comScore Media Metrix Ranks Top 50 U.S. Web Properties for September 2008

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RESTON, VA,  October 17, 2008 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released its monthly analysis of U.S. consumer activity at the top online properties for September 2008 based on data from the comScore Media Metrix service. The tumultuous financial markets and the upcoming presidential elections were the main drivers of Internet traffic for the month. Training and education sites gained as the fall season prompted many students to prepare for the college application process and a gloomy economic outlook led some Americans to consider going back to school.

“As the financial crisis deepens, Americans have been anxiously following the latest news on the markets and carefully watching their personal financial accounts online,” commented Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix. “The ability to track the market on a minute-by-minute basis and access banking and trading accounts quickly enables Americans to make financial decisions in real-time. Whether these decisions are sound or not is another story.”

Financial Crisis Causes Spike in Traffic to Online Trading and Financial News Sites

September proved to be a chaotic month for financial markets as several major banks crumbled and Congress raced to pass a $700 billion bailout plan to stabilize the financial markets. Consequently, visitation to business/finance – news/research and online trading sites soared with Americans keeping a watchful eye on the latest developments, as well as their personal finances.

Business/finance – news/research web sites saw a substantial increase in visitation in September, gaining 9 percent to more than 64 million visitors, while also increasing 16 percent in pages viewed and 29 percent in total time spent. These increases suggest that not only were more people visiting the sites in the category, but that they viewed more articles and content for longer periods of time on average.

Yahoo! Finance led the category with nearly 20 million visitors, a 30-percent jump from August. Several other sites experienced particularly strong growth amid the financial frenzy, including Russian financial site RBC.RU (up 155 percent to 1.2 million visitors), FoxBusiness.com (up 127 percent to 1.2 million visitors), and Google Finance (up 67 percent to 1.4 million visitors).

Top Gaining Sites in Business/Finance – News/Research Category

(Among sites with at least 1 million visitors)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

Business/Finance – News/Research

58,766

64,277

9

RBC.RU

466

1,190

155

FOXBUSINESS.COM

531

1,205

127

Google Finance

822

1,372

67

CNN Money

4,458

6,952

56

BLOOMBERG.COM

1,871

2,800

50

Yahoo! Finance

15,376

19,970

30

Bankrate.com Sites

2,902

3,742

29

Comcast.net Finance

1,309

1,571

20

CNBC.COM

1,270

1,524

20

Business Week Online

1,676

2,010

20

Online trading sites surged 10 percent to 12.6 million visitors in September, as investors kept watchful eyes on their dwindling portfolios and 401K’s. Fidelity Investments led the category with 3.5 million visitors, followed by ShareBuilder.com with 2 million visitors and Scottrade Sites with 1.7 million visitors. E-Trade Financial Network (up 26 percent to 1.6 million visitors), TD Ameritrade.com (up 30 percent to 1.4 million visitors) and Schwab.com (up 36 percent to 1.1 million visitors) each experienced double-digit growth.

Election Fever Drives Traffic to Politics Category

Politics reigned as the top-gaining category for the second consecutive month, experiencing a 43-percent increase to more than 20 million visitors, as interest in the Republican National Convention in early September and the first presidential debate later in the month generated heightened interest. BarackObama.com, one of the fastest-gaining properties of the month, led the category with 5.4 million visitors (up 37 percent versus August). JohnMcCain.com ranked second in the category with 3 million visitors, a 109-percent gain from August, with the Republican National Convention and interest in vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin helping drive visitors to the site.

College Application Season Prompts Growth at Training and Education Sites

The college search and admission process began in September as many high school students prepared their applications and a slumping economy left some professionals considering further education. Careers services and development – training and education sites experienced a 21-percent increase to nearly 12 million visitors during the month. College Board Property, which provides resources for college entrance exams, led the category with 2.6 million visitors (up 31 percent), followed by scholarship search provider Fastweb.com with 2.6 million visitors (up 44 percent), and EduPlace.com with 810,000 visitors (up 49 percent).

Education – information sites also gained during the month with September marking the first full month that most students were back in school across the country. The category grew 11 percent to more than 73 million visitors, led by Dictionary.com with 15 million visitors (up 39 percent), Pearson Education with 13.3 million visitors (up 34 percent), and Answers.com with nearly 11 million visitors (up 29 percent).

Top 50 Properties

Google Sites continued to lead as the most visited property in September with more than 144 million visitors, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 142 million visitors and Microsoft Sites with 122.3 million visitors. Wikimedia Foundation Sites, parent property of Wikipedia.org, climbed one place to capture the eighth position with 60.2 million visitors, while Glam Media moved up four spots to #10 with 52.3 million visitors. Strong interest in sports during the month of September, with Major League Baseball pennant races and the beginning of the NFL season, helped push ESPN up four spots to #32 with nearly 24 million visitors, while NFL Internet Group entered the ranking this month at #48 with nearly 18 million visitors.

Top 50 Ad Focus Ranking

Platform-A led the September Ad Focus ranking reaching 91 percent of the 189.5 million Americans online. Yahoo! Network reached 86 percent of the population followed by Google Ad Network with a reach of 83 percent. Traffic Marketplace entered the top 10 this month, capturing the ninth position and reaching 131.5 million visitors. 24/7 Real Media also experienced an increase, gaining three spots to #11 and reaching nearly 129 million visitors.

comScore Top 10 Gaining Properties by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors* (U.S.)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Rank by Unique Visitors

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

N/A

Technorati Media

3,066

11,269

268

90

ABC.COM

5,089

12,627

148

76

MANIATV.COM

2,793

4,716

69

233

Fantasy Sports Ventures

4,253

6,312

48

173

MEGAVIDEO.COM

3,430

5,067

48

217

Encyclopaedia Britannica

6,697

9,688

45

108

HotChalk

6,239

9,009

44

116

Nintendo Co.

