Monday, December 22, 2008

AP IMPACT: Wall Street still flying corporate jets

By STEVENSON JACOBS, AP Business Writer Stevenson Jacobs, Ap Business Writer

In this Feb. 6, 2007 file photo, a visitor walks past Gulfstream business jets AP – In this Feb. 6, 2007 file photo, a visitor walks past Gulfstream business jets at the Asia Business Aviation …

NEW YORK – Crisscrossing the country in corporate jets may no longer fly in Detroit after car executives got a dressing down from Congress. But on Wall Street, the coveted executive perk has hardly been grounded.

Six financial firms that received billions in bailout dollars still own and operate fleets of jets to carry executives to company events and sometimes personal trips, according to an Associated Press review.

The jets serve as airborne offices, time-savers for executives for whom time is money — lots of money. And some firms are cutting back, either by selling the planes or leasing them.

Still, Wall Street's reliance of the rarified mode of travel has largely escaped the scorn poured on the Big Three automakers.

Insurance giant American International Group Inc., which has received about $150 billion in bailout money, has one of the largest fleets among bailout recipients, with seven planes, according to a review of Federal Aviation Administration records.

"Our aircraft are being used very sparingly right now," AIG spokesman Nicholas J. Ashooh said. "I'm not saying there's no use, but there's very minimal use."

To cut costs, AIG sold two jets earlier this year and is selling or canceling orders for four others.

Five other financial companies that got a combined $120 billion in government cash injections — Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley — all own aircraft for executive travel, according to regulatory filings earlier this year and interviews.

A cross-country trip in a mid-sized jet costs about $20,000 for fuel. Maintenance, storage and pilot fees put the cost far higher.

Many U.S. companies are giving up the perk. The inventory of used private jets was up 52 percent as of September, according to recent JPMorgan data on the health of the private aircraft industry.

A few big U.S. companies have shunned jet ownership. Chip maker Intel Corp., for example, requires executives and employees to fly commercial. Intel occasionally charters jets for executives on overseas trips for security reasons, though.

For automakers, the public relations nightmare exploded last month when the chief executives of Ford, GM and Chrysler were criticized for flying on corporate jets to Washington to ask Congress for federal bailout money.

"Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled, or something, to get here?" Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., asked the CEOs.

When the executives went back to Capitol Hill two weeks later for a second round of hearings, they traveled by car.

So why were Wall Street executives spared from the corporate-jet backlash? One reason is that they didn't have to go before Congress to request bailout money, so no one asked how they traveled to Washington.

But an AP review of Securities and Exchange Commission filings and FAA records offers a glimpse of Wall Street firms' ownership and use of private aircraft. Among the findings:

• CITIGROUP: Has a wholly owned subsidiary, Citiflight Inc., that handles air travel for executives. Citi spokeswoman Shannon Bell refused to comment on the size of the firm's fleet but said it has been reduced by two-thirds over the past eight years. FAA records show four jets and a helicopter registered to the company.

In 2007, then-CEO Charles Prince used company aircraft for personal trips for security reasons. Those trips cost the company $170,972 for that year. Current CEO Vikram Pandit began reimbursing the company for all personal travel on company planes since being appointed in November 2007.

Use of Citigroup's aircraft currently is confined to a "limited number of executives," Bell said. "Executives are encouraged to fly commercial whenever possible to reduce expenses."

• MORGAN STANLEY: Has reduced its executive jet fleet size from three planes to two since 2005, company spokesman Mark Lake said. FAA records show two Gulfstream G-Vs as registered to the company.

In 2007, CEO John Mack's personal use of company aircraft totaled $355,882, according to a February proxy filing. Mack is required to use company aircraft for personal trips for security reasons.

• JPMORGAN: Registered as the owner of four Gulfstream jets, including a 2007 ultra-long range flagship G550 model, FAA records show. A G550 ordered for delivery that year would have cost roughly $47.5 million.

