Saturday, July 23, 2011

FOCUS: New York Post Has a Hacking Problem

Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America
The report begins: "One week ago, Rupert Murdoch's longtime aide, Les Hinton, was forced to resign as publisher of the Wall Street Journal because of the central role he'd been playing for years in News Corp.'s unraveling phone-hacking scandal. Hinton's resignation, unthinkable just four weeks ago, signaled the severity of News Corp.'s woes in America. Now another Murdoch publisher, Paul Carlucci, who oversees the New York Post, may be facing renewed questions from prosecutors about his business past and what role he played in a News Corp. computer hacking scandal that unfolded right here in the US."

MERS? It May Have Swallowed Your Loan

Published: March 5, 2011

¶ FOR more than a decade, the American real estate market resembled an overstuffed novel, which is to say, it was an engrossing piece of fiction.

Mortgage brokers hip deep in profits handed out no-doc mortgages to people with fictional incomes. Wall Street shopped bundles of those loans to investors, no matter how unappetizing the details. And federal regulators gave sleepy nods.

That world largely collapsed under the weight of its improbabilities in 2008.

But a piece of that world survives on Library Street in Reston, Va., where an obscure business, the MERS Corporation, claims to hold title to roughly half of all the home mortgages in the nation — an astonishing 60 million loans.

Never heard of MERS? That’s fine with the mortgage banking industry—as MERS is starting to overheat and sputter. If its many detractors are correct, this private corporation, with a full-time staff of fewer than 50 employees, could turn out to be a very public problem for the mortgage industry.

Judges, lawmakers, lawyers and housing experts are raising piercing questions about MERS, which stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, whose private mortgage registry has all but replaced the nation’s public land ownership records. Most questions boil down to this:

How can MERS claim title to those mortgages, and foreclose on homeowners, when it has not invested a dollar in a single loan?

And, more fundamentally: Given the evidence that many banks have cut corners and made colossal foreclosure mistakes, does anyone know who owns what or owes what to whom anymore?

The answers have implications for all American homeowners, but particularly the millions struggling to save their homes from foreclosure. How the MERS story plays out could deal another blow to an ailing real estate market, even as the spring buying season gets under way.

MERS has distanced itself from the dubious behavior of some of its members, and the company itself has not been accused of wrongdoing. But the legal challenges to MERS, its practices and its records are mounting.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last year that MERS could no longer file foreclosure proceedings there, because it does not actually make or service any loans. Last month in Utah, a local judge made the no-less-striking decision to let a homeowner rip up his mortgage and walk away debt-free. MERS had claimed ownership of the mortgage, but the judge did not recognize its legal standing.

“The state court is attracted like a moth to the flame to the legal owner, and that isn’t MERS,” says Walter T. Keane, the Salt Lake City lawyer who represented the homeowner in that case.

And, on Long Island, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled in February that MERS could no longer act as an “agent” for the owners of mortgage notes. He acknowledged that his decision could erode the foundation of the mortgage business.

But this, Judge Robert E Grossman said, was not his fault.

“This court does not accept the argument that because MERS may be involved with 50 percent of all residential mortgages in the country,” he wrote, “that is reason enough for this court to turn a blind eye to the fact that this process does not comply with the law.”

With MERS under scrutiny, its chief executive, R. K. Arnold, who had been with the company since its founding in 1995, resigned earlier this year.

A BIRTH certificate, a marriage license, a death certificate: these public documents note many life milestones.

For generations of Americans, public mortgage documents, often logged in longhand down at the county records office, provided a clear indication of homeownership.

But by the 1990s, the centuries-old system of land records was showing its age. Many county clerk’s offices looked like something out of Dickens, with mortgage papers stacked high. Some clerks had fallen two years behind in recording mortgages.

For a mortgage banking industry in a hurry, this represented money lost. Most banks no longer hold onto mortgages until loans are paid off. Instead, they sell the loans to Wall Street, which bundles them into investments through a process known as securitization.

(Page 2 of 3)

MERS, industry executives hoped, would pull record-keeping into the Internet age, even as it privatized it. Streamlining record-keeping, the banks argued, would make mortgages more affordable.

But for the mortgage industry, MERS was mostly about speed — and profits. MERS, founded 16 years ago by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, cut out the county clerks and became the owner of record, no matter how many times loans were transferred. MERS appears to sell loans to MERS ad infinitum.

This high-speed system made securitization easier and cheaper. But critics say the MERS system made it far more difficult for homeowners to contest foreclosures, as ownership was harder to ascertain.

MERS was flawed at conception, those critics say. The bankers who midwifed its birth hired Covington & Burling, a prominent Washington law firm, to research their proposal. Covington produced a memo that offered assurances that MERS could operate legally nationwide. No one, however, conducted a state-by-state study of real estate laws.

“They didn’t do the deep homework,” said an official involved in those discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because he has clients involved with MERS. “So as far as anyone can tell their real theory was: ‘If we can get everyone on board, no judge will want to upend something that is reasonable and sensible and would screw up 70 percent of loans.’ ”

County officials appealed to Congress, arguing that MERS was of dubious legality. But this was the 1990s, an era of deregulation, and the mortgage industry won.

“We lost our revenue stream, and Americans lost the ability to immediately know who owned a piece of property,” said Mark Monacelli, the St. Louis County recorder in Duluth, Minn.

And so MERS took off. Its board gave its senior vice president, William Hultman, the rather extraordinary power to deputize an unlimited number of “vice presidents” and “assistant secretaries” drawn from the ranks of the mortgage industry.

The “nomination” process was near instantaneous. A bank entered a name into MERS’s Web site, and, in a blink, MERS produced a “certifying resolution,” signed by Mr. Hultman. The corporate seal was available to those deputies for $25.

As personnel policies go, this was a touch loose. Precisely how loose became clear when a lawyer questioned Mr. Hultman in April 2010 in a lawsuit related to its foreclosure against an Atlantic City cab driver.

How many vice presidents and assistant secretaries have you appointed? the lawyer asked.

“I don’t know that number,” Mr. Hultman replied.


“I wouldn’t even be able to tell you, right now.”

In the thousands?


Each of those deputies could file loan transfers and foreclosures in MERS’s name. The goal, as with almost everything about the mortgage business at that time, was speed. Speed meant money.

ALAN GRAYSON has seen MERS’s record-keeping up close. From 2009 until this year, he served as the United States representative for Florida’s Eighth Congressional District — in the Orlando area, which was ravaged by foreclosures. Thousands of constituents poured through his office, hoping to fend off foreclosures. Almost all had papers bearing the MERS name.

“In many foreclosures, the MERS paperwork was squirrelly,” Mr. Grayson said. With no real legal authority, he says, Fannie and the banks eliminated the old system and replaced it with a privatized one that was unreliable.

A spokeswoman for MERS declined interview requests. In an e-mail, she noted that several state courts have ruled in MERS’s favor of late. She expressed confidence that MERS’s policies complied with state laws, even if MERS’s members occasionally strayed.

“At times, some MERS members have failed to follow those procedures and/or established state foreclosure rules,” the spokeswoman, Karmela Lejarde, wrote, “or to properly explain MERS and document MERS relationships in legal pleadings.”

Such cases, she said, “are outliers, reflecting case-specific problems in process, and did not repudiate the MERS business model.”

(Page 3 of 3)

MERS’s legal troubles, however, aren’t going away. In August, the Ohio secretary of state referred to federal prosecutors in Cleveland accusations that notaries deputized by MERS were signing hundreds of documents without any personal knowledge of them. The attorney general of Massachusetts is examining a complaint by a county registrar that MERS owes the state tens of millions of dollars in unpaid fees.

As far back as 2001, Ed Romaine, the clerk for Suffolk County, on eastern Long Island, refused to register mortgages in MERS’s name, partly because of complaints that the company’s records didn’t square with public ones. The state Court of Appeals later ruled that he had overstepped his powers.

But Judith S. Kaye, the state’s chief judge at the time, filed a partial dissent. She worried that MERS, by speeding up property transfers, was pouring oil on the subprime fires. The MERS system, she wrote, ill serves “innocent purchasers.”

“I was trying to say something didn’t smell right, feel right or look right,” Ms. Kaye said in a recent interview.

Little about MERS was transparent. Asked as part of a lawsuit against MERS in September 2009 to produce minutes about the formation of the corporation, Mr. Arnold, the former C.E.O., testified that “writing was not one of the characteristics of our meetings.”

