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  • #31


    • #32

      Washington, D.C., March 31, 2008(AHN) - With the U.S. economy worsening and more people losing their jobs the number of Americans who turn to using food stamps to help them buy groceries is expected to reach a record high of 28 million this year. That is the largest number since the supplementary program was introduced in 1960 as part of the nation's effort to end poverty, which hasn't happened.

      Food stamps have always been meant to supplement a family's income rather than pay for a month's worth of groceries and the dollar amount of benefits varies with a person's income and family size.

      But critics say that with recent increases in the price of food that the amount the government gives each person for food stamps should also increase.

      Food stamp recipients face the same problem other Americans have when they get to the grocery store. Prices are up on basic food items, shrinking the purchasing power of food stamps.

      For example, increases in food prices means that it costs 6 percent more to feed a family of four on a low-income budget now than it did a year ago, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

      Anti poverty advocates are pushing for a new farm bill that will include increases in food stamps, nutrition spending and commodities to food pantries and soup kitchens.

      Households are still eligible for food stamps even if they have as much as $2,000 in countable resources, or $3,000 for households with one member aged 60 or older. And there are conditions tests to determine eligibility for households with vehicles if it is not worth more than $4,650.


      • #33 'bout we move to France and enjoy free education, cheaper healthcare and more than likely, cheaper food as well

        What are we doing still living here in the U.S.??
        It seems as if one fails to conceive
        The meaning my name strives to achieve

        To a biological form you cannot relate-
        Because a reproductive cell is a gamete not gamate!

        It means to unite, -to become consolidated
        So without me in, is there hope we'd be amalgamated?


        • #34

          July 17, 2008 -- It only takes a 10-minute trip up New York's No 6 subway line to see the vast contradictions skewing the performance of the US on the UN's human development index.

          In the heart of the Upper East Side, 96th Street station is in the city's 14th congressional district - the highest ranked in the nation, according to the index. Townhouses with neatly tied curtains and ornate railings open on to streets abutting Central Park, only steps away from the city's top museums and art galleries. Billionaire residents include the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the financier George Soros.

          Average earnings here are $116,000 (£58,000), unemployment is 5.4%, two-thirds of residents are white and six out of 10 people have a university education. Local delicatessens offer gourmet sandwiches and lattes. The streets are lined with independent bookstores and fashion boutiques and there is a preponderance of pet salons pandering to pampered pooches.

          Five stops further up the line, 138th Street station is in the Bronx, among the 20 worst-performing districts in the US with a score of 3.4 on the UN's index - which corresponds to the national average around 1985.

          A US flag hangs limply in the sun above an liquor store opposite Mitchel Houses, a sprawling estate of local authority flats with a collection of shipping containers in the car park.

          "It's no surprise, not to me it isn't," says Gilbert Washington, a maintenance worker, when told the US had fallen down the UN index. He cites healthcare as an obstacle: "A lot of people don't have assistance here even though they work - and the cost of medicine is skyrocketing."

          Raymond Petra, a building superintendent, agrees: "They want to send troops to other countries to fight - to Iraq, to Afghanistan, now to Iran - but there's no money here for their own people."

          On a street corner nearby, a lacklustre stall sells socks, water pistols and DVDs. There's a Caribbean deli, an African restaurant and a dubious-looking bar advertising "live dancing - party time". The local church, St Jerome's, has services in English and Spanish.

          In the south Bronx's 16th congressional district, nearly one in seven people are jobless and average earnings are $35,000. Only 8.7% of residents have a university education and the population is ethnically diverse - 65% are Hispanic, 28% black and barely 2% white. To many of New York's wealthier residents, the only reason to venture into the borough is to take in an occasional baseball game at the nearby Yankee stadium.

          Only 2.1 miles apart, the two areas have a 56-year gap in development according to the research, which calculates that, at the current rate of progress, it will take until 2041 for the Upper East Side's level of development to be typical nationwide.

          Crossing a tree-lined street in the wealthier district, maths teacher Sally Edgar called the findings "embarrassing". She says: "It reflects the government stepping back and expecting big business to provide. There's a tremendous split between the really wealthy and the lower middle class."

          Not far from where she is standing, a flat went on sale last year for an eye-watering $50m. The district is known to fans of Sex and the City as the home of the TV series' aspirational, glamorous heroine Carrie Bradshaw.

