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November 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM
JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $13 billion, including $4 billion for consumer relief and $6 billion to investors who lost big during the bank’s risky mortgage securities schemes. This settlement with the U.S. government is larger than any other Wall Street settlement and is roughly equivalent to half the bank’s annual profit. JPMorgan also agreed to a statement of facts, in which the bank admitted to key failures in buying toxic mortgage securities from 2005 to 2008. This NPR report offers a breakdown of the settlement and who gets the money.
A number of institutions will receive money in the settlement. Investors in JPMorgan appeared positive about the settlement. Shares of the New York-based bank rose 41 cents, or 0.7%, to $56.15 on Tuesday, as major U.S. stock indexes edged lower. This Los Angeles Times story offers more investor details.
I’m glad JPMorgan gave up trying to argue that it should not be held culpable for problems that came from the banks it acquired, including investment bank Bear Stearns and thrift Washington Mutual. But this does not end the anger and emotion surrounding the bank. Critics of the settlement call it a sweetheart deal engineered by a Wall Street-friendly Obama administration. Defenders call it precedent-setting, comparing it to the $4.5 billion in fines and penalties paid by British Petroleum over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A Seattle Times editorial welcomed the BP settlement.
The JPMorgan settlement could become a template the federal government would use to guide future action against other banks. If so, is the settlement letting JPMorgan off too lightly or is it in proportion to the bank’s transgressions? Take this poll. (more…)
October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM
UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one handy in the classroom.
This New York Times story noted the public is less than enamored with the idea.
#Guncontrol and #schoolshooting began trending on social media minutes after CNN and other news outlets reported two people had been killed and two others were in serious condition after a shooting rampage Monday morning at a Nevada middle school.
Sparks Middle School, located just outside of Reno, was evacuated quickly. Parents picked up their kids. District authorities have gone from tweeting “Code Red” to offering Twitter updates from the crime scene. A new name joins Newtown and other schools in that macabre section of the American lexicon reserved for mass school shootings. Public discourse on social media quickly turned to gun control, a debate that illustrates better than any other policy issue, America’s stark political divide.
Tweeting under the name @globaloutrage, Jack Scharber asked:
“Another day in America. Another school shooting. When are we going to confront the awful root causes of this senselessness?”
“Another shooting in America kills more innocent kids. Their obsession with guns is destroying the country.”
Time for another run at comprehensive gun control. The kind that includes background checks and other safeguards argued for by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, most recently here. I’m not too hopeful this latest shooting will be the catalyst that moves people from their fixed positions on both sides of the debate. That is because the problem has never been a lack of political effort to better regulate guns, the problem is that these efforts never get very far. The heavy thumb of the Second Amendment lobby tamps down on anything that hints of gun safety legislation. A prime example can be found in this piece by the National Rifle Association’s legislative policy arm. The powerful gun lobby brags about the veto by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) of gun control legislation last June. The article calls New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “an extremist” for promoting sensible gun control through “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”
The exception may be Washington state, where almost enough signatures have been secured to mount an initiative calling for universal background checks for gun sales. Initiative 594 would go first to the Legislature. But if lawmakers failed to pass the measure, it would go to voters in 2014, a Times blog reported. Among those helping secure signatures here was Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the 2006 shooting rampage at the Seattle Jewish Federation. This Washington Post story warns of the uphill battle gun control advocates face in Washington state.
If I’m correct and this latest tragedy failed to move beyond #Nevadashooting on Twitter, then it sadly is just another day in America.
October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom.
Mental health also directly impacts students, as I note in my latest column. But a combination of stigma and inattention has left mental health issues on the periphery of education policy discussions. I write in my column about the many ways that is changing.
An example: In the Seattle Public Schools, all the comprehensive high schools and middle schools, plus the Interagency Academy and the World School, have mental health professionals on staff. This is possible because of the Seattle Families and Education levy, a seven-year measure approved by voters four times, most recently in 2011 for $231 million.
A focus on student health that includes the range from emotional/social issues to diagnosed disorders is a key piece of prevention efforts. It is obviously needed. About one in five adolescents has a mental health disorder and 60 percent to 90 percent of them don’t ask for or receive treatment, according to Child Trends. Most mental health needs of adolescents are first identified in schools, although the point I make in my column is that intervention often does not come soon enough.
This conversation ought to continue next Tuesday when Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler holds a public hearing about insurance plans and coverage of mental health services. Participation is vital because testimony from the public hearing will be used to craft rules guiding mental health parity requirements in this state. Families looking for more information about mental health services can find plenty at the Early Assessment Support Alliance website.
October 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times editorial board. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner offer dramatically different takes on the federal budget battle and the government shutdown. This interactive includes a poll about American sentiment toward the political standoff.
Republicans are just taking on a partisan-passed law.
Lynne, all the sewage poured on the Republicans for “shutting down the government” is partisan and unreasonable. Yes, the Republicans are stubborn. But stubbornness takes two. And which side is asking to negotiate? The Republicans. Who is refusing to give a centimeter? Obama and the Senate Democrats. And the voices in the press (around here, anyway) are saying, “oh, you pig-headed Republicans.”
Let’s be fair here. What has happened? The Democrats in the Senate have passed a continuing resolution that funds everything in the government. The Republicans in the House have passed one that funds everything in the government except Obamacare.
Imagine two families were going to have a barbecue and the plan made months before was to have beef, pork, chicken and fish. Imagine one family changed its mind about the fish: They hated the whole idea of fish, but they were OK with the beef, pork and chicken. And if the first family insisted on the original plan and the second family insisted on no fish, and they were at loggerheads and guests were starting to go hungry, what would be the reasonable course of action?
Have the beef, pork and chicken, and save the fish until later. And if they couldn’t agree and the result was no food at all, would it be reasonable to put the entire blame on the family who didn’t want the fish?
It’s true that Obamacare is the law. But so was paid family leave, and the Legislature in Olympia refused to fund it, and it wasn’t funded. Legislatures can do that. They make the law. And Obamacare was a partisan law, passed entirely by Democrats, including members of the House of Representatives who are no longer in office. It squeaked through the U.S. Supreme Court by one vote. It is the law, yes, but this fight means it is still in play.
Basically, the people making ugly faces at Republicans are supporters of Obamacare. They are saying, “We won! Fight’s over.” And it’s not over. It angers them that it isn’t over, and they are having a tantrum about it.
Republicans shut down government, they can open it back up.
Interesting analogy Bruce. To misquote any restaurant chef, “You don’t want the fish, don’t eat the fish!” House Republicans must stop trying to prevent others from choosing the fish, or in the real-life example, medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Americans are not pleased. A new Gallup poll shows the GOP’s brand is at a new low. A CNN/ORC International poll spreads the blame among Republicans, Democrats and Obama. Nobody is winning in this ugly battle.
The federal government is closed and the nation’s ability to make good on its debt is imperiled due to a law that passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Sure, laws are not sacrosanct. They are altered or thrown out regularly by Congress and state Legislatures. But Americans enduring a second week without employment or a paycheck would prefer House Republicans to not abuse the power of the taxpayer purse by re-fighting a battle they lost.
Defenders argue this is just the messy democracy James Madison and other Founding Fathers envisioned with the whole “checks and balances” principle. Please! Someone show me where in the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers or the Bill of Rights it is proposed that the losing side of a legislative debate shut down government until they get their way.
What may have started out as a crafty tactic by the tiny but powerful tea-party wing of the GOP has gone far afield. The Pentagon has turned to a charity to pick up the costs of burying dead American soldiers, this Associated Press story sadly reports. Another Associated Press story warns that the benefits of more than 500,000 military veterans and surviving spouses and children are at risk during the government shutdown.
Bruce, you ask rhetorically which side is willing to negotiate and then answer the Republicans. But it was Obama who invited the House Republican conference to the White House only to have 18 out of the 232 invited attend, reported the Daily Kos website.
Ever mindful of the 2016 presidential election, this New York Times story says GOP leaders may be softening their stance because they are starting to feel isolated from even their strongest supporters — business — and because backers like the Koch brothers are distancing themselves from the shutdown battle. It’s a timely shift in strategy inspired by tanking poll numbers.
September 14, 2013 at 10:03 AM
A retired colleague took umbrage at the op-ed piece in The New York Times by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The piece was an argument against an attack by the U.S. government on Syria and for using the United Nations instead. It also criticized the American idea that we are an “exceptional” nation.
Said my retired colleague: “This is an obvious propaganda piece by Putin and The New York Times fell for it. It shouldn’t have run it.”
Of course it is a propaganda piece. It’s what the Russian government wants Americans to believe. But is an article by Obama, or a member of Congress, or a newspaper columnist any different in that respect? Each is making an argument. In each case the reader is invited to consider the argument and the biases of the person making it.
Should we ban the Russian argument? Why? If we were at war with them, sure. But we’re not. Why not hear him out? (more…)
August 12, 2013 at 6:30 AM
Diplomacy is variously described as saying nice doggie, while groping for a rock, or the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way they look forward to the trip.
The point is to keep talking because of what might be accomplished. One cannot predict results, so keep chatting away. Keep the lines of communication open.
President Barack Obama was sufficiently ticked off by the Russians granting asylum to classified leaker Edward Snowden that the president canceled a summit meeting next month.
Obama is still going to the G-20 conclave in St. Petersburg, but a private get-together with President Vladimir Putin was scrapped. Obama had no compelling reason for doing so, at least nothing he shared in his one-hour press conference on Friday.
The U.S. president said his past chats with the Russian leader have been candid and blunt, and often very productive, but he would take a pass this time.
No, Obama said, it was not just about Snowden. A lack of progress on other topics – described earlier by the White House as arms control, trade, commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society – pushed the decision not to meet, the president said.
Really, a litany of important, unfinished business to talk about at the highest level is why two leaders would not meet?
Obama is ticked off. Fair enough. But that is no reason not to meet.
Snowden is irrelevant in his own way. His poor choices mock whatever point he was trying to make. His protests of the U.S. government’s treatment of citizens stirs him to seek shelter in that land of the brave and the home of the free – Russia?
Obama opened his press conference with a pledge to investigate the transparency and safeguards around U.S. intelligence and surveillance functions. He also invited Snowden to defend his release of government secrets in court. Maybe he will when he gets a sense of the devil’s bargain he accepted with Putin’s offer of refuge.
July 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The state Legislature narrowly averted a government shut down last week by passing an operating budget. Congress had a fiscally-related deadline too but failed to meet it. The result is that today federal student loan interest rates rose from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That’s double the current rate paid by more than 7 million students nationwide. The jump hits Washington state hard. Last year, 45 percent of the freshmen enrolled in our public higher-education system borrowed for college.
Congress’ failure is disappointing. Times editorials here and here argued for action by Congress. Last year, lawmakers extended the current rate when they could not agree on a more long-term solution. But they failed to do so this time. A nation hamstrung by more than $1 trillion in student loan debt must tackle interest rates.
Congress recessed for the Fourth of July holiday and several members of the state’s delegation, including Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Suzan DelBene will be at the University of Washington at 10 a.m. this morning to push for the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 (S. 1238) which would extend low rates for a year giving Congress time to work on a long-term solution.
June 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM
President Barack Obama is meeting Friday and Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Cybersecurity and economics aside, the human rights issue should surely come up. The New York Times reports more than 30 organizations are urging Obama to call for the release of at least 16 political prisoners in China, including 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
Let’s not forget Kenneth Bae, the American tour operator from Lynnwood. He was living and working in China when he crossed the border into North Korea last November. Bae has languished within North Korea’s notorious prison system for seven months now. In May, he was reportedly transferred to a new site to begin a 15-year hard labor sentence for supposedly plotting to overthrow the government. On May 2, Amnesty International raised serious concerns about his lack of access to a lawyer.
May 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM
President Obama’s efforts to regain America’s economic edge by ramping up science, engineering, technology and math businesses has a fan in Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
Fresh from attending the White House’s third annual Science Fair, Nye spoke this week with the Huffington Post about the smart intersections of science and technology. Nye emphasized a point I’ve often made: America’s success depends on getting more at-risk students to take STEM courses.
The White House last month announced the US2020 campaign encouraging companies to commit 20 percent of their tech employees to 20 hours a year of mentoring or teaching by the year 2020.
Local examples lead the way on the president’s efforts, particularly the robotics club at Tacoma’s Lincoln Center High School. The club is receving widespread recognition, including an expected visit Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee, for computer application designs and a partnership with Bellevue-based Concur Technologies. Employees from Concur have been teaching Lincoln Center students basic coding and software development.
On the national level, Nye – a popular scientist who hosts television shows on PBS, The Science Channel, and Planet Green – is optimistic about the president’s efforts to harness private companies and government efforts. He also underscores something I believe will be the best thing to come out of all the attention on STEM: every student getting a solid ground in science and technology regardless of their career aspirations.
“We want our whole society to know and appreciate the value of science … whether or not you become scientist or an engineer,” Nye told the Huffington Post.
President Obama has committed $3.2 billion to bolstering STEM education in K-12 education and creating a teaching corps with expertise in STEM fields. Other critical initiatives include encouraging more girls to study STEM as this Seattle Times op-ed noted last fall. Nye, film actor LeVar Burton and others talk about STEM on the White House lawn in the video below.
April 25, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Update: Getting five living U.S. presidents together offers a profound visual of American democracy. To hear them speak of each other with respect and admiration for the complexities of the top job in the world is humbling. Say what you will about former President George W. Bush, and President Obama did on Thursday, the guy deserves some credit. In his speech Obama credited Bush with ” leading the global fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, helping to save millions of lives and reminding people in some of the poorest corners of the globe that America cares and that we’re here to help.” Obama also hailed Bush’s bipartisan approach to education “reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like Ted Kennedy, because he believed that we had to reform our schools in ways that help every child learn, not just some.” Obama’s salute underscores the ways Bush’s legacy will be a complex mix of good and terrible.
Earlier: Here’s proof that time apparently does heal some wounds. On the eve of Thursday’s dedication of Bush’s presidential library and museum in Dallas, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 47 percent of Americans now approve of the former president. Half of Americans still disapprove.
That’s an improvement over Bush’s 39 percent approval ratings when he left office. And among registered voters, it puts Bush’s approval ratings right around President Obama’s, according to the Post-ABC surveys.
President Obama has some serious work to do. His approval ratings ought to be higher than the former president’s. I’ll get to why in a minute. But this Washington Post story gives a contextual sense of why Bush’s raised approval ratings are such a surprise. (more…)