MERS officials say they conduct audits, but in testimony could not say how often or what these measured. In 2006, Mr. Arnold stated that original mortgage notes were held in a secure “custodial facility” with “stainless steel vaults.” MERS, he testified, could quickly produce every one of those files.

As for homeowners, Mr. Arnold said they could log on to the MERS system to identify their loan servicer, who, in turn, could identify the true owner of their mortgage note. “The servicer is really the best source for all that information,” Mr. Arnold said.

The reality turns out to be a lot messier. Federal bankruptcy courts and state courts have found that MERS and its member banks often confused and misrepresented who owned mortgage notes. In thousands of cases, they apparently lost or mistakenly destroyed loan documents.

The problems, at MERS and elsewhere, became so severe last fall that many banks temporarily suspended foreclosures.

Some experts in corporate governance say the legal furor over MERS is overstated. Others describe it as a useful corporation nearly drowning in a flood tide of mortgage foreclosures. But not even the mortgage giant Fannie Mae, an investor in MERS, depends on it these days.

“We would never rely on it to find ownership,” says Janis Smith, a Fannie Mae spokeswoman, noting it has its own records.

Apparently with good reason. Alan M. White, a law professor at the Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana, last year matched MERS’s ownership records against those in the public domain.

The results were not encouraging. “Fewer than 30 percent of the mortgages had an accurate record in MERS,” Mr. White says. “I kind of assumed that MERS at least kept an accurate list of current ownership. They don’t. MERS is going to make solving the foreclosure problem vastly more expensive.”

THE Sarmientos are one of thousands of American families who have tried to pierce the MERS veil.

Several years back, they bought a two-family home in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn for $723,000. They financed the purchase with two mortgages from Lend America, a subprime lender that is now defunct.

But when the recession blew in, Jose Sarmiento, a chef, saw his work hours get cut in half. He fell behind on his mortgages, and MERS later assigned the loans to U.S. Bank as a prelude to filing a foreclosure motion.

Then, with the help of a lawyer from South Brooklyn Legal Services, Mr. Sarmiento began turning over some stones. He found that MERS might have violated tax laws by waiting too long before transferring his mortgage. He also found that MERS could not prove that it had transferred both note and mortgage, as required by law.

One might argue that these are just legal nits. But Mr. Sarmiento, 59, shakes his head. He is trying to work out a payment plan through the federal government, but the roadblocks are many. “I’m tired; I’ve been fighting for two years already to save my house,” he says. “I feel like I never know who really owns this home.”

Officials at MERS appear to recognize that they are swimming in dangerous waters. Several federal agencies are investigating MERS, and, in response, the company recently sent a note laying out a raft of reforms. It advised members not to foreclose in MERS’s name. It also told them to record mortgage transfers in county records, even if state law does not require it.

MERS will no longer accept unverified new officers. If members ignore these rules, MERS says, it will revoke memberships.

That hasn’t stopped judges from asking questions of MERS. And few are doing so with more puckish vigor than Arthur M. Schack, a State Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn.

Judge Schack has twice rejected a foreclosure case brought by Countrywide Home Loans, now part of Bank of America. He had particular sport with Keri Selman, who in Countrywide’s court filings claimed to hold three jobs: as a foreclosure specialist for Countrywide Home Loans, as a servicing agent for Bank of New York and as an assistant vice president of MERS. Ms. Selman, the judge said, is a “milliner’s delight by virtue of the number of hats that she wears.”

At heart, Judge Schack is scratching at the notion that MERS is a legal fiction. If MERS owned nothing, how could it bounce mortgages around for more than a decade? And how could it file millions of foreclosure motions?

These cases, Judge Schack wrote in February 2009, “force the court to determine if MERS, as nominee, acted with the utmost good faith and loyalty in the performance of its duties.”

The answer, he strongly suggested, was no.


Honeybees 'entomb' hives to protect against pesticides, say scientistsE

06 Apr 2011 Honeybees are taking emergency measures to protect their hives from pesticides, in an extraordinary example of the natural world adapting swiftly to our depredations, according to a prominent bee expert. Scientists have found numerous examples of a new phenomenon - bees "entombing" or sealing up hive cells full of pollen to put them out of use, and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells has been found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighbouring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees.READ MORE

Gov. Rick Scott orders immediate cuts to programs for disabled

--Teabagger invokes 'emergency powers' to kill poor, disabled 31 Mar 2011 Florida Gov. Rick Scott (T) ordered deep cuts Thursday to programs that serve tens of thousands of residents with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities. Though a range of state services face cuts from this year's Legislature, the governor invoked his emergency powers to order the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities to immediately roll back payments to group homes and social workers by 15 percent -- an amount providers say could put them out of business and threaten their clients' safety. An estimated 30,000 Floridians with severe developmental disabilities receive services that help them live outside of nursing homes... Aides help them eat, bathe, take medication and otherwise care for themselves.READ MORE

Walker Reverses Appointment Dems Called Cronyism

05 Apr 2011 Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker has reversed the promotion of a 27-year-old son of a veteran lobbyist whose appointment to an $81,500-a-year administration job sparked cronyism claims by Democrats... Deschane had been promoted to head up a division that oversees environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees even though he has no college degree, little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions. Deschane is the son of Jerry Deschane, a longtime lobbyist for the Madison-based Wisconsin Builders Association. The group's political action committee gave $29,000 to the campaigns of Walker and his running mate, putting it among the top donors.

Budget Deal Would Give Pentagon Extra Funds In Exchange For Social Program Cuts

--Democrats and Republicans are now moving toward an agreement that would increase defense spending. 05 Apr 2011 While media attention focuses on the cuts to government spending demanded by House Republicans and broadly accepted by Democrats, the Pentagon is poised to reap billions more in federal funds, according to sources close to the discussions. The confines of the budget negotiations established by the two parties results in a system where every extra dollar going to military spending ends up being offset by a dollar reduction in spending on domestic social programs.READ MORE

GPs must return flu vaccine over narcolepsy fears

--Scientists have linked drug to sleep disorder 03 Apr 2011 The Heath Service Executive (HSE) will remove all stocks of the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix from GPs' surgeries, the Sunday Independent has learned. The vaccine has been linked to the disabling sleep disorder, narcolepsy. Last week, this newspaper revealed that eight people who received the swine flu vaccine in Ireland have developed the devastating disorder, with most of the cases involving teenagers and young adults.

Guantanamo torture doc now in the hot seat

05 Apr 2011 The practices of a New York-licensed psychologist will be reviewed by a state Supreme Court judge today, after he was accused of creating U.S. interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay that some decry as torture. This landmark hearing will be the first time a U.S. court will consider whether a psychologist’s involvement in alleged torture violates medical ethics or the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm. Dr. John Francis Leso was in charge of the "Behavioral Science Consultation Team" at Guantanamo Bay, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In The Dark? Murdoch's History Shows He's "A Hands-On" Owner

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has denied knowing about alleged misconduct by employees. But senior staff who worked for Murdoch have said that he's been a "hands-on" owner who has been closely involved with his media properties.
Murdoch Has Denied Knowledge Of Misconduct At His Tabloid

Murdoch Says He Was Unaware Of Hackings And Police Payments. From Bloomberg's write-up of Murdoch's July 19 testimony to the U.K. parliament's culture, media and sport select committee:

Gay couples wage campaign not to lie on tax returns

By John Tomasic | 04.05.11 | 4:25 pm | More from The Colorado Independent

* Print page

Legally married gay couples this month will be filing joint tax returns to the IRS, pressing the federal government to again acknowledge that, by failing to recognize gay marriage, it routinely asks U.S. citizens to lie on their tax forms. “More people are refusing to lie on those forms even though the government is telling them to,” said Nadine Smith, director of gay rights group Equality Florida. Smith is gay and married and she says that she and her partner will not lie on their tax form this year. “It would be both dishonest and deeply humiliating to now disavow each other or our marriage and declare ourselves single,” she said.

Smith’s group is waging a national campaign called “Refuse to Lie.”

“The Federal Government must stop requiring… gay couples to deny the existence of our families and hide our marriages. It is dehumanizing and it is wrong…. The government has chosen to discriminate and we choose to expose [its] bigotry,” explains the campaign website.

