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June 10, 2009

Banks Allowed To Payback TARP Money – Government Predicts A Profit From The Investment

Ten big banks may be thinking that they may soon be able to sponsor golf tournaments, fly their corporate jets willy-nilly, hire foreign workers instead of American citizens and pay their executives preposterous salaries once again without interference from our government.

The real reason the banks are in such a hurry to repay the TARP loans is that they seem to actually believe that by repaying the funds the government will no longer intervene in their business practices – they’re wrong.

They’re wrong not because President Obama and his administration wants to be in the banking business but because Obama and his administration is going to continue to hold the banks accountable until President Obama believes that they have dug themselves out of the deep hole that they’re in and that the banks are on a solid foundation and that American depositors monies are safe and secure.

The banks are anxiousness to win back their independence but they might be acting prematurely.  Let them be warned, if they find themselves in another deep hole President Obama most likely will not save them a second time and what will they do then? They should really, really ponder that.  If I were a bank executive I would hold onto the monies until I was 200% sure that my bank was on a seriously solid foundation.

A concern of the Obama administration is that if big banks rush to return bailout money, it could prevent them from having enough capital to continue lending.  The Treasury Department, in conjunction with the Federal and other bank regulators conducted stress tests of the 19 largest banks this spring to see if they had enough capital to withstand worse-than-expected economic conditions.

Nine passed the test. But 10 others were required to raise a total of $75 billion as a cushion against potential future losses on bad mortgage loans and other investments if the recession worsened. The Federal Reserve said Monday that the 10 banks including Bank of America Corp and Wells Fargo & Co had submitted acceptable capital-raising plans.

Eight of the nine banks that were found to not need new capital following the government’s bank stress tests last month said they will pay back TARP funds.  They are:

JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, American Express, Bank of New York Mellon, State Street and regional banking giants Capital One, BB&T and U.S. Bancorp.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley which was the only financial firm that regulators did ask to raise money after the stress tests confirmed it also won approval from the Treasury Department to pay back $10 billion.

Chicago-based Northern Trust which received $1.576 billion in TARP funds was not part of the bank stress tests but said on Tuesday that it had also won government approval to exit the program.

All 10 financial firms indicated that they intended to pay back TARP funds by redeeming the preferred shares the government acquired in them last fall. Such a move would return approximately $68 billion to the government’s coffers.

So far, the Treasury Department has allowed nearly two dozen small, mostly community-based lenders to redeem the government’s preferred shares, representing nearly $1.9 billion in taxpayer money.

In a press conference Tuesday, President Obama said such repayments “a positive sign,” but warned that the financial crisis still presented challenges to both American businesses and consumers

“This is not a sign that our troubles are over, far from it,” he said.

Proceeds received from those 10 banks will be applied to the Treasury Department’s general account and some of the funds will used to promote financial stability should the economy take a turn for the worse. A portion of those funds will also be used to reduce Treasury’s borrowing and rein in the nation’s rapidly rising deficit.

Regulators are fearful that major financial institutions which are responsible for issuing a substantial amount of credit to the U.S. financial system may cut back on lending even further as a result of paying back TARP funds and could therefore endanger what may be a budding economic recovery.

Several bank chiefs downplayed these concerns in statements issued Tuesday stating that they will be there for consumers and businesses seeking loans.

“We fully expect to continue to vigorously offer lending opportunities to our credit-worthy consumer, small business, corporate and institutional customers, invest for future growth and support the U.S. government’s overall efforts to stimulate the economy,” Richard K. Davis, chairman and CEO of U.S. Bancorp, said in a statement.

Watch President Obama’s Press Conference about TARP money payback:

 

Palau Agrees To Accept Chinese Muslims Held At Guantanamo

Palau Island

President Barack Obama ordered that Guantanamo be shut down by January 2010. Since the order came down U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried has been leading the U.S. State Department’s efforts to resettle the Guantanamo detainees.

After months of negotiations, Palau President Johnson Toribiong said on Wednesday that his government would be “honored and proud” to take in the  17 Uighur Chinese Muslim prisoners who have been held for years at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for suspected terrorist acts. The Bush administration refused to designate the Uighurs as “enemy combatants” but would not release them.  In late 2008 a U.S. federal judge ordered the men to be released into the United States. That ruling was eventually overturned by an appeals court.

Sandra Pierantozzi, Palau’s minister of state says her nation is glad to have the Uighurs. “If they want to settle in Palau we would welcome them,” Pierantozzi said. “This is very much in line with the culture of Palau, where people who drift in and who needs settlement and place are welcome to our shores and our tradition will take care of them and insert them into our society.

The Uighurs are from China’s western Xinjiang province and Beijing has accused the Uighurs — who dominate the province — as separatists who want to create an independent “East Turkestan.” The Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia.

Washington is refusing to send the Uighurs back to China, fearing they would be persecuted.

Pierantozzi says her nation is not concerned over China’s likely displeasure over the resettlement of the Uighurs. “We continue to conduct business as usual, we are a free sovereign country, we are free to make decisions for us, as we believe and see for our benefit,” Pierantozzi said, “and also we are a small country but we are a part of the United Nations and the world community of nations, so we try to do our part.”

The Pacific island nation of Palau is located southeast of The Philippines, south of Guam and north of Indonesia.  Palau is a former U.S. trust territory who has been independent since 1994 and maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, China’s longtime rival, rather than Beijing.

It has been reported that the Palau government agreed to accept $200 million in aid from the U.S. in exchange for accepting the Uighurs. 

June 4, 2009

NBA Finals: Lakers Have The Hunger And Desire!

Celtics Lakers Basketball

Why I think the LA Lakers are going to win the NBA championship

This is not disrespect to the Orlando Magic in anyway – they have been exemplary and have knocked out some great teams to get to the dance and I expect them to give the Lakers a run for their money. 

This is simply about hunger, desire and Kobe.

In 2006 the Miami Heats beat the Dallas Mavericks because of pure hunger and desire. The Heat team was put together to win a championship and there were four members on the team who were starving, ravenous and famished for the championship.

  1. Shaquille O’Neal – the scorned center who was looking to stick it to the LA Lakers for trading him after he had led them to three championships
  2. Alonzo Mourning – who had just recovered from a kidney ailment and probably saw this as his last chance to win a ring
  3. Coach Pat Riley – this was possibly his last opportunity to win another ring
  4. Dwyane Wade – the up and coming rising star young who was ready to fully break free of the shadow of the players in his draft class who were selected ahead of him.

In 2008 the Boston Celtics were predatory, voracious and gluttonous for the championship.

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen saw this as their trip to the big dance and they weren’t going to waste their trip; they were in it to win it.

  1. Pierce pretty much came out of a wheelchair to help Boston win a game
  2. Ray Allen made shots like the devil himself was after him  despite the illness to his young son
  3. And who can forget Kevin Garnett kissing the floor and crying after he finally got his first title.

That was some serious, stomach-aching starvation that played out in the 2008 finals.

The XY and Z factor to me is Kobe Bryant. He has won three championships with Shaquille O’Neal but now wants to move into a different echelon of all-time greats by winning as the indisputable leader of a title team. Bryant desperately wants that, no matter how grumpy he gets when asked about it.

Plus Bryant is 30 and this could be his last and best shot at winning another title. There is only so long that he can continue to hold off some the league’s younger stars who themselves are hungry.

Coach Phil Jackson has won nine championships and is desperately seeking a 10th.  Even though he downplays that passing the great Red Auerbach is a goal, by winning another ring with a team that he helped build up from the lottery would be VERY rewarding. That combined with his declining health, Jackson may not have many more opportunities to get back to this position.

Plus the fight to make it to the finals has toughened up the rest of the Lakers. The team now has a full grasp of what to expect in the finals and they are unified by the common purpose of getting the job done.

That is why I picked the Lakers in six.

President Obama in Cairo, Egypt: Time For A “New beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Egypt Obama

This morning at 6:10 am EST President Obama made brilliant history yet again and Americans should be proud because we made progress with Muslims worldwide today.

After years of American and Middle East tension where we mutually viewed each other in a not so friendly manner, today the Egypt state broadcasting service was beaming uplifting scenes of the American and Egyptian flags flying side by side and Obama’s smiling face superimposed over graphics of the Pyramids and local landmarks. An image of the Egyptian and American flags woven together in a yin and yang fashion was kept on the screen of Egypt State TV throughout the morning.  That by itself is absolutely incredible!

