Tuesday, September 30, 2008

360 In-depth: Gas Shortage Persists in Southeast United States

U.S. consumers who can’t find gas to put in their vehicles are still feeling the effects of this season’s hurricanes.

No Guarantees

Since hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut down oil operations around the Gulf of Mexico in early September, drivers in the Southeast have been struggling to find fuel for their automobiles. And when they find a gas station with sufficient inventory, many are forced to wait hours for their turn at the pump.

The Southeast is the only region of the country with no major gas storage or oil refining capacity, and it pumps all of its gasoline in by pipeline. As the Gulf continues recovering from recent storms, those pipelines are not operating at normal capacity. A spokesman for AAA Carolinas, Tom Crosby, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that more than two-thirds of Gulf Coast oil refineries are back online, however.

Energy experts and industry officials say it will likely be two more weeks before the shortages stop.

For now, some drivers say they’re just staying put. “I don’t have any assurance that I’m gonna even be able to get more than $30 worth of gas,” Wendy Stewart, who had to postpone a long trip, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “How am I gonna get out of town and drive five hours on $30 of gas? I can’t do it.”

Gas Tank Drivers Struggling

One gas distributor said his tank drivers are having problems getting to work to distribute the gas people need. “I haven't gone so far as to possibly fuel my drivers' vehicles off the truck, but I've talked to my customers, and I may just have to do that and if the state doesn't like that? whatever. But I mean if we start losing the tank truck drivers then we're really cooked,” Tex Pitfield, president of Saraguay Petroleum Corp. told WXIA-TV.

The timing of this year’s hurricanes has made the gas shortage even more difficult. Refiners had already reduced their production to switch from summer-grade to winter-grade fuel. Those that had shut down for Hurricane Gustav were just getting started again when Hurricane Ike arrived.

Nearly a month passed with low supply coming from refineries. Panic buying then began contributing to the shortage that suppliers are now having trouble correcting. Independent gas stations in particular are struggling for gas because their purchases aren’t made on contractual arrangements; they are cut first in the event of shortages.

While timing might be making the gas shortage difficult, Bruce Bullock of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University told The Tennessean that the situation could have been worse. If storms had hit further down the coastline, refineries could have been out for nine months to a year.

Some regions of the country are less vulnerable to fuel troubles than others. Many Midwest states have their own refineries and can produce gas locally. The Northeast can import gasoline through New York harbor and store it in tanks in New Jersey.

Related Topic: 1973 Oil Crisis

Sources: WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, AJC, Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs

Further Reading:

FDIC asks to boost deposit limits

The federal agency that guarantees bank deposits is asking Congress for temporary authority to raise the limit on the amount of money it insures for individual bank accounts.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Shelia Bair put out a statement late Tuesday afternoon asking that Congress allow her agency to increase the $100,000 limit per account that has been in place since 1980.

"Unfortunately, there is an increasing crisis of confidence that is feeding unnecessary fear in the marketplace," Bair said. "To address this crisis of confidence, I do believe that it would be helpful for the FDIC to have the temporary ability to raise deposit insurance limits."

Bair did not say what she thought the new limit should be. FDIC spokesman Andrew Gray said simply, "We'll leave that to Congress."

In 2005, Congress approved having the deposit insurance limit pegged to inflation. But that annual increase won't start until 2011 under current law.

The FDIC's request comes less than a week after two of the nation's largest banking institutions essentially collapsed and as investors worry about more bank failures.

Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan, became the largest bank failure of all time Sept. 25. None its depositors lost any of their money though as the FDIC arranged a sale to JPMorgan Chase.

Monday Wachovia Corp., the nation's No. 4 bank holding company by assets, sold its banking assets to Citigroup for a fire sale price in a transaction brokered by the FDIC.

Raising the amount that the FDIC can insure could stem a potential run on deposits by bank customers, particularly businesses, who fear losing their money. The $100,000 limit protected as much as 82% of deposits in 1991 but only covers 63% of deposits today.

The idea of raising the limits had already drawn support earlier in the day from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican rival, John McCain.