The campaign brings to mind debate last year around the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” U.S. military policy that prevented gay soldiers from serving openly. A compelling argument made by opponents of the ban was that the policy committed the government to abetting deceit. The unworkability of such a position was thrown into relief by arguments that trust among soldiers and their commanders serving together was an essential foundation for unit cohesion and effectiveness.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was officially ended as policy in December, the details of its repeal yet to be worked out by military leaders.

The business section blog at the New York Times reports on the Florida campaign.

What The New York Times Doesn’t Understand About Taxes

Posted on Apr 5, 2011
romana klee (CC-BY-SA)

By Moshe Adler

The Moshe Pit is Moshe Adler’s blog on economics, media and whatever else piques his interest. Get more here.

The idea was good: Get a reporter to find out what New York’s rich will do with the extra money they are going to have now that the new Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, has won his struggle against extending the “millionaires’ tax,” a surcharge that was instituted in 2009 on high-income families. The problem is, the story hinges on the numbers, and the numbers as reported by The New York Times are (this is turning into a disturbing pattern) all wrong.

Koch Front Groups Americans For Prosperity And ALEC Have Taken Over New Hampshire

With Republican super-majorities in the New Hampshire senate and house, the Koch front groups American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) have carefully orchestrated a campaign to remove the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

In 2008, New Hampshire joined RGGI, which is a market-based regulatory program that cuts greenhouse gas emissions and has created 1,130 jobs as a result of the energy efficient benefits. While cleaning the environment, RGGI has cumulatively generated $28.2 million in revenue for New Hampshire. Read more

Imagine Being 80 and Owing 40K in Health Costs Under Republican Paul Ryan's Insane, Randian Plan

Here's Dean Baker's analysis of Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. It should destroy him and the GOP for the foreseeable future, but the merging of the two parties on these issues is so far along, it's quite possible that there will be little fallout unfortunately. The "pragmatists" will undoubtedly find some way to work out the wrinkles:

Representative Ryan Proposes Medicare Plan Under Which Seniors Would Pay Most of Their Income for Health Care

That is what headlines would look like if the United States had an independent press. After all, this is one of the main take aways of the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) analysis of the plan proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee. Representative Ryan would replace the current Medicare program with a voucher for people who turn age 65 in 2022 and later. This voucher would be worth $8,000 in for someone turning age 65 in that year. It would rise in step with with the consumer price index and also as people age. (Health care expenses are higher for people age 75 than age 65.) Read more

Paul Ryan's Budget Not About the Budget... It's About 'Repealing the 20th Century'

The political world will mull over the details of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) radical budget for months, but as the debate gets underway, it's worth stepping back and appreciating the nature of the discussion.

At the surface, this would appear to be a debate about deficit and debt reduction. After a decade of Republican recklessness, the United States has found itself in a deep fiscal hole, and Ryan's "roadmap" is ostensibly about getting the nation's finances in order, putting us on a sustainable path. Read more

Bristol Palin's Teen Pregnancy Non-Profit Paid Her Seven Times More Than It Donated

What's the point of being a non-profit spokesperson if you're not actually helping anyone? Oh, right, to rake in exorbitant amounts of dough. At least that's what happened in 2009 with Bristol Palin, who was compensated an astonishing seven times more than her non-profit, Candie's Foundation, donated to teen pregnancy prevention. ThinkProgress has the news:

In 2009, Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol joined a teen pregnancy prevention nonprofit called the Candie’s Foundation. Today, the Associated Press reported that the Candie’s Foundation released its 2009 tax information, revealing that Bristol was paid a salary of $262,500. But a closer examination of the tax form by ThinkProgress shows that the group disbursed only $35,000 in grants to actual teen pregnancy health and counseling clinics: $25,000 to the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center and $10,000 to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Read more

Why Republicans Persist in Demanding the Elimination of 700,000 Jobs: Must Read by Robert Creamer


Last week, the economy showed more evidence that the Administration's economic stimulus programs, rescue of the auto industry, investments in clean energy, extension of unemployment compensation, past aid to the states and other measures are beginning to lead to job growth. In March, the economy added 219,000 new jobs - bringing total private sector job growth to 1.8 million in the last 13 months.

This rate of job growth is far short of what is needed to return us to full employment - or even the more modest levels of unemployment that preceded Bush's Great Recession. But Obama's 1.8 million new jobs is 1.8 million more than the zero net private sector jobs created in the eight years of the Bush Administration using the Republican program of tax cuts for the rich.

The first decade of this century was also the first decade in our economic history that experienced no private sector job growth whatsoever. You'd think that this great experiment in trickle down economics would be enough to convince anyone with more than five brain cells to string together that trickle down economics doesn't work - but apparently not.

Jim Hightower | Sacrificing Teachers and Firefighters to Hoovernomics

Jim Hightower, Truthout: "America owes a debt of gratitude to such insightful Republican governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Chris Christie of New Jersey. Were it not for them, many Americans - myself included - would still be thinking that today's state budget messes are mainly the product of a national economic crash caused by the reckless greed of Wall Street banksters and rich speculators, as well as the abject failure by political leaders to tax their super-wealthy campaign contributors in order to meet the growing needs in education and other essentials. Luckily, the GOP guvs have set the record straight by explaining that the budget woes are the fault of teachers who have health coverage and firefighters who get pensions."
Read the Article

Robert Reich | Why We Must Raise Taxes on the Rich

Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "It's tax time. It's also a time when right-wing Republicans are setting the agenda for massive spending cuts that will hurt most Americans. Here's the truth: The only way America can reduce the long-term budget deficit, maintain vital services, protect Social Security and Medicare, invest more in education and infrastructure, and not raise taxes on the working middle class is by raising taxes on the super rich."
Read the Article

Robert Scheer | "The Peasants Need Pitchforks"

Robert Scheer, Truthdig: "The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is a myth blown away by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz in the current issue of Vanity Fair. In an article titled 'Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%' Stiglitz states that the top thin layer of the superwealthy controls 40 percent of all wealth in what is now the most sharply class-divided of all developed nations: 'Americans have been watching protests against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet, in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation's income - an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.'"
Read the Article

Friday, July 22, 2011

Murdoch Henchman Responsible for Climate-Gate?

By Keith Olbermann, Countdown with Keith Olbermann/Current TV

21 July 11
The Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal may have just metastasized. The so-called "Climate-Gate" controversy - in which e-mails about global warming were stolen from researchers at Britain's University of East Anglia in November, 2009 - now turns out to bear the stamp of Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in Murdoch's hacking of the phones, voicemails, and other electronic communications of thousands of people.

Wallis is unique in this scandal. He had been the Executive Editor of Murdoch's News Of The World when hacking was at its peak. Yet in 2009 he wound up being hired by the police as a public relations consultant while the police investigated the hacking scandal. And he wound up spying for Murdoch's people on what Scotland Yard was investigating.

Report: James Murdoch Lied to British Parliament

By Lisa O'Carroll, Guardian UK

21 July 11

Colin Myler and Tom Crone challenge News Corp. executive's statement to MPs at phone-hacking hearing.

ames Murdoch has been accused of misleading the parliamentary select committee this week in relation to phone hacking, igniting yet another fire for the embattled News International boss to extinguish.

In a highly damaging broadside, two former News of the World senior executives claimed the evidence Murdoch gave to the committee on Tuesday in relation to an out-of-court settlement to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, was "mistaken."

The statement came as something of a bombshell to the culture, sport and media select committee, which immediately announced it would be asking Murdoch to explain the contradiction.

Colin Myler, editor of the paper until it was shut down two weeks ago, and Tom Crone, the paper's former head of legal affairs, said they had expressly told Murdoch of an email that would have blown a hole in its defence that only one "rogue reporter" was involved in the phone-hacking scandal.

This contradicts what Murdoch told the committee when questioned on Tuesday.

The existence of the email, known as the "for Neville" email because of its link to the paper's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, is thought to have been critical in News International's decision to pay out around £700,000 to Taylor in an out-of-court settlement after he threatened to sue the paper.

James Murdoch is standing by his version of events. A statement issued by News Corporation said: "James Murdoch stands by his testimony to the select committee."

In their statement, Myler and Crone challenged this: "Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's Culture, Media Select Committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken.

"In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."

John Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture, sport and media select committee, said: "We as a committee regarded the 'for Neville' email as one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the whole inquiry. We will be asking James Murdoch to respond and ask him to clarify."