Speaking in the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture and quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, and said together, we can confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. ‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ Obama said

By President Obama making his much anticipated speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in downtown Cairo instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, he told the people of Egypt that he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he peppered his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel but with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. Home run!!!

American European Activists Demostrate for Peace in Gaza

President Obama was blunt about the United States “unbreakable bonds” with Israel but promptly stated that Palestinian was “suffering” since Israel’s founding in 1948 and that there was a real and immediate need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a secure Palestinian state.

President Obama acknowledged the negative stereotypes of Islam that took root in America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but also said that Muslim nations need to fix their own exaggerated views of the United States as a country bent on dominating them.

The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deep and complex. 

Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset.   

President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. 

President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. President Clinton appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims.  Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. 

One year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.

With his speech in Cairo, President Obama laid another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world right in the heart of the Middle East.  Past years and decades have deepened the rift in our relationship with Muslims worldwide but particularly in the Middle East and our President have now created a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue hoping to find areas of common interest and new ways of communication in areas where we don’t agree. 

By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have been problematic over recent years.

Well done President Obama!

President Obama’s Cairo speech:

Cairo Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip Rafah watch President Obama Cairo U  Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip town of Rafah watch President Obama speak at Cairo University.

June 2, 2009

NBA Finals: Superman Will Meet The Black Mamba

Disclaimer – I am a Kobe fan and want to see him win number 4!

lakers

The Black Mamba is the perfect nickname for number 24, Kobe Bryant. He is a basketball assassin; a stealthy predator that can strike at any given moment. He possesses both a venomous skill set, and near-unrivaled speed in the NBA. He is a shutdown defender that stalks his prey. Kobe is the scariest guy in the NBA – he is a lethal weapon! Kobe’s nickname is so v-e-r-y appropriate.

The Black Mamba is one of Africa’s most dangerous and feared snakes. It is known for being very aggressive when disturbed or confronted and will not hesitate to strike with deadly precision. The black mamba is the largest venomous snake in Africa and the second longest venomous snake in the world after the King Cobra. The Black Mamba is also the fastest land snake in the world and uses its speed to escape danger. 

Since most of us knows Kobe’s stats and there are thousands of articles written about our one-name superstar I’m not going to delve into his accomplishments; just watch him play and you’ll understand why I love his game.

Dwight Howard Slam Dunk

I also really, really like Superman, D12, Dwight Howard. He’s earned his way to the big show and once the finals begin Thursday at the Staples Center our 23 year young superhero will get the greatest national exposure of his rapidly increasing pro career and his best opportunity yet to reach the rarefied superstar status of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. 

Howard has excelled on the court, and he has shown us his great charisma and personality and we can’t forget the forever present gleam in Superman’s eyes and his 1,000 mega watt smile. He is also very mature and is not an egocentric personality.  I remember during this year’s slam-dunk competition on All-Star weekend when he agreed to allow his main opponent 5 foot 9 Nate Robinson (NY Knicks) to use him as a prop to dunk the ball (see video below).  Howard inevitably knew that if Robinson jumped over him, Robinson would win the contest even though Howard was in the lead at the time.  Howard put on his Superman cape and allowed Robinson to jump over him; Robinson won and Howard was really very happy for Robinson and even gave Robinson a chest bump.  Howard is a class act.  

D12 has elevated his playing status, showed us his great personality and has made himself very marketable.  Soon Nike and Vitamin water will be calling — if they haven’t already. 

As a sports fan I am proud and happy to see two young men who are family-oriented, well-mannered and respectable representing us in the East and West. These are two young men who can serve as great inspirations for up and coming NBA hopefuls.

The finals will be a fight but a fight I will enjoy watching.  I hope Kobe gets ring number 4 – he has worked hard for it – but I will have a smile on my face if Superman gets his first.

Finals, game 1 – Thursday, June 4 @9pm EST on ABC

Watch Nate Robinson (NY Knicks) dunk over Superman Dwight Howard!

Kobe ‘baptizes’ Dwight Howard his rookie year:

Dwight Howard’s workout:

 

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