U.S. cracks down on border meeting spot for Mexicans

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – The United States has severely restricted access to a spot on the Mexican border where families and lovers divided by illegal immigration could unite briefly to hold hands or kiss through a fence.

This Stock Is a Train Wreck

That seems an apt metaphor for Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ). Until recently, everything was going fine for the biotech drug developer. Revenue growth averaged 22% annually from 2003 through 2008. Then the first car slid off the track, as the Food and Drug

Ryan McDermott: Afghanistan: No Good Alternatives

We have been at war for eight years and the pace of military action has yet to decrease. How long can it go on? Clearly, the troops are worn and our children’s future is at stake.

This past week, I marched with my seven year old son Brandon in the NYC Veteran’s day parade along with a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I brought Brandon along for the march because combat is a journey that is made by troops and their families alike. It was special to march with my son, because it reminded me of the time I spent away from him in 2003. I was also reminded of the troops now deployed away from their families and the President’s upcoming strategic decision on the war in Afghanistan.

As I watched Brandon march down Fifth Avenue by my side, I considered whether he might ever choose to serve in the military. He would be a good soldier, I think. Brandon is a good team player and is full of determination. It is a scary thought, but I would be proud if he served our country one day. Hopefully, we’ll have capable leaders who understand the nature of war and do everything to avoid it. This assumes that we will have ended this war which after eight years seems no closer to resolution than when it began.

The President’s decision on Afghanistan could determine whether children born after September 11th are sent to this war. It might have seemed unfathomable back in 2001 to think that this war would have gone on so long, but here we are eight years in and no end in sight.

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The President is about to face his biggest test in office — answering a call from his Generals to escalate an already unpopular war. There are no good alternatives in war, only lesser evils. As much as President Obama might try to build consensus, accountability for the decision will be his and his alone.

Certainly, history will judge President Obama’s decision with caveats — that he inherited a war put on the backburner and an economy on the brink of collapse. However, at this point in history the President has the opportunity to reaffirm a previously chosen path, or to choose a new one. History will judge him on this point.

However, historians will not judge President Obama for decades to come, most likely. In the meantime, he has plenty of skeptics and political rivals to deal with. Although I concede that Bob Woodward will probably have a play-by-play analysis of the decision making process in an upcoming book, the long-term implications of the actual decision will not be known for decades. The outcome rests with our troops overseas and the viability of the strategy employed.

Most, if not all, politicians will hedge their support one way or another. Those who support counter-insurgency will say they think we should send more troops faster, while those opposed will say that we shouldn’t send any. Again, it is easy to be a skeptic — history does not judge them.

There will always be hawks that believe we should do more and doves who think no wars are worth fighting. However, the strategy not selected will always look better as time wears on because alternative histories never have to deal with the realities of the unknown. The narratives scripted by skeptics are never soundly tested, nor can they be refuted with evidence.

This is one reason why the “go big or go home” rationale might make sense if it were possible to take either course. It is irrefutable that we cannot “go big” enough to satisfy the extreme on that end. We don’t have the resources.

On the other side, the “go home” option is also impossible; at least in the immediate term. The question is ‘how to do it responsibly?’ It is impossible to please anyone. No one is content when troops are dying and nor should they. That’s the bottom line.

To stave off the effects of criticism the President will be required to continue to make his case to the American people until we begin to realize success. That may be impossible in light of the challenging economy we currently face.

So far, the President has handled criticism well from my perspective. Getting the decision right for the long-term is infinitely more important than satisfying any constituency in the short-term.

I appreciate that the President has taken time to deliberate this decision. Stepping back for a moment, it seems clear to me that a decision to send such large numbers of troops overseas could not be made with any less deliberation without jeopardizing the mission going forward. The President is right to take time. We needed time to test our assumptions. Still, I imagine that the troops are getting restless. It is difficult being on the front lines and not knowing how things might change. I’ve been there and sympathize with those troops in that position.

I am undecided on which direction we should take in Afghanistan because potential success largely rests in the convictions of our President and the will of the American people. It is important to understand that there is no silver bullet strategy. I believe several strategies could be successful if properly resourced and implemented — including the ‘going home’ option. Execution is far more important and requires leadership full of conviction.

The complexity of the issue is important to note, however. Taking the wrong approach might lead to short-term gains while ensuring a more dramatic long-term failure. Pragmatism is required.

The most coherent rationale for being in Afghanistan relates to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Our assumption is that extremists could take over the Pakistani government if we were to leave Afghanistan. I believe this assumption, whether true or faulty, should be the key point tested in determining our mission in the region and whether we should have one there at all.

