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Saturday, August 6, 2011

China attacks US debt 'addiction' after America loses AAA credit rating

In downgrading the United States credit rating for the first time in its history Friday, Standard & Poor's left little doubt that, for the moment at least, America's debt crisis is, in fact, a political crisis

The impact of the S&P decision to drop US debt from its top AAA rating to AA+ will not be more fully known until Asian markets open on Sunday night. But the move has the potential to raise interest rates on the national debt – a move that could have the knock-on effect of raising interest rates across the US economy, from mortgages to car loans.

Some evidence suggests the impact could be minimal, however, at least in the short term. Markets have guessed at a looming S&P downgrade for weeks and many might have already adjusted somewhat to account for it. Moreover, US Treasury bonds have been considered such a safe investment for both American and overseas investors for so long that they have become deeply interwoven into the global economy. Buyers might not want to risk now demanding higher interest rates from the US because of the shock it would send through markets worldwide.

The downgrade by S&P is a major political embarrassment coming less than a week after high-stakes wrangling among Republicans, Democrats and The White House pushed the US to the brink of default.
S&P had threatened the move in July if Washington failed to deliver what it judged to be a serious plan to tackle the country's deficit and last night, after several discussions with administration officials, the agency followed through. The US government's rating was cut to AA+ and the outlook for the debt was kept on negative in a move designed to keep pressure on Capitol Hill to go further than it has in addressing its $14 trillion of debt.
"The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilise the government's medium-term debt dynamics," S&P said.
By calling the outlook "negative" S&P signalled another downgrade is possible in the next 12 to 18 months.
In its statement, S&P said that it had changed its view "of the difficulties of bridging the gulf between the political parties" over a credible deficit reduction plan.
S&P said it was now "pessimistic" about the capacity of Congress and the White House to stabilise the government's debt.
In an explanation of the decision, S&P said that despite last week's agreement, which raised the $14.3trillion debt ceiling and promised cuts of $2.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, the ratio of America's public debt to the size of its economy may climb to 79pc in 2015 and 85pc by 2021. It is understood that an agreement that had delivered a $4 trillion reduction in the debt pile would have preserved the AAA rating.
The US government quickly hit back at the decision, describing it last night as "flawed". The rating agency, which has been the subject of heavy criticism for its role in the financial crisis, informed the administration on Friday morning that it would be taking the unprecedented step of downgrading the US and offered its findings. Officials at the Treasury department said they found a $2 trillion error in S&P's calculations, which the rating agency disputed.
The decision was eventually made public about four hours after the S&P 500 ended its worst week since the financial crisis amid fears the US risks sliding into recession and as Europe's debt crisis again intensified.
The cost of the financial crisis and recession, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have each driven America's debt higher over the last decade and wiped out the surplus the country had under President Bill Clinton. But it's the projected future cost of a number of major health care and pension plans including Medicare and Social Security that has left the country's debt on a path many, including S&P, believe to be unsustainable without further cuts and tax increases.
US government debt is a cornerstone of the world's financial system, is held in large amounts by foreign creditors such as China and Japan and is used as collateral on a daily basis by banks and investors. While the move has been anticipated by markets since last week's deal in Washington agreed a cut of only $2.5 trillion in the deficit, it's unclear how markets will react when they open on Monday. America's debt is still rated AAA by Moody's and Fitch, the two other largest agencies.
Analysts at Capital Economics said the move will "surely rock the financial markets when they open on Monday" but added that any moves are likely to be short-lived because the slowing global economy makes US government debt, or Treasuries, an attractive place for investors to park money. At roughly $9 trillion in size, the Treasury market has advantages and liquidity that rival government bond markets, including Britain's, cannot match.
Despite the threat of the downgrade, the prices for Treasuries are close to their highs for the year as investors seek safe-havens and expectations for economic growth diminish.
Whatever the reaction next week, investors are clearer that the downgrade is a severe blow to America's prestige and is also likely to increase the US government's borrowing costs. JPMorgan this month estimated that such a move could add about $100bn a year to America's funding costs as lenders demand more to compensate for the greater risk. The US spent $414bn last year on interest payments.
"I have a feeling the dust may settle quite quickly," said David Buck of BGC Partners in London. "The US Treasury market is the most liquid in the world."
Either way, it frays nerves further before what was already going to be tense opening of financial markets next week.

World Twitter

World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth.
In a philosophical context it may refer to: (1) the whole of the physical Universe, or (2) an ontological world. In a theological context, world usually refers to the material or the profane sphere, as opposed to the celestial, spiritual, transcendent or sacred. The "end of the world" refers to scenarios of the final end of human history, often in religious contexts.
World history is commonly understood as spanning the major geopolitical developments of about five millennia, from the first civilizations to the present.
World population is the sum of all human populations at any time; similarly, world economy is the sum of the economies of all societies (all countries), especially in the context of globalization. Terms like world championship, gross world product, world flags etc. also imply the sum or combination of all current-day sovereign states.
In terms such as world religion, world language, and world war, world suggests international or intercontinental scope without necessarily implying participation of the entire world.
In terms such as world map and world climate, world is used in the sense detached from human culture or civilization, referring to the planet Earth physically.

