Money for nothing? - Chattanooga Times Free Press Money for nothing? - Chattanooga Times Free Press

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Money for nothing? - Chattanooga Times Free Press

Money for nothing? - Chattanooga Times Free Press


That’s what businesses and professional and trade organizations spent on nearly 70 receptions for lawmakers during the recently adjourned session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

The good news is that spending is public record, so it cannot be kept out of the public eye.

The bad news is, that’s nearly half a million dollars spent with the hard-to-miss goal of influencing legislation.

No, the fact that a lawmaker attends a lavish reception put on by, say, AT&T is not proof of some kind of quid pro quo: An array of heavy hors d’oeuvres in exchange for the “right” vote on a telecommunications bill seems farfetched.

But such receptions — which sometimes run into the tens of thousands of dollars — certainly give the well-heeled a level of access to legislators that is not always available to ordinary Tennesseans or to organizations that may do excellent work but that operate on a shoestring budget.

They thus can help set the mental framework by which lawmakers approach legislation that could have some bearing on the group giving the reception.

And let’s face it: Businesses and other organizations are not in the habit of throwing money away on efforts that they believe are unlikely to do them any good. If they are spending thousands of dollars on a legislative reception, it is in the hope that they will, at a minimum, be in the good graces of lawmakers, if not win support outright for their legislative agendas.

That makes it vital that the news media — including the Times Free Press, which has been vigilant in its reporting on this type of spending — keep the public thoroughly informed on the kinds of things that could directly or indirectly influence legislators.

Businesses and organizations have a right to make their cases to lawmakers. But it should be done in the light of day so that residents of Tennessee can judge whether elected officials are acting in the public’s broad interest or in a way that promotes primarily the narrower interests of a given group.

Then voters can decide whether a lawmaker deserves to remain in office — or to rejoin the private sector.

US stocks mixed amid euro concerns - New Kerala

New York, May 19 : US stocks traded mixed Friday amid euro concerns, with all eyes on Facebook Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Investors speculated that the Spanish government will boost short-sell ban, reports Xinhua. The country's bond yield rose sharply recently, suggesting a global concerns over the region.

Facebook, the world's largest online social network started trading at the Nasdaq Stock Market Friday at the price of USD 42.05 a share, up 10.6 percent from its IPO price of USD 38.

The company's market value will hit USD 104 billion, making the company the biggest-ever valuation by a US company at the time of its IPO.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 8.17 points, or 0.07 percent, at 12,434.32. The Standard and Poor's 500 was up 0.74 points, or 0.06 percent, to 1,305.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 2.50 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,810.93. (IANS)

Students Fight Money in Politics | The Nation - Nation

This article was originally published by Huff Po College.

The odds might seem slim that two university students from different coasts, backgrounds and interests would be focusing their activism toward the same goal. But in the fight to get corporate money out of politics, Ariel Boone of U.C. Berkeley and Falon Shackelford of Howard University in Washington, DC are an unlikely team. The unfair corporate influence in our elections affects us all -- for the many young people struggling to afford college, the idea that their tuition dollars may end up trickling down to Super PACs and funding attack ads is appalling. Students across the country who believe that tuition money should ultimately be invested in education instead of politics are taking action -- and starting with their own campuses.

Everyone should have an equal vote in our elections. But everyone should also have an equal voice in influencing electoral outcomes. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United put that ideal in jeopardy. Now able to spend more than ever before, major corporations are stacking the deck in their favor and drowning out the people's voice. Here's the kicker: the money these corporations are spending in politics is actually our money. Corporate money in politics affects everyone, even students, because the endowments of many colleges and universities invest those funds with corporations that make secret political contributions.

Many students live the values of their university, but that doesn't mean we should have to live the values of the corporations that manage its money. Once your dollar gets in the hands of a corporation like Bank of America, all bets are off. Students are less than thrilled about becoming indirect underwriters of the American Legislative Exchange Council,private prisons companies, subprime loans, and other unsavory corporate activities.

The worst part is that we often don't know how this money is used because corporations don't have to tell us. One thing is certain: a large amount of it ends up funding the constant bombardment of election ads that influence the outcomes of elections across the country. This system of secret donations and disproportionate corporate influence doesn't look anything like the system most of us learned about in civics class. Those who would prefer to not do business with such corporations are seeing their efforts thwarted by their own universities -- and they're demanding the power to say no. And by moving your money into a bank or credit union that invests locally and responsibly, Ariel says, "you can create change in California and the UC system in a matter of seconds."

