Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Hiroshima Nuclear Bombing: 66th Anniversary Amidst Questions Of Japan's Nuclear Future

HIROSHIMA, Japan - The Japanese city of Hiroshima on Saturday marked the 66th anniversary of the bombing, as the nation fights a different kind of disaster from atomic technology -- a nuclear plant in a meltdown crisis after being hit by a tsunami.

The site of the world's first A-bomb attack observed a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. Saturday (2315 GMT Friday) -- the time the bomb was dropped on Aug. 6, 1945, by the United States in the last stages of World War II.

The bomb destroyed most of the city and killed as many as 140,000 people. A second atomic bombing Aug. 9 that year in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and prompted the Japanese to surrender.

Riot In Tottenham After Protest At Mark Duggan's Killing By Police

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Petrol bombs have been thrown at police, two patrol cars attacked and a bus set alight after members of a community where a young man was shot dead by police took to the streets to demand "justice".

The 29-year-old, named locally as father-of-four Mark Duggan, died at the scene in Tottenham, north London, on Thursday.

About 120 people marched from the local Broadwater Farm area to Tottenham Police Station on Saturday, forcing officers to close the High Road and put traffic diversions in place.

After night fell, two police cars parked about 200 yards from the police station were set upon. Later a bus was set on fire at the junction of the High Road and Brook Street, which belched black smoke out into the air and was clearly going to be completely burnt out.

CKLN moves to the Regent Park Media Arts Centre

Toronto's oldest campus-community radio station will be broadcasting as an Internet radio station by the end of the month in association with the Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre.

CKLN was informed by the Ryerson Student Centre (Palin Foundation) that they have until August 27 to vacate its studios and leave the Ryerson campus, where it has broadcast for almost 30 years on 88.1 FM.

"Because we're no longer an FM station, we can't fulfill the space requirement at Ryerson," said station manager Jacky Tuinstra-Harrison.

In January, the CRTC revoked CKLN's licence, citing a lack of quality control and several regulatory violations.

"In reaching this determination, the Commission considered the serious and continuous nature of the licensee's non-compliance with numerous regulatory obligations, the station's inability to institute the measures necessary to ensure ongoing compliance, and the lack of confidence on the part of the Commission that such measures could or would be instituted within a reasonable amount of time," said the CRTC.

CKLN is home to some of the city's most diverse music and spoken word programming and has helped launch the careers of a number of prominent artists and media personalities. It provides coverage for numerous community and equity-seeking groups that are usually denied mainstream media attention.'s Unethical Campaign

An oil sands PR campaign would be much better served if it didn't resort to name-calling and false dichotomies.

Recently departed Tory communications whiz kid Alykhan Velshi, all of 27 years old, has launched an ad campaign highlighting the merits of Canada's “ethical oil,” claiming that Alberta's oil sands are morally a better option for Western consumers than oil from the Middle East and elsewhere. The editorialists of The Globe and Mail herald the campaign as a means of counteracting all the spin coming out from environmentalists who see Fort McMurray as an engine for climactic disaster. “It's a necessary and direct response to the salvos of some environmental groups,” says the Globe, calling Velshi's project a “welcome effort to level the playing field.” We'll admit that the dialogue over the oil sands has been pretty lopsided, but fighting spin with even more egregious spin (Velshi can't help but call all countries with oil besides Canada “bastards”) will probably just end up handicapping the whole project in the long run.

Will Cautious Stephen Harper let Wild Steve run free?

The past five years suggest that Cautious Stephen will keep Wild Steve in check. But if the Prime Minister does want to let his inner über-conservative twin loose, this is the time to do it.

The Conservatives in Ottawa have virtually no opposition. Both the Liberals and the NDP are in disarray, struggling with the challenges of interim leaders and internal contradictions, while a raft of provincial elections this fall could put rookie conservative premiers in office across much of the country. Politically, this is as close to carte blanche as it gets.

But here’s another thing, something Wild Steve must surely have noticed. The Conservatives now dominate in the wealthy, growing parts of the country, mostly west of the Ottawa River, while opposition support is largely centred in the poorer regions of Quebec and the Maritimes.