Etymology and usage
The English word world comes from the Old English weorold (-uld), weorld, worold (-uld, -eld), a compound of wer "man" and eld "age," which thus means roughly "Age of Man. The Old English is a reflex of the Common Germanic *wira-alđiz, also reflected in Old Saxon werold, Old High German weralt, Old Frisian warld and Old Norse verǫld (whence the Icelandic veröld).
The corresponding word in Latin mundus, literally "clean, elegant", itself a loan translation of Greek cosmos "orderly arrangement." While the Germanic word thus reflects a mythological notion of a "domain of Man" (compare Midgard), presumably as opposed to the divine sphere on the one hand and the chthonic sphere of the underworld on the other, the Greco-Latin term expresses a notion of creation as an act of establishing order out of chaos.
'World' distinguishes the entire planet or population from any particular country or region: world affairs pertain not just to one place but to the whole world, and world history is a field of history that examines events from a global (rather than a national or a regional) perspective. Earth, on the other hand, refers to the planet as a physical entity, and distinguishes it from other planets and physical objects.
'World' can also be used attributively, to mean 'global', 'relating to the whole world', forming usages such as world community or world canonical texts.
By extension, a 'world' may refer to any planet or heavenly body, especially when it is thought of as inhabited, especially in the context of science fiction or futurology.
'World', in original sense, when qualified, can also refer to a particular domain of human experience.
The world of work describes paid work and the pursuit of career, in all its social aspects, to distinguish it from home life and academic study.
The fashion world describes the environment of the designers, fashion houses and consumers that make up the fashion industry.
historically, the New World vs. the Old World, referring to the parts of the world colonized in the wake of the age of discovery. Now mostly used in zoology and botany, as New World monkey.

In philosophy, the term world has several possible meanings. In some contexts, it refers to everything that makes up reality or the physical universe. In others, it can mean have a specific ontological sense (see world disclosure). While clarifying the concept of world has arguably always been among the basic tasks of Western philosophy, this theme appears to have been raised explicitly only at the start of the twentieth century and has been the subject of continuous debate. The question of what the world is has by no means been settled.

The traditional interpretation of Parmenides' work is that he argued that the every-day perception of reality of the physical world (as described in doxa) is mistaken, and that the reality of the world is 'One Being' (as described in aletheia): an unchanging, ungenerated, indestructible whole.

In his Allegory of the Cave, Plato distingues between forms and ideas and imagines two distinct worlds : the sensible world and the intelligible world.
In Hegel's philosophy of history, the expression Weltgeschichte ist Weltgericht (World History is a tribunal that judges the World) is used to assert the view that History is what judges men, their actions and their opinions. Science is born from the desire to transform the World in relation to Man ; its final end is technical application.

The World as Will and Representation is the central work of Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer saw the human will as our one window to the world behind the representation; the Kantian thing-in-itself. He believed, therefore, that we could gain knowledge about the thing-in-itself, something Kant said was impossible, since the rest of the relationship between representation and thing-in-itself could be understood by analogy to the relationship between human will and human body.

Two definitions that were both put forward in the 1920s, however, suggest the range of available opinion. "The world is everything that is the case," wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein in his influential Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, first published in 1922. This definition would serve as the basis of logical positivism, with its assumption that there is exactly one world, consisting of the totality of facts, regardless of the interpretations that individual people may make of them.

Martin Heidegger, meanwhile, argued that "the surrounding world is different for each of us, and notwithstanding that we move about in a common world".The world, for Heidegger, was that into which we are always already "thrown" and with which we, as beings-in-the-world, must come to terms. His conception of "world disclosure" was most notably elaborated in his 1927 work Being and Time.

In response, Freud proposed that we do not move about in a common world, but a common thought process. He believed that all the actions of a person is motivated by one thing: lust. This led to numerous theories about reactionary consciousness.

Some philosophers, often inspired by David Lewis, argue that metaphysical concepts such as possibility, probability and necessity are best analyzed by comparing the world to a range of possible worlds; a view commonly known as modal realism.


Lollapalooza, is an annual music festival featuring popular alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock and hip hop bands, dance and comedy performances, and craft booths. It has also provided a platform for non-profit and political groups. Lollapalooza has featured a diverse range of bands and has helped expose and popularize artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, The Cure, Primus, The Killers, Rage Against the Machine, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, Metallica, X Japan, Soundgarden, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Alice in Chains, Tool, Hole, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Strokes, Lady GaGa and the Starlight Revue, and Green Day.
Conceived and created in 1991 by Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for his band, Lollapalooza ran annually until 1997, and was revived in 2003. From its inception through 1997, and its revival in 2003, the festival toured North America. In 2004, the festival organizers decided to expand the dates to two days per city, but poor ticket sales forced the 2004 tour to be cancelled. In 2005, Farrell and the William Morris Agency partnered up with Austin, Texas-based company Capital Sports Entertainment (now C3 Presents) and retooled it into its current format as a weekend destination festival in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois. In 2010 it was announced that Lollapalooza would debut overseas, with a branch of the festival staged in Chile's capital Santiago on April 2–3, 2011 where they partnered up with Santiago, Chile-based company Lotus.

The word—sometimes alternatively spelled and pronounced as lollapalootza or lalapaloosa—dates from a late 19th/early 20th century American idiomatic phrase meaning "an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or instance. In time the term also came to refer to a large lollipop. Farrell, searching for a name for his festival, liked the euphonious quality of the now antiquated term upon hearing it in a Three Stooges short film. Paying homage to the term's double meaning, a character in the festival's original logo holds one of the lollipops. The word is also used in Rodgers and Hart's famous showtune "Thou Swell": "Hear me holler I choose a sweet Lollapalooza in thee."