3,728

5,216

40

209

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

3,293

4,545

38

238

BARACKOBAMA.COM

3,913

5,350

37

204

*Ranking based on the top 250 properties in September 2008

comScore Top 10 Gaining Categories by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors (U.S.)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

Politics

14,040

20,081

43

Career Services and Development – Training and Education

9,576

11,588

21

Genealogy

7,929

9,067

14

Religion

20,423

22,895

12

Retail – Food

15,115

16,851

11

Education – Information

65,908

73,170

11

Retail – Computer Software

20,280

22,445

11

Online Trading

11,427

12,550

10

Business/Finance – News/Research

58,766

64,277

9

Technology – News

43,647

46,868

7

comScore Top 50 Properties (U.S.)

September 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Unique Visitors (000)

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors

(000)

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors

(000)

Total Internet : Total Audience

189,468

1

Google Sites

144,293

26

Superpages.com Network

27,625

2

Yahoo! Sites

141,956

27

Verizon Communications Corporation

27,125

3

Microsoft Sites

122,338

28

United Online, Inc

25,301

4

AOL LLC

108,349

29

Gorilla Nation

25,024

5

Fox Interactive Media

87,414

30

Yellowpages.com Network

24,916

6

eBay

69,322

31

Bank of America

24,727

7

Ask Network

62,101

32

ESPN

23,869

8

Wikimedia Foundation Sites

60,200

33

WordPress

23,125

9

Amazon Sites

55,749

34

Monster Worldwide

23,104

10

Glam Media

52,292

35

Shopzilla.com Sites

22,702

11

CBS Corporation

52,050

36

CareerBuilder LLC

22,522

12

Apple Inc.

47,556

37

Weatherbug Property

22,427

13

New York Times Digital

47,146

38

Photobucket.com LLC

22,371

14

Turner Network

46,860

39

Demand Media

22,361

15

Viacom Digital

44,517

40

Answers.com Sites

22,253

16

FACEBOOK.COM

41,416

41

Gannett Sites

21,689

17

Weather Channel, The

37,916

42

Real.com Network

21,515

18

craigslist, inc.

35,258

43

Hearst Corporation

19,403

19

Adobe Sites

35,100

44

iVillage.com: The Womens Network

19,183

20

Time Warner – Excluding AOL

30,851

45

WorldNow – ABC Owned Sites

18,884

21

AT&T, Inc.

30,134

46

WhitePages

18,664

22

Wal-Mart

29,003

47

Expedia Inc

18,279

23

Comcast Corporation

28,700

48

NFL Internet Group

17,857

24

Disney Online

28,607

49

WebMD Health

17,263

25

Target Corporation

28,213

50

The Mozilla Organization

17,179

comScore Ad Focus Ranking (U.S.)

September 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Unique Visitors (000)

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors (000)

Reach %

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors (000)

Reach %

Total Internet : Total Audience

189,468

100%

1

Platform-A**

171,692

91%

26

Centro – Potential Reach

83,921

44%

2

Yahoo! Network**

161,996

86%

27

AdBrite**

79,853

42%

3

Google Ad Network**

156,355

83%

28

YOUTUBE.COM

75,389

40%

4

Specific Media**

153,435

81%

29

NNN Total Newspapers: U.S.

73,880

39%

5

ValueClick Networks**

150,395

79%

30

Vibrant Media**

73,323

39%

6

Tribal Fusion**

141,850

75%

31

MYSPACE.COM*

73,035

39%

7

Yahoo!

140,200

74%

32

Gorilla Nation Media – Potential Reach

64,303

34%

8

Google

136,219

72%

33

Ask Network

62,101

33%

9

Traffic Marketplace**

131,458

69%

34

Kontera**

58,809

31%

10

YuMe Video Network – Potential Reach

130,238

69%

35

Pulse 360**

58,559

31%

11

24/7 Real Media**

128,775

68%

36

MSN.COM Home Page

57,457

30%

12

Casale Media – MediaNet**

128,585

68%

37

EBAY.COM

55,476

29%

13

Tremor Media – Potential Reach

128,060

68%

38

ITN National Broadband Networks – Potential Reach

54,905

29%

14

Adconion Media Group**

122,632

65%

39

Ybrant – Oridian – ADdynamix Network**

53,993

28%

15

interCLICK**

121,987

64%

40

IB Local Network

53,645

28%

16

Revenue Science**

120,899

64%

41

IAC Ad Solutions – Potential Reach

52,405

28%

17

DRIVEpm**

113,162

60%

42

NNN Top 25

51,222

27%

18

CPX Interactive**

111,847

59%

43

Intergi – Potential Reach

48,929

26%

19

ADSDAQ by ContextWeb**

109,570

58%

44

Business.com Network

47,174

25%

20

Collective Media**

109,489

58%

45

QuadrantONE – Potential Reach

46,403

24%

21

MSN-Windows Live

109,274

58%

46

AMAZON.COM

45,980

24%

22

AOL Media Network

108,349

57%

47

TattoMedia**

44,894

24%

23

Burst Media**

101,493

54%

48

MapQuest

44,588

24%

24

Turn, Inc**

101,462

54%

49

AdOn Network**

43,719

23%

25

Undertone Networks**

85,722

45%

50

NNN Top 10

42,032

22%

Reach % denotes the percentage of the total Internet population that viewed a particular entity at least once in September.  For instance, Yahoo! was seen by 74 percent of the 189 million Internet users in September.

