Hillary: Secretary Of State?

There’s increasing chatter in political circles that the Obama camp is not overly happy with the usual suspects for secretary of state these days and that the field might be expanding somewhat beyond Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and maybe former Democratic senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

There’s talk, indeed, that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) may now be under consideration for the post. Her office referred any questions to the Obama transition; Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.

The pick of the former presidential contender and Senate Armed Services Committee member would go a long way toward healing any remaining divisions within the Democratic Party after the divisive primaries. Also, Clinton has long been known for her work on international women’s issues and human rights. The former first lady could also enhance Obama’s efforts to restore U.S. standing amongst allies worldwide.

Would this be the best for the country?  She is an able politician and an influential one.  Personal opinion, she would most likely be an excellent Secretary of State, but Obama may need her in the Senate where she could help him past his agenda.

A Shout Out For Palin

The only loser to give a victory tour, for that reason I give props where props are due.  One shout out is for her redefining the word exclusive.  I must have missed something!  Palin has given 7 exclusive interviews in 6 days.  Somewhere the word has been redefined and I missed the memo.

The second prop is for the following:

Palin tried to downplay her celebrity (even after a week in which she was featured in interviews on NBC, FOX News and CNN). In her speech, she tried to change the focus from herself to the work that Republican governors must now do, including developing energy resources to health care reform.

Her appearance was the highly anticipated moment of the conference, coming a day after other emerging governors spoke about the direction of the Republican Party. Entering the political wilderness after its losses this month, the group that many consider its future met to talk about what went wrong, and what to do next.

She made sure stomped all over the egos of her fellow govs.  She spent more time in the past than looking to the future of the GOP.

What Waste Of Perfectly Good Tequila

A method of producing synthetic diamonds using tequila – Mexico’s favourite alcoholic drink – has been discovered, scientists there say.

The amazing discovery was made by physicists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and could have many industrial uses.

There is one catch however. The synthetic diamond crystals are too small to be turned into jewelery.

The synthetic diamond crystals can only be seen under an electron microscope.

Although they cannot be used for jewellery, there are plenty of practical applications for them.

They can be used as an alternative to silicon in computer chips or as ultra fine cutting instruments in medical procedures.

One advantage of making diamond film from tequila is that it is extremely cheap.

The scientists found that even the cheapest of tequila brands, averaging at $3 a bottle, are good enough to make diamonds.

What Happened To The Toxic Loan Plan?

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson’s decision to abandon plans to buy troubled bank assets shows that he has come to two conclusions about what was once the chief focus of the government’s $700-billion bailout:

The first is that it wouldn’t work. The second is that the economists and financial experts who agitated to have capital injected directly into the banking system now appear to have been right all along.

Paulson announced Wednesday that the federal government would formally abandon plans to buy troubled mortgage-backed securities from banks and other big investors to instead focus its efforts on thawing credit markets.

The shift, however, had been in place since last month. A week after the package was passed by Congress on Oct. 3, Paulson began signaling that the thrust had changed and that much of the $700 billion instead would go toward providing capital to banks by investing in their preferred shares.

That action might be compared to replacing a gravely ill patient’s slow intravenous drip with a shot of adrenaline into the heart. The stock market rallied, and over the next few weeks the capital injections intensified and talk of the asset purchases ebbed.

Although Treasury’s change of course has aligned the U.S. more closely with Britain and continental Europe, where direct recapitalization of banks has become the standard response to the financial crisis, it has raised new doubts about the U.S. bailout.

These include concerns about Paulson’s inconsistent direction. The Treasury secretary originally presented the plan to buy toxic mortgage-based investments under the Troubled Asset Relief Program as the only conceivable solution to bank failures, then vehemently resisted congressional attempts at modification.

“This was a major piece of legislation,” observed Campbell R. Harvey, professor of international business at Duke University. “TARP was what people were voting on, and now he announces that TARP is not going to be TARP.”

Another concern is that Paulson and Congress are failing to specifically define the purpose of TARP. Originally the program was aimed at troubled banks, particularly those whose failure might undermine the domestic or global financial systems.