Inspired by events produced by Bill Graham, Perry Farrell, along with Ted Gardener, Marc Geiger, and Don Muller, conceived of the festival in 1990 as a farewell tour for his band Jane's Addiction. Unlike previous music festivals such as Woodstock, A Gathering of the Tribes, or the US Festival, which were one-time events held in one venue, Lollapalooza was a touring festival that travelled across the United States and Canada.
The inaugural 1991 lineup was made up of artists from various genres, drawing in headliners from post-punk such as Siouxsie and the Banshees to rap such as Ice-T as well as industrial music such as Nine Inch Nails. Another key concept behind Lollapalooza was the inclusion of non-musical features. Performers like the Jim Rose Circus Side Show, an alternative freak show, and the Shaolin monks stretched the boundaries of traditional rock culture. There was a tent for display of art pieces, virtual reality games, and information tables for political and environmental non-profit groups promoting counter-culture and political awareness.

Success and decline
It was at Lollapalooza where Farrell coined the term Alternative Nation. The explosion of alternative rock in the early 1990s propelled Lollapalooza forward; the 1992 and 1993 festivals leaned heavily on grunge and alternative acts, and usually featured an additional rap artist. Punk rock standbys like mosh pits and crowd surfing became part of the canon of the concerts. These years saw great increases in the participatory nature of the event with the inclusion of booths for open-microphone readings and oratory, television-smashing pits, and tattooing and piercing parlors. After 1991, the festival included a second stage (and, in 1996, a third stage) for up-and-coming bands or local acts. Attendee complaints of the festival included high ticket prices as well as the high cost for food and water at the shows. When the festival played at the Alpine Valley festival in East Troy, Wisconsin on August 29, 1992, and also at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Michigan (near Detroit) in 1992, concertgoers ripped up chunks of sod and grass and threw them at each other and at the bands, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damages to the venue.
Grunge band Nirvana was scheduled to headline at the festival in 1994, but the band officially dropped out of the festival on April 7, 1994. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's body was discovered in Seattle, Washington the next day. Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, made guest appearances at several shows, including the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania show at FDR Park (usually taking time given to her by The Smashing Pumpkins vocalist/guitarist Billy Corgan), speaking to the crowds about the loss, then singing a minimum of two songs. Farrell worked with rock poster artist Jim Evans (T.A.Z.) to create a series of posters and the complete graphic decoration for the 1994 event, including two 70 ft. tall Buddha statues that flanked the main stage. In 1996, Farrell, who had been the soul of the festival, decided to focus his energy to produce his new festival project, ENIT, and did not participate in producing Lollapalooza.Many fans saw the addition of Metallica in 1996 as going against the practice of featuring "non-mainstream" artists. Moreover, festival cofounder Farrell felt that the group's macho image violated his peaceful vision for the festival, for alternative culture of the early 1990s was generally against macho behavior. Farrell quit the tour in protest. Efforts were made to keep the festival relevant, including more eclectic acts such as country superstar Waylon Jennings and emphasizing more heavily electronica groups like The Prodigy. By 1997, however, the Lollapalooza concept had run out of steam, and in 1998 failed efforts to find a suitable headliner resulted in the festival's cancellation. The cancellation served as a signifier of alternative rock's declining popularity. In light of the festival's troubles that year, Spin said, "Lollapalooza is as comatose as alternative rock right now.

]Revival and rebirth
In 2003, Farrell reconvened Jane's Addiction and scheduled a new Lollapalooza tour. The festival schedule included venues in 30 cities through July and August. The 2003 tour achieved only marginal success with many fans staying away, presumably because of high ticket prices. Another tour scheduled for 2004 was to consist of a two-day festival taking place in each city. It was cancelled in June due to weak ticket sales across the country.
Farrell partnered with Capital Sports & Entertainment (now C3 Presents), which co-owns and produces the Austin City Limits Music Festival, to produce Lollapalooza. CSE, Farrell and the William Morris Agency—along with Charles Attal Presents—resurrected Lollapalooza as a two-day destination festival in 2005 in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, with an even greater variety of performers (70 acts on five stages) than that of the touring festival. The festival was generally successful, attracting over 65,000 attendees, despite a 104 degree Sunday heat wave (two people were hospitalized for heat related illness). It returned to Chicago on August 4–6, 2006. On October 25, 2006, the Chicago Park District and Capital Sports & Entertainment agreed to a five-year, $5 million deal, keeping Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago until 2011. Lollapalooza ran August 3–5 in 2007, August 1–3 in 2008, August 7–9 in 2009, and August 6–8 in 2010. The dates for 2011 are set for August 5–7. After a successful 2008 festival, another deal was signed to keep Lollapalooza in Chicago through 2018, guaranteeing the city $13 million.

International expansion
In 2010, it was announced that Lollapalooza would debut overseas, with a branch of the festival staged in Chile's capital Santiago on April 2–3, 2011. The line up included Kanye West, Jane's Addiction, 30 Seconds to Mars, The National, The Drums, The Killers, Ana Tijoux, Javiera Mena, Fatboy Slim, Deftones, Los Plumabits, Cypress Hill, 311, The Flaming Lips and many others.

