Katie Paul

Stories by Katie Paul

  • Four Regulatory Reforms Obama Should Urge in Financial Speech

    Lehman Brothers is dead; long live Lehman Brothers. Exactly one year after the ill-fated financial colossus filed for bankruptcy, spurring weeks of economic chaos and months of crippling recession, the verdict is in: little has changed in the culture of Wall Street.With that in mind, President Obama is set to mark the anniversary of Lehman's collapse today with a "major" speech that he hopes will reinvigorate efforts to overhaul the banking system. Congressional enthusiasm for reform proposals introduced by the White House earlier this summer has stalled, beaten back by a vicious health-care debate and industry opposition. So, just after noon at New York's Federal Hall, located in the heart of the financial district, Obama will seek to shift the focus back to the Street. The timing is just as significant as the location; in a little more than week, the G20 will meet in Pittsburgh, presenting a do-or-die opportunity to get the world's economic movers and...
  • New York Times Calls for Maziar Bahari's Release

    The New York Times editorial today calls on Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to free our Man in Iran, Maziar Bahari. Maziar was detained over two months ago while covering Iran's disputed elections and the protests and government crackdowns that followed. Among those unjustly detained is Maziar Bahari, a respected documentary filmmaker and correspondent for Newsweek who has been in prison since June 21. A native Iranian who is now a Canadian citizen, Mr. Bahari has not been officially charged and has not been allowed to see a lawyer. Yet he was forced to confess that he and others took part in a “velvet coup” engineered by the West to oust Mr. Ahmadinejad. Such charges are blatantly false.Mr. Bahari’s work as a journalist and a filmmaker is internationally recognized. As he endures Tehran’s grim Evin prison, he is a finalist this week for Spain’s coveted Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, given to groups or individuals for encouraging and promoting the “scientific,...
  • Kevin Rudd's Unintentional Chinese Orgasm

    Noticed chilly relations between Australia and China recently? According to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the problem may have deep roots. As he recounted yesterday to university students about an early experience in his diplomatic career:"Apparently, what I'd said as I sought to elevate his expression into a more classical form, was that China and Australia are currently experiencing fantastic mutual orgasm," he said, delivering a speech late Thursday."Ever since then, our Chinese friends have remembered my visits to Beijing, (saying) 'Ah, you were the one...'," added Rudd."Perhaps that explains some of the challenges in our current relationship with the Chinese."
  • On Berlusconi Libel Suit, a Modest Suggestion

     Say what you will about him, but Silvio Berlusconi is a man of his word. This morning, the 72-year-old Italian prime minister's lawyer announced that Berlusconi is making good on his promise to pursue legal action against the myriad media outlets that have delighted in publishing photos and accounts of sexual antics that would make Jean-Claude Van Damme blush. Per Reuters, he is filing libel suits against newspapers in Italy, France, Spain, and Britain. The charges:...
  • Investors Take a Crack at the Hitler Downfall Meme

    Today, Hitler gets a new reason to throw one of his epic meme-making temper tantrums: he's missed the market bottom.Sadly, this incarnation of the meme is surely one of his lesser efforts. For one, it's about a bull market, not the Cowboys getting gloriously pummeled by the Giants (obviously, I'm biased). More egregiously, though, a slide at the very end makes it clear that the meme has been co-opted by an investment company trying to convince people to, well, invest. It seems Shares Property Money, the website behind the video, has turned Hitler's rant into a long advertisement for their investment strategies DVD.Shameless though it may be, still, they have a point. The video is making the rounds in investor circles, with some saying it perfectly captures the mood of the folks in the know about the markets. Sure enough, smart bulls like Barton Biggs do think people should be in the market now. But before you go stocking up on investment DVDs, just remember:...
  • In Which East London ATMs Go Bonkers

    You know how you can choose which language you'd like your ATM to use in guiding you along to your cash? Apparently, in East London, you can now choose Cockney slang.
  • Bernie Madoff, Little Man in the Big House?