He added that "it was seen as one of the few available pieces of evidence showing that this activity was not confined just to Clive Goodman," the only journalist on the paper to have been prosecuted - and jailed - in relation to phone hacking so far.

The email is believed to have been critical in News International's decision to pay Taylor such a large sum of money.

If it had got out in a full-blown court case brought by the Profession Footballers' Association chief executive it would have blown a hole in News International's claim that only one reporter was involved in hacking.

James Murdoch claimed to the MPs that this email had been concealed from him by two company executives, Crone and Myler, when he was persuaded to sign off the secret deal with Taylor.

Earlier this month James Murdoch acknowledged he was wrong to settle the suit, saying he did not "have a complete picture of the case" at the time.

He repeated this on Tuesday at the select committee when he was asked by Labour MP Tom Watson: "When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the full Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail messages?"

To this James Murdoch answered: "No, I was not aware of that at the time."

Watson went on to ask him why then had he paid an "astronomical sum" to Taylor.

James Murdoch replied: "There was every reason to settle the case, given the likelihood of losing the case and given the damages - we had received counsel - that would be levied."

With parliament in recess, it is unlikely but not unprecedented for a select committee to hold a special evidence session to clarify the issue.

Witnesses in the case have been given very strict instructions before giving evidence to tell the truth, although witnesses do not give evidence under a specific oath.

James Murdoch told the committee that his advisers had urged him to adopt a strategy of telling the truth when he spoke to the committee.

In its 2010 report the culture, sport and media select committee, in discussing the Gordon Taylor settlement, wrote: "The settlements were authorised by James Murdoch, executive chairman of News International, following discussions with Colin Myler and Tom Crone."

It did not specifically state whether Murdoch had been shown the "for Neville" email before making the settlement, but does state Murdoch was authorised to make the payment without bringing the issue to the News International board.

Republicans sure love them some Elisa Rosenbaum

Who dat???? Ayn Rand, of course! LoL!

Would We Be Better Off If John McCain Were President?

Presidents serve the institutional interests of the corporations behind them. A President McCain may have at least triggered a true progressive fight.
July 17, 2011 |

Beth Rankin / Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Beth Rankin / Flickr Creative Commons

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The following piece first appeared on Truthdig.

Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the absolute disaster that a John McCain victory would have produced.

And they were right. McCain as president would clearly have produced a long string of catastrophes: He would probably have approved a failed troop surge in Afghanistan,engaged in worldwide extrajudicial assassination, destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan,failed to bring Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the negotiating table,expanded prosecution of whistle-blowers, sought to expand executive branch power, failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act on climate change, pushed both nuclear energy and opened new areas to domestic oil drilling, failed to reform the financial sector enough to prevent another financial catastrophe, supported an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, presided over a growing divide between rich and poor, and failed to lower the jobless rate.

Is School Out Forever in Memphis, TN?

The battle over education continues in Memphis, Tennessee, where the school board says it will indefinitely delay the start of class until the City Council hands over $55 million in city funds, according to Reuters.

103,000 students are scheduled to resume classes August 8th, but the school board is pushing to delay school until they have received fair and adequate funding.

The city school system has a budget of $1.2 billion from federal, state, local, and private sources, but the city of Memphis contributes less than 10% of the school system’s budget. Adding insult to injury is that Memphis residents also pay taxes for the wealthier, higher performing Shelby County school system outside of city limits. Read more

The GOP's Ridiculous Idea of A "Historic Event": That's Right, A Twitter Debate

Earlier today The-Tea-Party-dot-Net hosted what they vigorously asserted to be an "historic" event: the first presidential primary debate conducted via Twitter.
Mind you, I was initially skeptical, but I was very, very wrong. We may have found the perfect media for conservative candidates to really shine in. Dear candidates: please solve each of America's problems in one short sentence. Oh, and there will be no follow-ups.

Not every candidate chose to take advantage of this historic challenge to be as vapid as possible in the public square. Which is too bad, because really, I think there may be no better way to judge a person's readiness to lead the free world than this. Read more

Black Americans Root For Murdoch's Demise

As Shirley Sherrod continues court proceedings to sue Fox darling Andrew Brietbart, even in the face of mounting criticism, ColorofChange leads the charge against the Murdoch empire for Fox News's continued racist approach to reporting just about anything to do with African-Americans.

The Grio reports:

Fox, admittedly, is the most successful cable news network in America. But its journalistic integrity is largely non-existent, with the entire operation geared toward promoting a conservative political agenda and platform. Facts are written and re-written to fit the story that Murdoch, Roger Ailes and their cronies are invested in promoting. Ailes, Fox's president served as a media consultant to Republican presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.
Read more

A Little Town In Arkansas Threatens To Ban Free Speech In The Home

Gould, Arkansas, population 850, has outlawed congregating or even talking about the City in a group setting. The City Council wrote an ordinance on Monday night disbanding a citizen group and banning future groups from forming pending approval from the City Council. The ordinance extends to any situation where the city government may be discussed, not only in public groups, but even from a resident's kitchen table. Mayor of Gould, Earnest Nash, would rather go to jail than to see this ordinance become law. Though he vetoed the bill, it can be re-introduced into a City Council meeting next month and could become law without his approval. "They can take me to court,” said Nash. “This is America and even though this is Gould, Arkansas, this is still part of America. And in America, you can’t just vote and violate peoples' constitutional rights.” Read more

Will the Obama Administration Prosecute Murdoch?

The transgressions of Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World make its parent company, News Corporation, fair game for U.S. prosecution, writes Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast.

How so, you ask?

Well, because News Corp. is an American company, based in New York, and therefore subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which allows for the prosecution of U.S. companies for participating in the corruption of foreign governments. If it's proven that News of the World paid bribes to members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, News Corp. is vulnerable. Read more

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Anonymous Raided by FBI; Hacker Group Claims to Have News Corp. Emails

Joe Coscarelli, Village Voice
Joe Coscarelli reports: "A day after the online sect LulzSecurity pulled their own hack on Rupert Murdoch, members of the most the widely-known hacking collective Anonymous, from which LulzSec spun off, have been raided by the FBI. Anonymous claims to be in possession of emails from News International servers - the very News Corp. properties in hot water over the ongoing phone-hacking scandal in the UK."

Mortgage 'Robo-Signing' Goes On

The report begins: "Mortgage industry employees are still signing documents they haven't read and using fake signatures more than eight months after big banks and mortgage companies promised to stop the illegal practices that led to a nationwide halt of home foreclosures."

Hold Rupert Murdoch Accountable

Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
Scott Galindez writes: "The FCC is responsible for holding the privileged few that are allowed to broadcast accountable. A company with so little respect for the rule of law and journalistic standards should not be allowed the privilege to broadcast in our country. The best way to hold Rupert Murdoch accountable would be to force him to sell all FOX broadcasting companies to a responsible party, an entity that respects the law."

Bachmann Predicted the World Would End in 2006

Marie Diamond, ThinkProgress
Excerpt: "... it's not terribly surprising that Bachmann is among those evangelical Christians who believe the end of the world is imminent. But it's still disconcerting that someone campaigning to lead America into the future believes that its days are numbered and millions of its citizens are doomed."

LulzSec will release Murdoch email archive

LulzSec behind a hack on The Sun's website claim to have extracted an email archive which they plan to release later on Tuesday. The Sun's website were redirected towards a fake story on the supposed death of Rupert Murdoch by infamous hacktivist collective LulzSec. The group also redirected visitors to the main News International website to the LulzSec Twitter account.

Sabu leader of LulzSec said via Twitter that the group was sitting on emails of News International staffers that it planned to release. Sabu released email login details for former News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks, a central figure in the News of the World voicemail-hacking scandal.

The hackers also posted the mobile phone numbers of three News International execs. This information seems to have come from an old database.

Murdoch Company Admitted Hacking US Company in 2009

Thursday 21 July 2011
by: Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program | News Analysis

In today's On the News segment: Seventy-two percent of Americans support raising taxes on the rich, Florida governor refuses federal funding for Affordable Care Act, Murdoch US subsidiary hacked US company in 2009, GOP shutting down funding for Federal Aviation Administration, GOP in Alabama vote funds to maintain Confederate Memorial Park amid financial crisis, Koch maxing out in donations to Massachusetts' Sen. Scott Brown, and more.

