Critics of the banking system in the United States declared Saturday, November 5, National Bank Transfer Day — a grassroots movement that encouraged bank customers to switch to credit unions. The notion behind the event was to teach banks a critical lesson. The effort reportedly has had some positive impact on the credit unions; however, overall it proved to have the opposite effect on banks from what the protesters intended.

 
 

After being exposed for their involvement in the Occupy Wall Street protests, officials with the former New York office of ACORN are firing staff, shredding documents, and blaming "disgruntled ex-employees" for leaking information relating to their collaboration with various protests in and around Zuccotti Park. Fox News reported last week that the former ACORN office, now operating as New York Communities for Change (NYCC), coordinated "guerrilla" protest events, hired "door-to-door canvassers" to collect donations, and gathered 100 former ACORN-affiliated employees to attend OWS protests. The organization also recruited homeless people and paid them $10 an hour to protest, sources told Fox News.

The NYCC was formed in late 2009 after ACORN lost congressional funding and much of its private supporters in the wake of a scandal. At the time, critics contended that the move was simply a desperate attempt to rebrand its name and restore funding. But the NYCC is virtually the same entity, as it uses the same offices and operates almost entirely with the same officials and employees.

NYCC Executive Director Jon Kest and his top aides have been working at OWS protests and generating money for the NYCC for various expenses related to the movement, including supplies, staff wages, and travel expenses for ex-ACORN employees. "All the money collected from canvasses is pooled together back at the office, and everything we’ve been working on for the last year is going to the protests, against big banks and to pay people’s salaries — and those people on salary are, of course, being paid to go to the protests every day," a NYCC staff member told Fox.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claims that the unemployment rate would be 15 percent in the absence of President Barack Obama’s “stimulus” law, but Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Commissioner Keith Hall says he’s seen no study to support Pelosi’s assertion.

Attempting to make the case that “President Obama was a job creator from day one” at her Thursday press briefing, Pelosi said that “if President Obama and the House congressional Democrats had not acted, we would be at 15 percent unemployment,” about 6 percentage points higher than the actual BLS-calculated rate of 9.1 percent, which itself is up 0.9 points since Obama signed the stimulus bill into law in early 2009. (The actual rate, however, is “pushing 25 percent” when those who are underemployed or have ceased seeking employment are included, The New American reported recently.)

In making that statement Pelosi was one-upping herself. During her October 6 press briefing she stated that at the time of the 2010 election the unemployment rate “would’ve been 14.5 percent, not 9.5 percent” — a difference of 5 percentage points — had “the Recovery Act and accompanying federal interventions, whether from the Fed or ‘Cash for Clunkers’ or other initiatives,” not been implemented.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s news conference on November 2 included the admission that the Fed is depending on hope and patience to see if its continuing strategies of Operation Twist and zero interest rates will grow the economy out of recession. In his session with reporters, Bernanke defended Fed actions in the face of increasing criticism from both the left and the right.

Three years after the Federal Reserve's massive and continuing interventions in the financial markets, Bernanke was forced to admit that “recent indicators point to continuing weakness in overall labor market conditions and the unemployment rate remains elevated ... and consequently [the Fed] anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually.... Moreover, there are significant downside risks to the economic outlook.” He added that “we did underestimate the pace of recovery for some fundamental reasons,” including the continuing declines in the real estate markets and “a certain amount of bad luck.”

Bernanke was forced to reduce further his estimates about the rate of economic growth, now predicting that the U.S. economy will grow at only 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent in 2011, and that 2012 growth will range between 2.5 percent and 2.9 percent, nearly a full percentage point below his previous estimates. He also sees unemployment remaining sticky at between 8.5 percent and 8.7 percent, higher than the 7.8 percent predicted in June. What little growth he has seen in the last month amounts to nothing more than consumers' reaction to the decrease in gasoline prices and Japan’s recovery from the earthquake and tsunami last spring.

The European Commission has requested information on patents from smartphone powerhouses Apple (makers of the immensely popular iPhone) and Samsung. While Apple is not itself a target of the EC’s patent protectors, it has been asked to voluntarily submit critical information regarding its use of 3G technology. Samsung, on the other hand, is being investigated.

"The Commission has sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector," read the statement released by the EC, the agency of the European Union tasked with monitoring potential violations of Europe’s antitrust laws. "Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the Commission to establish the relevant facts in a case."

According to a report published in the Wall Street Journal:
 
Standards-essential patents are patents which cover an area that is crucial to compliance with an industry standard, such as 3G or WiFi. Unlike regular patents, they must be licensed on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis a standard known as Frand. This means infringement can't lead to injunctions on use, or extraordinarily high royalty payments.