    Just imagine the rumors swirling around a certain medium-security prison in Butner, NC right now. This morning, via the New York Post, we learned that legendary Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff is dying of cancer, befriending the prison's "homosexual posse," and stripping off his shirt to participate in Native American religious purification ceremonies at a "sweat lodge." We also learned that some prisoners are regularly cooking sandwich wraps for him.Then this afternoon we learned via the federal Bureau of Prisons that the story is "full of inaccuracies" and Mr. Madoff is not suffering from cancer.And then again this afternoon, we learned that the Wall Street Journal checked with its sources and concluded that Mr. Madoff does have cancer. (No word on the Native American rituals, sandwiches or homosexual posses.)What does it all mean?  As my colleague Nick Summers reported back in June, a cottage industry of prison consultants stands ready to help...
  • The Rise and Fall of the Mercenary Formerly Known as Blackwater

    Poor Blackwater. They've tried a name change. They've kept a low profile. But still, they can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.Just when you think our days of howling over the misdeeds of private mercenary armies are behind us, the New York Times goes and exposes even more of their failings. This time, if you haven't heard, it's because the pre-Panetta CIA had been throwing everybody's favorite secretive military contractor unknown millions of dollars for a program designed to assassinate top Al Qaeda operatives. Seven years and zero dead bin Ladens later, I'd say it's safe to call this one a dud─and that's, seemingly, the conventional wisdom on Blackwater overall. Still, there was once a time when they were the hottest thing in Washington. Just for a quick refresher, here's a short timeline of Blackwater/Xe's rise and fall from grace:January 1997: Blackwater is founded in North Carolina by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince,...
  • Mike Huckabee, the Settlements, and the One-State Crowd

    Just call him Huckabee the Macabee. That's the nickname former (future?) Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee earned himself this week, after he essentially nixed the widely accepted goal of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute. While on a three-day tour of Israel, hosted by a group of far-right settlers group who took him to some of the most contentious spots in the land, Huckabee dismissed the notion that there could be a Palestinian state "in the middle of the Jewish homeland" as "virtually unrealistic," according to AP reports....
  • High Marks for U.S. in Africa, But Clinton's Trip No Cakewalk

    If she felt so inclined, Hillary Clinton could probably take it easy in Africa this week. That's what the numbers seem to imply, anyway. U.S. leaders enjoy some of their highest job performance ratings there, up even further from their dizzying heights during the Bush administration, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.In Kenya, for example, where she kicks off her seven-country tour of the continent on Wednesday, 93 percent of the population approves of U.S. leadership. That's up from 82 percent last year. Among the seven countries surveyed, the median approval rating sits happily at 87 percent, up from 80 percent last year.Not surprisingly, a lot of that has to do with Clinton's boss. Africans are enormously excited about the Obama presidency. Obama earned himself even more good will with his recent stop in Ghana. And the fact that Clinton's trip this week is the longest she's taken since assuming her diplomatic post earns the administration even...
  • Eliot Spitzer on the Cuomo Report: Serve Subpoenas

    You might have heard about a little report from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo this morning. With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer─it's titled No Rhyme or Reason: The 'Heads I Win, Tails You Lose' Bank Bonus Culture, for chrissakes─it gives the most detailed accounting to date of the Wall Street bonus fiasco, showing that, as they were losing billions, a whopping 4,793 lucky folks took home bonuses of $1 million or more last year.It's grist for the rage mill, to be sure, but is it a game changer? To find out, I checked in with another man making noise about regulation these days: Eliot Spitzer, once known as "Lord High Executioner" among the Wall Street crowd for the delight he took in making their lives difficult. Here's what he had to say about the matter:So I take it you’ve heard about this Cuomo report?Is that the one about the poor investment bankers struggling to pay their bills?That’s it. It’s a sad tale.Yeah, like Dickens.My basic...
  • The Embassy Strikes Back: Ecuador's Response to NEWSWEEK