* Entity has assigned some portion of traffic to other syndicated entities.

** Denotes an advertising network.

About comScore Media Metrix

comScore Media Metrix provides industry-leading Internet audience measurement services that report details of online media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power for the home, work and university audiences across local U.S. markets and across the globe. comScore Media Metrix reports are used by financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers. comScore Media Metrix syndicated ratings are based on industry-sanctioned sampling methodologies.

About comScore
comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com/boilerplate
Contact:
Sarah Radwanick
Senior Analyst
comScore, Inc.
312-775-6538
press@comscore.com

China and India lose their appeal for investors on inflation fears

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Fund managers are still super-bullish on Russia, betting that the energy boom has life yet. A net 62pc are overweight oil and gas shares. The most hated trio are travel and leisure (-66), banks (-62) and property (-60).

Karen Olney, Merrill’s European equity strategist, said oil is nearing its cycle peak. “Is the trade too crowded? Probably. As long as fundamentals remain strong, we retain our overweight stance,” she said.

“The burning question is when to sell oil companies and move back to banks.

“We resist the temptation. The time is nearer when inflation rolls over, towards the end of this year and certainly into 2009.”

A record number (net 29pc) are now underweight on European equities; many have switched into cash as they wait for the European Central Bank to inflict punishment – ever more likely after eurozone inflation reached an all-time high of 3.7pc in May.

The ECB’s chief economist, Jurgen Stark, said yesterday that the price spike was a “cause for alarm”.

Mr Bowers said Europe is now facing a triple whammy as the downturn in global export markets combines with a strong euro and a monetary squeeze.

“Eurozone retail sales have been worse than in the US on a year-on-year basis and eurozone GDP growth has also been worse,” he said. “If you look at Spain and Italy, and even France, they are very weak.

“The Fed has eased dramatically, but the ECB hasn’t eased at all. It intends to tighten regardless of the consequences on growth. This is what is eating away at confidence in Europe,” he said.

Merrill Lynch said fund managers were belatedly adapting to a global inflation shock that poses a serious danger to asset prices, and risks setting off “civil protest” in Argentina, Indonesia, South Africa and the Gulf states.

As the new story unfolds, America is coming back into favour, emerging as a sort of safe haven in a fast-changing world where trusted institutions command a premium. Investors are quietly rotating back into Wall Street – despite a chorus of pessimists. A net 23pc are overweight US equities, the highest since August 2001.

The long awaited “decoupling” has begun.

The United States looks like the winner after all.

BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions

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BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions

By Jane Corbin, BBC News

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

The BBC’s Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

War profiteering

Henry Waxman

Waxman: “It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

While Presdient George W Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

The president’s Democratic opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

Henry Waxman, who chairs the House committee on oversight and government reform, said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, it’s egregious.

“It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

In the run-up to the invasion, one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth $7bn that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

Unusually only Halliburton got to bid – and won.

Missing billions

The search for the missing billions also led the programme to a house in Acton in west London where Hazem Shalaan lived until he was appointed to the new Iraqi government as minister of defence in 2004.

He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2bn out of the ministry. They bought old military equipment from Poland but claimed for top-class weapons.

Meanwhile they diverted money into their own accounts.

Judge Radhi al-Radhi of Iraq’s Commission for Public Integrity investigated.

Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi

Judge Radhi al Radhi: “I believe these people are criminals.”

He said: “I believe these people are criminals.

“They failed to rebuild the Ministry of Defence, and as a result the violence and the bloodshed went on and on – the murder of Iraqis and foreigners continues and they bear responsibility.”

Mr Shalaan was sentenced to two jail terms but he fled the country.

He said he was innocent and that it was all a plot against him by pro-Iranian MPs in the government.

There is an Interpol arrest warrant out for him but he is on the run – using a private jet to move around the globe.

He stills owns commercial properties in the Marble Arch area of London.

Panorama: Daylight Robbery will be on BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 10 June 2008.
Published: 2008/06/10 17:25:48 GMT

Scott Ritter on War With Iran

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Scott Ritter on War With Iran

By Scott Ritter, Dec 19, 2007

Scott Ritter

The Truthdig columnist (and WMD expert) warns that war with Iran could be inevitable, despite the National Intelligence Estimate report that says Iran dismantled its nuclear program in 2003. Bush, Ritter argues, doesn’t let facts get in the way of what he wants.

Listen to this interview. (PodCast)

Transcript:

James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris sitting down with Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. And today we’re talking about the latest report from the National Intelligence Estimate. The report says that Iran is not, as of mid-July, in the nuclear weapons business. Scott Ritter-I think, wisely-told me to look at this report with caution and that this means nothing to the White House, that they [members of the Bush team] are about regime change. Please explain.

Scott Ritter: Well, I think it’s important to assess patterns of behavior. When we take a look at the Bush administration and how it has sought to implement its policies of regional transformation in the Middle East, inclusive, these policies include the notion of regime change, removing unpopular regimes, regimes that the United States unilaterally declares incompatible with its vision, removing them from power. This includes Saddam Hussein and the theocracy in Tehran. They have demonstrated a tendency to exaggerate threats in the form of weapons of mass destruction to exploit the ignorance of the American public and the fear that is derived from this ignorance. They did so with Iraq. They made a case for war based upon weapons of mass destruction that they fail to back up with anything other than rhetoric. I can say, as a former weapons inspector who ran the intelligence programs from ’91 to ’98, that we had fundamentally disarmed Iraq, so for the president to say that there’s this new weapons capability, he would have to demonstrate some new information, and he failed to do so. And that’s why I said, unless he provides this new data, that there isn’t the WMD threat that he said. The same thing can be said about Iran.