How does this end? Or, better yet, how can this end?

Buried within the central question of “how can it end” are numerous issues that make the situation much more complex than Iraq was in 2006. Most obvious of all, in my mind, is that Iraq possesses oil that it can sell to fund its budget requirements. Afghanistan lacks the same natural resources and economic potential. Furthermore, the enemy we have been fighting, the Taliban, is indigenous to Afghanistan.

One question we have to ask is, should we try to destroy the Taliban, or is there another strategy to achieve our original goal? — denying sanctuary to Al Qaeda.

We are now poised to help the Afghans further grow their military to provide security for their people. If this mission is reinforced as a key component of the President’s new strategy, then it might offer us a way out of Afghanistan while denying Al Qaeda sanctuary.

We should closely examine the long-term implications of this approach, however.

Our Generals have been clear — Afghanistan will likely require a similar commitment to execute a successful counter-insurgency as we conducted in Iraq. Yet, I believe the challenge in Afghanistan is greater than it was in Iraq. For one, how can Afghanistan’s economy sustain the military force that we are about to arm, equip and train with limited tax revenues?

In considering strategy, the President should weigh Afghanistan’s economic potential in determining the long-term viability of their government in addition to the credibility of Afghani leadership.

Iraq’s economy was a strategic focus in the counter-insurgency effort, as coalition forces sought ways to facilitate the repair of its oil industry. If we don’t address the economic question in Afghanistan, then we could end up building a house of cards ready to collapse when we eventually leave.

If we are to proceed with any portion of a counter-insurgency option, then I’d propose that we be prepared to invest a significant amount into developing Afghanistan’s infrastructure. We should also consider investing in building more schools as some have suggested. Investing in Afghanistan’s infrastructure might allow their government to become self-sustaining within the intermediate-term. Infrastructure is the catalyst for long-term growth. Failing to facilitate economic growth will only deepen Afghanistan’s dependence on our presence as they grow their government and security forces.

The President is certainly aware the potential backlash here in the U.S. of investing in another country’s economy while ours still struggles. Can we invest the necessary amount in Afghanistan to promote success while also living up to our obligations at home? That is an enormous challenge, but not necessarily impossible.

The economic question is pivotal in my mind because growing the Afghan Army to combat insurgent forces could backfire as did our support of the mujahedeen years ago. At some point, the American people will probably demand our leaders to get out of Afghanistan either in polling or at the voting booth. At that point, will we have left Afghanistan in a self-sustaining position, or will we risk ending right back where we started?

We should not forget our original intent — denying sanctuary for Al Qaeda. Balancing this need with our economic security must be a strategic priority. At some point, too, we must bring the troops home.

I pray that this war is over by the time my son Brandon is of age to enlist in the military. Children born after the start of this war should not be put in a position to play a role in ending it. Some of the options being considered make that a possibility. Already, their generation will help to pay for it.

Unfortunately, our President has no good alternatives in Afghanistan, only the necessary decision.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ryan McDermott.

Read more: Afghanistan, Iraq, Economy, Barack Obama, Terrorism, September 11th, Al Qaeda, World News

Overdue Mortgages And Foreclosures Reach Record Highs

US mortgage delinquency rates and the percentage of loans that entered the foreclosure process jumped in the third quarter, with both reaching record highs, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.

The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started rose to 1.42 percent in the third quarter, an all-time high, up from 1.36 percent in the second quarter and 1.07 percent in the third quarter of 2008.

Read more: Foreclosures, Mortgages, Housing Market, Unemployment, Housing, Financial Crisis, Unemployment Rate, Housing Crisis, Business News

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: Navigating the Jobs Crisis: Clean Energy and Good Jobs Go Hand in Hand

As part of the Roosevelt Institute’s 10-part series on the Jobs Crisis, running on the New Deal 2.0 blog from Nov. 12-25, I was asked to reflect on what can be done to get Americans working again. Here’s my take.

It’s difficult for most Americans to accept data indicating an end to the recession for a simple reason — they don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite a quarter of growth, the unemployment rate has topped 10%, the highest it has been since 1983. Among people of color, the rates are even higher, with Latino unemployment exceeding 13%, and unemployment in the African-American community just shy of 16%. Economic growth does not mean that Americans experience economic relief; without stable jobs for everyday Americans, this cannot be considered a recovery. Recovery necessitates that jobs be created — jobs that provide stable employment for years, not months.

Green shoots of an employment recovery are showing through the investments made under President Obama’s Recovery Act, which is already producing impressive innovation and the beginnings of job and wealth creation in green industries. Clean-energy sectors, which hold the promise of being major engines of job growth, are creating opportunities for those communities hit hardest by the recession: low-income communities and communities of color.

