November 26th, 2008
04:04 PM ET

Say there, CEO, can I catch a ride home?

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Fay Vincent
The Wall Street Journal

There is something about a corporate jet that just enrages most politicians, and for that matter most citizens.

Last week the embattled automobile-company executives admitted they flew in their corporate jets to Washington to beg for government bailouts. The politicians excoriated them and ridiculed the lack of frugality their method of transportation demonstrated. It was all great fun to some. But the scene seemed to me to be the theater of the absurd. It combined stupidity with hypocrisy, and the result was not pretty.

In my early days I worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission where for a brief time I was the ranking staffperson handling the subject of "perks." Reporting companies have to disclose the amount and extent of so-called perks that are provided to executives. Thus the use of corporate facilities, including the corporate jet, for personal purposes results in not only disclosure in the company proxy statement but taxable income to the executive.

In that position I learned what red meat company jets are to the public. Most of us seem to hate the idea that our corporate executives are able to fly without the normal burdens of lines, delays and bureaucratic hassles.

We resent the whole business and our politicians know that so they pile on. Corporations are so intimidated that no corporate jet carries any form of public identification. It is impossible to tell from looking at these planes who owns them. The usual justification for corporate jets is the convenience and more efficient use of executive time. Interestingly, however, Warren Buffett named his jet "The Indefensible."


Filed under: Economy • Fay Vincent • Raw Politics
November 26th, 2008
03:33 PM ET

Michelle Obama breaks stereotypes

CNN's Randi Kaye examines how Michelle Obama may help break down stereotypes of black women.

Filed under: Michelle Obama • Randi Kaye • Raw Politics
November 26th, 2008
02:49 PM ET

Doctors say 'giving thanks' good for your body

Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Every day I wake up and thank God for another day. It’s not a big ceremony. It’s just something I do to calm my soul. I am a blessed person and I feel it’s important to acknowledge that fact.

When I was a little girl, my parents made sure I always said “Thank you” for the things I was given. I never took anything for granted. A kind word, a small token, I was always appreciative. Even as an adult I keep “Thank you” notes in my desk, ready to send to those who have looked out for me, or been there when I needed them most.

Doctors say giving thanks, taking the time to notice positive things in your life is not only good for your psyche but it’s good for your body. University of California at Davis researchers found that practicing gratitude can lower your blood pressure and make you feel less hostile. Grateful people are less angry, less negative and usually look for the cup half full. Studies by Cornell University researchers have shown that those who are thankful appear to have lower risks of developing phobias, alcoholism, even depression. They even have stronger immune systems.


Filed under: Medical News
November 26th, 2008
02:33 PM ET

Bush's last days: the lamest duck

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Joe Klein

We have "only one President at a time," Barack Obama said in his debut press conference as President-elect. Normally, that would be a safe assumption — but we're learning not to assume anything as the charcoal-dreary economic winter approaches. By mid-November, with the financial crisis growing worse by the day, it had become obvious that one President was no longer enough (at least not the President we had). So, in the days before Thanksgiving, Obama began to move — if not to take charge outright, then at least to preview what things will be like when he does take over in January. He became a more public presence, taking questions from the press three days in a row. He named his economic team. He promised an enormous stimulus package that would somehow create 2.5 million new jobs, and began to maneuver the new Congress toward having the bill ready for him to sign — in a dramatic ceremony, no doubt — as soon as he assumes office.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Joe Klein • Raw Politics
November 26th, 2008
02:17 PM ET

All fall down

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Thomas L. Friedman
New York Times columnist

I spent Sunday afternoon brooding over a great piece of Times reporting by Eric Dash and Julie Creswell about Citigroup. Maybe brooding isn’t the right word. The front-page article, entitled “Citigroup Pays for a Rush to Risk,” actually left me totally disgusted.

Why? Because in searing detail it exposed — using Citigroup as Exhibit A — how some of our country’s best-paid bankers were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye. But it wasn’t only the bankers. This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics.