          It was also the stomping ground of Sherman McCoy, the fictional bond trader depicted in author Tom Wolfe's 1987 portrait of Wall Street greed, The Bonfire of the Vanities.


          • #35

            October 17, 2008 -- Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40.4bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

            Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup will pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted widespread criticism. The government cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay will be curbed.

            Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased today when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join chief executive Josef Ackermann in waiving millions of euro in annual payouts.

            The sums that continue to be spent by Wall Street firms on payroll, payoffs and - most controversially - bonuses appear to bear no relation to the heavy losses incurred by investors in the banks. Shares in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have declined by more than 45% since the start of the year; Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have fallen by more than 60%. JP MorganChase fell 6.4% and Lehman Brothers has collapsed.

            At one point last week Morgan Stanley's $10.7bn pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.

            In the first nine months of the year Citigroup, which employs thousands of staff in the UK, accrued $25.9bn for salaries and bonuses, an increase on the previous year of 4%. Earlier this week the bank accepted a $25bn investment by the US government as part of its bail-out plan.

            At Goldman Sachs the figure was $11.4bn, Morgan Stanley $10.73bn, JP MorganChase $6.53bn and Merrill Lynch $11.7bn. At Merrill, which was on the point of going bust last month before being taken over by Bank of America, the amount accrued in the last quarter grew 76% to $3.49bn. At Morgan Stanley, the amount put aside for staff compensation also grew in the last quarter to the end of September by 3% to $3.7bn.

            Days before it collapsed into bankruptcy protection a month ago Lehman Brothers revealed $6.12bn of staff pay plans in its corporate filings. These payouts, the bank insisted, were justified despite net revenue collapsing from $14.9bn to a net outgoing of $64m. None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans.

            Behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."

            Many critics of the investment banking model have questioned why firms continues to siphon off billions of dollars of bank earnings into annual bonus pools rather than using the funds to shore up the capital position of the crisis-stricken institutions. One banking source said: "That's a fair enough question - and it may well be that by the end of the year the banks start review the situation."

            Much of the anger about investment banking bonuses has focused on boardroom executives such as former Lehman boss Dick Fuld, who was paid $485m in salary, bonuses and options between 2000 and 2007. Last year Merrill Lynch chairman Stan O'Neal retired after announcing losses of $8bn, taking a final pay deal worth $161m. Citigroup boss Chuck Prince left last year with a $38m in bonuses, shares and options after multibillion-dollar write-downs.

            In Britain, Bob Diamond, Barclays president, is one of the few investment bankers whose pay is made public. Last year he received a salary of £250,000, but his total pay, including bonuses, reached £36m.

            One London-based banking source, who worked for a US bank, said many in the City were expecting star traders to see little reduction in their bonuses.

            "The real 'rain-makers' will not notice an impact. It will be the more middle-ranking people who will be really hit."


            • #36

              November 17, 2009 -- More than a million children regularly go to bed hungry in the U.S., according to a government report that shows a startling increase in the number of families struggling to put food on the table. President Barack Obama, who pledged to eradicate childhood hunger, has described as "unsettling" the agriculture department survey, which says 50 million people in the U.S. – one in six of the population – were unable to afford to buy sufficient food to stay healthy at some point last year, in large part because of escalating unemployment or poorly paid jobs. That is a rise of more than one-third on the year before and the highest number since the survey began in 1995. The agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said: "These numbers are a wake-up call … for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country." Vilsack said he expected the numbers to worsen when the survey for this year is released in 2010.

              The report said 6.7 million people were defined as having "very low food security" because they regularly lacked sufficient to eat. Among them, 96% reported that the food they bought did not last until they had money to buy more. Nearly all said they could not afford to eat balanced meals. Although few reported that this was a permanent situation throughout the year, 88% said it had occurred in three or more months. Nearly half reported losing weight because they did not have enough money to buy food. The number of children living in households where there were shortages of food at times rose by nearly one-third to 17 million. The report says that most parents who did not get enough to eat ensured their offspring received sufficient food but that more than 1 million children still suffered outright hunger.