Harris: Why should we be cautious about what President Bush is telling us right now?

Ritter: Here’s a president who has said Iran is a threat, a threat in the form of a nuclear weapons program. But for some time now I have been saying, “Where’s the beef, Mr. President? …”

Harris: Hmm.

Ritter: ” … I hear the rhetoric, but your pattern of behavior leads me to believe that you might be exaggerating the threat, fabricating the threat, misrepresenting data to achieve your policy objective of regime change, trying to exploit the ignorance of the American public and the fear derived from this ignorance.” Now we have a National Intelligence Estimate that is released that says, “Time out. There hasn’t been a nuclear weapons program in Iran since 2003.” Now I need to make a point here: I continue to say that there’s never been a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And the National Intelligence Estimate doesn’t provide any evidence to sustain its assertion that there was a nuclear program. But be that as it may, they’re saying that the concept of Iran today pursuing nuclear weapons is a fallacy. There’s no data to promote this. Now, if we lived in world where government functioned the way it’s supposed to when it comes to policy-that is, you get your intelligence, you look at it, you examine it, you assess it, and you say, “OK, how do we now interact with the target, the nation, in this case, Iran?”-that’s normal. That’s cause-and-effect relationship.

Harris: Sure.

Ritter: But what we have is, the administration has already made up its mind about what it wants to do with Iran and had been fabricating a case based upon a nuclear weapons program that the U.S. intelligence community now says doesn’t exist today. Do you think there will be a change in policy? And the answer, of course, is no, because they’ve got the cart before the horse. They put the policy out in front. Inconveniently, the intelligence community didn’t back them on the nuclear weapons issue. …

Harris: But you say Iran’s status as a terrorist organization also plays into this. How so?

Ritter: Not only does the Bush administration continue to say that Iran is a terrorist state, that it supports terrorists who were directly or indirectly involved in the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The United States Senate has passed a resolution that says the same thing and certifies the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command is a terrorist organization. So anybody who thinks for a second this National Intelligence Estimate somehow retards the ability of the Bush administration to engage in military action against Iran, you’re sadly mistaken. The Bush administration’s policy has been made. This estimate was not used to make that policy, and as you yourself have reflected, the president’s not going to let this estimate get in the way of his continuing to articulate Iran as a threat.

Harris: Well, Scott, if you’re right, that’s a high crime. That’s wanton disregard for American wishes, disregard for any of the national intelligence agencies that supposedly cover our back.

Ritter: It’s wanton disregard for everything we stand for as a nation. We elect representatives to government to do our bidding. We expect them to operate within a framework of due process set forth by the rule of law. We might call this the Constitution or laws derived from the Constitution. We speak of checks and balances where we have three separate but equal branches of government, and when it comes to foreign policy and national security policy, really, two. The judiciary takes a step aside and it becomes the executive and the legislative branch. And there’s a system, a bureaucratic system there-the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department-that is supposed to weigh in on these issues. And like I said, you want to gather the facts, examine the reality, and then make the policy. What we have here is an administration that, ideologically, has committed itself to certain policy actions divorced from what we’ll call reality, early on in the Bush administration.

Harris: Hmm.

Ritter: We heard people speak of a new reality, that the Bush administration can make its own reality. I’m not joking. Paul O’Neill, former secretary of the Treasury, who sat in Cabinet meetings where this was said. And so we now take a look at a situation where the president and his administration are continuing to march forward on a policy direction, regardless of what the data says. Am I jaded? No. I’m alarmed, as much as you are, but I think it’s imperative that we address this responsibly by first realistically acknowledging what’s occurring. There’s too many pundits out there today who are raising the flag of victory, saying, “Aha! Because of this NIE, this National Intelligence Estimate, war’s off the table. We don’t have to worry about it. The Bush plan has been undermined.” It most certainly hasn’t, because the Bush administration has never shown a tendency to respect the normal system of government. This estimate won’t have an impact at all.

Harris: Is it likely that George Bush will look at this report, throw it in the garbage and continue on, business as usual? The business, in this case: engage hostilely with Iran.

Ritter: The answer is yes. He is engaging hostilely with Iran. Remember: I’ve been saying for some time now that the Bush administration is taking the nuclear issue off the front burner. The CIA’s estimate follows on the heels of a finding by the International Atomic Energy Agency back in September that said the same thing: There’s no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. And this was one of their final analyses. They’ve been saying this for some time. The Bush administration has been, for many months now, having a hard time selling Iran’s nuclear threat as a causa bella. This is why they’ve shifted to terror and terrorism. The Bush administration is going to use the gift it was given by the U.S. Senate, this target list of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command to serve as the cornerstone of its target list when it comes to launching a limited military operation against Iran that’ll probably take place some time in the spring. This is the plan, and the NIE-I don’t think-has changed this one iota. Now, it could. Let’s say Congress woke up all of a sudden. Let’s say Congress said, “Oh my goodness, this president’s been pulling our chain, been lying to us, hyping this thing up. There’s no threat,” and Congress intervenes in a way that it’s refused to do so to date, then maybe, maybe this war could be stopped. But if Congress continues to turn a blind eye or worse, as in the case of the Senate resolution, to facilitate Bush’s hyping of Iran as a threat, I think war is inevitable.

Harris: They’ve been asleep for five years now. Why would they wake up now? Why …

Ritter: [Unintelligible.]

Harris: Yeah. Hillary Clinton voted “yes.” She’s a U.S. senator, she’s running for president, and she said, “Yes, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is indeed a terrorist organization.” Does this further the idea that “the Democrats and the Republicans-you know what?-they’re all in bed together”?