Source: FDIC

Lou Dobbs: Hooray for those who defeated bailout

CNN's Lou Dobbs is no fan of the $700 billion bailout plan that went down to defeat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday. He spoke with Kiran Chetry of CNN's "American Morning" on Tuesday about how he thinks there are better ways to solve the financial problems plaguing the U.S. economy.

The following is a transcript of an interview between CNN anchor Kiran Chetry and CNN host Lou Dobbs regarding the after effect of the bailout's defeat.

Kiran Chetry: CNN's Lou Dobbs joins us this morning from Suffolk, New Jersey. You expressed delight I guess you could say, at the fact that it did go down yesterday in defeat. We saw the largest point-drop on Wall Street ever.

What happens now?

Lou Dobbs: Well, what happens now is that it sounds like the same fools who brought you this effort are going to try again.

Henry Paulson saying he's going to come right back, suggests he's not learning. And he's not paying attention to the Congress. These Congress people are all at home in their home districts, nearly every one of them and they're hearing an earful. The American people don't want to hear this nonsense about $700 billion to bail out financial institutions. Frankly, Kiran, they don't need it.

Economist after economist, with whom I've spoken, CEOs, they acknowledge that there are far better ways to deal with the issues confronting our financial system than this bailout. And it's absolutely obscenely irresponsible of House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Treasury Secretary [Henry] Paulson, President Bush, Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate; for these people to be clucking about like hysterical -- so hysterically. It really must stop. And to hear there -- go ahead.

Chetry: I was just going to ask you --

Dobbs: Go ahead.

Chetry: You say that there's other ways around this. One of the things that everyone keeps talking about is the fact that credit markets are frozen and there has to be some way to free that up so that everyday business from Wall Street to Main Street can continue.

Do you buy that?

Dobbs: No, not at all. And neither do most of the CEOs and economists with whom I'm speaking certainly. The real issue, they say, is liquidity. The Fed has injected more than half a billion dollars in liquidity into this banking system.

What we are watching are business -- quote, unquote -- leaders who won't surface and put their faces before the American public who are hysterical. Absolutely hysterical. These are not leaders of moment. They are not leaders of great character or vision. Only Warren Buffett has had the courage to step forward. And that's after he puts $5 billion into Goldman Sachs.

To watch our political leaders, they have no idea in the world, Kiran, what they're doing. Literally. And the arrogance with which this administration asks for, not only money, almost $1 trillion, and surely more in the months ahead. But the absolute power for Treasury Secretary Paulson. Give me a break. The American people want this stopped. Those Congressmen and women at home right now, in their districts, are getting an earful because this is an absurdity and it has to end.

Chetry: So in one way, you're knocking Congress. But on the other way you're saying that, I guess the system works in that the brakes were pulled. Whether or not you agree with the reasons why it didn't go through. So, weren't they doing their job and showing leadership?

Dobbs: Let me be clear, Kiran. I'm saying leadership -- I'm saying the Democratic leadership of this Congress was absolutely in the same situation as this president.

They don't know what they're talking about. They're trying to ram this thing down the people's throats and Congress. And those House Republicans and House Democrats who voted against this bailout deserve a great, great _expression of thanks from the American people. Absolutely.

Chetry: What do you think if you were up there making decisions? What do you think we need to do?

Dobbs: Well, the first thing we need to do is return to a traditional role of regulation. ... The problem here is not simply the housing market. ... But $700 billion and nothing in that bill deals with the foreclosure crisis, if you can imagine that. That's arrogance. That's stupidity. That is your leadership in Washington, D.C. Democratic leadership in Congress and Republican leadership in the White House.

So that's an absurdity. The first thing that has to be dealt with is mitigating the foreclosure crisis, period. Secondly, in terms of instilling confidence in the banking system and in our credit markets, the first thing to do is to deal with those institutions that are wildly out of balance, whose balance sheets, frankly, are a joke. And the regulators who should have been tending to them over the years are also a joke.

It's time to end the joke. That means aggressive regulation. It means aggressive intervention on an institution-by-institution basis.

Chetry: All right. Well, they're going to take this up again today, or throughout the week as they try to figure out what the best course of action is. Maybe they should listen to you a little bit more.

Dobbs: They'll be back Thursday.

Chetry: Right.

Dobbs: They'll be back Thursday to try this nonsense all over again, Kiran.