Amid the Murdoch Scandal, There Is the Acrid Smell of Business as Usual

John Pilger, Truthout: "Long before it was possible to hack phones, Murdoch was waging a war on journalism, truth, humanity and succeeded because he knew how to exploit a system that welcomed his rapacious devotion to the 'free market.' Murdoch may be more extreme in his methods, but he is no different in kind from many of those now lining up to condemn him who are his beneficiaries, mimics, collaborators, apologists. Certainly, there is no 'revolution,' as reported in The Guardian UK, which compared the 'fall' of Murdoch with that of the tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1989."
Read the Article

The Deficit Is Not Default of Obama

Greg Palast, Truthout: "Let's talk about how we ended up in this pickle, bucking up against the 'debt ceiling.' From 2001 to 2008, a Republican president took an annual surplus of $86 billion left for him by Bill Clinton and ran up the budget deficit to over half a trillion in a year ($642 billion in 2008). Altogether, George W. Bush blew up the national debt by over $3 TRILLION - then left the bills to Barack Obama."
Read the Article

Murdoch's Denials Are Tough to Believe, Former Wall Street Journal Reporter Sarah Ellison Says

To discuss the phone-hacking scandal engulfing the Rupert Murdoch media empire from Britain to the United States, we are joined by longtime journalist Sarah Ellison. She is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and author of the book "War at the Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle to Control an American Business Empire," which chronicled the sweeping changes at the publication after Murdoch acquired the newspaper in 2007. Ellison spent 10 years working at the Wall Street Journal. Commenting on Murdoch denying responsibility for the scandal, Ellison says, "It's even more difficult to really believe that when you know the way that his news organizations work... There's a sort of myth that we all know about Rupert Murdoch, that his editors know what he wants without him even having to tell them. And so he creates a culture in which everyone is of one like mind... It's difficult to imagine that some of the responsibility wouldn’t lie at his feet, given that it is his organization." [includes rush transcript]

Click here to read the entire article...

Wealthy Fox pundit Stuart Varney reminds poor people just how much better off they are nowadays

Posted: 20 Jul 2011 03:00 PM PDT

Fox's Stuart Varney details how much better off the poor are these days

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I'm always amused when wealthy TV talking heads -- people whose six-figure-and-better incomes pretty much ensure that they can afford whatever they want in terms of household appliances and other necessities of modern life -- try to pretend that they're just ordinary folks who understand what "middle America" is thinking.

Even more hilarious, in a twisted way, is when they take it upon themselves to lecture those same Americans about the virtues of poverty -- or to explain, as Fox's Stuart Varney did yesterday, just how much better off poor Americans are now than they used to be.

In fact, according to his guest -- Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, who has assembled his damned lies and statistics in a single report at their site, America's poor people have a better standard of living than your average European. Right -- if appliances were any accurate measure of your standard of living.

This is just one of those pleasant reminders from our corporate masters that you're never as bad off as you think you are. Why, Varney and Rector seem dismayed that today's poor in America don't live off dirt floors. If you keep pushing for taxes on the rich, that may be what you'll get!

Murdoch Organization Still Paying Phone Hacker's Legal Fees? Amazing

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 04:00 PM PDT

I confess that for the most part I found the Murdoch testimony before Parliament today to be predictable, frustrating, and boring. So boring, in fact, that I dozed off just before the Great Murdoch Pie Face moment. However, there actually were some revelations. One of the more interesting one is the one John Dean discusses with Keith Olbermann in the video above.

In the course of testimony, it came out that Glenn Mulcaire's legal bills are being paid for by News Corp. Mulcaire is the "private investigator" who hacked into murder victim Milly Dowler.


Mr Murdoch said: "I asked the question myself and I was very surprised to find the company had made certain contributions to legal settlements.

"I don't have all of the details around each of those - not legal settlements sorry, legal fees - I was surprised, I was very surprised to find out that had occurred.

"They were done, as I understand it, in accordance with legal counsel and their strong advice."

Asked who signed the cheques, Rupert Murdoch said "it could have been" Les Hinton, head of News International at the time, or, alternatively, the chief legal officer.

It was put to the Murdochs that their company had been paying legal fees for Mulcaire, a "convicted felon" - a charge James Murdoch admitted.

He said: "I do know certain legal fees were paid for Mr Mulcaire by the company and I was as surprised and shocked to learn that as you are."

But he denied the fees were paid to buy Mulcaire's "cooperation and silence", saying: "When the allegations came out I said: 'Are we doing this? Is this what the company's doing?'

"The strong (legal) advice was that from time to time it's important and customary even to pay co-defendants' legal fees."

Other things I learned: James Murdoch is the one to watch out for. Rupert Murdoch is his old, crotchety, middle-finger-in-your-face-as-always guy, but James is one smooth operator. Always ready with a concerned look, contrite words, and a very long-winded answer, he restated what everyone else said, which was basically to say nothing.

This exchange is a perfect example. Yes, we paid his legal fees because someone else told us to, but also yes, we're all about being hands-on with the company and oh, by the way, did I forget to say I'm sorry?

Rebekah Brooks handled her testimony in a similar fashion, but was treated far more harshly by the panel questioning her. Not that she doesn't deserve harsh treatment. She does. But compared to the kid-glove treatment of the Murdoch duo, she was raked a bit harder.

Bottom line? Much like Congressional hearings here in the US, these were largely for show and not substance. The real hearings to watch will be the ones where criminal charges are brought, which I believe will happen at some point.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Maddow: Is Murdoch's "Crazy Like a Fox?"

Last night, Rachel Maddow discussed the pattern of News Corp underlings portraying Rupert Murdoch as "old" and "confused" and whether that reoccurring theme in the company's history might in fact be political strategy on the part of the embattled media behemoth. Maddow is asking whether Murdoch is, in her words, pulling a "Vinny the Chin," referring to the notorious mobster who wandered around the Village trying to make himself seem like an eccentric old guy (it didn't work). And if it's not an act, is it possible that someone could truly be so out of touch with the goings on beneath him as Murdoch appeared to be yesterday, she asks? Read more

News Corp Nonsense: An American Problem, Too

I've been hearing quite a bit of fatuous chatter over the past few day about the superiority of the American press over the Brits and our alleged unwillingness to be manipulated by someone like Rupert Murdoch. Please.

John Nichols writes:

Just as Murdoch has had far too much control over politics and politicians in Britain during periods of conservative dominance—be it under an actual Tory such as former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and current Prime Minister David Cameron or under a faux Tory such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair—he has had far too much control in the States. And that control, while ideological to some extent, is focused mainly on improving the bottom line for his media properties by securing for them unfair legal and regulatory advantages. Read more

Rupertgate Tuesday - The Circus This Time.

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 06:00 PM PDT

The Murdochs - the tree is rotten and the fruit ain't good.

Murdoch Testimony - Part 1

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Murdoch Testimony Part 2

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And as a supplement, there is also the testimony of Rebekah Brooks some ten minutes later. Not all that much different than the Murdochs claims of innocence and ignorance, but without the pie. Her humility and contrition were strangely missing as evidence continues to pile up against her.

So, here is the complete testimony of Rebekah Brooks, also as it was broadcast by LBC.

Interesting day for a story that has no end in sight.

And next?

The world had a look. It was covered by everybody and their brother. Even Fox News turned on the feed. And in the end there were no revelations, no bombshell disclosures, surpluses of stammering, flashes of defiance but mostly a sad disconnect. Disconnect of arrogance, absolute power feigning impunity, an inability to acknowledge or even truly comprehend the extent of damage they have caused to countless people and institutions over such a long period of time.

The elder Murdoch, at 81 has become a figurehead - claiming unawareness of what either the right or left hand are doing and truly caring less. The proclamations of humility and contrition rang as hollow as a cardboard tube because he is convinced beyond any measure of doubt that he is innocent. The Murdoch Style is free of any fault, absolute in its righteous quest for domination in the marketplace.

The younger Murdoch is a poorly assembled clone, cast in the ill-conceived role of heir. Stumbling over himself while feigning an air of well-rehearsed assurance. It didn't wash.

It was, for all intents and purposes, sad to watch. A poor man's Nuremberg Trial. With proclamations of victimhood and refusals to accept responsibility. By pointing fingers and blaming the oversights of others for this terrible mess they are in. That they knew nothing.