Desperate Housewives' to end this year

US broadcaster ABC is expected to announce on Sunday that the eighth season of Desperate Housewives, which starts in September, will be the last.
The women of Wisteria Lane, including Teri Hatcher as Susan Mayer and Eva Longeria as Gabrielle Solis, burst on to television screens in 2004 and immediately attracted 21.6 million viewers. The show eventually attracted 120 million viewers around the world.
It has recently seen audiences dwindle and there was also off-screen drama with former cast member Nicolette Sheridan suing over her departure.
The creator of the show, Marc Cherry, is not returning to produce the final season's episodes, allowing him to focus on other projects.
The show, which centres on the lives of a group of women in the fictional town of Fairview, has won numerous Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Media reps for "Desperate Housewives" told TODAY.com that reports of the show's conclusion in May is "all speculative at this point." They also confirmed to TODAY.com that ABC will have the official word on Sunday, when the network presents at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles.
When TODAY.com asked actor Kevin Rahm, who plays Lee McDermott, on Friday about ABC's rumored decision to end the show after the eighth season, he said, "They haven’t told me yet."
But he does have an idea of how he'd like Lee's story on Wisteria Lane to end. "Artistically, I want to go down big. I want to knock someone off, or die, or have been a secret agent the whole time," he told TODAY.com.
However, it's not yet clear if Rahm will return for the potential final season. He said that "Housewives" offered him a one-year contract last year, and allowed him to do pilot season. He then landed the role of Jack on the upcoming Fox sitcom "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," which Rahm was promoting at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles Friday. "I got this job ("Daughter"), then they kind of lost their chance at me," he said.
Should ABC want him back for "Housewives," Rahm told TODAY.com, "Time will not be the issue. It’ll be an issue of ... contracts and Fox and ABC. It’ll be out of my hands. If it were up to me, I would do both for the rest of the year."
When asked about the "Housewives' " eighth season, Rahm said, "Like all shows, anything after seven years is different than it was in the beginning. But I think it’ll go down as being a very influential show and a fun show. I still love it.

Lollapalooza opens its 20th anniversary bash

Lollapalooza 2011 opened with this ringing, backhanded endorsement from Jenn Wasner of the band Wye Oak: “I love Lollapalooza because it’s the one festival even my grandparents know what it is.”

Such cross-generational branding helped sell out a record capacity this year, the 20th anniversary of the annual live music smorgasbord. This weekend, 90,000 fans will attend each day of Lollapalooza. That makes this three-day concert in Grant Park one of the country’s biggest, with Coachella’s daily attendance around 75,000 and Bonnaroo’s more than 100,000.

At this massive music event, 140 artists and bands will perform on eight stages over three days, leading up to Sunday night headliners Deadmau5, Kid Cudi and the Foo Fighters. Here’s our report from Friday night’s first round:

Who was the main headliner Friday night? If you’re over 30, you probably thought it was Coldplay. But the biggest stage at Lollapalooza with room for the biggest crowd is on Hutchison Field in the south end of the park, and that’s not where Coldplay performed. The bigger stage and crowd went to Muse.

That older demographic has been asking me for weeks, “Who the hell is Muse?” But this wailing trio has been around for 17 years, longer than Coldplay — long enough that at festivals later this month in their native Britain they’ll be performing one of their “classic” albums in its entirety — and they sold out London’s Wembley Stadium before most Yanks had heard of them. Muse has developed a fiercely loyal following around the world of largely younger fans less familiar with the glam- and prog-rock they ape so ably. The band’s appearance last year on the latest “Twilight” movie soundtrack put them over the top in the United States.

One recurring theme at Friday's Lollapalooza was guy-girl tag teams, although the various pairings couldn't sound more different.
The Kills' guitarist Jamie Hince laid down dense, intense indie rock riffs as body-whipping Alison Mosshart sang sultry vocals through a weave of sticky, jet-black hair. When her eyes peered through on tracks like pulsating Heart is a Beating Drum, off its album Blood Pressures, Mosshart looked like a tiger poised to kill its prey.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, playing at the same time, retro pop revival act Cults, expanded from duo Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion to five touring performers. Their gentle, xylophone-kissed, '60s pop-leaning instrumentation gracefully glided over the crowd like a fluffy cloud, masking many of the tracks' melancholy lyrics, and making up for the fact that standout Go Outside lost some context out in broad daylight.
Somewhere in between the intensity of The Kills and the lightness of Cults was Black Cards, a new duo (expanded to include a drummer for Lolla) created by Chicago-area native Pete Wentz while emo-pop juggernaut Fall Out Boy is on indefinite hiatus. Unlike Kills or Cults, Cards is electro pop through and through, led by newcomer Bebe Rexha on vocals. While the music was light in tone, the performance was as aggressive a spectacle as you could get from a band with its first album still in the wings and performing on one of Lolla's smallest stages. Rexha exuded confidence and chops singing wannabe club jams like Take Me Down (Higher), released on SoundCloud the day of the show. She was joined on stage by dirty dancing models in skimpy black outfits initially wearing werewolf masks, a freaky, arm-twisting, head-popping contortionist, and Wentz, who threw beach balls and toilet paper rolls into the crowd, and stagedived three times in less than 30 minutes. "I just wanted to have fun on stage," Wentz said. Based on the crowd's reaction, the fun was infectious.

The biggest addition to Lolla this year is the expansion of the Perry's DJ stage to a tented venue with a capacity of 20,000. But within a few hours, it looked like Lolla organizers would have to increase capacity already next year. People were packed in shoulder to shoulder, with thick clusters around the perimeter, waiting for Afrojack to take the stage. It was so crowded, the Chicago Fire Department briefly delayed the show until some space was cleared. And Afrojack wasn't even the stage's final headliner (that honor would fall to Girl Talk). "We are sliding on sweat," Nicole Mendoza, 18 of Chicago, said of the conditions inside.
The stars warmed up their crowd with an unexpected performance of Jay-Z's profane 99 Problems inspiring thousands in the crowd to sing along. But don't fret, Coldplay is still Coldplay, devoted to thematically safe, nevertheless ambitious anthems that stir the emotions. That applies to the five songs Chris Martin and company played that have already made the rounds at some summer shows in Europe. Standouts included Charlie Brown, with Jonny Buckland's sticky, uplifting guitar work, and the soft, romantic Us Against The World, which featured drummer Will Champion on piano and backing vocals. The masses seemed engaged with the new stuff, but it showed the most enthusiasm with familiar favorites, singing loudly to Yellow, In My Place and The Scientist. Before Martin had a chance to sing a single note during a long intro to Viva la Vida, fans were already singing the lyrics. The band also explored some creative liberty on God Put a Smile Upon Your Face, rearranging the intro and incorporating galloping drum work. "It took us 20 years to get to Lollapalooza and we've always wanted to do it," Martin said. "Thank you for making four young, well not that young anymore, but four men's dreams come true. We're going to give everything we have this evening." Coldplay lived up to his word.