Hot Stories


Monday, September 29, 2008

Citigroup Rescues Wachovia's Bank Unit as Stock Spirals Down

Is Bank of America Next with Billions in Careless ARMs, Bad Loans Hanging Over It? Citigroup Inc., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, will pay about $2.16 billion for banking operations of Wachovia Corp. after shares of the North Carolina lender collapsed under the weight of overdue mortgages.

While regulators said the Charlotte-based bank hadn't failed, Wachovia will lose its biggest unit and investors will get only about $1 a share for the bank, whose stock topped $59 in April 2006. All depositors will be protected, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which helped broker the takeover by Citigroup.

Wachovia agreed to the stock-swap transaction just hours before the U.S. House of Representatives planned to vote on a $700 billion bank industry bailout. The package - which lawmakers rejected in an afternoon vote - was aimed at stopping the credit crunch that drove Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Washington Mutual Inc. into bankruptcy and led to the hastily arranged rescues of Merrill Lynch & Co. and Bear Stearns Cos.

"The problem must have occurred last week with their ability to continue to attract and hold deposits after the failure of Washington Mutual,'' Gary Townsend of Hill-Townsend Capital in Chevy Chase, Maryland, said of Wachovia. "On Thursday and Friday they must have had a large run on the bank.''

Wachovia's stock, which finished last week at $10 on the New York Stock Exchange, traded for $1.84 in 4:15 p.m. transactions, a loss of 82 percent for the day. It plummeted 83 percent in the past two years through last week. Citigroup fell 12 percent to $17.75 today.

Insiders say: Don't believe the BS on the Wachovia website
about a seamless transition and transfer of assets or
that the Wachovia-Citi deal is a sale and not a bank failure.
NOT SO - It is a rescue before an impending failure.
Additionally, "there are thousands and thousands of
operations personnel working around the clock and
mistakes are happening as we speak."
Citigroup's Role

Wachovia will continue to own its securities brokerage unit, the Evergreen mutual-fund family and insurance and retirement businesses. The brokerage has about 14,600 financial advisers and more than $1 trillion under management, making it third in the U.S. behind Merrill Lynch and Citigroup's Smith Barney unit.

The purchase gives New York-based Citigroup about 3,300 more branches and offices in 21 states. The combined company will have about 4,300 U.S. bank offices and more than $600 billion in deposits for a 9.8 percent share of the U.S. banking market. Citigroup's total deposits globally will be $1.3 trillion, the bank said, or about $350 billion more than JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Citigroup plans to cut its own dividend in half and raise $10 billion in capital as it takes on Wachovia's senior and subordinated debt. Citigroup will absorb as much as $42 billion of losses on Wachovia's $312 billion pool of loans, the FDIC said in a statement. The regulator will take on losses beyond that amount in exchange for $12 billion in preferred stock and warrants.

Steel's Tenure

The transaction is a blow to Wachovia Chief Executive Officer Robert Steel, 57, who was recruited from the Treasury department in July to rebuild the lender's credibility with investors. He bought 1 million shares of Wachovia stock for about $16 million two weeks after arriving at the company.

Steel wasn't available for comment beyond a prepared statement in which he called Citigroup "a strong partner to preserve the stability and quality of our banking franchise.'' Calls to Lanty Smith, chairman of Wachovia's board of directors, wasn't immediately returned.

"This is a compelling deal,'' said Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, 51, on a conference call with analysts and investors. "This is one of those rare high-return acquisitions in which we have contained the risks.

'' Wells Fargo & Co. had also bid for Wachovia, according to the Wall Street Journal.

'Citi Needed It'

"Citi needed it more than anybody,'' said Nancy Bush, an independent bank analyst. "It would have been nice for Wells, but I couldn't see them taking on that chunk of bad debt.

'' The FDIC said it won't have to tap its insurance fund, something the agency also avoided in the WaMu failure last week. Keeping the FDIC's fund healthy has been a priority for U.S. regulators because its $100,000 insurance on deposits keeps depositors from panicking when a bank's health is questioned.

Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Meredith Whitney said in an interview on CNBC there was ``no doubt'' in her mind that there had been a run on Wachovia. Steel sent a memo to the staff last week affirming that the company was sound and more diversified than Washington Mutual after that lender failed. The memo, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg, included a set of questions and answers for employees who might have to answer queries from worried customers, such as "Does all the recent news put Wachovia at risk?'' and "How is Wachovia different'' from Lehman, Bear Stearns and WaMu.

'Silent' Run

Louise Pitt, a credit analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., wrote Friday that Wachovia may have been facing the possibility of a "silent'' run on deposits, in which customers fearful of a bank failure withdraw their money in unusually large numbers. WaMu became "unsound'' after customers withdrew $16.7 billion since Sept. 16, the Office of Thrift Supervision said when it seized WaMu on Sept. 25. The FDIC and Wachovia didn't say today whether the bank suffered similar withdrawals. Wachovia reported $9.7 billion of losses in the first half of 2008. The slide toward collapse began when the bank paid more than $24 billion in October 2006 for Golden West Financial Corp., the California lender that specialized in option-ARM home mortgages. The bank holds about $122 billion of the adjustable- rate home loans. Kennedy Thompson, the chief executive officer at the time, later admitted that the purchase at the height of the real estate boom was ill-timed.

Option ARMS

Wachovia was the largest holder of option ARMs, ahead of Seattle-based Washington Mutual until it collapsed. The loans are prone to default because they allow borrowers to skip some interest payments and add them to the principal. The terms backfired when housing markets weakened, leaving borrowers with loans bigger than the value of their home. Prices in California during August fell 41 percent from year-earlier levels. Pressure on the bank to make a deal grew last week when JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon bought WaMu and then announced writedowns on loans similar to those held by Wachovia. "Jamie Dimon threw gas on the fire when JPMorgan built in losses of 25 percent on the Washington Mutual option ARMs,'' Bush said yesterday. Steel "has put his losses at 12 percent, but that was a couple of weeks ago and the situation has gotten more dire since then.'' Analysts at Fitch Ratings predict default rates on such loans packaged as securities may reach 45 percent. "Bob Steel missed the opportunity to raise more equity,'' Townsend said. "What we heard from him from the beginning is that they didn't need to raise more equity. That clearly wasn't the case.'


Wachovia's `Great Success' Became $122 Billion Burden

Sources: WSJ, Flower, Leer Financial

Off The Georgia News Wires...

Expect Gas Shortage To Stick Around, Says Expert
The gas shortage in metro Atlanta will continue for several more weeks,

leaving the majority of gas stations across the area dry and frustrated
drivers searching for fuel, a petroleum company executive said Sunday.

"We're beyond panic; we're into desperation," said Tex Pitfield,
chief executive of Saraguay Petroleum in Atlanta. Pitfield said
Gulf Coast refineries knocked out by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav are
coming back on line, but it will take weeks for the pipeline to
Atlanta to reach full capacity."We are in for several weeks of the
same conditions before it gets better," said Pitfield.The shortage
has hit hardest in Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., and the Carolinas,
including the Charlotte area and the mountain towns to the west. For
days it has closed civic offices, cut short workdays and even
canceled community college classes.
Governor's Office Responds To Gas Problem
Perdue's press secretary stated Sunday that the governor's office is
doing what it can to make life easier
for metro Atlanta drivers.
"From requesting a waiver from the EPA, to
relaxing restrictions
on the hours drivers can haul fuel and the
amount they can haul,"
said a spokesperson for the governor. "The
problem is that the
refineries are still not working at 100 percent

No Gas Has Atlanta Drivers Wondering How They'll Get To Work
With no gas to get around, many people are spending a lot of time at
home, clicking away on their
computers to complain about area gas
One of the biggest issues for folks whose gas tanks are on
empty is how they'll get to work or drop
their kids off at school this week.
"I don't have access to a MARTA
bus in my area," one poster wrote on several
gas-related online forums
. The poster went on to write, "I called my boss and
told him
I can't make it. He told me to keep looking [for gas] and call him
back if I don't find any. As the gas situation worsens in the state of Georgia,
many drivers have
called upon the governor to do more to fix the problem.

Truth & Common Sense: Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac collapse Democrats' fault

I'd like to call your attention to an excellent blog post pointing to a 2003 NY Times article.