And it went that way for the better part of 3 hours. Broken up only by an attempted pie toss. A maladroit attempt at cashing in on fame by one Johnnie Marbles that wound up becoming the big distraction and ultimately has become the headline for the day. The real issues getting buried somewhere in the back. But maybe that was the intention. As we all know, The Murdoch Style of Journalism has been to deflect from real issues by glorifying insignificant ones. Replacing useful information for trivia. So perhaps, just perhaps it was an orchestrated stratagem, guaranteed to deflect from the severity of the moment. We'll never know for sure.

No doubt you have all been glued to your TV sets and computers all day, watching this sideshow unfold. But for those of you who may have missed it, didn't Tivo it, and don't want to hear soundbites, here is the entire testimony as it was broadcast by LBC in London. It's broken up over two players, each about an hour in length.

Attempted Deer in purported headlights.

Rebekah Brooks Testimony

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Paul Krugman Says We Need To Hold The Bankers Accountable

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 07:00 PM PDT

Paul Krugman says that letting the bankers walk is a really big mistake -- and is a major factor in the recession:

Last fall, we learned that many mortgage lenders were engaging in illegal foreclosures. Most conspicuously, “robo-signers” were attesting that banks had the required documentation to seize homes without checking to see whether they actually had the right to do so — and in many cases they didn’t.

How widespread and serious were the abuses? The answer is that we don’t know. Nine months have passed since the robo-signing scandal broke, yet there still hasn’t been a serious investigation of its reach. That’s because states, suffering from severe budget troubles, lack the resources for a full investigation — and federal officials, who do have the resources, have chosen not to use them.

Instead, these officials are pushing for a settlement with mortgage companies that, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, “would broadly absolve the firms of wrongdoing in exchange for penalties reaching $30 billion and assurances that the firms will adhere to better practices.”

Why the rush to settle? As far as I can tell, there are two principal arguments being made for letting the banks off easy. The first is the claim that resolving the mortgage mess quickly is the key to getting the housing market back on its feet. The second, less explicitly stated, is the claim that getting tough with the banks would undermine broader prospects for recovery.

Neither of these arguments makes much sense.

The claim that removing the legal cloud over foreclosure would help the housing market — in particular, that it would help support housing prices — leaves me scratching my head. It would just accelerate foreclosures, and if more families were evicted from their homes, that would mean more homes offered for sale — an increase in supply. An increase in the supply of a good usually pushes that good’s price down, not up. Why should the effect on housing go the opposite way?

You might point to the mortgage relief that would supposedly be extracted as part of the settlement. But if mortgage relief is that crucial, why isn’t the administration making a major push to reinvigorate its own Home Affordable Modification Program, which has spent only a small fraction of its money? Or if making that program actually work is hard, why should we believe that any program instituted as part of a mortgage-abuse settlement would work any better?

Sorry, but the case that letting banks off the hook would help the housing market just doesn’t hold together.

What about the argument that getting tough with the banks would threaten the overall economy? Here the question is: What’s holding the economy back?

It’s not the state of the banks. It’s true that fears about bank solvency disrupted financial markets in late 2008 and early 2009. But those markets have long since returned to normal, in large part because everyone now knows that banks will be bailed out if they get in trouble.

The big drag on the economy now is the overhang of household debt, largely created by the $5.6 trillion in mortgage debt that households took on during the bubble years. Serious mortgage relief could make a dent in that problem; a $30 billion settlement from the banks, even if it proved more effective than the government’s modification program, would not.

So when officials tell you that we must rush to settle with the banks for the sake of the economy, don’t believe them. We should do this right, and hold bankers accountable for their actions.


Misogyny, Made-Up Facts and More: Working in a News Corp Newsroom

With Brooks arrested, tabloid insiders open up

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press – 1 day ago

LONDON (AP) — With their former boss under arrest, tabloid reporters are beginning to reveal secrets of what it was like to work in Rebekah Brooks' newsrooms.

Disguises, bullying, lies dropped into copy — all were part of the pressure-cooker atmosphere that prevailed, according to former journalists who spoke to The Associated Press.

Michael Taggart, who worked at The Sun in 2003, said the paper under Brooks was marked by "ruthlessness and misogyny."

"The reporters who were prepared to subject themselves and others to the most ridicule were the ones earmarked for success," said Taggart, who now works as a consultant for London-based MRM.

Insiders say the whatever-it-takes mantra was common across the tabloid world. But the pressure at News International — publisher of the Sun and the News of the World, the defunct paper at the center of the phone hacking scandal — was particularly intense.

Taggart described routinely participating in overnight stakeouts while at the Sun, something he said was rare at other papers he had worked for. The News of the World famously employed Mazhar Mahmood, who dressed as a hidden camera-wielding Middle Eastern potentate dubbed the "Fake Sheik" to trick scores of prominent figures into embarrassing indiscretions.

Taggart said other tabloids were just as hungry for scandal and celebrity, but they tended to rely on "great contacts, rather than covert operations."

At Rupert Murdoch's tabloids, refusing to play ball meant being pushed to the sidelines. One reporter who said he went through that was Charles Begley, News of the World's Harry Potter correspondent in 2001 when Brooks was its editor.

The then 29-year-old reporter said he wore a Harry Potter costume to work and officially changed his name to that of the fictional boy wizard, all part of the paper's attempt to tap into the Pottermania sweeping both sides of the Atlantic.

On Sept. 11, hours after the fall of the twin towers, Begley was stunned to be chewed out by News of the World management for not wearing his costume. He said he was then ordered to attend the next news meeting in full Potter regalia.

Shaken by the demand, Begley never showed up, and soon afterward parted ways with the paper.

Brooks spokesman David Wilson said the former editor was "not going to answer specific allegations like this at this time," but described many of the stories being circulated as ridiculous.

Another reporter who spent seven years with the News of The World said the humiliation described by Begley was routine.

"It was very hierarchical," the former reporter said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he still works in the media industry. "If your immediate boss told you to drive to Norfolk and stand in a field ... that's what you were expected to do."

Attitudes toward women — never thought of as particularly enlightened at The Sun, a paper still famous for its topless page 3 models — did not improve under Brooks, Taggart said.

"We were regularly encouraged to refer to women with misogynistic names like 'tarts,' 'slappers' or 'hookers' in our copy if there was conceivably any question mark over their sexual proclivities," he said.

"We were expected to childishly objectify women. So blonde-haired women were described as 'beauties' and generously chested women 'looked swell', whether they'd wanted the attention or not."

Faking facts was also part of tabloid life under Brooks, reporters said.

A third News of The World reporter, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he too is still working in the media industry, said some editors at the News of the World deliberately inserted bogus details to sensationalize copy.

In 2006, it apologized after an England soccer star was wrongly alleged to have participated in a "gay sex romp." More recently, the paper was forced to pay damages after wrongly alleging that motor racing boss Max Mosley had participated in a Nazi-themed orgy. Mosley acknowledged the orgy, but denied any Nazi theme.

Protesting was not an option, according to the reporter who worked at the tabloid for seven years. He said the paper "was no place to question what you were being asked to do, the answer was always the same mantra: Do what you have to do to get a result."

"Anyone mentioning ethics or refusing to be cooperative with dubious practices would have been effectively exiled by the news desk and labeled as 'flaky.'"

Rob Harris contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Surprise! The American Mainstream Is Not Where the GOP Wants It to Be

For the better part of the year, congressional Republicans were able to argue, accurately, that Americans opposed raising the debt ceiling. It was arguably the only honest claim the GOP made in this debate: poll after poll showed public opposition to doing the right thing.

There was ample evidence that the public had no idea what the debt ceiling is, or what the consequences would be if it weren't raised, but at least on the surface, far-right Republicans could credibly claim some public backing for their reckless tack. Read more

Franken Destoys Focus On The Family Witness, Exposes Misuse Of HHS Study

During this morning’s Senate DOMA hearings, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) destroyed Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery’s argument that children are better off with opposite-sex parents by demonstrating how Minnery misrepresented an HHS study. The study — which Minnery cited to oppose marriage equality — actually found that children do best in two-parent households, regardless of the parents’ gender. Watch it:

News Corp Lawsuits

News Corp Lawsuits

News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS, NASDAQ: NWSA) Shareholder Lawsuit

Kyros & Pressly LLP announces an investigation into possible breaches of fiduciary duties by the Board of Directors of News Corporation in connection with the “hacking” scandal that has recently come to light.