Ritter: It furthers the notion that front-runners are all in it together. The bottom line is, Hillary is getting money from the same sources that fund Giuliani. And if you take a look at their foreign policies, they’re pretty much one and the same. They’re very aggressive foreign policies. They’re based upon the premise of a unitary executive, that the president has the right to pre-emptively launch military strikes against threats that emerge, and maybe do so in a manner which negates Congress. There’s no difference between Hillary and George W. Bush or Rudy Giuliani when it comes to issues of this sort. There’s other Democrats out there who of course take a more nuanced, I would say responsible, point of view. Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, an outstanding candidate. But he’s not getting money from the same sources that are underwriting Hillary and Giuliani and others.

Harris: Scott, tell me what you think our president should be all about these days.

Ritter: The president should govern in accordance with the Constitution. What we have here is a situation that has existed for some time now where successive presidential administrations, frustrated by the inadequacies of democracy, so to speak-.

Harris: [Laughs.]

Ritter: It’s an ugly process. It takes time. It’s not convenient. And presidents want to wield their executive authority. And so, especially in time of war, they’ve created this concept-and it’s totally at odds with the Constitution-of the unitary executive where the president has unilateral powers in times of war. Somebody like Ron Paul, I think, somebody who knows the Constitution, takes a look at this notion of unitary executive authority and says, “Humbug. That’s ridiculous.” And I agree with him. I think it’s imperative that whoever becomes president understands that there are constitutional restrictions on what the president can and can’t do. I also think it’s imperative that Congress start reading the Constitution and flexing its constitutional muscles. That there is a role for Congress to play. It’s called oversight. And that Congress can retard irresponsible policy, that the president doesn’t get a blank check when it comes to foreign policy and national security policy. But, as you mentioned, we don’t have a Congress that seems to be enlightened in this fashion, and outside of a Ron Paul we don’t have too many people who have announced themselves as candidates for the president who will publicly commit to reversing this trend towards a unitary executive.

Harris: Before we move on, what are you optimistic about as we close the year and some of us being to make resolutions? Having told us before, there are no weapons of mass destruction, having been vociferous about the fact that the Bush administration is not doing their job, what keeps you optimistic in all of this? How do you not become jaded? How do you not become disillusioned?

Ritter: I’m a student of history. I allow myself to go back and examine the history of the United States, and I recognize that throughout our history our nation has been faced with serious problems, and yet we overcame these problems. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t happen overnight, but I’m a firm believer in the resiliency of the American people and our system of government because it’s founded in the Constitution. And as long as we respect that Constitution and abide by that Constitution, I’m comfortable with the fact that we will recover. It’s not going to happen overnight. It won’t happen in the next decade. I’ve said-. This invasion of Iraq has set in motion events that are going to take decades to cure. And so I’m not optimistic about 2008, 2009, 2010; I’m optimistic about 2020, that America will heal itself. But we’re not going to heal ourselves without a fight. That doesn’t mean that I can just sit back and throw my feet up and say, “I’ll just wait until the time passes.” No. We’ll heal ourselves because we will wake up collectively. Congress will reawaken. The presidency will be brought in line with the Constitution, but not without a fight. And so 2008 is going to be a fight, 2009 is going to be a fight. We have to fight, because if we don’t, then I have no confidence whatsoever in America healing itself.

Harris: Tell me a little about your dig. You’re leading a dig on Truthdig, Truthdig.com. And it’s called “Calling Out Idiot America.” Can you share with us some of what you’re saying? Your thesis, if you will?

Ritter: That was the first piece I wrote. I was approached by Mr. Scheer [Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor] and Ms. Kaufman [Zuade Kaufman, Truthdig publisher] to write for Truthdig. I thought probably the best thing to do is to set the tone of how I was going to approach this, which wasn’t going to be a kinder, gentler dig; it was going to be an in-your-face dig, but not one that was irresponsible. I chose, right off the bat, the issue of Iraq. I say we have a responsibility to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are over there and a responsibility to our government to be engaged on Iraq. But, sadly, most Americans were ill equipped. I was driving down- I had just talked to the publishers and the editors of Truthdig and I was driving down from L.A. to San Diego, formulating this concept of-how do I explain Shia, Kurds and Sunni to people? And I was listening to the radio and the Green Day song came on, “Calling Out to Idiot America.” I said, “That’s a great title. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to do.” With all due respect to the American people, we’re 300 million people, technologically advanced, but we’re probably the most ignorant people in the world …

Harris: How do you mean? How do you mean?

Ritter: … so I have no qualms about calling Americans idiots when it comes to issues like Iraq, Iran and other areas around the world that somehow in our nationalistic-. We thump ourselves on the chest and say we have a right to intervene, but when you ask people to talk about the reality of that country, we know nothing about it, so we’re basically sticking our nose in an area that we’re ignorant of.

Harris: Mm-hmm. How do we cure that? Because I think that’s the main reason we can’t make change. At least that’s one speculation: that we are thousands of miles away from where the action is going down. We’re disconnected. We’re over here living our lives, we’re doing our own thing and there’s a war going on. Maybe that’s why we aren’t up in arms collectively.