With leadership like this, young people are taking action and sending a loud and clear message to corporations: leave democracy to the people and stop spending money on politics. In her capacity as a student senator at U.C. Berkeley, Ariel Boone introduced and helped pass a resolution that withdrew the student government's $3.5 million treasury from Bank of America. Across the country at Howard University, Falon Shackelford helped organize fellow students to participate in demonstrations at local Bank of America branches as part of a nationwide protest against corporate political spending. These demonstrations were part of a larger action by good government activists, which culminated with shareholder resolutions calling on Bank of America and 3M to refrain from spending on elections and to disclose their political activities.

By taking different approaches but focusing on the same goal, students are making their voices heard and making real change. Fighting for the integrity of our democracy is a common bond that unites us all. Our future depends on it.

Stocks fall on Europe worries; Facebook debuts - San Francisco Gate

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It's going to take more than Facebook's initial public offering to push the stock market higher. Worries about Europe's debt crisis turned out to be the bigger issue for investors on Friday. U.S. stocks fell. The Dow Jones industrial average ...

European stocks down on Greek political turmoil - Yahoo Finance

MILAN (AP) -- European and U.S. markets sank Tuesday as investors worried whether Greece, after an inconclusive election, would be able to form a new government to save it from financial disaster.

After Greek conservatives failed to create a government, the baton passed to the Radical Left Coalition leader Alexis Tsipras. He is not expected to be able to form a governing coalition either and another general election is looking increasingly likely.

Greek shares have borne the brunt of the concerns. After sliding nearly 7 percent on Monday, Athens' main stock exchange was down a further 5.2 percent near the end of trading Tuesday.

"Greece's troubles will worsen if the job of forming a new government drags out and forces another round of elections," said Craig Erlam, an analyst at Alpari. Erlam warned that Greece could run out of money in June without a government to negotiate the next tranche of its financial bailout.

And if Greece can't stay solvent, it risks falling out of the eurozone, with potential knock-on effects throughout the global economy.

Against that backdrop, European shares failed to sustain a recovery from the previous day. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.3 percent to 5,640. Germany's DAX slipped 0.7 percent to 6,524 and France's CAC-40 dropped 1.6 percent to 3,163.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 65 points at 12,944 shortly after trading began. The S&P 500 was down 7 at 1,362.

Markets were thrown into a tailspin Monday after weekend elections in France and Greece led to a sharp shift in the political landscape with the focus shifting away from austerity. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy was thrown out of office by voters opposed to his belt-tightening program and replaced by Socialist Francois Hollande, who wants growth to become a more central plank of Europe's debt crisis resolution.

"Although the French election result has now been deemed to not be a threat, Greece remains a significant concern and is likely to be a source of volatility through the week," said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne.

In Greece, voters punished the two parties that have overseen the country's harsh austerity measures and left no party with enough votes to form a government.

Earlier, Asian shares posted modest gains. Japan's Nikkei 225 index edged up 0.7 percent to close at 9,181.65, a day after closing at its lowest level in three months.

In other Asian markets, South Korea's Kospi added 0.5 percent to 1,967.01. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 4,314.30.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 88 cents to $97.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 55 cents to settle at $97.94 in New York on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3001 from $1.3050 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 79.82 yen from 79.94 yen.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed.

Gordhan: SA financial sector resilient - Independent Online

Independent Newspapers

Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Finance. Photo: Matthew Jordaan.

South Africa's financial sector proved exceptionally resilient during the global financial crisis but risks remain, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Friday.

“However, we should not be complacent, especially since the crisis continues, as we see in Europe, where Spanish and Greek banks face great challenges,” he told the National Assembly during debate on his budget vote.

Reforms to further strengthen the regulatory system included shifting towards a twin-peaks approach to financial sector regulation.

“The twin-peaks approach emphasises two things; firstly, it establishes a prudential regulator in the 1/8SA 3/8 Reserve Bank to supervise and monitor the health and soundness of financial institutions, and importantly also transforms the Financial Services Board (FSB) into a dedicated market conduct regulator.”

In particular, this regulator would focus on improving transparency and disclosure, in the financial sector, particularly given opaque and high costs.

