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    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    CNN - Rush Limbaugh calls on conservatives to take back nation

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    Rush Limbaugh calls on conservatives to take back nation

    Rush Limbaugh brought a cheering crowd to its feet several times Saturday in Washington as he called on fellow conservatives to take back the country in the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

    "We conservatives have not done a good enough job of just laying out basically who we are because we make the mistake of assuming that people know. What they know is largely incorrect, based on the way we're portrayed in pop culture, in the drive-by media, by the Democrat party," the conservative talk show host told a mostly-young crowd of energized supporters.

    "We want every American to be the best he or she chooses to be. We recognize that we are all individuals. We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independent. We believe that the preamble of the Constitution contains an inarguable truth, that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, freedom. And the pursuit of happiness," he said, pausing several times for enthusiastic applause.

    Looking ahead to the 2012 election, Limbaugh said conservatives will have to choose the right candidate to take the country back.

    Limbaugh's impassioned remarks, punctuated by chest-thumping, fist-pumping and chants of "USA" from the crowd, capped off three days of talk at CPAC focusing on rebuilding the Republican Party.

    "He played to his crowd here," CNN Political Editor Mark Preston said. "And this crowd is now energized, something we haven't seen from Republicans, certainly not conservatives, since the November election."

    Limbaugh used his self-described "first national address," which ran more than hour longer than his allotted 20 minutes, to criticize President Barack Obama for inspiring fear in Americans in order to push a liberal agenda of "big government."

    "He wants people in fear, angst and crisis, fearing the worst each and every day because that clears the decks for President Obama and his pals to come in with the answers which are abject failures, historically shown and demonstrated. Doesn't matter. They'll have control of it when it's all over. And that's what they want," Limbaugh said.

    "They see these inequalities, these inequities that capitalism produces. How do they try to fix it? Do they try to elevate those at the bottom? No, they try to tear down the people at the top. "

    Limbaugh praised Obama as one of the most gifted politicians he has seen, but said, "It just breaks my heart that he does not use these extraordinary talents and gifts to motivate and inspire the American people to be the best they can be. He's doing just the opposite."

    Limbaugh also dismissed the notion of bipartianship as a "false premise" given the diverging views of the Democrat and Republican parties on a variety issues, among them, the recent $787 stimulus package signed by Obama.

    "Bipartisanship occurs only after one other result. And that is victory," he said. Watch Limbaugh discuss bipartisanship

    "What they mean is we check our core principles at the door, come in, let them run the show, and then agree with them," he said.

    Limbaugh's rollicking speech came the day after Obama supporters put out a political ad implying that the conservative radio host has become the de facto head of the Republican Party in the absence of a clear GOP leader.

    The ad argues that the Republican leadership in Congress is following Limbaugh's lead in opposing the Obama administration's $787 billion stimulus package.

    "So who are Republican leaders listening to?," the announcer asks before the 30-second ad cuts abruptly to footage of Limbaugh saying, "I want him [Obama] to fail."

    It was paid for by Americans United for Change and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, two groups that supported Obama during the election and are advocating for his agenda.

    Limbaugh doesn't speak for all Republicans or conservatives. Copies of the American Conservative magazine with the headline, "How radio wrecks the right," were distributed to CPAC attendees, Preston said.

    "There is some criticism of Rush Limbaugh. Some people think he is a reactionary," Preston said.

    Comparing the remark to his desire to see the Arizona Cardinals "fail" in this year's Super Bowl game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Limbaugh defended his comment without denying it. Watch Limbaugh explain failure remark

    "This notion that I want the president to fail, folks, this shows you a sign of the problem we've got," he said.

    "What is so strange about being honest and saying, I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed?" he said, bringing the crowd once again to its feet.

    "Did the Democrats want the war in Iraq to fail? Well, they certainly did. And they not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail, they proclaimed it a failure."

    Reuters - U.S. charges Stanford with massive Ponzi scheme

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    U.S. charges Stanford with massive Ponzi scheme

    Saturday, Feb 28, 2009 1:38AM UTC

    By Anna Driver

    HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators on Friday accused Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, his college roommate and three of their companies of carrying out a "massive Ponzi scheme" over at least a decade and misappropriating at least $1.6 billion of investors' money.

    Meanwhile, a Houston judge ruled on Friday that Laura Pendergest-Holt, the only person arrested in the $8 billion Allen Stanford fraud investigation, could walk free after she posted a $300,000 bond.

    In an amended complaint filed in a federal court in Dallas, the Securities and Exchange Commission increased its civil charges against Stanford to include a Ponzi scheme where early investors are paid with the money of new clients.

    Along with his former Baylor University roommate James Davis, the 58-year-old golf, cricket and polo promoter "misappropriated billions of dollars of investor funds and falsified" financial statements issued by Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, the SEC charged.

    Stanford and Davis could not be reached immediately for comment and have yet to name their legal representatives in the case. The company is directing all inquiries to the SEC.

    It was the second high-profile alleged Ponzi scheme revealed by U.S. regulators, after charges that Wall Street veteran Bernard Madoff carried out a $50 billion fraud that allegedly involved a giant Ponzi scheme.

    In the amended complaint, the SEC alleged that by February, Stanford and Davis - who have not been charged with criminal wrongdoing - had misappropriated at least $1.6 billion in investor money through "bogus personal loans" to Stanford. The funds were invested in "speculative, unprofitable private businesses controlled by Stanford," it said.