There was precious little good news in the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for October. Employment rose by 80,000, less than economists expected, and much less than the 250,000 needed to begin to bring down the unemployment rate significantly.

But inside the numbers there was a little good news: The unemployment rate dropped slightly to 9.0 percent, the number of long-term unemployed declined by 365,000 and private-sector employment increased by 104,000. At the same time government payrolls have been decreasing, reducing slightly but inevitably the drag on the private sector that ultimately pays for that government overhead. In fact, according to the BLS, “employment in both state and local government has been trending down since the second half of 2008,” having shrunk by nearly 500,000 jobs. The August and September private-sector employment numbers were revised upwards as well, showing that sector struggling but making some progress in putting people back to work in real jobs.

In the meantime President Obama’s “jobs bill” continues to be excoriated as being nothing more than show and tell for his political purposes. His flawed infrastructure plan couldn’t even get past the Democrat-controlled Senate as more are recognizing that dumping more money into the economy by taking it from the productive sector is counterproductive, to be kind about it. And his “executive proclamation” establishing the Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia, was touted to generate as many as 3,000 jobs in the area.

After spending the entire weekend trying to sell his company, MF Global, Chairman Jon Corzine finally capitulated, and his board declared bankruptcy on Monday morning, October 31. It was during negotiations with a potential suitor for the business, Interactive Brokers (IB), that word leaked out that customers’ monies were missing, and IB left Corzine to fend for himself. A board meeting was hastily called and ended Corzine’s dream of building another Goldman Sachs with other peoples’ money.

 

Only days before Solyndra’s bankruptcy, the Obama administration mulled over a last-minute bailout plan that would have granted the federal government part ownership of the solar panel-maker. The financial rescue would have infused cash into the company and delegated a new board of directors, two of whom would have been appointed by the Energy Department. The bailout plan was orchestrated by the investment banking firm Lazard, which was paid one million dollars to analyze the company’s financial options — and whose Vice Chairman is a major Democratic donor who contributed more than $2,000 to Obama’s 2008 campaign. However, the plan was ultimately rejected by the Energy Department.

E-mails released in early October showed that the Obama administration restructured the loan guarantee in February after revelations of Solyndra’s financial woes. Because private investors agreed to contribute only if the repayment terms were modified, the restructuring plan allowed $75 million in private investments to be shuffled before taxpayers’ financial interests if bankruptcy ensued.

With the discovery of huge oil fields off the coast of Brazil in the fall of 2007 came estimates of just what impact they would have on Brazil’s already booming economy. Prior to the discovery of “pre-salt” reserves estimated to be the size of Florida and in excess of 120 billion barrels, Brazil’s economy was already considered to be the 7th largest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the CIA.

But as the resources are developed, to many observers Brazil is a cinch to take over 6th place by replacing Great Britain in the size of its economy. It’s economy in 2004 was one-third that of Great Britain’s but by 2007 it had grown to half. With the great recession costing the United Kingdom 20 percent of its GDP between 2007 and 2010, and Brazil’s continuing to grow apace by nearly 52 percent, the IMF now estimates that Brazil will take over 6th place by the end of this year.

The technological challenges facing Petrobas, Brazil’s main oil producer, are immense. In order to reach the oil, it will have to drill through four miles of ocean and rocks and a thick layer of salt. And then retrieving it and turning it into a profitable revenue stream will be the next challenge. Brazil’s politicians are already calling it “the pot of gold at the bottom of the ocean” and are considering how the revenues might be used to further the government’s endless list of priorities.

The ideologies and demographics of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been obscured by disorganization and media rhetoric, but emerging surveys and analyses are attempting to decipher the defining attributes of the rooted crowds in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and in other cities across the country. Who are these protesters? What are their political ideologies? Are they educated? Do they have jobs? In a poll conducted by Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York, a team of 15 researchers ventured out to survey 301 New York protesters to find the answers to these questions.

"We’ve had a lot of speculation about who these people are," the professor commented, adding, "Some of what we found reinforced what many already believed, and some results were surprising." In the survey, Panagopoulos and his team focused on characteristics relating to the movement’s demographics and political beliefs to better understand the catchy, but somewhat esoteric, signs and slogans that have painted the media headlines over the past several weeks.

The poll, sponsored by Fordham’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy, found that New York’s OWS movement is 68 percent white and 61 percent male. While 28 percent of the protesters are unemployed, most are college graduates and 22 percent hold advanced college degrees. Of those who are currently employed, 30 percent claim to work full-time and 18 percent work part-time.

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