Overall, the new approach also gave the Reserve Bank the requisite powers to monitor and respond to systemic risks, wherever they arose.

National Treasury had been working with the Reserve Bank and FSB to give effect to these reform proposals.

“It is my hope that the policy proposals will be finalised this year for consultations with all the key stakeholders and that the legislation to establish the twin-peak regulators will be tabled next year.

“I should point out that in the meanwhile, steps have already been taken, like introducing stricter capital requirements, and setting up the necessary forums like the Financial Stability Oversight Council, to monitor financial stability overall,” Gordhan said.

In addition, Treasury would already be tabling four pieces of legislation this year, including the Financial Markets Bill, Credit Rating Services Bill, Banks Act Amendment Bill, and the Financial Services Laws General Amendment Bill.

These bills gave effect to South Africa's G-20 commitments on regulating derivative markets, and strengthened the fight again market abuse and manipulation.

Gordhan said the global turmoil of the past four years was a reminder, not just of the risks associated with credit-based booms and the importance of rigorous financial regulation, but also of the inter-connectedness of financial and fiscal systems.

The issues confronting Europe and other parts of the world were not just about the economy but more broadly about the political economy of policy making in complex and challenging times.

Much of Treasury's work was focused on understanding these dynamics and ensuring that “we don’t step over critical solvency and sustainability frontiers”.

“But financial and fiscal health is not enough. We also need a vigorous enterprise economy, we need prosperous mines and factories, we need our schools and hospitals to function well, and we need to enhance competitiveness and improve productivity, both in government services and in the private sector.

“These are not just outcomes of sound budgets and sustainable financing arrangements, they also depend on effective implementation of policies and programmes,” he said. - Sapa

Europe worries keep stocks down -

It’s going to take more than Facebook’s initial public offering to push the stock market higher.

Facebook shares rose 23 cents above their $38 offering price. It seemed like everything else fell.

The Dow Jones industrial average has been in a slump over the past two weeks as traders saw an escalating risk that Greece could leave the euro, causing more disruptions in markets. Remember the go-go days of May 1, 2012? The Dow was up 8.7 percent for the year. After Friday, it’s up just 1.2 percent.

On Friday the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 73.11 points, to close at 12,369.38. It fell 3.5 percent for the week. The Dow has now declined on 12 of the last 13 trading days.

Nine of the 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell. Financials dropped the most, 1.1 percent.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 9.64 points to close at 1,295.22.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 34.90 points, or 1.2 percent, to close at 2,778.79.

Europe was the big worry for investors. The Fitch ratings agency dropped Greece to the lowest possible grade for a country not in default Thursday. Also, ratings agency Moody’s downgraded 16 Spanish banks late Thursday, three days after downgrading Italy’s, noting they are vulnerable to huge losses on government debt.

Representatives of the G-8 are meeting this weekend at Camp David, looking for assurances that leaders in Europe can contain damage if Greece leaves the euro.

“Despite all the attention on the Facebook IPO, I think there’s still lots of underlying uncertainty surrounding this European debt situation,” said Scott Wren, senior equity strategist for Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis. “This Greek situation isn’t good. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Probably the same with Spain.”

European shares edged lower, following several days of big losses. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX lost 0.6 percent and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.1 percent.

In other news:

MEDIA GENERAL: Billionaire Warren Buffett’s company is making another foray into newspapers, agreeing to buy 63 newspapers from Media General Inc. for $142 million. “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” Buffett said in a statement Thursday.

HEWLETT-PACKARD: It fell 2.7 percent — the biggest decline among the Dow’s 30 stocks — after it said it might eliminate up to 30,000 jobs because of dwindling demand for personal computers.

GAP: It fell 2.3 percent even though it issued higher guidance for the year.

SALESFORCE.COM: It jumped 8.8 percent after the maker of web-based business software reported better-than-expected earnings and raised its guidance for the year.

FOOT LOCKER: It rose 8.3 percent after its quarterly profit jumped 36 percent, sprinting past Wall Street predictions and setting a company record for quarterly earnings.

YAHOO: It rose 3.7 percent after Dow Jones’ tech website reported that the web portal is close to a deal to sell a large part of its stake in China’s Alibaba Group. Many investors view the Alibaba stake as Yahoo’s most valuable asset.

Sigmoid provides financial and product development update - News-Medical.Net

Europe stocks suffer worst week since September - Reuters UK

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