CEO Jamie Dimon is required to use company aircraft for personal trips; In 2007, his personal use of company jets totaled $211,182, according to a May filing with the SEC. Company spokesman Joe Evangelisti refused to comment on whether the bank has changed its policy on corporate aircraft use since accepting $25 billion in TARP money.

BANK OF AMERICA: Registered as the owner of nine planes, including four Gulfstreams, FAA records show. Company spokesman Scott Silvestri refused to say whether the company has changed its policy on corporate aircraft use since taking $15 billion in bailout money.

CEO Kenneth Lewis, also required to use company aircraft for personal trips, racked up $127,643 in such travel last year, according to a March filing with the SEC.

• WELLS FARGO: Owns a single jet that "is strictly for business purposes under appropriate circumstances," spokeswoman Julia Tunis Bernard said. "No (government) funds will be used for corporate jet travel," she added.

SEC rules require publicly held companies to disclose executives' personal use of corporate aircraft. But there's "a lot of gray area" in how they do it, said David Yermack, a finance professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University who has studied the matter.

"If you use the plane for a personal trip but make one business call, should you report it?" he said. "Or if you're playing golf with potential business partners, does a company report that as business or personal?"

As mounting losses force companies to cut costs, some are becoming stingier about personal use of the company plane. Merrill Lynch & Co., for example, has banned such trips, according to company filings.

Experts say other companies that took bailout money will probably follow suit.

"The personal use of these planes is virtually indefensible at this point," said Patrick McGurn, special counsel at shareholder advisory firm RiskMetrics Group. "Once you're on the federal dole, the pressure is going to become immense on these firms to cut these costs."

Private jet manufacturers say the debate over executive travel has been overblown.

"What people don't understand is that business jets are mobile offices," said Robert N. Baugniet, Gulfstream's director of corporate communications. "If time has any value to you, then you'll understand why people use business jets."

He said the dustup hasn't hurt orders for new planes.

Still, some firms have avoided corporate jet ownership. Goldman Sachs Group, whose executives in past years have been among the highest-paid in the industry, has never owned its own aircraft since going public in 1999, spokesman Michael DuVally said.

The company does make private planes available to some executives through a fractional jet agreement, a timeshare-style arrangement, according to filings. Duvally refused to say how much the company spends on its fractional agreement.

Wary of being perceived as opulent, most companies fly in unmarked jets. Aviation buffs can usually track planes over the Internet using aircraft tail numbers. But many companies, including AIG and Citigroup, have blocked the public's ability to do so for security reasons.

Some corporate chieftains make no excuses for flying the private skies.

After years of railing against such costs, billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffet broke down in 1989 and bought a Gulfstream IV-SP using $9.7 million in company funds. He named the aircraft "The Indefensible."

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AP Study Finds $1.6B Went to Bailed-Out Bank Execs


Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits in the calendar year 2007, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for 53 of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe ''to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

''Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can,'' said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. ''We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!''

The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings:

--The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.

--Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million.

This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said. Facing increasing concern by its own shareholders on executive payments, the company described its pay plan last spring as essential to retain and motivate executives ''whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success, by setting their compensation at appropriate and competitive levels.'' Goldman spokesman Ed Canaday declined to comment beyond that written report.

The New York-based company on Dec. 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.

--Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

--John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options.

Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28.

The AP review comes amid sharp questions about the banks' commitment to the goals of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a law designed to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets. Last month, the Bush administration changed the program's goals, instructing the Treasury Department to pump tax dollars directly into banks in a bid to prevent wholesale economic collapse.

The program set restrictions on some executive compensation for participating banks, but did not limit salaries and bonuses unless they had the effect of encouraging excessive risk to the institution. Banks were barred from giving golden parachutes to departing executives and deducting some executive pay for tax purposes.

Banks that got bailout funds also paid out millions for home security systems, private chauffeured cars, and club dues. Some banks even paid for financial advisers. Wells Fargo of San Francisco, which took $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, gave its top executives up to $20,000 each to pay personal financial planners.