              The worst affected states are in the south with Mississippi having the largest proportion of its population enduring shortages of food followed by Texas and Arkansas. More than half of those affected are minorities, principally black people and Hispanics. Millions more Americans do not go hungry only because they are so poor they receive government food stamps or rely on handouts from food banks such as Feeding America. In some states, such as West Virginia, one in six of the population is on food stamps. Vicki Escarra, head of Feeding America which runs 200 food banks across the country feeding 25 million people, described the report as "alarming" and noted that the situation is continuing to deteriorate. "Although these new numbers are staggering, it should be noted that these numbers reflect the state of the nation one year ago, in 2008. Since then the economy has significantly weakened, and there are likely many more people struggling with hunger than this report states," she said.

              Feeding America said there had been a "dramatic increase" in requests for emergency food assistance from food banks across the U.S.A. It said that food banks in some parts of the country were requesting more than a 50% increase in assistance than over a year ago. "Our network food banks are calling us every day, telling us that demand for emergency food is higher than it has ever been in our history," said Escarra. The principal cause is unemployment, which has risen past 10%, as well as increasing numbers of people who have had their hours cut back or been forced in to minimum wage jobs. Even before the recent economic collapse many working people were struggling to meet rising living costs, such as those who drive long distances to their jobs in rural states who were hit by the rising cost of fuel. Feeding America said 40% of the people it helps live in families with at least one working adult. Charities say that many of those who fall into financial difficulties take years to get back on their feet and so the problem is likely to persist for years. The report comes as the United Nations holds a summit in Rome on food security. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, told the summit that a child dies of hunger every five seconds somewhere in the world and that more than 1 billion live with hunger.


              • #37

                January 21, 2010 -- Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs declared that it was displaying "restraint" by slashing bonus payouts to its top-earning staff, although an average pay packet of $498,000 (£306,760) per employee was still sufficient to spark outrage in political and union circles. In a remarkable bounce-back from the darkest days of the global financial crisis, Goldman's profits for 2009 leapt more than five-fold from $2.32 billion to $13.4 billion, amounting to roughly $36 million per day, as its traders took full advantage of a recovery in stock markets, debt markets and commodity values.

                Reacting to a torrent of criticism over outsized bankers' bonuses in an era of high unemployment and high street misery, Goldman sharply cut the proportion of its revenue allocated to pay from 48% to 35.8%, the lowest proportion since the bank went public in 1999. Its compensation pool amounted to $16.2 billion, reduced by a $500 million donation deducted from the pay of Goldman's 400 senior partners to a charitable foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives. Goldman's chief financial officer, David Viniar, said: "We're not blind to the economic environment and the pain and suffering going on around the world, and we're not deaf to calls for restraint. We've heard them." The 32,500 people employed by Goldman include 5,500 staff in London who will be eligible for the chancellor's one-off 50% tax on bankers' bonuses of more than £25,000. The tax is likely to raise several hundred million dollars from Goldman, which has a reputation for offering some of the financial industry's highest salaries and has become a poster boy for political accusations of excess.

                Viniar acknowledged that the bank's operating environment had been "clearly helped by government actions and policies" aimed at fixing the global financial crisis."We are certainly appreciative of the policies governments around the world put in place to help stabilise the world's financial system," he said. "We think they did a really, really good job." Goldman's revenue for 2009 doubled to $45 billion. The driving force behind Goldman's surge in earnings for the year was a leap in revenue at its trading and principal investments division from $3.71 billion to $23 billion. Profits for the final quarter of the year were $4.95 billion, compared to a $2.12 billion loss a year ago.

                In London, the Trades Union Congress was quick to condemn Goldman's staff payouts. The TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the figures were fresh justification for a global tax on financial transactions: "Goldman Sachs wants us to believe that its bonus payouts are modest. But the truth is that we have set up an international welfare state for super-rich bankers. They pay themselves mega bonuses when times are good and expect the rest of us to bail them out when times are tough – even though it was the finance sector that has thrown the world into recession."

                Goldman's chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, has been among the banking industry's staunchest defenders, claiming last year that his employees were doing "God's work". But under questioning in Washington last week by a U.S. commission investigating the financial crisis, Blankfein conceded that some of his firm's actions had been "improper", including selling toxic assets to investors while "shorting" the same types of securities to bet on their failure. The 141-year-old bank was among the first to pay back bailout funds to the U.S. government, returning $10 billion in June, plus dividends and interest, to give taxpayers a profit of $1.4 billion.


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