Friday, March 14, 2014

Before Crisis, Ukrainians More Likely to See NATO as a Threat - Gallup poll

Before Crisis, Ukrainians More Likely to See NATO as a Threat:

Ukraine's staunchest support during its recent crisis has come from countries in NATO, which, paradoxically, Ukrainians as recently as last summer were still more likely to consider a threat (29%) to their country than as protection (17%). But Ukrainians were most likely to view it as neither (44%).

Ukrainians more likely to view NATO as a threat

Although Ukraine pursued NATO membership under pro-Western President Viktor Yuschenko, most Ukrainians never warmed to the idea. More Ukrainians saw NATO as a threat than as offering protection during the pursuit and have continued to feel this way even after the country ended its membership bid in 2010 under President Viktor Yanukovich. Dropping the bid may have neutralized the threat for many Ukrainians, with at least four in 10 or more likely to see NATO as neither protection nor a threat since that time.

U.S. Criticized for Lack of Action on Mortgage Fraud -

U.S. Criticized for Lack of Action on Mortgage Fraud -

"Four years after President Obama promised to
crack down on mortgage fraud, his administration has quietly made the
crime its lowest priority and has closed hundreds of cases after little
or no investigation, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on
The report by the department’s inspector general
undercuts the president’s contentions that the government is holding
people responsible for the collapse of the financial and housing
markets. The administration has been criticized, in particular, for not
pursuing large banks and their executives.
“In cities across the country, mortgage fraud crimes have reached crisis proportions,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a mortgage fraud summit in Phoenix in 2010. “But we are fighting back.”
The inspector general’s report, however, shows that the F.B.I.
considered mortgage fraud to be its lowest-ranked national criminal
priority. In several large cities, including New York and Los Angeles,
F.B.I. agents either ranked mortgage fraud as a low priority or did not
rank it at all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Middle Class Protesting Venezuela Shortages Drive Poor to Maduro - Businessweek

Middle Class Protesting Venezuela Shortages Drive Poor to Maduro - Businessweek

"For bus driver Jorge Polo, the
protests in Venezuela’s capital city are an irritation, not an

Every day, Polo has to navigate around the protesters’
makeshift barricades in the wealthy parts of Caracas. He is
never tempted to join them and blames hoarders -- and the
demonstrators themselves -- for the soaring cost of living and
mounting shortages.

“What’s going on down there in the valley is not our
fight,” Polo said, while drinking a beer in the slum of Petare
overlooking eastern Caracas. “It’s rich people trying to get
back lost economic perks. The slums won’t join them.”

After a month of protests, the demonstrations in Caracas
remain confined to wealthier areas with limited support from the
poor. Many residents of Petare say President Nicolas Maduro
should be given more time to turn around the economy after
taking over following the death of Hugo Chavez a year ago. For
now, the protesters are only making life harder, Polo says."

Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Poor

My Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Poor - Joseph Williams - The Atlantic

"After veteran reporter Joseph Williams lost his job, he found employment
in a sporting-goods store. In a personal essay, he recalls his
struggles with challenges millions of Americans return to day after day."

"Mop the floors in the bathroom, replace the toilet paper and scrub the
toilets if necessary. Vacuum. Empty the garbage. Wipe down the glass
front doors, every night, even if they don’t really need it. It was all
part of the job, done after your shift has ended but without overtime
pay.    "

"I imagine the unstated objective was to send another subtle message
about employee theft: Someone is always watching, even when you take out
the trash."

"Of course, I had no idea what a modern retail job demanded. I didn’t
realize the stamina that would be necessary, the extra, unpaid duties
that would be tacked on, or the required disregard for one’s own
self-esteem. "

Wealth Inequality and Stock Market Gains | House of Debt

Wealth Inequality and Stock Market Gains | House of Debt

"For the past couple of years, the quarterly release of the Federal
Reserve Flow of Funds data has been cheered because it has shown a sharp
rise in household wealth, particularly of financial assets. We agree
this is good news, but the aggregate headline numbers are incomplete."

"It is crucial to think carefully about the distribution of
these wealth gains."

"An indisputable fact is that the distribution of financial assets is
heavily skewed to the rich. In fact, the top 20% of the wealth
distribution owns over 80% of the financial assets in the economy! So
when the aggregate Flow of Funds data show a rise in financial asset
values, it is important to remember that the rise primarily benefits the
rich. Here is the fraction of total financial assets held by the top,
middle, and bottom quartile of the U.S. population in 2010."

"If stock market wealth is concentrated among the very rich, who are less
likely to spend out of an increase in wealth, rising stock market
wealth will have a  smaller impact on spending. Indeed, research suggests that the effect of increases in stock market wealth on spending are weak.

o while the aggregate headline number on household wealth is important,
we must remember who in the population is getting richer.  "

Robust bonuses: Big bucks back on Wall Street

Robust bonuses: Big bucks back on Wall Street

Wall Street bonuses hit their highest level since 2007.

"The average bonus paid to securities industry employees in New York
City in 2013 grew 15% to hit $164,530 in 2013, according to estimates
released Wednesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
That includes cash for the current year and compensation deferred from
prior years.

That is the third biggest bonus on record, says
DiNapoli. The other two stand-out years: 2006, when workers gleaned
$191,360 and 2007, when they gained $177,830."