Recently, News Corporation disclosed that News Of The World, a UK tabloid subsidiary of News Corp., had hacked into the mobile phone of murdered 13-year-old British School girl in 2002. Further, allegations surfaced last week that the News of the World had also snooped on senior politicians, the victims of London's 2005 terrorist bombings and the families of dead British soldiers..

Kyros & Pressly LLP's investigation is focused on what controls the Board of Directors had in place to prevent such rampant privacy violations, which may violate both United States and United Kingdom laws. The investigation also seeks to determine what officers and directors knew of the alleged “hacking” activities.

If you are a holder of News Corporation common stock and want to discuss your legal rights, you may e-mail or call Kyros & Pressly LLP who will, without obligation or cost to you, attempt to answer your questions.

If you are a former employee of News Corporation and currently have News Corporation stick in any type of retirement plan, please also consider contacting us at the above numbers to learn more about the investigation and your rights.

If you are a shareholder of NWS and would like more information about our investigation, please contact Bill Kyros Esq. by telephone at 1-800-934-2921.

Former Employee? We are also investigating allegations of improper activities committed at News Corp. If you wish to be a whistleblower contact us now or at SEC Whistleblower Program

Kyros & Pressly LLP is a Boston-based law firm with significant experience representing investors in merger-related shareholder class actions, shareholder derivative actions, and securities fraud class actions. For more information about the firm, please visit our web site at Kyros Pressly LLP.

News Corp Shareholder?
Contact our law firm now to discuss your options, Toll Free at 1-800-934-2921 for a Free Case Evaluation.
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The Murdochs Must Stop Spinning and Resign Over the Phone-Hacking Scandal

Fox News has long blurred the line between corporate interests and journalistic integrity. But the phone hacking scandal is a step too far--it's time for Murdoch to go. READ MORE

How DSK, Murdoch, and Nancy Grace Are Making A Mockery Of U.S. Justice

How Murdoch and the unruly, profit hungry press interfere not only with our privacy, but also with our justice system. READ MORE

How Rupert Murdoch Could Get His Hands On Your Kid's Information--And It's Legal

Rupert Murdoch hired former NYC schools chancellor Joel Klein to help him profit off of "school reform"--but progressive groups are raising the alarm. READ MORE

11 States Trying Really Hard to Keep Poor, Black, and Student Voters From Voting

The 2012 election is closer than you think--and just in time, states are passing a host of new bills aimed at making it harder to vote. READ MORE

Did News of the World Hack into Climate Scientists' Emails?

The scandal du jour is unquestionably the phone-hacking debacle surrounding Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid -- which, until it was canned due to allegations of myriad criminal deeds, was England's top-selling newspaper. We now know that the paper's reporters and editors illegally intercepted some 4,000 voice messages and emails of celebrities, crime victims, policemen, and others, and paid off top officials in the Scotland Yard to keep the whole thing quiet.

Over at Climate Progress, Joe Romm raises the question -- could the News of the World have played a role in hacking the email accounts of climate scientists that lead to the ridiculously persistent (and entirely baseless) event known as Climate Gate? Read more

'Bath Salts' Are the Latest U.S. Media Hysteria Drug

A new drug sold legally in head shops as "bath salts" is getting a lot of media attention that may be doing more harm than good.
July 20, 2011 |

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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The latest U.S. drug scare is over the oddly named "bath salts," a cocaine- or meth-like drug sold for $20-$50 in head shops. Bath salts have become popular among speed-seekers, triggering a wave of hospitalizations, which the media has decided constitutes a new epidemic.

The drugs are called bath salts because their white, clumpy texture looks like something you'd throw in the tub. Actually, they are legal, hallucinogenic stimulants synthesized from the manmade chemicals methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone and methylone. Once users have ingested the drug they are not likely to want anything to do with a bubble bath – unless, of course, the bubbles can talk.

Bath salts typically produce a high characterized by a sense of alertness, stimulation and euphoria that lasts three to four hours. There have also been some nasty reported side-effects: seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, and life-threatening increases in heart rate, as well as addiction.

Media and law enforcement have been quick to stir up panic over the drugs. But as is often the case, their fear-mongering and knee-jerk push to make these substances illegal may cause more harm than good.

Society has entered a new era in which chemists are able to use manmade research chemicals (often called RCs) like those in bath salts, to mimic the effects of illegal drugs by slightly altering their makeup. If a new product produces a strong high, you can create a new market. If the resulting substance becomes illegal, these money-hungry creative geniuses are going to produce a lot of it and make some major cash. Pushing bath salts underground will only create a black market, which results in less open discussion and education about the drug -- a counterproductive development since the more potentially dangerous the drug, the more harm reduction and education users need.

By all accounts, bath salts, which have been on the market for about a year, took off quickly. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison control centers nationwide received 3,740 calls about bath salts from January 2011 through June, compared to 303 in all of 2010.

At least 28 states have already banned the chemicals in bath salts, and some politicians are pushing for a federal approach. New York Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced federal legislation in February to classify bath salts as controlled Schedule I substances – non-medical drugs with high potential for abuse like heroin, ecstasy and marijuana. With Schumer’s proposed legislation still under review, bath salts are widely available online, and as the New York Times points out, “experts say the state bans can be thwarted by chemists who need change only one molecule in salts to make them legal again.”

As some chemists may be willing to make slight alterations to bath salts to preserve their legality, others will continue to synthesize the drug, and dealers will continue to sell it – possibly with lower purity levels, which can often cause dangerous reactions.


Inside the Right-Wing Christian Law School That Brought Us Michele Bachmann

When Oral Roberts University sought to set up a law school, it called in Christian Reconstructionist Herb Titus. Michele Bachmann is the law school's most famous graduate. READ MORE

Are Republicans Committing Treason?

The Republican Party no longer has Americans' best interests at heart, and we are suffering because of it. READ MORE

Rupert Murdoch's shield in phone hacking scandal: Joel Klein

In times of crisis, closeness counts. And during Rupert and James Murdoch’s two punishing hours of testimony before British lawmakers in London Tuesday, no person outside the Murdoch family was closer to the two media barons than Joel Klein.

His bald, bespectacled head, set off by a green tie and dark suit, appeared in nearly every television shot of the hearing. And surely this bit of theater was intentional. After all, the hastily assembled News Corp. management and standards committee charged with dealing with the phone-hacking scandal, which reports directly to Klein, was held up again and again in the Murdochs’ testimony, as well as the subsequent testimony of former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, as proof that the company was dedicated to finding and curing the rot within.

Read more:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

London Police Chief Resigns As Rupertgate Spirals Toward The US

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 04:00 PM PDT
Just after the news that Rebekah Brooks had been arrested, this, via BBC:
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned following the phone hacking scandal.
Britain's most senior police officer said he had no knowledge of the extent of the practice and his integrity was "completely intact". Sir Paul has faced criticism for hiring former News of the World executive Neil Wallis - who was questioned by police investigating hacking - as an adviser. He said his links to the journalist could hamper current investigations.

Gosh, ya think? So far this morning the highest-ranking law enforcement official has resigned, and the woman Rupert Murdoch referred to as "the daughter he never had" has been arrested. Think there might be more? And when is it coming to the US?

Check this post on Daily Kos today:
Former Fox News executive Dan Cooper has claimed that a special bunker, requiring security clearance for access was created at the company's headquarters to conduct “counterintelligence” including snooping on phone records:

That Kos piece also cites a more recent Rolling Stone article about the "Fox Fear Factory" which bolsters Cooper's claim.
Befitting his siege mentality, Ailes also housed his newsroom in a bunker. Reporters and producers at Fox News work in a vast, windowless expanse below street level, a gloomy space lined with video-editing suites along one wall and an endless cube farm along the other. In a separate facility on the same subterranean floor, Ailes created an in-house research unit – known at Fox News as the “brain room” – that requires special security clearance to gain access. “The brain room is where Willie Horton comes from,” says Cooper, who helped design its specs. “It’s where the evil resides.”

I'd say the FBI should be preparing warrants for that room yesterday, don't you think?

DeMint: Congress shouldn't investigate Murdoch

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 06:00 AM PDT
Click here to view this media

Tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) Sunday dismissed calls for Congress to hold hearings to find out if Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. had broken U.S. law by hacking phones or bribing police.

"We need to let law enforcement work here," DeMint told NBC's David Gregory. "Congress has got a big issue in front of us. We need to handle our own business for a change. And the focus this week is on the only plan we've got, and that's cut, cap and balance."