According to the NY Times article, the Bush administration proposed new regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would have tightened up loose lending, but Democrats opposed it because it would make it harder for poor people to own homes:

Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.

''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''

Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.

''I don't see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,'' Mr. Watt said.

That's rich. Liberal Democrat Barney Frank said that Fannie and Freddie "are not facing any kind of financial crisis." Had Democrats voted for this legislation, a financial crisis and expensive government bailout might have been averted.

Something to think about. Not only could this situation been averted if the Democrats in Congress had not been playing the race card, but now we the taxpayer have to foot the bill for their socialism. Dems argued that the poor trying to prove their income is "an invasion of privacy." Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac were ordered to instruct the banks to accept this new policy or face legal reprisals. This is more than just greed on the part of the markets, it is pure fascist-socialism on the part of Nazi-like Democrats.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

AP Top 25 Poll Gets Shake-Up After Losses

Oklahoma is the new No. 1 team in the latest Associated Press
college football poll.The Sooners claimed 43 of 65 first-place
votes following Saturday's 35-10 win over TCU. Oklahoma was
given a chance to move atop the poll when previous No. 1
Southern California lost at Oregon State Thursday night.

Alabama is ranked second after garnering 21 first-place votes.
LSU is third, ahead of Missouri and Texas. Sixth-ranked Penn State
is followed by Texas Tech, BYU, Southern Cal and South Florida.
Georgia fell from third to 11th with Saturday's 41-30 loss to the
Crimson Tide. Florida dropped eight notches to 12th by losing at
home against Mississippi. Auburn is 13th, ahead of Ohio State
and Utah. No. 16 Kansas is followed by Boise State, Wisconsin,
Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech.Oklahoma State, Fresno State, Oregon,
Connecticut and Wake Forest round out the top 25.


Actor Paul Newman Dies at 83

WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," ''Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" — and as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman had dropped plans to direct a fall production of "Of Mice and Men," citing unspecified health issues.

He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus," ''Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," ''The Verdict," ''The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in "The Long Hot Summer," and Newman directed her in several films, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie."

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. "I was always a character actor," he once said. "I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood."

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for "The Color of Money," a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film "The Hustler."

Newman delivered a magnetic performance in "The Hustler," playing a smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but rather an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film "Road to Perdition." One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama "Empire Falls" and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, "Cars."

But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

He received his first Oscar nomination for playing a bitter, alcoholic former star athlete in the 1958 film "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Elizabeth Taylor played his unhappy wife and Burl Ives his wealthy, domineering father in Tennessee Williams' harrowing drama, which was given an upbeat ending for the screen.

In "Cool Hand Luke," he was nominated for his gritty role as a rebellious inmate in a brutal Southern prison. The movie was one of the biggest hits of 1967 and included a tagline, delivered one time by Newman and one time by prison warden Strother Martin, that helped define the generation gap, "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."

Newman's hair was graying, but he was as gourgeous as ever and on the verge of his greatest popular success. In 1969, Newman teamed with Redford for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a comic Western about two outlaws running out of time. Newman paired with Redford again in 1973 in "The Sting," a comedy about two Depression-era con men. Both were multiple Oscar winners and huge hits, irreverent, unforgettable pairings of two of the best-looking actors of their time.

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed "Rachel, Rachel," a film about a lonely spinster's rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1972 film, "Winning." After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

"Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told People magazine in 1979.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator. "It takes a long time for an actor to develop the assurance that the trim, silver-haired Paul Newman has acquired," Pauline Kael wrote of him in the early 1980s.

In 1982, he got his Oscar fifth nomination for his portrayal of an honest businessman persecuted by an irresponsible reporter in "Absence of Malice." The following year, he got his sixth for playing a down-and-out alcoholic attorney in "The Verdict."

In 1995, he was nominated for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in "Nobody's Fool." New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting "without cheap sentiment and self-pity," and observed, "It says everything about Mr. Newman's performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way."

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend.

He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

"If they're good you get a fat head and if they're bad you're depressed for three weeks," he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford's hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.

"I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane," he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.

Hotchner said Newman should have "everybody's admiration."

"For me it's the loss of an adventurous freindship over the past 50 years and it's the loss of a great American citizen," Hotchner told The Associated Press.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor "Nell," Melissa and Clea.