Ritter: It’s a huge part of the problem, the complacency of a society that has been dumbed down by the narcotic of consumerism. If you just think about it, we wrapped ourselves in this cocoon of comfort and so long as the powers that be keep us waddling down a relative path of prosperity, we don’t want to rock the boat. But the fact is, we must empower ourselves with knowledge and information. That’s why I’m grateful to Truthdig for giving me a chance to write, because I view it as an outstanding forum for informing people and for having people empowered with knowledge and information so that we make informed decisions. We go back. We talk about our system of government. It doesn’t work if we, the people, are divorced. And if you accept, as I do, that the Constitution of the United States is the foundation of our government, that preamble says that we, the people of the United States of America, we shouldn’t take that lightly. The Supreme Court has said, because of that preamble, the Constitution belongs to us; we are the defenders of the Constitution. And so it’s imperative that we, the people, get empowered and we empower ourselves through the acquisition of knowledge and information and then assert ourselves onto a system of government. But it’s going to require people to stand up and shake off this apathy, as I said, the narcotic of consumerism brings the bear. I love Christmas. I help my Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah. I think there’s nothing wrong with this time period, but we also need to reflect on how far we’ve shifted away from a holiday that celebrates human beings coming together and instead become involved in a holiday that’s about conspicuous spending.

Harris: Yeah.

Ritter: We need to recognize that there’s an enemy out there. And if we look in the mirror long enough, we’ll realize that the enemy is us.

Harris: I think you make a good point. Some of my busy friends would say, “You know what? What time do I have to make a difference? Is there anything the average Joe can do to help affect change? Besides writing the senator and writing the congressman, what else can you do?

Ritter: The first thing is to recognize that there’s a need. That’s step one. You have to say, “There is a need for change.” The next thing, after that, is to allocate time. I keep hearing people say, “I don’t have time.” Last night was Monday Night Football. Heckuva game, by the way. I sat in a bar with my friends. These are good guys; they’re not stupid. But they keep telling me over and over again, “That foreign policy stuff is too complicated, man. How do you expect us to get our fingers wrapped around it? You’ve been living this for your life, but we don’t do this. We have jobs and everything.” And I said, “That’s fair enough.” But then we’re watching the game, and they start criticizing play calls. They say, “You know, if they’d given the ball to the fullback on this play, statistically speaking on second down through the guard and tackle off the right side, he’s going to gain 3.5 yards.” I said, “How do you know that?” They go, “Oh, we studied the stats.” I’ll tell you what: If you’ve got enough time to study sports stats so that you know this kind of information, you can make that kind of analysis, you’ve got enough time to study American foreign policy and have an informed opinion about places where Americans are dying.

Harris: You would agree, then, that the more informed, and the more masses, the more people that are informed, the better off we are. We benefit from that, don’t we?

Ritter: It’s the only way we can be. It’s not one of these things that we would say is an “elective.” We don’t get to opt out of this one. If you call yourself an American citizen, you have to be informed. It’s a responsibility of citizenship. It’s not something you can opt into or opt out of. If you opt out of it, turn in your passport and leave my country. If you want to be a citizen in America, you’ve got to opt in and say: “Hey! I’m here. I count. I’m relevant, and I’m going to be informed.”

Harris: I think it is the job of every American to know something about foreign policy and something about government and be able to talk intelligently about these subjects, because that only means a better public. So I agree with you there. But we are preaching that Americans need to participate, yet the chief American is not participating. He’s not doing the things that we’re preaching Americans should do. So then, how, at this time, can we mount an effort to overcome the backward thinking that’s coming out of the White House?

Ritter: One of the reasons why the executive headed down the path towards unilateral executive power is that they got frustrated with the slow pace of democracy. I think the first thing we have to recognize is that the American people can’t allow themselves to be frustrated by the slow process of democracy. The other thing they have to recognize is that the rule of law means nothing unless the law is enforced. And we have a president who is showing a wanton disregard for the rule of law. There are constitutional remedies for executives who behave in this manner. It’s called impeachment. And I’m a big fan of the American public letting Congress know that impeachment is on the table. It’s Congress’ job, not to impeach, per se, but to investigate. And we have clear examples in the case of Iraq of the potential of wrongdoing that Congress has yet to investigate in a satisfactory manner. And now we’re taking a look at Iran. If we speak of holding the president to account for his actions, how about starting to hold Congress accountable for their failure to act in accordance with the will of the people? And what I’m talking about is a Nancy Pelosi and a Harry Reed, these “great” Democrats. And I say “great” in quotations because I don’t think they’re great at all. These Democrats who were elected to office by the will of the people and who have said that they are going to do nothing to tie the hands of this president when it comes to issues such as Iran and Iraq. And the last thing they’re going to do is defend the Constitution by holding the president accountable for his failure to abide by the Constitution. It’s time we started holding these people accountable as well.

Harris: Certainly refreshing to hear that you still maintain optimism and that you still have belief.

Ritter: I have belief in the American people. The government, as long as it’s reflective of the will of the people within the framework of the Constitution, I’ll continuously eye it in a suspicious fashion. But the government we have in play today? No, I don’t have any faith in it. It needs to be changed, and this is our collective responsibility to elect people to office who will do our bidding in accordance with the Constitution and who will be held accountable to us. Too many times we vote, but then that’s it. We don’t do the second half of the representative democracy equation, which is to hold them to account.

Harris: Yeah. If we keep calling the people, maybe they will answer one day. I believe they have to answer.

Ritter: I agree.

Harris: Scott Ritter, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, is also the author of “Iraq Confidential” and the first man I heard say there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Scott Ritter, thank you for joining us today on Truthdig.

Ritter: Thank you for having me.

Harris: All right then. For Scott Ritter, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.

Homes foreclosure more than doubled in 1Q from 2007

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Tuesday April 29, 6:18 am ET, by Alex Veiga, AP Business Writer

Number of US homes facing foreclosure jumps 112 percent in first quarter from 2007 LOS ANGELES (AP) — The number of U.S. homes heading toward foreclosure more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, as weakening property values and tighter lending left many homeowners powerless to prevent homes from being auctioned to the highest bidder, a research firm said Monday.