Creating jobs must be Washington’s top priority

The jobs report, issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed better than expected job growth in July. There were 117,000 jobs added, higher than the 85,000 that economists were expecting, but still far lower than necessary to significantly bring down the nation's high unemployment rate. Unemployment went from 9.2 percent in June to 9.1 percent in July.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said in a statement, “Today's dismal jobs report is a far cry from the hope and change that President Obama promised on the campaign trail. ... Despite these clear and abundant signs that our economy is floundering, President Obama has still failed to deliver a concrete plan to create jobs and promote growth. This lack of leadership is inexcusable and driving our economy toward decline.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also blamed Obama for slow job growth: “Today's unemployment report represents the 30th straight month that the jobless rate has been above 8 percent. The administration promised with their $800 billion stimulus that they would keep unemployment below that number. When you see what this president has done to the economy in just three years, you know why America doesn't want to find out what he can do in eight.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) mentioned the large number of donors to Obama's 2012 political campaign in a jab on his economic policies.

Obama echoed this message in Saturday’s address, saying that the top priority for Washington must be helping Americans find jobs and building a sense of economic security for middle class families.

Just as Democrats and Republicans finally came together to resolve the debt ceiling impasse, the president said the two parties must come together once more to tackle unemployment.

“We’ve got to put politics aside to get some things done,” Obama said. “That’s what the American people expect of us.”

As he has said numerous times in recent months, the president stressed that there are immediate steps that Congress can take when it returns to the capital to boost job creation, including extending tax cuts for middle-class families, giving tax credit to companies that hire veterans and getting rid of red tape that can hold back entrepreneurs.

Obama also called on lawmakers to pass the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama – deals that he said would not only help put people to work, but also put the words “Made in America” on products sold around the world.

The president maintained that each of these steps shares the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

“So I’m going to keep calling on both parties in Congress to put aside their differences and send these bills to my desk so I can sign them right away,” he said. “After all, both parties share power.”

Obama added, “Moving our economy and our country forward is not a Democratic or a Republican responsibility; it is our responsibility as Americans. That’s the spirit we need in Washington right now.

Lea Michele - Ryan Murphy Received Death Threats

Ryan Murphy, who is best known for creating the Television series “Glee,” said that he has been the subject of death threats.

Murphy has given extra weightage to homosexual and minorities stuff on Glee, something that has not went down well with a large chunk of the audience. And so, they voiced their rejection of Murphy’s ideas by threatening him with his life.

Speaking in an interview with Deadline magazine, Ryan said, “I think any time you shine a spotlight on homosexuality or minorities and you try and say they are as normal or as worthy as acceptance as others, the people who are on the fringe don’t like that and they will come after you. And they have come after me. I think it’s such a great show for young kids. The values of it, I think, are great.”

He said that Glee was originally meant to be a post-safe harbor program and confessed that he made some mistakes while writing the storylines.

The Glee mastermind explained, “Ninety per cent of what the show has to say is so positive, I feel stupid and bad that the 10 per cent would exclude a portion of the episode. There are specific episodes where we did push it too far.

Murphy also spoke about how he had made some mistakes with the show that may have contributed to the ill-feeling, admitting that he had "screwed up in hindsight" because the show was originally intended to be post-watershed: "There are specific episodes where we did push it too far. I think the condom demonstration was a road too far. I think showing a kid masturbating was a bridge too far. You know, when you're creating a show you're in the middle of it and then you hear the comments." He also opened up about the decision to allow key members of the cast - Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith to 'graduate' and thereby leave the show. "I was, for a solid week, the Anti-Christ," he said. He also added that the three would return in some capacity.

U.S. Loses AAA Credit Rating as S&P Slams Debt

Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S.'s AAA credit rating for the first time, slamming the nation's political process and criticizing lawmakers for failing to cut spending enough to reduce record budget deficits.

S&P lowered the U.S. one level to AA+ while keeping the outlook at "negative" as it becomes less confident Congress will end Bush-era tax cuts or tackle entitlements. The rating may be cut to AA within two years if spending reductions are lower than agreed to, interest rates rise or "new fiscal pressures" result in higher general government debt, the New York-based firm said yesterday.

Lawmakers agreed on Aug. 2 to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling and put in place a plan to enforce $2.4 trillion in spending reductions over the next 10 years, less than the $4 trillion S&P had said it preferred. Even with the specter of a downgrade, demand for Treasuries surged as investors saw few alternatives amid concern global growth is slowing and Europe's sovereign debt crisis is spreading.

"The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics," S&P said in a statement late yesterday after markets closed.

S&P’s action may hurt the U.S. economy over time by increasing the cost of mortgages, auto loans and other types of lending tied to the interest rates paid on Treasuries. JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimated that a downgrade would raise the nation’s borrowing costs by $100 billion a year. The U.S. spent $414 billion on interest expense in fiscal 2010, or 2.7 percent of gross domestic product, according to Treasury Department data.
“It’s a reflection of the fact that we haven’t done enough to get our fiscal house in the order,” Anthony Valeri, market strategist in San Diego at LPL Financial, which oversees $340 billion, said in an interview before the cut. “Sovereign credit quality is going to remain under pressure for years to come.”
The agreement between Republicans and Democrats raised the nation’s debt ceiling until 2013 and threatens automatic spending cuts to enforce the $2.4 trillion in spending reductions over the next 10 years.
Even with the accord, S&P said the U.S.’s debt may rise to 74 percent of gross domestic product by year-end, to 79 percent in 2015 and 85 percent by 2021.
S&P also changed its assumption that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush would expire by the end of 2012 “because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.