So many people were in on it: People who had no business buying a home, with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties, as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business rating those loans as AAA, but made a fortunes doing so; and people who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing so.

Citigroup was involved in, and made money from, almost every link in that chain. And the bank’s executives, including, sad to see, the former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, were clueless about the reckless financial instruments they were creating, or were so ensnared by the cronyism between the bank’s risk managers and risk takers (and so bought off by their bonuses) that they had no interest in stopping it.


Filed under: Citigroup • Economy • Finance • Raw Politics • Thomas Friedman
November 26th, 2008
01:41 PM ET

Biggest government expenditure in US history?

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Editor's note: The current bailout costs more than the Iraq war, the Vietnam war, the Korean war and the NASA missions - combined. The only thing that comes close is the cost of WWII…

Barry Ritholtz

Whenever I discussed the current bailout situation with people, I find they have a hard time comprehending the actual numbers involved. That became a problem while doing the research for the Bailout Nation book. I needed some way to put this into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion


Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Barry Ritholtz • Economy
November 26th, 2008
01:40 PM ET

Conspiracy to torment a 13-year-old girl?

Soledad O'Brien talks with Jeffrey Toobin about the case of the woman allegedly using MySpace to bully a teenager.
Soledad O'Brien talks with Jeffrey Toobin about the case of the woman allegedly using MySpace to bully a teenager.

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° writer

Lori Drew is not being charged with murder, but the parents of Megan Meier are convinced she drove their daughter to suicide.

Now, two years after the 13-year-old girl hanged herself in her bedroom, Drew, who lived just down the block from the Meier home, is being tried in connection with this tragedy.

But are prosecutors overreaching in their case against her? Drew was indicted on one count of conspiracy and three counts of three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress.

A jury in Los Angeles has already reached a partial verdict on three of the counts. The judge has ordered them to continue deliberations.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
November 26th, 2008
01:27 PM ET

You have the upper hand

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Donna Rosato
Senior Writer, Money magazine

The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally known as Black Friday because – as the busiest shopping day of the year – it goes a long way toward determining whether retailers end up “in the black” – making a profit, rather than "in the red," which is a loss.

This year, retailers are bleeding red ink in the worst slowdown in decades. More than half of consumers say they will be spending less on holiday gifts this year and nearly a third plan to spend “much less” than last year, reports the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association. That "more than half" is up from 30% to 35% of consumers who said they planned to cut back in the 2003-2007 years.

That means shoppers have the upper hand. To lure you in, retailers have been slashing prices on everything since September from cars to clothes. The discounts on Black Friday could be epic this year.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Donna Rosato • Economy
November 26th, 2008
01:07 PM ET

School girl acid attack

Atia Abawi
Afghanistan Correspondent

In many countries, it is considered a right, not a privilege, to attend school. But in Afghanistan, it’s risky business.

During the Taliban's brutal five-year regime, girls here were forbidden from becoming educated. If they attempted schooling, they could be subject to a beating by the religious police, or worse.

Since the fall of the Taliban following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, one of the few achievements of the government has been offering access to education. Approximately 6 million children attend schools throughout the country, 2 million of which are girls.

But an incident last week highlights the dangers these girls once again face as a resurgent Taliban inches for control in the war-ravaged nation.

Like most kids around the world, 16-year-old Atifa and 19-year-old Shamsia were rushing to school hoping to make it on time.

"We saw two men up ahead staring at us. One was standing off and the other one was on their motorcycle. I wanted to go but there was a black object in his hand and he took it out," Atifa told us.

The object was a water pistol, filled with battery acid that the men threw on the girls. It burned through their clothes and their skin.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360°
November 26th, 2008
12:02 PM ET

The Shot: 'Roomba' Cats

Apparently several cats have taken a liking to the automatic room cleaner.

Filed under: T1 • The Shot
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