    Every month, Stanford and Davis set a predetermined rate of return for certificates of deposit issued by their Antigua bank, then bank accountants reverse-engineered financial statements to "report investment income that the bank did not actually earn," the SEC charged.

    The $1.6 billion in loans first came to light in a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department against Pendergest-Holt, the 35-year-old chief investment officer for the Stanford Financial Group who was arrested by the FBI on Thursday.

    The criminal complaint referenced a $1.6 billion loan from a Stanford account labeled "Loan to Shareholder," which was the focus of the SEC's questions to Pendergest-Holt.

    After spending a night in a Houston detention center Pendergest-Holt faced U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy in court on Friday.

    U.S. prosecutors had asked the judge to set bond at $1 million, an amount that Pendergest-Holt's attorney, Dan Cogdell, called "outrageous."

    While agreeing it was a serious case, Milloy lowered the amount to $300,000 and ordered Pendergest-Holt, who appeared in court dressed in a dark pants suit and heels, to wear an electronic tracking device after her release.

    The tall, slender brunette appeared grim for most of the hearing but occasionally turned in her chair to smile at her husband, equity fund manager Jim Holt.

    FBI agents had arrested her at Stanford's Houston-based headquarters and accused her of obstructing a probe into what the SEC called "massive ongoing fraud" by Stanford and his companies.

    Under questioning from Pendergest-Holt's lawyer, FBI agent Vanessa Walther said there is no arrest warrant for Stanford, who was served with the SEC's earlier civil complaint last week.

    Meanwhile, Stanford's assets are under the control of a court-appointed receiver -- Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey -- who must sort out dozens of claims by Stanford account holders who have seen their funds frozen indefinitely.

    A Dallas judge is expected to rule on Monday on whether to extend a temporary restraining order that gives Janvey control of Stanford's assets -- pegged by the company at $50 billion.

    Pendergest-Holt's criminal case also moves to U.S. District Court in Dallas, where the charges were filed, lawyers said.

    The receiver thus far has identified only about $90 million in actual assets, the FBI's Walther told the judge on Friday. That does not include a Credit Suisse account containing about $160 million that Pendergest-Holt had access to and signed over to the receiver shortly before her arrest.

    "There are billions missing in this case," Justice Department attorney Paul Pelletier told Judge Milloy on Friday.

    Meanwhile the Antigua and Barbuda's Senate on Friday approved a government takeover of more than 250 acres of Stanford-owned land before Janvey moves to seize it.

    Pendergest-Holt's lawyer Cogdell said his client was innocent of the charges, and will "fight these accusations with every ounce of energy she has."

    "They set her up like a bowling pin," Cogdell told reporters after the court hearing, "My suspicion is by Mr. Stanford and Davis." He was referring to James Davis, Stanford's one-time roommate at Baylor University who serves as the company's chief financial officer.

    "I see a billionaire who has not been charged," said Cogdell. "I see a semi-millionaire who has not been charged. I see a multi-thousandaire who is being charged. That's just wrong."

    The FBI's Walther said Pendergest-Holt's salary in 2007 and 2008 was near $1 million, including bonuses.

    (Additional reporting by Eileen O'Grady, writing by Chris Baltimore; Editing by Gary Hill and Carol Bishopric)

    Reuters - Combative Obama vows to fight for his budget

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    Combative Obama vows to fight for his budget

    Saturday, Feb 28, 2009 11:2AM UTC

    By David Alexander

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A combative President Barack Obama warned on Saturday he was bracing for a fight against powerful lobbyists and special interests who sought to pick apart the $3.55 trillion budget he wants to advance his agenda of reform.

    Obama's spending blueprint, with its massive $1.17 trillion deficit and tax hikes on the wealthy, seeks to squeeze billions of dollars in savings out of current spending through competitive bidding among health insurers and ending subsidies and tax breaks for banks, agribusiness and oil companies.

    "These steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business," the president said in his weekly radio address.

    "I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak," he said. "My message to them is this: So am I."

    Republicans, in their radio response, warned that Democratic spending priorities threaten to destroy the American dream that hard work can build a better life for each successive generation of citizens.

    "This week, the president submitted to Congress the single largest increase in federal spending in the history of the United States, while driving the deficit to levels that were once thought impossible," said Senator Richard Burr.

    He said Obama's budget commits the government to a billion dollars a day in interest on the debt over the next decade.

    "Now, instead of working hard so our children can have a better life tomorrow, we are asking our children to work hard so that we don't have to make tough choices today," Burr said.

    Obama said his budget blueprint delivered on the changes he promised in his election campaign: tax cuts for 95 percent of working Americans, a rollback in tax breaks for people making over $250,000, lower healthcare costs, education reform and an expansion in the use of clean, renewable energy.

    The president said his budget also reflected the fact the United States faces a financial crisis, a costly recession and a trillion dollar deficit.

    "Given this reality, we'll have to be more vigilant than ever in eliminating the programs we don't need in order to make room for the investments we do need," he said.

    He said a page-by-page examination of the federal budget had already identified $2 trillion in potential savings over 10 years.

    "I realize that passing this budget won't be easy," Obama said. "Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington."

    The insurance industry would not like having to bid competitively to participate in the Medicare coverage program for the elderly, but it is needed to protect the program and reduce costs, Obama said.

    He said banks and big student lenders would not like losing their taxpayer subsidies, but it would save nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable.

    And he said oil and gas companies wouldn't like losing $30 billion in tax breaks, but it was needed to fund renewable energy research.

    "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don't. I work for the American people," Obama said.

    "I didn't come here to do the same thing we've been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."

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