    Mac Margolis wrote last week about how the reliable democracies of Latin America have stood idly by while their more volatile neighbors eroded democratic institutions like legislatures and constitutions. Here, Ecuador's man in Washington responds:There once was a time in the United States when only land-owning white men were allowed to vote. At the time it was called a democracy, although most citizens were excluded.  Your correspondent Mac Margolis seems to long for such a time. Clearly he fears majority rule in Central and South America and disapproves of leaders who "exacerbate the region's class and race pathologies" by encouraging poor and indigenous people to vote and participate in their government.Margolis sees little wrong with the Honduran military kidnapping that country's president and overthrowing its government, for all his worries about preserving what he calls "reliable democracies." He finds it alarming that countries like Ecuador...
  • UNDP to Arab World: Make Stuff, Not War

    Generally speaking, the UN gets low points for shock value on the Arab Human Development report it released today, the gist of which can be reduced to war = insecurity = bad for business. But Chapter 5, the economy section, deserves a look for two big reasons.Reason A: The GDP Rollercoaster Ride If there were ever any question as to the...
  • What's Behind Those Mysterious Billions in Bank Profits

    These last couple of days, my inbox has been filling up with news alerts announcing glistening second-quarter profits at the banks everyone loves to hate: $3.4 billion at Goldman Sachs, $2.7 billion at JP Morgan, $3.2 billion at BofA.I like a good economic recovery as much as the next guy, but it seems a little too good to be true, doesn't it? Where's this money coming from? How are the banks doing so swell when they haven't come close to clearing out all the trash inventory that sank them in the first place?Viral Acharya, a finance professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, has some thoughts:A large number of banks borrowed government debt in October or November of last year. It basically allowed the banks to borrow at a low fee, so effectively the banks became riskless. Once they got the large capital injections, suddenly the issue of them failing in the short term was gone. The bank earnings now seem a lot rosier. I'm happy for the banks,...
  • Roubini to the Street: Chill Out

    Even Dr. Doom seemed to be all sunshine and lollipops yesterday. Nouriel Roubini, one of the few economists to accurately predict the magnitude of the...
  • Word on the Street: Summers at Peterson on Friday

    The White House has a release out this morning announcing that Larry Summers will take the stage at the Peterson Institute for International Economics this Friday to deliver a progress report on the economic crisis. Given how many waves Friday press conferences have been known to cause, should we expect high drama?According to econ columnist Bob Samuelson in our D.C. bureau, probably not. This latest installment generally falls into the administration pattern, he says; the Obama people think they can manage public opinion,...
  • First They Came For the Economists...

    But in China, it seems, a few hundred people are saying something. A 39-year-old Uighar scholar named Ilham Tohti vanished from his home last week after officials accused his website, Uighar Online, of serving as a platform to stir up civil unrest. Now, reports are emerging that Chinese intellectuals are rallying around his cause, even while officials refuse to acknowledge whether or not they are actually holding him.Mr. Tohti has certainly been critical of Beijing in the past; he defiantly told Radio Free Asia in March that unemployment among Uighars is among the highest in the world, and that he will continue saying so "no matter what." But inciting riots? It's hardly a scientific survey, but here are some screen grabs of the offending website's homepage, with some crude Google-supplied translations (click on the pics for full-size views):
  • Why Kenya's Political Violence Tanked Its Prostitution Sector?

    As both Rana and Barrett have written in the past few days, there are plenty of good reasons to keep an eye on the Uighar protests in China. At the top of our list is the hunch that political unrest, even in an economically isolated area like western China, can have a delayed but distinct ripple effect on a country's economic stability. In that spirit, I'd like to direct your attention over to Kenya's sex trade....
  • The G8: Can't Live With It, Can't Live Without It

    Think the G8 meeting over in L'Aquila is a seriocomedy of uselessness? Yeah, we're with you on that one. But that's only part of the story. Rana's got a good one up today on why we should all still be grateful that it's happening. Read all about it here.