Among the hardest hit states were Nevada, Florida and, in particular, California, where Stockton led the nation with a foreclosure rate that was 6.6 times the national average, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.

Nationwide, 649,917 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in the first three months of the year, up 112 percent from 306,722 during the same period last year, RealtyTrac said.

The latest tally also represents an increase of 23 percent from the fourth quarter of last year.

RealtyTrac monitors default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.

All told, one in every 194 households received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. Foreclosure filings increased in all but four states.

The most recent quarter marked the seventh consecutive quarter of rising foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac noted.

“What would normally alleviate the foreclosure situation in a normal market is people starting to buy properties again,” said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s vice president of marketing.

However, the unavailability of loans for people without perfect credit and a significant down payment is slowing the process, he said.

“It’s a cycle that’s going to be difficult to break, and we’re certainly not at the breaking point just yet,” Sharga added.

The surge in foreclosure filings also suggests that much-touted campaigns by lawmakers and the mortgage lending industry aimed at helping at-risk homeowners aren’t paying off.

Hope Now, a Bush administration-organized mortgage industry group, said nearly 503,000 homeowners had received mortgage aid in the first quarter. Most of the aid was temporary, however.

Pennsylvania was a notable standout in the latest foreclosure data. The number of homes in the state to receive a foreclosure-related filing plunged 24.4 percent from a year earlier.

Sharga credited the decline to the state’s foreclosure relief measures, noting that cities such as Philadelphia put in place a moratorium on all foreclosure auctions for April and implemented other measures aimed at helping slow foreclosures.

Nearly 157,000 properties were repossessed by lenders nationwide during the quarter, according to RealtyTrac.

The flood of foreclosed properties on the market has contributed to falling or stagnating home values, yet lenders have yet to implement heavy discounts on repossessed homes, Sharga said.

Nevada posted the worst foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 54 households receiving a foreclosure-related notice, nearly four times the national rate.

The number of properties with a filing increased 137 percent over the same quarter last year but only rose 3 percent from the fourth quarter.

California had the most properties facing foreclosure at 169,831, an increase of 213 percent from a year earlier. It also posted the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one in every 78 households receiving a foreclosure-related notice.

California metro areas accounted for six of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates in the first quarter, RealtyTrac said.

Many of the areas — including Stockton, Riverside-San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield — are located in inland areas of the state where many first-time buyers overextend themselves financially to buy properties that have plunged in value since the market peak.

“California still hasn’t hit bottom,” Sharga said. “We have a lot of California homes that are in early stages of default that may not be salvageable because either there’s no market or financing available, or both.”

Arizona had the third-highest foreclosure rate, with one in every 95 households reporting a foreclosure filing in the quarter. A total of 27,404 homes reported at least one filing, up nearly 245 percent from a year ago and up 45 percent from the last quarter of 2007.

Florida had 87,893 homes reporting at least one foreclosure filing, a 178 percent jump from the first quarter of last year and a 17 percent hike from the fourth quarter last year. That translates into a foreclosure rate of one in every 97 households.

The other states among the top 10 with the highest foreclosure rates were Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

RealtyTrac Inc.: http://www.realtytrac.com

What The Iraq War Is Really About and what it has Cost?

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By Paul Craig Roberts, 4-24-8

The Bush Regime has quagmired America into a sixth year of war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no end in sight. The cost of these wars of aggression is horrendous. Official US combat casualties stand at 4,538 dead. Officially, 29,780 US troops have been wounded in Iraq. Experts have argued that these numbers are understatements. Regardless, these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg.

On April 17, 2008, AP News reported that a new study released by the RAND Corporation concludes that “some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries.”

On April 21, 2008, OpEdNews reported that an internal email from Gen. Michael J. Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Administration, to Ira Katz, head of mental health at the VA, confirms a McClatchy Newspaper report that 126 veterans per week commit suicide. To the extent that the suicides are attributable to the war, more than 500 deaths should be added to the reported combat fatalities each month.

Turning to Iraqi deaths, expert studies support as many as 1.2 million dead Iraqis, almost entirely civilians. Another 2 million Iraqis have fled their country, and there are 2 million displaced Iraqis within Iraq.

Afghan casualties are unknown.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered unconscionable civilian deaths and damage to housing, infrastructure and environment. Iraq is afflicted with depleted uranium and open sewers.

Then there are the economic costs to the US. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the full cost of the invasion and attempted occupation of Iraq to be between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. The dollar price of oil and gasoline have tripled, and the dollar has lost value against other currencies, declining dramatically even against the lowly Thai baht. Before Bush launched his wars of aggression, one US dollar was worth 45 baht. Today the dollar is only worth 30 baht.

The US cannot afford these costs. Prior to his resignation last month, US Comptroller General David Walker reported that the accumulated unfunded liabilities of the US government total $53 trillion dollars. The US government cannot cover these liabilities. The Bush Regime even has to borrow the money from foreigners to pay for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no more certain way to bankrupt the country and dethrone the dollar as world reserve currency.

The moral costs are perhaps the highest. All of the deaths, injuries, and economic costs to the US and its victims are due entirely to lies told by the President and Vice President of the US, by the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State, and, of course, by the media, including the “liberal” New York Times. All of these lies were uttered in behalf of an undeclared agenda. “Our” government has still not told “we the people” the real reasons “our” government invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.
Instead, the American sheeple have accepted a succession of transparent lies: weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda connections and complicity in the 9/11 attack, overthrowing a dictator and “bringing democracy” to Iraqis.

The great moral American people would rather believe government lies than to acknowledge the government’s crimes and to hold the government accountable.

