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Opening Bell: 08.15.11

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Warren Buffett: Stop Coddling The Super Rich (NYT)
WB: "Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality. Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get. But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate. My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

SEC Reviews S&P Math, Possible Ratings Leak (Bloomberg)
The Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinizing the method Standard & Poor’s used to cut the U.S.’s credit rating and whether the firm properly protected the confidential decision, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

China: Debt Crisis Could Be Major Turning Point For US (CNBC)
"The worry is that China is going to take over and the West will collapse," Dr Tim Stanley, a research fellow in American History at Royal Holloway College, told CNBC. "In the last 20 years, there has been a lot of talk along the lines of 'China doesn't play fair in world trade.' That has evolved into 'China owns the US.'"

Former Fed Economist: World Repeating Japan's 1997 Mistake (Reuters)
The big mistake that Japan made then, said Richard Koo, was that its government was trying to reduce its budget deficit, while the private sector was still deleveraging — the same policies currently being pursued in the U.S., U.K., Spain and Portugal. “What we learned is that when the private sector is minimizing debt… you need governments to be in there, taking (this debt from) the private sector and putting (it) back into the income stream,” he said.

Bull kills its third man in 10 years during festival in eastern Spain (Guardian)
An inquiry was launched on Sunday after a 29-year-old man was gored to death by a bull during a festival in eastern Spain. The man, whose name was not released, died at a hospital in the town of Xativa on Saturday. A regional government official said an investigation into the goring had been opened. The 500 kilogram bull – named Ratón – has killed two other members of the public during festivals over 10 years. Because of the animal's reputation, his owners reportedly earn €10,000 (£8,750) each time it appears at a festival. "He's the one that gets the highest prices," owner Gregorio de Jesus said of Ratón. "But still he works out the cheapest because wherever he goes organizers double the ticket price."

Citigroup, Goldman Boost France Bank Ties (Bloomberg)
Citigroup, the third-biggest U.S. lender, boosted gross “cross-border outstandings” with French banks 40 percent to $15.7 billion from Jan. 1 through June 30, according to the company’s quarterly report. Goldman Sachs increased claims by 31 percent to $38.5 billion in the first half, its report shows. The filings don’t disclose collateral the banks received or hedges.

Bernie Madoff ditched by his wife of 52 years as she seeks reconciliation with son (DM)
According to Madoff's biographer, Mrs Madoff has not visited her 73-year-old husband since their son Mark committed suicide in December. 'Ruth has not seen Bernie since Mark's suicide and I think the remnants of the family will now pull together,' said Diana Henriques, author of 'Bernie Madoff: The Wizard of Lies'. 'Ruth visiting him in prison was a major impediment to her being reconciled with them,' she told the Daily Express. The couple met at high school in New York and married in 1959. Mrs Madoff worked on Wall Street before joining her husband's company and founding the Madoff Charitable Trust.

Sterling No Refuge As King Eyes Stimulus (Bloomberg)
Amid a background of rioting and looting across the nation, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said on Aug. 11 that the U.K.’s recovery will “take longer and be harder” and Bank of England Governor Mervyn King signaled a day earlier he may resume pumping cash into the economy to boost growth. Investors have responded to the worsening outlook by pulling money out of the country at the fastest rate in at least two decades.

Suit Alleges Favoritism By BNY Melon (WSJ)
Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi, in a state-court suit filed Thursday, said the $128.9 billion Florida Retirement System Trust Fund wasn't one of the chosen clients. Instead, the fund was left in the dark and was charged improper and "hidden" costs...Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II also sued BNY Mellon on Thursday and alleged a "false price" for about 73,000 currency trades. The two lawsuits were filed within 11 minutes of each other and come after Virginia and BNY Mellon failed to reach a settlement in a mediation session.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold (NYP)
Boiler-room hustlers are in the midst of a golden age -- spinning their legendary sales scams by selling fool's gold instead of their worthless penny stocks. A flurry of deceptive and downright fraudulent scams are cheat gold aficionados out of their cash as well as any promise of paper gains they'd expect while the precious metal makes headlines by skyrocketing to last week's $1,801-an-ounce milestone. Instead of joining the party, however, many of the unsuspecting investors even get talked out of buying the ordinary gold bars or pure gold coins they covet -- under false warnings that Uncle Sam can "confiscate and melt" them. Instead, they're often suckered into purchasing decommissioned foreign coins laced with tiny portions of gold worth barely a third of what they pay for the coin.