This offers the Conservatives an opportunity to tackle, with relatively little political risk, the entitlement regime that funnels money from richer regions to poorer. Consider three key areas where Wild Steve must surely be nudging his sweater-wearing counterpart.

China Blasts U.S. Over Credit Rating Downgrade, Debt 'Addiction'

BEIJING -- China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, demanded Saturday that America tighten its belt and confront its "addiction to debts" in the wake of Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating.

China currently owns $1.2 trillion of U.S. Treasury debt, the largest stake of any central bank. The commentary carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency was Beijing's first official response to the S&P decision.

"The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone," Xinhua said.

It said the rating cut would be followed by more "devastating credit rating cuts" and global financial turbulence if the U.S. fails to learn to "live within its means."

Rick Perry Speech: Texas Governor Speaks At Prayer Rally Ahead Of 2012

HOUSTON -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked Christians to turn to God for answers to the nation's troubles as he held court Saturday over a national prayer rally attended by thousands of evangelical conservatives, an important constituency should the Republican seek the GOP presidential nomination.

"Father, our heart breaks for America," Perry told about 30,000 people gathered at Reliant Stadium. "We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government and, as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us."

The Republican was hosting what he has called a national day of prayer before an audience filled with people who sang with arms outstretched in prayer – and wept – as Christian groups played music on stage.

A hater among us

Kevin Goudreau’s blue golf shirt is buttoned to the collar. Were it not, heads would surely be turning, because there is a large tattoo of a swastika on his chest.

He keeps it under wraps during a recent interview, but it is on the Internet for all to see, along with photos of him blanketed in a Nazi flag and with his arm raised in the Nazi salute.

The Oshawa, Ont., drywaller is the leader of the White Nationalist Front, which wants to turn Canada into a white homeland by deporting millions of Canadians of other skin colours.

While Mr. Goudreau does not consider the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik an ideological peer, the similarities in their online writings are hard to ignore.

Do these Israeli settlers block the path to peace?

The fire started easily. Midway through July, the relentless sun had turned the grass and scrub into tinder. A couple of molotov cocktails tossed on the ground were enough to get it going. A stiff wind out of the west made sure it spread quickly. It raced across the open hillsides where sheep and goats often grazed, and leapt into the olive groves of the Palestinian farmers who live below the Israeli settlement of Yitzhar.

As a reporter watched, the farmers rushed outside and tried hopelessly to tamp out the flames with olive branches. But the flames spread too rapidly, and the groves were quickly overwhelmed. A fire brigade from the nearby Palestinian city of Nablus arrived but could not get its water tank near enough to the fire.

On the hillside above the fire, half a dozen young men from Yitzhar were making their way slowly back to the settlement, stopping every few minutes to turn and look back at their handiwork. Above, inside the guarded settlement, a bunch of the hilltop youth, as they are known, looked down excitedly. “Ayzeh yofi!” some exclaimed (“How beautiful!”), clapping each other on the back. A couple of the youths carried large jugs of water down to their thirsty friends below.

The Arithmetic of Near-term Deficits and Debt

Amid all the debt hysteria, it’s worth taking a look at the actual arithmetic here — because what this arithmetic says is that the size of the deficit in the next year or two hardly matters for the US fiscal position — and in fact the size over the next decade is barely significant.

Start with interest rates. What matters for debt sustainability is the real interest rate, since what matters is keeping real debt, not nominal debt, from growing. (World War II debt never got paid off, it just eroded in real terms to the point where it was trivial). As of yesterday, the US government could lock in 30-year bonds at a real interest rate of 1.25%. That means that a trillion dollars in extra debt would mean $12.5 billion a year in additional real interest payments.

Meanwhile, the CBO estimates potential real GDP in 2021 at about $18 trillion in 2005 dollars, or around $19 trillion in 2011 dollars.

Put these together, and they say that an extra trillion in borrowing adds something like 0.07% of GDP in future debt service costs. Yes, that zero belongs there. The $4 trillion S&P said it needed to see clocks in at less than 0.3% of GDP.

These are not, to say the least, make or break numbers. So what are we talking about here?

America does have a long-run fiscal problem, driven by the combination of rising health costs, an aging population, and the unwillingness to raise taxes to pay for the programs we already have. If we don’t come to grips with that problem, bad things will happen. But what happens to the deficit in the medium term is almost irrelevant to the question of whether our long-run finances will get under control.

Yet S&P (and others) obsess about those medium-term numbers, without ever explaining why. Maybe they think there’s some critical level of debt — but they don’t know that. Maybe they think that fiscal austerity over the next decade will somehow guarantee good behavior further out — but that didn’t work in the 1990s. Or maybe they’re just pulling stuff out of regions I can’t mention in the Times.

The point is that while S&P may try to give the impression that it’s just doing the math (incompetently, too!), the math doesn’t at all support its position.

Source: New York Times 

How to Respond to Rick Perry and ‘The Response’

TODAY, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is scheduled to appear at Reliant Stadium in Houston for “The Response,” an all-day event of Christian-centered prayer and fasting intended, as Mr. Perry explains on the event’s Web site, to address the various crises that have “besieged” America.

Mr. Perry’s use of official resources, including a gubernatorial proclamation, to promote the prayer service has drawn criticism from civil liberties groups. He has been hinting at a run for the Republican presidential nomination, and many critics see the prayer service as an improper attempt to court the religious right. One group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sought an injunction barring Mr. Perry from promoting the event, saying his actions “brazenly cross the line between government and religion.” Last week, a federal judge denied that request, ruling that Mr. Perry’s invitations to prayer were “requests, not commands,” and thus did not violate the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

The court was right on the law, but its decision tells only half the story. Mr. Perry’s critics have plenty of ammunition, but they’ve chosen the wrong weapon. The problem is not only that such legal maneuvers routinely fail; it’s also that they do a disservice to religious freedom and diminish meaningful public debate. There are better ways to express disagreement with religious statements made by elected officials than to use the courts to try to pre-empt them.

Copter Downed by Taliban Fire; Elite U.S. Unit Among Dead

KABUL, Afghanistan — In the deadliest day for American forces in the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan, insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter on Saturday, killing 30 Americans, including some Navy Seal commandos from the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as 8 Afghans, American and Afghan officials said.

The helicopter, on a night-raid mission in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province, to the west of Kabul, was most likely brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade, one coalition official said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and they could hardly have found a more valuable target: American officials said that 22 of the dead were Navy Seal commandos, including members of Seal Team 6. Other commandos from that team conducted the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Bin Laden in May. The officials said that those who were killed Saturday were not involved in the Pakistan mission.

The Secret War in 120 Countries

Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that seventy times and you’re done… for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed, until now.

After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the American military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it’s well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in seventy-five countries, up from sixty at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling—a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence—in about 60 percent of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged—provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

Wikileaks Haiti: The Aristide Files

US officials led a far-reaching international campaign aimed at keeping former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled in South Africa, rendering him a virtual prisoner there for the last seven years, according to secret US State Department cables.

The cables show that high-level US and UN officials even discussed a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from “gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

The secret cables, made available to the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté by WikiLeaks, show how the political defeat of Aristide and his Lavalas movement has been the central pillar of US policy toward the Caribbean nation over the last two US administrations, even though—or perhaps because—US officials understood that he was the most popular political figure in Haiti.

The Media Deficit: MSM Ignores Debt Deal's Effect on Real People

Right before a break on The Daily Rundown the other day, host Chuck Todd was talking about the debt deal and mentioned “unemployment lines.” Then he announced, “Coming up: Did Washington take its eye off the ball of what really matters?”

For one naïve moment, I expected that “what really matters” would entail the debt deal’s effect on actual people, maybe even a sound bite or two from someone who depends on the newly threatened Medicare coverage or unemployment benefits (Congress’s “compromise” failed to extend federal emergency jobless benefits).

Instead, Todd returned to talk with two Washington journalists on what the deal means to the larger economy. A necessary discussion, for sure, but like most TV politi-chat these days, it didn’t touch onhow “the deal savages programs for the lower and middle classes,” as my colleague George Zornick put it in a post that breaks down the likely effects on veterans, students, seniors, the poor, and the unemployed. This Nation slideshow illustrates what most MSM avert their eyes to.  

Tea Party Leader: Wisconsin Liberal Protesters Are Modern-Day Storm Troopers

The Tea Party Nation is one of four right-wing groups touring Wisconsin this weekend in a last-ditch effort to bolster the six GOP state senators facing recall on August 9. It's anyone's guess if if the tour will make any difference—attendance at a Friday tour stop looked middling—but Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips won't let that stop him from stirring controversy.

Writing on Tea Party Nation's website Saturday morning, Phillips compares the Wisconsinites who recently protested Republican Gov. Scott Walker at the state fair (many of whom wore red t-shirts) to Adolf Hitler's storm troopers in Nazi Germany. That's right:

A few days ago, Governor Walker showed up to open the state fair. This was not a political event. It is one of those ceremonial events that a governor is obligated to do. His remarks were not political and in fact, consisted mostly of saying, "I declare the state fair to be open."
The Wisconsin Red shirts, the left's modern version of Brown shirts, were there to shout Walker down and generally ruin the fair for as many people as they could.

Why Has S&P Downgraded the U.S.?

After a mildly encouraging employment report, Washington's politics might manage to derail the U.S. economy anyway. Compromising to narrowly avoid a debt ceiling puncture and to cut deficits by $2 trillion might not have been enough. Rating agency Standard and Poor's has downgraded the U.S. debt rating one notch to AA+. Is this move by S&P bold and prescient or insane and misguided?

S&P made the announcement late Friday. It applies to the U.S. long-term sovereign debt rating. The agency also leaves intact the debt rating's negative outlook. Its statement says:
We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.
Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria. Nevertheless, we view the U.S. federal government's other economic, external, and monetary credit attributes, which form the basis for the sovereign rating, as broadly unchanged.
In short, S&P sees the political risk as too great to sustain the U.S.'s AAA-rating.

Could Have Seen It Coming?

On some level, this shouldn't be completely shocking. The U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is at similar level to what Japan's was at in 2001 when it was downgraded from AAA to AA+ by S&P. I prepared this chart back in May to show the relationship (red line represents downgrade point for Japan, light blue are IMF projections):

japan u.s. net debt to GDP 2010 side-by-side.png

So the U.S. is clearly on the same trajectory. Perhaps a downgrade shouldn't surprise anyone?

And Yet, S&P Should Be Surprised Itself

But I asked S&P about the U.S. back in May, comparing it to 2001 Japan. One of their analysts provided numerous reasons for why the U.S. debt today shouldn't be judged as harshly as Japan's debt was then. They included:

  • The U.S. has better fiscal indicators, both on the stocks and on the flows.
  • The dollar remains the key international currency, while the yen is a distant third.
  • U.S. prices are more stable, while Japan flirts with deflation.
  • The U.S. growth prospects are better. 
  • Japan has particularly troubling demographics, as its population is aging and skews towards the elderly.

Nothing on this list has changed since May, but S&P has become more gravely concerned with U.S. politics. Indeed, Congress engaged in an extremely dangerous and stupid game of chicken. But ultimately, they acted in the nick of time. Whenever you've got gridlock in Congress, making big changes can be difficult. But eventually Congress groans and does what it has to do, with a result that usually makes neither side very happy. For the rating agency, this status quo must not be enough.

Why Is This Time Different?

S&P was not happy with the $2.2 trillion minimum debt reduction plan. That's understandable. A bigger deal would certainly have been preferable from a fiscal soundness standpoint.

But does the agency really estimate that the deal is is so dangerously small that there's a realistic chance that the U.S. could now default at some point in the future? In particular, does U.S. debt really look significantly riskier now than it did in, say, April?
The bond market certainly doesn't think so. Treasury yields are near all-time lows, despite all that political nonsense. And remember, the interest the U.S. pays on its debt is far, far smaller than its tax revenues. If the Treasury prioritizes interest payments, then there's no conceivable way the U.S. could default.

I defended S&P's initial decision to put the U.S. rating on negative watch back in May when politics were becoming poisonous. But to actually downgrade the U.S. after Washington managed to avoid its self-created crisis is another story. S&P should have acted like the other agencies and affirmed the U.S. rating, but kept it on negative watch until more deficit reduction plans were put in place over the next couple of years, as I explain here.

In fact, this might not turn out well for S&P. The firm might think it's acting boldly or proactively. Instead, the market may question S&P's reasoning skills. The rating agency is acting here on an assumption not shared by its peers at Moody's and Fitch: that U.S. politics are so screwed up that they could render the nation unable to live up to its debt obligations. That's despite pretty much everyone agreeing that the nation will be financially able to pay for its debt in the short-, medium-, and long-term.

Who to Blame

S&P takes no position on which party is at fault here. It might have been easy to blame Republicans due to their inflexibility on taxes. Any sort of absolute pledge like "no new taxes," creates a politically impossible situation when compromise is necessary, as I wrote earlier this week. So in that sense, S&P is right to be concerned.

And yet, as bad an idea as this pledge might be, the U.S. managed to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. If you assume that Congress will remain divided after the 2012 elections and that Republicans will renew their pledge, then we could have more of these absurd near-default experiences. That's what worries the rating agency.
But S&P must be counting on more than just Republicans acting insanely enough to cause default: Democrats would have to act just as irresponsibly. After all, spending and entitlement cuts alone can easily allow the U.S. to avoid default. The agency makes this point, saying that the nation needs entitlement cuts and/or more tax revenue. S&P must assume that Democrats, like Republicans, could reach a limit of how much they'll concede and just let the U.S. economy burn on mere principle.

Source: the Atlantic 

U.S. Credit Downgraded: S&P Reduces Rating To AA+

WASHINGTON — The United States has lost its sterling credit rating from Standard & Poor's.
The credit rating agency on Friday lowered the nation's AAA rating for the first time since granting it in 1917. The move came less than a week after a gridlocked Congress finally agreed to spending cuts that would reduce the debt by more than $2 trillion – a tumultuous process that contributed to convulsions in financial markets. The promised cuts were not enough to satisfy S&P.

The drop in the rating by one notch to AA-plus was telegraphed as a possibility back in April. The three main credit agencies, which also include Moody's Investor Service and Fitch, had warned during the budget fight that if Congress did not cut spending far enough, the country faced a downgrade. Moody's said it was keeping its AAA rating on the nation's debt, but that it might still lower it.

Why is the Harper government letting gas companies frack with our water?

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking," is an issue that is increasingly being seen in the media. Fracking is a process used to extract shale gas using vertical and horizontal drilling. Sand, water and chemicals are release at high pressure to fracture shale where natural gas is trapped.

Communities all over Canada, the U.S. and other countries are fighting against fracking because of the negative impact it has on water, climate change and people's health. Fracking poses a significant threat to Canada's water sources. The fracking process uses vast and unsustainable amounts of water. The toxic chemicals used in the fracking process further pollute local water sources. The "wastewater flowback," a mixture of toxic chemicals, is either buried in the ground threatening local aquifers or put through municipal wastewater treatment systems which are ill-equipped to handle the chemicals used in fracking projects.

Nycole Turmel: It’s not a crime to change your mind

Better a leader with a wealth of perspective, than a pittance

I took the Quebec referendum very seriously in 1995, maybe because I was six years old and believed that separatism was exactly what it sounded like: Quebec would literally cut itself off of Canada with a giant machete and float away, taking the Maritimes and the United States with it. Unfortunately I was wrong: not only would the French province remain Canadian (and wholly responsible for prolonging interruptions to in-flight movies) but the ghost of separatist past would linger on, and spawn a uniquely Canadian kind of McCarthyism—the sort that dug the sovereign skeleton out of Nycole Turmel’s closet. Because what we’ve learned from this past week of parliamentary theatrics, is that Jack Layton’s choice for NDP Interim leader (Turmel—GASP—a former member of the Bloc Quebecois and current member of Quebec Solidaire) was simply not cool. Or as Prime Minister Stephen Harper put it, “disappointing”. Forget that Turmel tore up her Bloc membership prior to running for the NDP, promised to tear up her Quebec Solidaire membership this very week, and publicly denounced the notion that she ever held separatist sentiments in the first place; her apparent shift in allegiance was a death knell. But if Dumbledore could forgive Professor Snape for his darker indiscretions, can’t we forgive Nycole Turmel her Sovereign past? Or, do we even have to? Maybe we should be congratulating her instead, for having the temerity to change her mind.

Talking back to Toronto’s new Philistines

Welcome to the New Philistinism!

It’s got everything: an indifference or hostility to any arts, culture or community endeavour that might require government funding (except if it’s an NFL team), a tendency to engage in mean, dismissive public discourse, pitched battles that become operatic (Ford vs. Atwood) and an overweaning pride in being ignorant and uninformed.

It’s the Tea Party in the U.S. insisting on zero funding for just about anything that moves, but especially Planned Parenthood. It’s presidential candidate Michele Bachmann consistently getting her history and other facts mixed up and not even apologizing. It’s pouty-lipped Sun Media television host Krista Erickson conducting a laughably aggressive interview with award-winning Canadian dancer Margie Gillis, lambasting her for the grant money she’s received, then declaring proudly: “I’m just a cultural Philistine.”

Time for a double dip?

A lousy debt deal, rising fears of a recession, the danger of longer-term stagnation: America’s outlook is grim

THIS ought to have been a good week for the American economy. The country’s leaders at last ended a ludicrously irresponsible bout of fiscal brinkmanship, removing the threat of global financial Armageddon by agreeing to raise the federal debt ceiling. Yet far from heaving a sigh of relief, investors are nervous. Stockmarkets around the world have tumbled (see article). On August 2nd, the day the debt deal was signed, the S&P 500 index saw its biggest one-day fall in over a year, and yields on ten-year Treasury bonds dropped to 2.6%, their lowest level in nine months, as investors sought safety.

It is not all to do with America: the euro zone is a mess (see article) and manufacturing everywhere seems to be slowing. But America’s prospects have suddenly darkened. Statistical revisions and some grim new figures have revealed a weaker-than-assumed recovery that has all but ground to a halt. Once stalled, an economy can easily tip back into recession, particularly if it is hit by a new shock—as America’s is about to be, thanks to a hefty dose of fiscal tightening made worse by the debt deal. The odds of a double dip over the coming year are uncomfortably high, perhaps as high as 50%.

Navajo Nation Settles Allegations That Coal Company Cheated Its Way Out Of Royalty Payments

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has settled its allegations that a coal mining company conspired with others to cheat the tribe out of hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

The tribe and Peabody Energy announced a settlement Thursday that stemmed from a 1999 lawsuit the tribe filed in federal court, but the terms are confidential.

The Navajo Nation had sought to reform the leases granted to Peabody some 40 years ago and recover what it claimed was $600 million in lost coal royalties. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the tribe in a similar lawsuit filed against the federal government.

Bank Of New York Mellon Will Charge Clients To Hold Over $50M In Deposits

NEW YORK -- Bank of New York Mellon Corp. said Thursday that it will charge its customers a fee to hold cash deposits over $50 million.

The bank said it has seen such a large increase in deposits over the last month that it will charge a 0.13 percent fee to clients with "extraordinary high deposit levels." Bank of New York Mellon, which has $23.6 trillion in client assets under its custody, said customers have moved money to cash as a safe haven in the past month as investments like stocks and bonds have become increasingly volatile.