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Friday, March 27, 2009

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Friday March 27 2009 - (813)

Friday March 27 2009 edition
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Treasury Secretary Geithner Calls For Major Overhaul Of Financial Rules
2009-03-26 15:36:32
The Obama administration on Thursday detailed its wide-ranging plan to overhaul financial regulation by subjecting hedge funds and traders of exotic financial instruments, now among the biggest and most freewheeling players on Wall Street, to potentially strict new government supervision.

Treasury Secretary Timothey F. Geithner outlined the plan Thursday before the House Financial Services Committee, where he got a decidedly mixed reception. He said the changes were needed to fix a badly flawed system that was exposed by the current financial crisis. Geithner, in his opening statement, called for “comprehensive reform. Not modest repairs at the margin, but new rules of the game.”

“Very complex, very consequential, very difficult,” Geithner called the changes that he said were necessary, and the sooner the better.

Included in the plan would be the establishment of one single agency “with responsibility for systemic stability over the major institutions and critical payment and settlement systems and activities.”

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U.S. Officials: Pakistan's Military Intelligence Helping Taliban Strikes Against Afghanistan
2009-03-26 15:36:06
The Taliban's widening campaign in southern Afghanistan is made possible in part by direct support from operatives in Pakistan's military intelligence agency, despite Pakistani government promises to sever ties to militant groups fighting in Afghanistan, according to American government officials.

The support consists of money, military supplies and strategic planning guidance to Taliban commanders who are gearing up to confront the international force in Afghanistan that will soon include some 17,000 American reinforcements.

Support for the Taliban, as well as other militant groups, is coordinated by operatives inside the shadowy S Wing of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, said the officials. There is even evidence that ISI operatives meet regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections.

Details of the ISI’s continuing ties to militant groups were described by a half-dozen American, Pakistani and other security officials during recent interviews in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. All requested anonymity because they were discussing classified and sensitive intelligence information.

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Over 5.5 Million Americans Drawing Jobless Benefits
2009-03-26 15:35:34
The number of laid-off Americans filing initial jobless benefit claims rose slightly last week while the number of people continuing to claim benefits set a record for the ninth straight week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The figures indicate that the labor market remains weak even as some other recent economic indicators have come in better than expected.

The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose to a seasonally adjusted 652,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 644,000, slightly higher than analysts expected. A year ago, the number stood at 367,000.

The total number of people claiming benefits for more than a week jumped 122,000 to 5.56 million, significantly higher than analysts' projections of 5.48 million and the highest on records dating back to 1967. The continuing claims data lag initial claims by a week.

The number of continuing claims has increased by more than 100,000 four times in the past five weeks, an indication that workers are remaining on the rolls for longer as they struggle to land a new job after being laid off.

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I.R.S. To Offer Deal To Wealthy Tax Evaders
2009-03-26 15:36:19

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service, under pressure to bring in money to the faltering economy, plans to give offshore tax evaders a big break.

The agency has drafted a plan that significantly lowers a penalty that applies to wealthy Americans who hide money overseas in secret accounts, a person briefed on the matter said Thursday. The plan is intended to lure out of hiding scores of wealthy people who must come forward and declare their accounts in order to take advantage of the lower penalty.

The plan was developed amid a widening investigation into wealthy American clients of UBS but will apply to clients of other banks as well.

Under the plan, according to the person briefed on the issue, the I.R.S. will reduce an onerous penalty for not filing a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account, known as an Fbar - something offshore tax evaders have not done.

The current penalty is 50 percent of the high balance of each account over the last three years - an amount that can wipe out an investor’s accounts in just two years - but the I.R.S. will reduce that penalty to 5 to 20 percent, depending in part on whether the wealth was inherited.

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Fargo Residents Race To Protect Against Rising Red River
2009-03-26 15:35:49
Volunteers, many of them cold and weary after loading sandbags all night, were racing on Thursday to raise dikes protecting this city still higher, hoping to hold back the Red River, which is expected to reach record levels by Saturday.

In one sign of this city’s intensifying fears about the flooding threat, hundreds of workers on Thursday began building a second set of dikes - inside the primary, 12-mile long dike - to protect Fargo’s main services, like a water plant and a waste water facility.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Dennis Walaker, the mayor of this city, said after a morning meeting of city officials. Noting that the river’s waters had risen another 3 feet in the last day, Walaker said he gave the city a “3- or maybe 4-to-1 shot at winning” its battle with the flood. “We’re still optimistic,” he said.

Worries of major flooding extend well beyond Fargo. Throughout parts of North Dakota and western Minnesota, residents are bracing for the Red River, nearby streams and rivers and the Missouri River to spill their banks - the result, said experts, of a combination of factors. In the fall, the flat terrain here was saturated by rain, followed by a winter of heavy snow, and now - as so much snow began melting - came days more of rain and, on Wednesday, half a foot of snow in some places.

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New York Art Dealer Is Charged With Stealing $88 Million
2009-03-26 15:34:54

A noted Upper East Side art dealer in New York City has been indicted on charges he stole $88 million from investors and collectors who consigned artwork to him and said they were cheated out of the sale proceeds or never saw the pieces again, according to a person briefed on the case.

The dealer, Lawrence B. Salander, and his business, the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, were charged by a grand jury with 100 counts including grand larceny, falsifying business records, scheming to defraud, forgery and perjury, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the charges had not been formally announced. A news conference was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Salander was arrested at his home in upstate Millbrook, New York, on Thursday morning.

Salander’s gallery displayed paintings as different as English landscapes by John Constable and modernistic scenes by  Robert De Niro, Sr., the actor’s father. The gallery boasted that The Robb Report, the glossy lifestyle guide for the rich, had cited it as the best gallery in the world in 2003.

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