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte.

Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman.

He was raised in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, where he was encouraged him to pursue his interest in the arts by his mother and his uncle Joseph Newman, a well-known Ohio poet and journalist.

Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.

He later studied at Yale University's School of Drama, then headed to New York to work in theater and television, his classmates at the famed Actor's Studio including Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden. His breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Battler," died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.

Newman started in movies the year before, in "The Silver Chalice," a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in "The Long Hot Summer."

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

"I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore," he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

On the Net:

Oh No! Georgia buried by Alabama

The blackout turned into a blowout.

One of the more anticipated games in Georgia football history deteriorated into one of the more sobering losses in Bulldogs annals Saturday night at Sanford Stadium.

Alabama scored the first five times it had the ball to build a 31-0 halftime lead, withstood 17 consecutive points by Georgia at the start of the second half, then finished off the Dawgs by a deceivingly close score of 41-30.

More tellingly, Alabama led 41-17 with four minutes to play.

It was a bruising defeat for Georgia, all around. By the end, quarterback Matthew Stafford had a head injury that was said to be less than a concussion; tailback Knowshon Moreno had an undefined elbow injury; linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was facing down time with a knee injury, and receiver Kris Durham was on crutches with an ankle injury.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said Stafford “was very clear-minded, but he got dinged pretty good.” Stafford said “I’m fine” as he was led off by medical personnel.

Richt said Moreno’s elbow will have to be “checked out,” probably Sunday. The coach said Ellerbe will miss “some time” but not the rest of the season and Durham at least the next game.

About the only good news for the Dawgs: They’re off next week.

The loss ended Georgia’s 11-game winning streak, which dated to last season, and perhaps ended its belief in the power of black jerseys.

The Dawgs' players and fans wore black in two games last season, and Georgia won those games by an average of 28 points. The Dogs trailed by more than that halfway through this one.

“It’s just disheartening to perform the way we did, especially the first half,” Richt said. “After that, we were pretty valiant. But it was too late.

“They definitely beat us on the line of scrimmage.”

And pretty much everywhere else.

The Crimson Tide held Georgia to 50 yards rushing (Moreno to 34) and put ample pressure on Stafford, who completed 24 of 42 passes for 274 yards and threw his first interception of the season. Meanwhile, Alabama — known for its running game — threw the ball effectively, with quarterback John Parker Wilson completing 13 of 16 passes, including his first six.

Before the game — a much-hyped meeting of unbeaten top-10 teams — the chatter was that the Dawgs might climb from No. 3 to No. 1 in the polls with a victory. By halftime, the chatter was about how low the Dawgs would fall — and how high No. 8 Alabama would rise — when new polls are tabulated Sunday.

“We have to bounce back,” Moreno said after the game. “It’s not over yet.”

From the 31-0 halftime deficit, Georgia got within two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. A Blair Walsh field goal on Georgia’s first possession of the third quarter, a 58-yard touchdown drive following a blocked punt by Zach Renner later in the quarter and then an electrifying 92-yard punt return (the second longest in school history) by Prince Miller early in the fourth quarter pulled the Dawgs within 31-17.

But Alabama scored the next 10 points, and Georgia’s two subsequent touchdowns were incidental.

What mattered, in the final analysis, was the first half.

Alabama scored each of the first five times it had the ball — four touchdowns and a field goal. And while the dominant Crimson Tide might have needed no help, the bumbling Dawgs provided it anyway:

- A roughing-the-passer penalty on Georgia’s Akeem Dent negated an Alabama turnover and kept alive the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown drive.

- Two more penalties — defensive holding and, again, roughing the passer — helped Alabama to a field goal on its second possession.

- A meager 19-yard punt by Georgia’s Brian Mimbs allowed Alabama to start its third possession across midfield, leading to a touchdown five plays later.

- A fumble by Georgia receiver A. J. Green gave Alabama the ball at the Georgia 33, setting up the Tide’s third touchdown.

“We just kept their drives going and kept momentum going for them,” Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said, “with the penalties and things we did to keep their offense on the field.”

Said Richt: “We had some self-inflicted wounds, but [Alabama] took it to us — period.”