On Wednesday, however, Paulson said the remaining TARP funds would be directed at “both banks and non-banks” with troubled holdings; at non-bank credit markets that have stagnated, such as those for credit card receivables, auto loans and student loans; and at the housing market to stem the risk of foreclosure. These categories represent a dramatic expansion, and arguably a dilution, of the program.

Well, how nice this change seems to be a weekly thing…the money will go where the corporations want it to go.  What of oversight?  There is NO oversight!  Paulson does what Paulson wants and NO ONE is questioning his decisions.  Where were the critics in the run to the bill.  The bill that just had to be passed was to stop the economy from tanking….and the economy tanked….someone ask these people why we should trust them to get it right this time.

Cyber Pimps!

Nine people from Thailand have been jailed for up to two-and-a-half-years for their part in exploiting women who were advertised in “online brothels”. They are thought to have made millions of pounds from women trafficked from Asia to the UK for use in the sex trade.

Every night thousands of men trawl websites in the UK advertising women offering sex for sale.

Many of them are run by prostitutes, or escorts as they often like to describe themselves, who are essentially self-employed entrepreneurs using the internet to cut out the pimps.

But some are advertising women who have been trafficked into the country and are being exploited for profit.

A gallery on the site showed photographs of more than 60 naked and semi-naked women. Many of them were effectively commodities who had been traded and invested in by “bondholders”.

The “bondholders”, who effectively owned several of the women and expected them to pay off their £30,000 debt, were two women, Jirapha Sriwicha, 40, of Hendon, north London and Sutima Khongpon, 55, and Phanusak Kaewbenjarkarn, 32, both from Streatham, south London.

Sutima Khongpon was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, Phanusak Kaewbenjarkarn and Jiripha Sriwicha were each sentenced to two years, Pongpoj Pitayayanakul was sentenced to 18 months, Bordee Pitayayanakul to 15 months, Monthira Duangthip to 12 months in prison, Panya Peakaew, Noppharat Charoenying and Graipich Vudto were all sentenced to 28 days in prison, and Thatri Pornpaditkong was given a community service order.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK has a comprehensive victim-centred strategy in place to tackle human trafficking.

“In January we launched a short-term review to explore what more we can do to tackle the demand for prostitution.

“We have also invested £5.8m in the Poppy Project over the last six years to provide high-level specialist support for victims trafficked into sexual exploitation.

This includes safe accommodation; advocacy; access to counselling; access to legal advice; interpretative services. Victims are provided with support for an initial thirty-day period whilst they consider their options.”

What About The Global Economy?

A deep-seated global crisis is often a chance to redraw the map, reflecting shifts in the balance of power in different ways.

First, the crisis can confirm or nudge ahead trends which seem to be happening anyway – like the shift of power from Western to emerging Eastern players.

Second, it can put flesh on reforms already in the air – like plans to overhaul the international financial architecture to be discussed at this weekend’s summit being hosted by President Bush in Washington.

And third, there are the instinctive emergency reactions, supposedly temporary, but which can end up reshaping the global chessboard for years to come – the hurried nationalisation of some Western banks, for instance, or possibly Iceland’s desperate bailout appeal to Russia – a Nato member putting financial survival ahead of any security provisos.

China and India have been less affected. And, even if demand for Chinese goods slows, its mammoth economy can still be a powerful engine of growth and a much needed source of liquidity.

Look no further than Moscow, where the stock market panic and flight of capital abroad have been dramatic, and the fall in world oil prices has added to the economy’s battering.

Despite Russia’s legendary energy wealth, there is a new nervous uncertainty among local businessmen who – one suspects – know more than most about the way the domestic economy remains weakened by corruption and a labyrinthine smoke-and-mirrors way of doing business.

The World Bank and the IMF, the hard bargaining will revolve not just around which new countries get seats on the board, but whether they will be allowed to upset the current balance of power when it comes to decision-making. Note that already there are voices warning that too many players will make any new arrangement dysfunctional.

There are other complications. Russia continues to agitate for any adjustment that will lessen US influence, whether in financial or European security matters.

The world economy is as about as fragile as the US, one good push and it will topple.