it in their noses but community-based MRSA also can live in and around the anus and is passed between sexual partners.
Incidence of MRSA is rising along with the resurgence of syphilis, rectal gonorrhea, and new HIV infections partly because of changes in beliefs about the severity of HIV and an increase in risky behaviors, such as illicit drug use and having sex that abrades the skin, Diep's team wrote.
"Your likelihood of contracting each of these diseases increases with the number of sexual partners that you have," Diep said. "The same can probably be said for MRSA."
Staph infections often look like raised red dots on the skin. Left untreated, the areas can swell and fill with pus.
The best way to avoid infection is by washing the hands or genitals with soap and water, Diep said.
04 April 2008
By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER – Steadily rising food costs aren't just causing grocery shoppers to do a double-take at the checkout line — they're also changing the very ways we feed our families.
The worst case of food inflation in nearly 20 years has more Americans giving up restaurant meals to eat at home. We're buying fewer luxury food items, eating more leftovers and buying more store brands instead of name-brand items.
For Peggy and David Valdez of Houston, feeding their family of four means scouring grocer ads for the best prices, taking fewer trips as a way to save gas and simply buying less food, period.
"We do more selecting, looking around, seeing which prices are cheaper," said David Valdez. "We are being more selective. We have got to find the cheapest price."
Record-high energy, corn and wheat prices in the past year have led to sticker shock in the grocery aisles. At $1.32, the average price of a loaf of bread has increased 32 percent since January 2005. In the last year alone, the average price of carton of eggs has increased almost 50 percent.
Ground beef, milk, chicken, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, coffee and orange juice are among the staples that cost more these days, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overall, food prices rose nearly 5 percent in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means a pound of coffee, on average, cost 57 cents more at year's end than in 2006. A 12-ounce can of frozen, concentrated orange juice now averages $2.53 — a 67-cent increase in just two years.
And a carton of grade A, large eggs will set you back $2.17. That's an increase of nearly $1 since February, 2006.
"The economy is having a definite impact on shopper behavior," said Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute, a retail trade group. "People are significantly changing what they do."
Soaring prices are causing shoppers to rethink long-held habits such as store loyalty.
Wal-Mart and other supercenters that sell food now account for 24 percent of the market, according to the most recent annual survey of shopping habits by Hammonds' organization.
Gina Pierson, a music teacher in Columbia, Mo., buys her family's staples at local grocery stores but makes regular trips to Wal-Mart to supplement the weekly shopping list. Like many families struggling to get by, Pierson and her husband, a public school teacher, are adjusting their approach to buying, cooking and eating food. Restaurant meals are now almost a luxury.
"Between food and gas, it's just cheaper to stay home," she said.
In 2007, the FMI survey showed the average number of weekly shopping trips falling below two per household for the first time.
Paula Curtis, a mental health worker in Montpelier, Vt., said her grocery bill has been steadily climbing by $10 to $20 a week. She has cut back on meat, fruit, vegetables and snack food, and buys milk at the gas station, where she said it's cheaper.
"Every time I go, it's more and more," she said. "I make a list, but I don't necessarily get everything on it because I can't afford everything."
Nationwide, a family of four on a moderate-cost shopping plan now spends an average of $904 each month for groceries, an $80 increase from two years ago, according to the USDA.
Those who can't absorb the added expenses are increasingly seeking help from food pantries. America's Harvest, which distributes nearly two billion pounds of food and grocery products each year to more than 200 food banks across the country, estimates that its overall client load increased by 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.
The jump has been even higher at the Central Missouri Food Bank's pantry in Columbia, a college town halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis.
The food pantry served 7,200 people in 2007, an increase of more than 50 percent over two years, said executive director Peggy Kirkpatrick.
Columbia used to be considered inflation-proof because of its high-paying university jobs and proximity to the state capital, 30 miles away in Jefferson City.
"That's not the case anymore," she said.
Shary Auer visits the Columbia food pantry once a month to help extend the family's $800 monthly food budget. The mother of five children, ages 9 to 19, is buying more canned food instead of fresh produce. Portions are smaller around the Auer dinner table, and salads are added regularly to stretch the servings of meat and poultry.
Auer, a part-time postal worker and supermarket cashier, said she fastidiously tracks food prices.
"I watch for sales, save my receipts and highlight what I save," she said.
Not all shoppers are struggling with the changes. At the Whole Foods Market in downtown Seattle, Beth Miller didn't think twice about paying $6.39 for a gallon of organic orange juice, or $4 for a dozen eggs at the store, which specializes in organic and natural foods.
"I'm used to having a small gasp at the cash register," said Miller, who favors local produce and organic food for her husband and 12-year-old son. "We try to be really careful about what we eat."
Among retailers, the surge in commodity prices — from corn, now in high demand because of increased ethanol production, to wheat that has tripled in price over the past 10 months — has some industry observers suggesting that higher food prices aren't a temporary fluctuation but instead may be here to stay.
"We don't exactly have a crystal ball," said Whole Foods' Perry Abbenante, a senior global grocery buyer. "But I'm not sure (prices) are going back. We're preparing for a new threshold."
AP writers Juan Lozano in Houston, Manuel Valdes in Seattle and John Curran in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.