The 31-0 halftime deficit was Georgia’s largest since the Dawgs trailed Auburn by the same margin at the half in 1999.

At the half Saturday, Alabama led 17-4 in first downs and 231-86 in offensive yards. The only place Georgia led at the half was in penalties: six for 56 yards vs. Alabama’s one for 5 yards.

If there could be a turning point in a 31-0 half, it came with 8 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Alabama had driven methodically down the field with the opening kick, reaching Georgia’s 23-yard line. On third down, Alabama quarterback Wilson threw a screen pass over the middle to running back Glen Coffee, who took it 17 yards to the Georgia 7.

At that point, Georgia forced and recovered a fumble, seemingly halting the drive. But a roughing-the-passer penalty against Georgia’s Dent negated the play and gave Alabama a first down at the Georgia 12.

Two plays later, the Crimson Tide led 7-0. Soon, it was 31-0.

The game was Alabama’s second thorough victory in the state of Georgia this year, following a season-opening rout of Clemson at the Georgia Dome.



Photo Credit: AP

Sunday Thoughts

It's Between You & God
          People are often unreasonable,
          Illogical, and self-centered;
          Forgive them anyway.

          If you are kind,
          People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
          Be kind anyway.

          If you are successful,
          You will win some false friends and some true enemies;
          Succeed anyway.

          If you are honest and frank,
          People may cheat you;
          Be honest and frank anyway.

          What you spend years building,
          Someone could destroy overnight;
          Build anyway.

          If you find serenity and happiness,
          They may be jealous;
          Be happy anyway.

          The good you do today,
          People will often forget tomorrow;
          Do good anyway.

          Give the world the best you have,
          And it may never be enough;
          Give the world the best you've got anyway.

          You see, in the final analysis,
          It is between you and God;
          It never was between you and them anyway.

          Be Blessed,
          Mother Theresa

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reader Mail

You write it, 360 posts it.

There were many letters regarding the current financial crisis including the bailout plan and the letter from BB&T’s head honcho…

"I work for a bank that is doing well and I agree with Mr. Allison but not for the obvious reasons. I work very hard at my job to do the right thing for my clients and the bank and my efforts are finally paying off. Now to give my competitors the same equal footing, seems ridiculous. There are better ways to correct this matter and we should not go around giving money to companies because George W says so. We are not sheep and need to act accordingly. As far as executive salary caps, i don't think they should be rewarded for bad behavior but I do think they should be compensated for their service or disservice to the company. Instead of giving them cash, make them take that payout in company stock and hold on to it for year. An then at least they would feel the ill effects of their on bad judgment. Plus, I would like to think 20 years from now we could all be CEO's and I would hate for anyone to put a cap on how much I could make. FYI John Allison is one of the lowest paid CEO's among competitors. Maybe the competition will eventually figure out how things need to be done." - Steve M, Atlanta, GA

"For the most part, Allison is correct. His reference to "Fair Value accounting" in (11) may be confusing to some: this refers to the accounting requirement to record assets at "market value" for purposes of the corporate balance sheet. Remember that MV (by definition) requires a willing seller and a willing buyer; most of the MV write downs do NOT meet this definition. A better accounting value would require that assets (in this case, mortgages) be valued at the discounted value of all future payments. Significantly less volatility and much better match to the underlying value." - D.R., Sacramento, CA

"I appreciate the comments from Mr Allison as it relates to the proposed bail out efforts. I am opposed to the plan as outlined by President Bush this week. I believe a more sound and rational approach to resolving this crisis is called for. To me, this feels like a rush to action that may ultimately benefit those whose poor judgment largely created the current situation and could potentially create a situation that ends up being more harmful to the average American taxpayer." – J.M. San Antonio, TX

It appears that the train may have prematurely left the station on this bailout package and that’s unfortunate. Paulson has panicked Congress and Bernanke is sitting on his hands.

John Allison is absolutely correct that this problem is rooted in actions of Freddie and Fannie. They have slowly, deliberately and with government encouragement moved away from their original purpose and we are now reaping the consequence.

Congress needs to quickly call John Allison and some of his colleagues with similar background and success to assist in a more responsible response to this economic challenge.