S&P gives 18 sovereign entities its top ranking, including Australia, Hong Kong and the Isle of Man, according to a July report. The U.K. which is estimated to have debt to GDP this year of 80 percent, 6 percentage points higher than the U.S., also has the top credit grade. In contrast with the U.S., its net public debt is forecast to decline either before or by 2015, S&P said in the statement yesterday.
New Zealand is the only country other than the U.S. that has a AA+ rating from S&P and an Aaa grade from Moody’s. Belgium has an equivalent AA+ grade from S&P, Moody’s and Fitch.
A U.S. credit-rating cut would likely raise the nation’s borrowing costs by increasing Treasury yields by 60 basis points to 70 basis points over the “medium term,” JPMorgan’s Terry Belton said on a July 26 conference call hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
“That impact on Treasury rates is significant,” Belton, global head of fixed-income strategy at JPMorgan, said during the call. “That $100 billion a year is money being used for higher interest rates and that’s money being taken away from other goods and services.

Five current or former police officers deadly shootings Katrina

EW ORLEANS  — Five current or former police officers were convicted Friday of federal civil rights charges related to deadly shootings on a New Orleans bridge after Hurricane Katrina:
SGT. Kenneth Bowen
Bowen, 37, was in the passenger seat of a rental truck that police drove to the Danziger Bridge in response to an officer's distress call. Former officer Michael Hunter, who was driving the truck, testified he saw Bowen lean over a concrete barrier on the east side of the bridge and randomly spray gunfire at wounded, unarmed people. Bowen was convicted in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old James Brissette, and of stomping on a dying, mentally disabled man, 40-year-old Ronald Madison, on the west side of the bridge. He's been on leave without pay due to incarceration.
SGT. Robert Gisevius
Gisevius, 39, was one of several officers in the rear of the rental truck when it arrived at the bridge. He allegedly fired an assault rifle on the east side of the bridge, where five people were shot, one fatally. But the weapon wasn't turned over to investigators. Jurors convicted him in the fatal shooting of Brissette — jurors didn't have to decide whether Brissette was murdered because they didn't hold any of the defendants individually responsible for causing his death. Gisevius also was convicted of taking part in a cover-up. In 2009, the FBI secretly taped a conversation in which Gisevius shared his suspicion that someone was leaking information to federal investigators. He's been on leave without pay due to incarceration.
OFFICER Anthony Villavaso
Villavaso, 34, also arrived at the bridge in the rear of the rental truck. A firearms expert who testified for the government said he matched nine ammunition casings found at the bridge to an assault rifle used by Villavaso. Jurors convicted him in Brissette's shooting and the cover-up. During a conversation recorded by the FBI, Villavaso repeatedly insisted he saw a civilian with a gun on the bridge. He's been on leave without pay due to incarceration.
Faulcon, 47, was convicted in Brissette's shooting and found guilty of fatally shooting Madison on the west side of the bridge. But the jury decided Madison's killing didn't amount to murder. Faulcon, the only defendant to testify during the trial, said he was "paralyzed with fear" when he shot Madison. He didn't dispute that he shot an unarmed man in the back with a shotgun, but he said he believed Madison posed a threat as Faulcon chased him and his brother, Lance Madison, down the bridge. Faulcon left the police force shortly after the hurricane and took a job as a truck driver.
RETIRED SGT. Arthur Kaufman
Kaufman, 55, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, was convicted of participating in a cover-up to make the shootings appear justified. Prosecutors said he fabricated witnesses, falsified reports and planted a gun. Kaufman's attorney tried to shift blame to former Lt. Michael Lohman, who was the ranking officer on the bridge, and Sgt. Gerard Dugue, who also investigated the shootings. Lohman pleaded guilty to participating in a cover-up. Dugue is scheduled to be tried separately later this year. Kaufman, who was not charged with participating in any of the shootings, retired from the police force earlier this year.

Prosecutors alleged that the fifth suspect, Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, a homicide investigator, joined the other four in covering up the incident, inventing witnesses, holding a meeting with the suspects to help them get their stories straight, and saying that a gun from his house was evidence found at the scene.

The four officers who were on the bridge were convicted of civil rights violations and charges related to the cover-up. They face potential multiple life terms.

The jury was asked to determine whether the killings amounted to "murder," which, while not a formal charge, would have resulted in potentially tougher sentences under federal statutes. But jurors declined to do so.

Jury convicts 5 New Orleans policemen

Five New Orleans police officers were convicted by a jury of various charges related to deadly shootings on a bridge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The jury stopped short of finding four officers guilty of two counts of murder in the case, although it convicted the officers of gun and civil rights charges, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

A fifth police officer who wasn't at the shooting was also convicted of corrupting the investigation and planting evidence.

Two people were shot and killed on the Danziger Bridge on Interstate 10 by police Sept. 4, 2005, days after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and sent the city into mayhem. Four other civilians were wounded by police.

The four officers involved in the shootings have been in jail since their indictments and face prison sentences ranging from 35 to 60 years, the newspaper said. They all pleaded guilty to the various charges.

Afghan helicopter crash kills 31 US troops

KABUL, Afghanistan— Thirty-one American troops and seven Afghans died in the overnight downing of a U.S. helicopter, President Hamid Karzai's office said Saturday. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the craft.

The deaths represent the largest loss of military lives in a single incident in the course of the nearly 10-year-old war, and are a blow to Western efforts as the United States and its allies begin drawing down forces in Afghanistan in hopes of ending their combat role in the next three years.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, confirmed in a terse statement that a helicopter crash had occurred and acknowledged insurgent activity in the area at the time. A Western military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the twin-rotor Chinook helicopter had apparently been brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Karzai's statement identified the slain Americans as special operations forces. Sensitive to operational secrecy, special forces commanders as a rule are slower than other branches to publicly acknowledge combat casualties, which would account for the military's near-silence on the incident more than 12 hours after it occurred.

The helicopter went down after midnight in the Sayedabad district of Wardak province, west of the capital, Kabul, according to Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the provincial governor. He and other provincial officials said the crash followed a firefight that had left eight insurgents dead.

The NATO force said recovery efforts were under way, and Afghan officials said the crash site had been cordoned off. The statement from Karzai's office reporting the U.S. and Afghan casualties offered condolences to President Obama and the families of the Afghans who died.

Downings of Western helicopters by hostile fire have been relatively rare in the Afghan conflict. Far more military choppers are lost to mechanical problems or bad weather.

The Taliban claimed its fighters had ambushed Western troops after being tipped off to an imminent night raid in the district. The crash site is located in Wardak's Tangi valley, where the insurgents are known to be active.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility, saying their fighters downed the helicopter in a battle with Nato troops, according to the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Islamist group also said eight of its fighters had been killed in the fighting.

The incident is believed to be the biggest single loss of life for US forces in Afghanistan since they began operations in 2001.

Nawaz Haqyar, police chief of Maidan Wardak province, said the helicopter had come down in the province, which is west of the country's capital Kabul.

Karzai said in a statement that he has sent his condolences to US President Barack Obama.

Leon Panetta warns against more cuts in Pentagon budget

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta effectively told Congress on Thursday to raise taxes and cut Social Security and Medicare before taking another swipe at the Pentagon budget beyond defense cuts already called for in the debt-ceiling deal.

In his first Pentagon news conference, Mr. Panetta, a former budget director in the Clinton White House, lent his voice to the Obama administration’s strategy of putting pressure on Congress to consider raising revenues when a special committee meets this fall to recommend $1.5 trillion in additional deficit-reduction measures. Mr. Obama signed a debt-ceiling deal on Tuesday calling for an initial $1 trillion in cuts.

Mr. Panetta’s argument was that defense had given up enough — about $350 billion of that $1 trillion over 10 years — and that further cuts would have dire consequences. He then segued into a brief discourse on “discretionary” federal spending, like defense, and “mandatory” federal spending, like Social Security and other entitlements.

“Let me for a moment put a budget hat on,” said Mr. Panetta, who is a month into his job as defense secretary. “You cannot deal with the size deficits that this country is confronting by simply cutting the discretionary side of the budget. That represents less than a third of the overall federal budget.

“You’ve got to, as the president’s made clear, if you’re going to look at those size deficits, you’ve got to look at the mandatory side of the budget, which is two-thirds of the federal budget. And you also have to look at revenues as part of that answer.”

Mr. Panetta made his comments on the second straight day of a Pentagon pushback to hundreds of billions of dollars of budget cuts potentially coming its way, the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that it has faced shrinking spending.

Both Mr. Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, who joined Mr. Panetta at the news conference, used words like “disastrous” and “unacceptable” to describe across-the-board cuts that would automatically kick in if the new committee failed to agree on reductions this fall.

Mr. Panetta also took the position that the committee should make no further defense cuts, either. The White House, however, has not ruled out further defense reductions. The committee, to be composed of six Democrats and six Republicans, would also be unlikely to take them off the table.

Defense spending represents about half of the federal government’s discretionary spending, and the military’s budget has increased by more than 70 percent since 2001. Although the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the Pentagon upward of $1 trillion, nearly half of the growth in defense spending in the past decade has been unrelated to the wars.

Panetta said the $600 billion in cuts “would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military’s ability to protect the nation. It is an outcome that would be completely unacceptable to me as secretary of defense, to the president and, I believe, to our nation’s leaders.”

Earlier this week, a senior defense official said thousands of Defense Department civilians would lose their jobs if larger cuts were triggered by a failure of the bipartisan panel to reach an agreement.

Mullen, who just returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, said the partisan fight over debt reduction had fueled worries among the troops that they might not be paid on time.

“Our men and women down range have enough to worry about just getting their job done,” Mullen said. “They shouldn’t also be concerned about whether or not they will be paid to do that job or whether or not their families will continue to get the support they need during long absences. We can do better than that, as a military and as a nation.”

Pentagon officials have tried to sound optimistic about the chances of a congressional panel reaching a deal that would spare the Pentagon additional pain. That hasn’t stopped them, however, from citing the dangers should the committee of Democrats and Republicans fail.

Asked whether, given the sharpness of his warning, Panetta thought he would be able to serve as defense secretary if the additional cuts were made, he chuckled.

Euro dream threatens to become nightmare

Europe has dramatically scaled up its efforts to stanch its sovereign-debt crisis since the start of last year, but to no apparent avail as the turmoil threatened this week to overwhelm Spain and Italy.

Yet, governments still have some unused weapons in their armory—though the political cost of firing them will be high.

As the common currency of 17 nation states, the euro isn't like national currencies. Governments borrowing in their own currencies don't usually need bailouts, because, as a last resort, national central banks stand behind their banks and their governments.