But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) disagreed.

"I can tell you that there are questions about whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been violated by Rupert Murdoch and his news empire, and what's going on in England is startling," Durbin said. "To think of the extent that they went to break the law to try to report a story. We need to follow through with the FBI investigation and also with congressional investigations."

Debt Ceiling Holy War: Why Do Conservatives Have Unshakable Faith in Ideas That Are Totally, Demonstrably False?

The GOP's intransigent stubbornness on the debt ceiling stems from the populist brand of conservatism where the world of facts has been made secondary to the intoxication of faith. READ MORE

The 12 Nastiest Villains in the Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal

Here's an incomplete guide to the villains in the drama that threatens to take down the Murdoch empire.READ MORE

Monday, July 18, 2011

Some Pompeya for you... Enjoy

Footage from rare soviet home videos. Palanga 1987. Behind the scenes. Unofficial Video. / Footage from rare soviet home videos. Palanga 1987. Behind the scenes. Unofficial Video.

How Paul Stephenson and PM fell out over hacking scandal

Met chief's resignation statement casts further doubt on David Cameron's judgment ahead of Africa trade trip

David Cameron flew abroad last night for a long-arranged trip to Africa leaving behind the carnage inside Britain's most important police force, tumult inside the news organisation with which he has closest links, and open disdain from his deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, over his appointment of Andy Coulson to No 10.

The in-flight entertainment will have to be very good to calm his mood.

Aides in Downing Street contacted the prime minister's Virgin plane en route from Heathrow to South Africa just shortly before Sir Paul Stephenson announced he was stepping down as the UK's most senior police officer.

America's Murdoch Problem

Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
Intro: "It would be outrageous if the US ignored allegations that an American company used our territory as a haven from which to subvert the laws and democratic processes of Britain."

Buddy, Can You Spare a Television Network?

Leslie Griffith and JP Sottile, Reader Supported News
Leslie Griffith begins: "If the number one cable-news television station in America is run by Rupert Murdoch - and it is - then, my friends, it's time for some serious soul-searching."

75,000 US veterans could be homeless

16 Jul 2011 Military personnel, especially those with mental illnesses, are now facing the predicament of homelessness in the US. Data published by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs show that over 75,000 US military personnel could be homeless after they return from foreign wars. The psychological effects of war upon veterans are now being coupled with problems in the economy.

Phone-hacking topples Britain's top policeman: Sir Paul Stephenson resigns over his links with NotW suspect

17 Jul 2011 Metropolitan Police chief Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned. Sir Paul announced his resignation at a press conference this evening in the wake of revelations that he received a £12k spa break where News of the World hacking suspect Neil Wallis was a PR consultant. During an extensive statement on the scandal Sir Paul said he had no idea of extent of the practice and his integrity was 'completely intact'.

US government seeks return of detention document

14 Jul 2011 The U.S. government is demanding the return of a document describing criteria for holding detainees at a detention center in Afghanistan after it gave it to a civil rights group by mistake. The government and the American Civil Liberties Union had notified a Manhattan judge that a dispute arose over the document regarding prisoners at the Bagram detention center in Afghanistan. The government has said the document must be returned and kept secret.


Trial Brings Attention to Corruption in the New Orleans Police Department

Jordan Flaherty, The Loop21: "In New Orleans’ federal courthouse, five police officers are currently facing charges of killing unarmed black civilians who were escaping floods from the failed levees that buckled during Hurricane Katrina. The police are also charged with conspiring to cover up their crimes... The trial, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, and which started on June 27, has gripped the city, while media coverage has focused attention on a deeply troubled department that is struggling to gain the trust of New Orleans residents."
Read the Article

Former Bush Special Counsel Wants a "Do-Over" on Guilty Plea

Joe Newman, Project on Government Oversight: "It looks like Scott Bloch, the former special counsel to President George W. Bush, may get his day in court, after all... Federal prosecutors will not object to Bloch's request to withdraw his guilty plea to a misdemeanor contempt of Congress charge... But what did in Bloch—and led to his contempt of Congress charge—was his infamous decision to have Geeks on Call scrub his computer’s hard drive. Bloch, apparently with a straight face, insists he was trying to get rid of a computer virus and that the deletion of any incriminating evidence was purely coincidental."
Read the Article

Scott Bloch, the former special counsel to President George W. Bush, requested to withdraw his guilty plea to a misdemeanor contempt of Congress charge. (Photo: U.S. Office of Special Counsel)

Gay, Lesbian Military Members March in San Diego Parade

Gay, Lesbian Military Members March in San Diego Parade
Marty Graham, Reuters
The report begins, "A group of US service members marched in a San Diego gay pride parade on Saturday, in a demonstration organizers touted as an unprecedented step for gay and lesbian military personnel under the Pentagon's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy."

Rebekah Brooks Arrested Over Phone-Hacking Allegations

Vikram Dodd and Juliette Garside, Guardian UK
The report begins: "Rebekah Brooks has been arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World and allegations that police officers were bribed to leak sensitive information."

Bachmann Rumor Grows Louder

Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast
Intro: "The chatter about Michele Bachmann's husband's sexuality is spreading. Michelle Cottle on how it could affect a candidate whose Christian beliefs are central to her campaign."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Have You Forgotten?" Conservatives Erase 9/11 From Bush Record

July 14, 2011 4:42 pm ET by Oliver Willis

On yesterday's edition of The Five, Eric Bolling gave a decidedly skewed version of history when he said, "America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don't remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time."

Media conservatives have done this before.

In November of 2009, former Bush White House staffer Dana Perino said "we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."

Mary Matalin, former counselor to Vice President Cheney, claimed in December 2009 that President Bush "inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history."

In January of last year, Rudy Giuliani -- who was the mayor of New York City at the time of the 9/11 attacks -- told Good Morning America that "We had no domestic attacks under Bush."

Of course, 9/11 did happen eight months into Bush's term -- after he'd received a memo warning him "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

In a subsequent appearance on CNN, Giuliani said, "I usually say we had no domestic attacks, no major domestic attack under President Bush since Sept. 11" and "I did omit the words 'since Sept. 11.' I apologize for that."

The Anthrax Attacks: In 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, as well as to several news outlets (including the NY Post).

Attack Against El Al Ticket Counter At LAX: In 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at an El Al Airlines ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport killing two people and wounding four others before being shot dead. A 2004 Justice Department report stated that Hadayet's case had been "officially designated as an act of international terrorism."

DC Sniper: The state of Virginia indicted Washington, D.C.-area sniper John Allen Muhammad -- along with his accomplice, a minor at the time -- on terrorism charges for one of the murders he committed during a three-week shooting spree across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Muhammad was convicted, sentenced to death,

and subsequently executed for the crime.

UNC SUV Attack: In March 2006, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar drove an SUV into an area of campus, striking nine pedestrians. According to reports, Taheri-azar said he acted because he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world."

Taheri-azar also reportedly stated in a letter: "I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models, Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11/01 hijackers, who obtained a doctorate degree."

On Fox, Wash. Post's Lane Asks For Its Emails About Obama -- We Deliver

While participating in a panel discussion about new emails purportedly showing "White House Bias" against Fox News, Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane commented that he'd "like to see the internal emails here at Fox about the Obama administration" as a contrast. Lane is in luck. Internal emails obtained by Media Matters have shown attempts by Fox News executive Bill Sammon to slant news coverage against President Obama and his policies. Read More

PHONE HACKS: A Guide To Resignations, Arrests, And Convictions During The News Corp. Scandal

The News Corporation phone hacking and bribery story has brought down executives, reporters, and editors on both sides of the Atlantic. Here is a list of arrests, convictions, firings, suspensions, and resignations that have occured during the scandal. Read More

REPORT: How CNN, MSNBC, And Fox Are Covering News Corp. Hacking Scandal

News Corp.'s long-simmering phone-hacking scandal has reignited, throwing its global media empire into turmoil. As allegations of hacking into private citizens' voicemail increase, media and tabloid practices have been called into question. With a large and influential presence in the United States, News Corp. and its subsidiaries (including Fox News) should be under intense scrutiny in the American press. A Media Matters analysis has found great disparity in the amount of coverage given to the scandal by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Read More

Exposed: Congressional Legislature Approved by Corporations

Lisa Graves, The Center for Media and Democracy
Excerpt: "The Center for Media and Democracy has learned ... corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink."