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As Obama Proposes Goldman De-Bank and Liability Cap, of Dodd and BofA's Evasions

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, January 21 -- Two hours before President Barack Obama unveiled additions to his financial reform proposals, limiting the mix of banking and proprietary trading and setting a cap on liabilities and not only deposits, several of his senior officials briefed the press.

  They were relentlessly "on message," emphasizing how comprehensive the package is, how they are "working with Senator Dodd" without mentioning that he will not run for re-election.

  They repeatedly referred to the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (or "Consumer Protection Agency," as one of them called it), without address that Dodd himself is said to be moving away from the proposal, eager some say to have his name on a bill, any bill.

  The new proposals would, by barring a company that owns a bank from forms of proprietary trading or owning, investing in or advising a private equity or hedge fund, seem to require Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to de-bank. Two questions directly raised Goldman, but the senior administration officials dodged both of them. One asked if the timing of the announcement is tied to Goldman's release of earnings. This was denied.

  A second proposal, not clearly spelled out in the briefing, would set a cap on liabilities similar to the 10% deposit cap ostensibly in place since 1994. That cap has been evaded. As South Bronx based Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press have repeatedly shown, Bank of America has been at or over the cap but still allowed to make acquisitions.

Bank of America, evading the cap, new proposals and Dodd not shown

  B of A simply reduces the visible level of deposits by pricing, and then picked them up afterwards. The regulators helped evade the cap by including deposits outside of the United States in the denominator calculating the 10%. Why would this be any different?

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For IMF, Canceling Haiti's Debt is Medium Term Goal, Outcome Uncertain, UN's IFAD, Venezuela and Taiwan Are Creditors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- While the IMF's Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn rushed out a statement that the "IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt," on Thursday morning his spokesperson Caroline Atkinson called this a "medium range" goal.

She emphasized that Strauss-Kahn cannot predict how the IMF board will vote, when it meets next week. She mentioned the outstanding bilateral loan to Haiti of Venezuela, but not Taiwan's reported $92 million loan. Taiwan is of particular interest in light of mainland China's dispatch to Haiti of a 125 member "riot squad" fomed police unit, a senior delegation there on the day of the earthquake, and a search and rescue team the day after.

  Among Haiti's creditors is the UN system's International Fund for Agricultural Development. Even as the UN has done into "Haiti only" mode for the past nine days, there's been no talk of canceling the UN's own loans to Haiti.

  Strauss-Kahn's "Marshall Plan" comments have been portrayed by some progressives -- or "anti-poverty" activists, as one reporter at the IMF's January 21 briefing phrased it -- as a victory for online activism. But Strauss-Kahn's grand statement may mean less than first appeared.

  Inner City Press submitted several questions to the IMF during its January 21 briefing, held in a new broadcast center, about Haiti as well as Romania, Iceland and Serbia. While Ms. Aktinson read out and at least purported to respond to Inner City Press' Romania question, this Haiti question was ignored:

The M-D has said "IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt." What exactly is the IMF doing, with the IADB, IFAD, Venezuela and Taiwan? When does the IMF anticipate canceling its $265 million in loans? Do any of the past conditions apply to the first $165 million?

  The IMF has in the past provided same day written responses to questions submitted but not answered at its bi-weekly briefing. That should be done today. Watch this site.

Haitian ministry

Two other unanswered questions are, "Please state the relation between the Icesave referendum and the IMF's consideration of Iceland."

"In Serbia, National Bank of Serbia governor Radovan Jelasic has said that restrictions on raises are in connection with the IMF. True?"

Note that on the IMF's outstanding $165 million loan to Haiti, reportedly the conditions included restrictions on public sector pay raises, and lifting the price of electricity.

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At UN on Haiti, Ban Dodges on Immigration, Armenians Rebuffed, No Copter Update

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- As the UN Security Council voted to authorize 3500 more peacekeepers for Haiti, including 1500 more police, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on member states to step forward with offers of troops.

  Inner City Press asked about the Dominican Republic's offer of a battalion, said to number 800, and whether Ban and the UN think that countries should be less stringent with their immigration restrictions after the Haitian earthquake.

  Mr. Ban replied by praising the Dominican Republic for its troop offer -- which some see as simply blue helmeting a border guarding force -- and for its help with the humanitarian effort. He is aware, he said, of the Dominican Republic's attempt to accommodate Haitians within the Republic's "rules and regulations."

  Inner City Press asked Ban about reports that the UN had run out of fuel for its trucks to deliver aid. Top humanitarian John Holmes passed a note to Ban Ki-moon, who read out that last night 10,000 gallons of fuels had arrived.

  When Holmes himself took to the custom made podium brought out for Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked him about a reported complaint by Armenia's Mission to the UN, that they had offered a rescue team last Thursday but were never told of any UN acceptance or decision.

  Holmes replied that he was unaware, but that there are always issues of matching needs with offers. But from member states?

   Inner City Press, which reported exclusively Monday evening about what UN sources said was a helicopter crash in Haiti, asked chief Peacekeeper Alain Leroy for an update. I've seen those reports, he said, but I have no new information this morning. He said to ask Edmond Mulet, who will be appearing later on Tuesday by video link from Haiti.

UN's Ban and former spokeswoman, answers on immigration not shown

  The Ambassador of China Zhang Yesui, this month's Security Council president, came out at announced the Council's vote. While usually he leaves the stakeout without taking any questions -- on Monday he walked away as Inner City Press asked about the attacks in Afghanistan -- this time he called on Xinhua, and offered a long answer on camera, in Chinese. It concerned the UN's role in responding to Haiti.

  Asked if China would offer any more troops -- its 125 member contingent is, as Inner City Press has reported, a "riot squad" that when rotated has flown back to Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region -- Zhang Yesui said it would be taken under advisement.

  The last speaker at the stakeout was U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, who came prepared with an answer to Inner City Press' question of Monday, whether the $100 million of aid announced by President Barack Obama would be part of the UN's flash appeal.

  No, Ambassador Wolff said, the $100 million is "bilateral." But he said that the US will be contributing generously to the UN's flash appeal, in the coming days. We'll see.

Footnote: because the UN and even Security Council has become all Haiti, all the time for now, Inner City Press asked the U.S.'s Alejandro Wolff about reports of bombing in Darfur, requests to protect civilians, and Chad's statement it does not want the mandate of the Darfur related MINURCAT peacekeeping mission renewed. Wolff said the U.S. is concerned and is seeking more information. Inner City Press has asked the UN too, and hopes to be able to write more on this topic shortly. Watch this site.

From the UN's January 19 transcript:

Inner City Press: Mr. Secretary-General, the Dominican Republic has offered a battalion – it has been said publicly – they’ve also said that they are very concerned about immigration and people crossing the border. Does the UN have anything to say whether countries should loosen their immigration restrictions on Haitians, or otherwise, after this crisis? And also, does the UN still have gas to run its trucks? There was a report in USA Today that the UN was running out of gas for its food distribution trucks.

SG Ban Ki-moon: From the beginning of this crisis, the Dominican Republic Government has been providing very generously and swiftly all possible assistance to their neighbouring country, Haiti, and we are very much grateful to them. I am also aware of the Dominican Republic’s intention to dispatch troops there - that is also welcome. For the immigration issues, I am also aware that the Dominican Republic Government is trying to accommodate as many as possible, those people within the existing rules and regulations of their country, but they have been very generous. Of course, this fuel is quite limited in Haiti. Ten thousand gallons of fuel, I think, arrived last night from the Dominican Republic. That will help more, as we continue our operations.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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