Portland, Oregon, for example, is using Recovery Act investments to launch a revolving loan fund that will help residents pay for energy-efficiency improvements to their homes. This program will save energy, save money and create 10,000 local jobs. A groundbreaking Community Workforce Agreement will further ensure that those jobs are available to workers from low-income and other disadvantaged communities.

In New York City, Recovery Act investments are helping the Community Environmental Center (CEC) hire more workers and weatherize more buildings. The largest Weatherization Assistance Program provider in the state, CEC is a union shop providing good wages and benefits. And thanks to a partnership between the union (the Laborers Local 10) and Non-Traditional Employment for Women, women and historically disadvantaged workers have the opportunity to win those jobs.

These local examples reinforce what larger, national investigations have shown. In our report Green Prosperity, Green For All, the Political Economy Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council showed that clean-energy investment creates roughly three to four times as many jobs as comparable investment in fossil fuel industries. The report estimates that investing $150 billion (public and private) in clean energy will create a net gain of 1.7 million jobs. Renewable energy and energy efficiency replace the damage done to our environment by fossil fuels with good, sustainable jobs for American workers. Building a green economy involves more than a shift to clean energy — it will provide a shift to a more skilled and labor-intensive economy.

The Recovery Act is promising — but it is only a beginning. Congress and the president must take the next step: enacting strong climate and energy legislation. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, just reported out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will invest public money in clean energy. But moreover, it will also encourage private investment and innovation by sending a clear message: clean energy is the future of our economy. Those who invest early and robustly will be reap the benefits.

There are ways, though, that the Clean Energy Jobs Act can be made even stronger. We must to increase clean-energy investments while fully protecting low-income consumers from price hikes. We must protect two key provisions: the Green Construction Careers Demonstration Project and funding for the Green Jobs Act. These provisions ensure that the bill not only creates jobs, but that all of America’s workers have access to and are ready for these jobs – particularly the workers impacted most severely by the economy’s downturn.

An economic recovery, after all, is not a percentage point noted in a press release. A real recovery is one in which Americans can be confident that, regardless of where they live or what they look like, they have an opportunity to succeed in the economy. We must measure our true progress by a different metric: the number of career-track, green jobs that we create for those Americans who need them most.

This post originally appeared on New Deal 2.0.

Read more: Financial Crisis, Economic Recovery, Clean Energy, Green Jobs, Recovery Act, Economy, Business News

Foreclosures: Prime Borrowers Are The Latest Victims

WASHINGTON — A rising proportion of fixed-rate home loans made to people with good credit are sinking into foreclosure, adding to concerns about the strength of the economic recovery.

Driven by rising unemployment, such loans accounted for nearly one-third of new foreclosures last quarter. That compares with just 21 percent a year ago, when high-risk subprime loans made during the housing boom were the main reason for default.

Read more: Mortgage Crisis, Foreclosures, Financial Crisis, Foreclosure Crisis, Prime Borrowers, Home Loans, Business News

Geithner Asked To Resign; ‘Mr. Secretary, The Public Has Lost All Confidence In Your Ability To Do Your Job’ (VIDEO)

A heated exchange erupted on Capitol Hill today as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was explicitly asked to resign.

The ranking House Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, ticked off a litany of economic concerns and perceived economic failures, adding that there’s a “growing liberal consensus” that Geithner has failed as Treasury Secretary, and that “conservatives agree that as the point person on the economy, you’ve failed,” before he asked Geithner: “Will you step down from your post?”

Geithner defended his track record, declined to step down, and added, “I agree with almost nothing of what you said… and almost nothing of what you said regarding the economy is accurate.”

Geithner went on to say, reports The Hill:

“Again, it’s just a basic fact: A year ago, this economy was falling at the rate of 6 percent a year. We were losing between half a million and three-quarters of a million jobs a month,” he added, noting those numbers changed direction when President Barack Obama took office.

Brady quickly responded:

“Mr. Secretary, the public has lost all confidence in your ability to do your job. Conservatives agree… liberals agree… it is time for a fresh start.” He added that Geithner’s failure was beginning “to reflect on your president.”

To which Geithner shot back, “If you look at any measure of confidence… it is substantially stronger today [than when the President took office].”

“Tell all of that to the millions of American who no longer have jobs because of your decisions,” Brady said. “At some point you have to take some responsibility for your decisions.”

SEE the video BELOW:

Read more: Financial Crisis, Geithner Asked to Resign, Kevin Brady Geithner, Tim Geithner, Kevin Brady, Business News