Saturday, April 25, 2009

Salaries on Wall St. Back to Normal Despite Crisis, Bailout

This demonstrates again that Wall St. has not learned it's lesson and don't give a damn about public opinion or the state of the economy. It also demonstrates that the U.S. government is nothing but a tool of the big banks and financiers:

The rest of the nation may be getting back to basics, but on Wall Street, paychecks still come with a golden promise.

Workers at the largest financial institutions are on track to earn as much money this year as they did before the financial crisis began, because of the strong start of the year for bank profits.

Even as the industry’s compensation has been put in the spotlight for being so high at a time when many banks have received taxpayer help, six of the biggest banks set aside over $36 billion in the first quarter to pay their employees, according to a review of financial statements.

If that pace continues all year, the money set aside for compensation suggests that workers at many banks will see their pay — much of it in bonuses — recover from the lows of last year.

“I just haven’t seen huge changes in the way people are talking about compensation,” said Sandy Gross, managing partner of Pinetum Partners, a financial recruiting firm. “Wall Street is being realistic. You have to retain your human capital.”

Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, was more critical. “Like everything on Wall Street, they’re starting to sin again,” he said. “As you see a recovery, you’ll see everybody’s compensation beginning to rise.”

In total, the banks are not necessarily spending more on compensation, because their work forces have shrunk sharply in the last 18 months. Still, the average pay for those who remain — rank-and-file workers whose earnings are not affected by government-imposed limits — appears to be rebounding.

Of the large banks receiving federal help, Goldman Sachs stands out for setting aside the most per person for compensation. The bank, which nearly halved its compensation last year, set aside $4.7 billion for worker pay in the quarter. If that level continues all year, it would add up to average pay of $569,220 per worker — almost as much as the pay in 2007, a record year.

[...]Compensation is among the most cited causes of the financial crisis because bonuses were often tied to short-term gains, even if those gains disappeared later on. Still, as profits return, banks do not appear to be changing the absolute level of worker pay — or the share of revenue dedicated to compensation.

Historically, investment banks have paid workers about 50 cents for every dollar of revenue. The average is lower at commercial banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, because they employ more people in retail branches where pay is lower.

But every dollar paid to workers is a dollar that cannot be used to expand the business or increase lending. Some of that revenue, too, could be used by bailed-out banks to pay back taxpayers.

Wall Street, of course, has a long history of high wages. Not all that long ago, most investment banks were private partnerships, and the workers were also typically the owners. Even when those firms began listing their shares on public stock exchanges, a standard was set in which half of their revenue was paid out to workers.

WHO head: Swine Flu Outbreak is "Serious"

It had been warned for some time that there is a potential for a pandemic from all the virulent viruses out there. The issue had been ignored over the last year. Now that the issue has reappeared again. If nothing is done to stop or prevent a crisis we could the kind of epidemic we've read about in the history books. It seems every problem now is ignored until something terrible happens (i.e., 9-11, the infrastructure, global warming, oil prices, the financial bubble, virus pandemics, etc., etc.)

The outbreak of a new multi-strain swine flu virus transmitted from human to human that has killed up to 60 people in Mexico is a "serious situation" with a "pandemic potential", the head of the World Health Organisation said Saturday.

Mexico is in crisis.
As Mexico struggled against the odds Saturday to contain a strange new flu that has killed 68 and perhaps sickened more than 1,000, it was becoming clearer that the government hasn't moved quickly enough to head off what the World Health Organization said has the potential to become a global epidemic.

The World Health Organization said the outbreak has become a "public health emergency of international concern" and asked countries around the world to step up reporting and surveillance of the disease and implement a coordinated response to contain it.

But Mexicans were dying for weeks at least before U.S. scientists identified the strain — a combination of swine, bird and human influenza that people may have no natural immunity to. Now, even controlling passengers at airports and bus stations may not keep it from spreading, epidemiologists say.

The disease has already reached Texas, California and Kansas, and 24 new suspected cases were reported Saturday in Mexico City alone, where authorities suspended schools and all public events until further notice. More than 500 concerts, sporting events and other gatherings were canceled in the metropolis of 20 million.

The Mexican government issued a decree authorizing President Felipe Calderon to invoke special powers letting the Health Department isolate patients and inspect homes, incoming travelers and baggage.

Is it long before the U.S. is impacted?
But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they understoodthat the outbreak potential in the United States was serious.

“It’s clear that this is widespread,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health Program for the C.D.C. said in a teleconference on Saturday afternoon. “We do not think we can contain the spread of this virus.”

Dr. Schchat said that there were no new confirmed human cases of swine influenza in the United States. On Friday, two were announced in Texas and six in California.

Of the eight cases that have been confirmed, Dr. Schuchat said, all “have been mild.” She added: “Only one has been hospitalized. That can change, but so far, we have been quite fortunate.”

Several reports of clusters of respiratory illnesses had been reported to the centers, including one at St. Francis Preparatory High School in Queens, N.Y., where about 75 students went to the school’s medical office on Thursday complaining of flu-like symptoms. There was no confirmation that the students had swine flu, but health officials said it would take several days to get back test results.

This video from the CDC shows you one important way to protect yourself from the Swine Flu and other infectious disceases--wash your hands.

Scientists Make History, Find New Way To Create Stem Cells

Scientists use a protein solution to harvest stem cells.

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