There are many effective ways in which a moral people could protest. Consider investors, for example. Clearly Halliburton and military suppliers are cleaning up. Investors flock to the stocks in order to participate in the rise in value from booming profits. But what would a moral people do? Wouldn’t they boycott the stocks of the companies that are profiting from the Bush Regime’s war crimes?

If the US invaded Iraq for any of the succession of reasons the Bush Regime has given, why would the US have spent $750 million on a fortress “embassy” with anti-missile systems and its own electricity and water systems spread over 104 acres? No one has ever seen or heard of such an embassy before. Clearly, this “embassy” is constructed as the headquarters of an occupying colonial ruler.

The fact is that Bush invaded Iraq with the intent of turning Iraq into an American colony. The so-called government of al-Maliki is not a government. Maliki is the well paid front man for US colonial rule. Maliki’s government does not exist outside the protected Green Zone, the headquarters of the American occupation.

If colonial rule were not the intent, the US would not be going out of its way to force al Sadr’s 60,000 man militia into a fight. Sadr is a Shi’ite who is a real Iraqi leader, perhaps the only Iraqi who could end the sectarian conflict and restore some unity to Iraq. As such he is regarded by the Bush Regime as a danger to the American puppet Maliki. Unless the US is able to purchase or rig the upcoming Iraqi election, Sadr is likely to emerge as the dominant figure. This would be a highly unfavorable development for the Bush Regime’s hopes of establishing its colonial rule behind the facade of a Maliki fake democracy. Rather than work with Sadr in order to extract themselves from a quagmire, the Americans will be doing everything possible to assassinate Sadr.

Why does the Bush Regime want to rule Iraq? Some speculate that it is a matter of “peak oil.” Oil supplies are said to be declining even as demand for oil multiplies from developing countries such as China. According to this argument, the US decided to seize Iraq to insure its own oil supply.

This explanation is problematic. Most US oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. The best way for the US to insure its oil supplies would be to protect the dollar’s role as world reserve currency. Moreover, $3-5 trillion would have purchased a tremendous amount of oil. Prior to the US invasions, the US oil import bill was running less than $100 billion per year. Even in 2006 total US imports from OPEC countries was $145 billion, and the US trade deficit with OPEC totaled $106 billion. Three trillion dollars could have paid for US oil imports for 30 years; five trillion dollars could pay the US oil bill for a half century had the Bush Regime preserved a sound dollar.

The more likely explanation for the US invasion of Iraq is the neoconservative Bush Regime’s commitment to the defense of Israeli territorial expansion. There is no such thing as a neoconservative who is not allied with Israel. Israel hopes to steal all of the West Bank and southern Lebanon for its territorial expansion. An American colonial regime in Iraq not only buttresses Israel from attack, but also can pressure Syria and Iran from giving support to the Palestinians and Lebanese. The Iraqi war is a war for Israeli territorial expansion. Americans are dying and bleeding to death financially for Israel. Bush’s “war on terror” is a hoax that serves to cover US intervention in the Middle East in behalf of “greater Israel.”

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

The cost of food: facts and figures

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Explore the facts and figures behind the rising price of food across the globe.

The World Bank has announced emergency measures to tackle rising food prices around the world.

World Bank head Robert Zoellick warned that 100 million people in poor countries could be pushed deeper into poverty by spiralling prices.

The crisis has sparked recent food riots in several countries including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt.

The World Bank endorsed Mr Zoellick’s “new deal” action plan for a long-term boost to agricultural production.

Emergency help would include an additional $10m (£5m) to Haiti, where several people were killed in food riots last week, and a doubling of agricultural loans to African farmers.

Starvation risk

Mr Zoellick’s proposals were endorsed by the World Bank’s steering committee of finance and development ministers at a meeting in Washington.

We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths
Robert Zoellick
World Bank head

The World Bank and its sister organisation, the IMF, have held a weekend of meetings that addressed rising food and energy prices as well as the credit crisis upsetting global financial markets.

The leader of the International Monetary Fund last week said hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of starvation because of food shortages.

Prices have risen sharply in recent months, driven by increased demand, poor weather in some countries that has ruined crops and reduced production area, thanks to an increase in the use of land to grow crops for transport fuels.

The price of staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn have all risen, leading to an increase in overall food prices of 83% in the last three years, the World Bank has said.

GLOBAL FOOD PRICE RISES
Wheat: 130%
Soya: 87%
Rice: 74%
Corn: 31%
Time: Year to March 2008
Source: Bloomberg

The sharp rises have led to protests and unrest in many countries, including Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

In Haiti, protests last week turned violent, leading to the deaths of five people and the fall of the government.

Restrictions on rice exports have been put in place in major producing countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Egypt.

Importers such as Bangladesh, the Philippines and Afghanistan have been hit hard.

Rich urged to act

“We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths,” Mr Zoellick said. “It’s as stark as that.”

He called for more aid to provide food to needy people in poor countries and help for small farmers. He said the World Bank was working to provide money for seeds for planting in the new season.

He also urged wealthy donor countries to quickly fill the World Food Programme’s estimated $500m (£250m) funding shortfall.

Mr Zoellick’s “New Deal for Global Food Policy” also seeks to boost agricultural policy in poor countries in the longer-term.

On Saturday, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned of mass starvation and other dire consequences if food prices continued to rise sharply.

“As we know, learning from the past, those kind of questions sometimes end in war,” he said.

He said the problem could lead to trade imbalances that may eventually affect developed nations, “so it is not only a humanitarian question”.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/business/7344892.stm

Published: 2008/04/14 11:02:54 GMT


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