The euro zone is different. The European Central Bank is prevented by treaty restrictions from lending to governments and has been a reluctant buyer of government bonds in the secondary market. Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup, argues that this creates a "black hole" at the center of the euro zone that constitutes "a fundamental design flaw" of the currency union.

Euro-zone governments have tried to patch over this flaw by setting up bailout funds. Over the past 18 months, they have rescued Greece, Ireland and Portugal after they were shut out of financial markets.

But these steps haven't been enough to stop the much bigger economies of Spain and Italy from drifting into the debt vortex. One reason for this, according to analysts, is that the bailout funds haven't been big enough or flexible enough to handle large liquidity crises.

Euro-zone leaders made big strides boosting the tools available to the main rescue vehicle, known as the European Financial Stability Facility, at a summit July 21, which also set new aid for Greece.

The Italian state marked the 150th anniversary of its creation earlier this year. Its people did so with little celebration. Apart from Italy’s post-second World War decades of successful modernisation, most of this history has been one of underachievement and worse.

The Italian state’s first 50 years were marked by instability and weakness before two decades of fascist night descended over the country. Invasion, defeat and civil war in the 1940s left deep scars.

Now, the economy has been stagnating for almost two decades, with living standards barely rising and its once-vaunted industries – from textiles to autos – shrinking in the face of low-wage competition.

Italian entrepreneurialism and design flair succeeded in medium-tech industries when foreign competition was less intense, but success in high-tech sectors operating in a globalised context has been much harder to achieve.

One reason is schooling. Italy’s education system is ever more inadequate in preparing its young for the modern world of work and many of those who manage to do well are stymied in one of Europe’s least meritocratic societies.

Government influence on economies is often overstated, but it is important. Bad government in particular can have big negative effects on growth. The evidence that mismanaged public finances stifle growth is strong. And in this area Italy has long been a European leader – it is the only country to have a national debt bigger than its GDP uninterruptedly since the 1980s.

In the early 1990s the sweeping away of the cold war political parties and the jailing of many of the most corrupt politicians brought hope of better and cleaner government. Those hopes have long since been dashed.

The country’s long-time prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has dominated for most of that period. Even by the low standards of Italian politics, he has plumbed new depths. But however bad his actions, his inactions have been even more damaging.

Many of the reforms that could help spur the economy have gone unimplemented, despite his promises to shake the country up. Nor has he made much of a dent in Italy’s public debt mountain. His main appeal – that he could bring to the business of government the same get-things-done approach that made him one of Europe’s richest men – has proved baseless.

But Berlusconi will not lead Italy forever, and the country’s political class has shown that it can push through painful reform. Perhaps ironically, its biggest achievement in recent times was ensuring that Italy squeezed into the euro as a founding member. There is no such prize for taking radical action now. Instead, incentive comes from the need to avoid disaster. Italy’s politicians might yet rise to the challenge.

If Italy faces huge challenges, Spain’s are no less daunting.

Unlike the plodding Italian economy, Spain enjoyed a decade-long boom from the late 1990s. But the Iberian tiger, like its Celtic cousin, became engorged on credit. Property prices soared, construction boomed and competitiveness evaporated.

When the bubble burst the public finances went into a tailspin, the banks teetered and unemployment soared. It has suffered a much bigger shock than Italy and its economy is still on the floor, with consumers and households pinned down by huge mortgage debts.

Spain’s economy faces bigger challenges than Italy, with the exception of its government’s indebtedness.

With debts of 60 per cent of GDP in 2010, Spain has some breathing space (in Italy the figure was 120 per cent and in Ireland almost 100 per cent).

With such a manageable debt burden Spain does not look close to being insolvent, as the bond market has been moving towards concluding in recent weeks. So why the panic?

One reason for the recent loss of confidence in the country has been because fears are rife that its banks are not coming clean on their property losses. So far, those admitted to have been a tiny fraction of Irish banks’ losses, despite a property collapse there that is much more than a fraction the size of ours. Another suspicion is that the country’s 17 big-spending regional governments are keeping liabilities hidden.

If either or both of these suspicions have some basis in truth, Spain’s true debt levels are higher than officially stated.

But one reason to be optimistic about Spain relative to Italy over the long term is its more effective political system. This has been in evidence since the crisis erupted, with the government earning praise for undertaking some bold reforms and for reining in its budget deficit.

Although the Spanish are sometimes called the Germans of the south, the more likely explanation for their better governance is not cultural but institutional. Whereas in Italy the executive is weak and unstable – famously, the government has changed on average once a year since the second World War – in Spain, since the return to democracy in the late 1970s, governments have been stable and more effective.

This did not happen by accident but by design, and was informed by the lessons the two countries learned from their respective decades of dictatorship. While Italy’s 1948 constitution deliberately created a weak centre to avoid a repetition of the abuses in Mussolini’s time when power was highly centralised, Spain’s 1978 constitution created a strong and stable executive because weak government was seen to be a big factor in Franco’s seizing power in the 1930s.

Spain’s better political system gives reason to believe that it can manage its public debt problems, but no government can magic away a huge private debt burden or restore at a stroke chronic economy-wide uncompetitiveness. Even with lots of luck Spain faces a long and painful struggle.

Europe is in a bad place now. It looks increasingly likely that the euro zone countries will have to throw their fiscal lot in together in order to avoid cataclysm in the short term. But this brings its own risks.

Northerners will not like it. If they feel they will permanently foot the bill for southern profligacy they may rise up against it. That could get very ugly. The longer Italy and Spain remain in a slump, the greater the chances of that happening.

Southerners may not take their medicine lying down either. If their economies don’t return to growth, their peoples may reach breaking point. If they come to believe that an uncaring and alien force is imposing its will on them resentments could boil over.