John's point that this is a valuation crisis is exactly correct and we could quickly address that issue with appropriate "tax credits" with plenty of other ammunition left.

We obviously need a "market-correction" process that illuminates "irrational competitors" and that's always messy. This bailout package may not accomplish that and may even damage the rational players if not properly structured.

"Paulson has too many friend on wall street and Bernanke is sitting around like a "potted plant". Please congress; hear some other voices. Suffice to say we’ll have a plan and slow down a bit to listen to more rational voices."" – S. Watson, Baltimore, MD

"Allison makes some good points. And BB&T would probably survive the economic downturn whereas Wachovia will go under. That is only right and fair as Wachovia has done some really stupid things and is into the derivative markets for $5 trillion. BOA is another bank that has gone crazy and has $40 trillion in derivatives.

The tax credit for buying homes is a horrible idea. One problem that led to this housing bubble is the home mortgage tax deduction. Bankers love this because it essentially says you can either give your money to the Feds or to the bank. Its a racket dreamt up by bankers. Giving a credit helps get home owners who overbought on the idea that real estate was the goose that laid golden eggs off the hook. Neither greedy bankers or greedy home owners should be bailed out.

But Allison still looks after his own and says CEOs should still make a ridiculous salary even when they've shown they are no smarter then their lowest level worker. So I'd say his interest is not the average man but simply he and his bank." – John G., Denver, CO

Other reader mail ran the gambit of comments and replies….

"I agree with most of what you have to say on this blog, but there are times that you appear a little cruel. I’m a frequent visitor to dating sites since I don’t have the time to meet men in social situations and I’m not a big fan of the bar scene. Your posting about being online made it better for rejection than rejection in person was very depressing to me. I wish you could post something POSITIVE about online dating just to even up the odds for me. Thanks!" – Jennifer C., Chattanooga, TN

"We like your continuing series of articles of American stories. They make us proud to be an American! It’s such a great history lesson, too! Thank you!!" – Roger and Sandy Y., Boseman, MT

"Is there such a thing as the Fourth Reich? I’ve heard of this over and over and the explanations are too complicated. Can you break it down for me?" – Lisa N., Richmond, VA

This blog topic is currently in the writing stage to be post soon.

"You seem pretty up on bicycles. I’m looking for a good solid bike that I can stay in shape and bike on the road rather than trails. What a good one for the money?" – Brent K., Tulsa, OK

For the money, I like the Trek series of bikes. They’re light, well put-together and easy to maintain.

"Do you ever do blog polls that readers can vote on? If not, why?" – Susan T. Columbus, OH

I’m not much for opinion polls.

"What your stand on abortion?" – Terry F., Decatur, IL

I’m not at all for it for personal reasons, but I’m also against too much government intervention. The government has too much to say regarding personal and religious freedoms.

"We were very moved by your post regarding your monastery trip. It is rare to read such a sensitive description in such colorful detail from a man." – Deann & Carla, Athens, GA

"How come you have not posted anything regarding the destruction of American honey bee population by the Bayer Company and the EPA? This is such a disaster in the making!" – Roger P., Bowling Green, KY

It is a disaster! But I don’t need to cover it. My colleague Linda Moulton Howe has reported on it in detail on and on her website

"Are you Jewish? You look like a Jew to me and you act like one, too." - Randy S., Birmingham, AL

Well, okay then. I guess that settles it.

"You left out one when you did your 10 Greatest Hoaxes piece: Smartass Bloggers who think they know everything." – Jerome R., Las Vegas, NE

Sure thing! I’ll add it to Reader’s who think they have Martians in the basement.

"Mr. Walter, there IS a reason we have entitlements as you call it: to assist the poor and underprivileged! Not everyone has the chance to go to college, go to summer camp or let alone put food on the table or even get a good job. We need this kind of assistance to continue for the good of the economy." - Brenda A., Washington, D.C.

No one is denying that there continues to be a need to help, but it ceases to fulfill its purpose if it only allows laziness and assists recipients to live off the fat of the land. It was only conceived to be a stepping stone to a better life – not intended to be a career choice unto itself. People who receive this aid were never supposed to take advantage of it in lieu of becoming self-sufficient with no sense of responsibility or accountability.

That’s it for now….Thanks for reading!