At Bank of New York Mellon Corp., chief executive Robert P. Kelly's stipend for financial planning services came to $66,748, on top of his $975,000 salary and $7.5 million bonus. His car and driver cost $178,879. Kelly also received $846,000 in relocation expenses, including help selling his home in Pittsburgh and purchasing one in Manhattan, the company said.

Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $233,000 per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year that financial counseling and chauffeurs are important in giving executives more time to focus on their jobs.

JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $211,182 private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $25 billion in bailout funds.

Banks cite security to justify personal use of company aircraft for some executives. But Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., questioned that rationale, saying executives visit many locations more vulnerable than the nation's security-conscious commercial air terminals.

Sherman, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said pay excesses undermine development of good bank economic policies and promote an escalating pay spiral among competing financial institutions -- something particularly hard to take when banks then ask for rescue money.

He wants them to come before Congress, like the automakers did, and spell out their spending plans for bailout funds.

''The tougher we are on the executives that come to Washington, the fewer will come for a bailout,'' he said.

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Rules for Making a Good Impression

By Carmine Gallo

Getting favorable word out on a tiny budget is one of the perennial challenges facing small-business owners. Advertising is often too expensive, so most business owners rely on good old fashioned networking and word of mouth. However some are better at it than others (see's Smart Answers podcast, 4/18/07, "Instituting a Client Appreciation Program"). Here are seven rules that will guarantee a strong first impression and a powerful, lasting one.

Rule #1: Respond within 24 Hours

During the course of researching my next book, I came across an interesting trend. The people who run the most successful companies are the most responsive. When I leave a voice message or send an e-mail these individuals get back to me immediately with information, whether they're at the office or traveling. One woman who oversees 5,000 employees makes it a policy to respond to e-mail within 24 hours. She says her responsiveness provides a model for her employees. If she responds quickly to employee questions or concerns, they in turn understand the importance of getting back to customers in a short amount of time.

Even if you don't have an immediate answer, acknowledge receiving an e-mail or voice message within 24 hours or less, and let the person know you're considering the request or taking action on it.

Rule #2: Greet People with Enthusiasm

When a customer or employee calls and you choose to answer, it implies that you have time to talk. Far too many people continue to multitask during phone conversations. Those of us on the other end of the line can sense it, especially when you give one-word answers to our questions and we hear typing in the background!

Give your customers and employees your full attention. Greet them like you're sincerely excited to hear from them. And if the time isn't right, be professional enough to set a later time to give them your full attention.

Rule #3: Make Eye Contact

In conversations with customers or employees, look them in the eye. I know you might love your Blackberry, but please refrain from checking your device during the conversation. Think about how it makes you feel when the person you're talking to continually takes her eyes off you to check out other people in the room. I'll tell you how I feel—like it's a waste of time to even finish the conversation.

Give customers and employees your full attention. It makes people feel as though their opinions and insights are valued. It will help you make a powerful and lasting impression.

Rule #4: Leave Smart Voice Messages

First of all, don't leave long, rambling messages with your phone number at the end. Keep the script concise. Leave your name, time you called, and phone number at the beginning. Repeat the phone number at the end, s-l-o-w-l-y. There's also nothing worse than a drawn out game of phone tag. It can't hurt to leave a specific time when you can be reached. Of course, if you leave a time, be there to answer the call!

Rule #5: Respect Contacts

A conference organizer recently told me attendees have started complaining about fellow participants who treat business cards they have picked up at booths as open invitations to cram in-boxes with solicitations. If someone gives you a card, it's an invitation to begin a conversation. It isn't permission to leave a constant bombardment of e-mail sales pitches under the guise of "newsletters." It's also not an invitation to send 10-MB files that explain what your business does.

Rule #6: Mind Your E-Mail

Speaking of e-mail, keep your correspondence concise. Time is limited. Use a subject line with no more than three to five words that grab your reader's attention. Give the pertinent information in the first line or two, and keep your correspondence to one or two short paragraphs (unless of course a detailed memorandum is expected). Also, don't forget to use proper punctuation and grammar. The spell-check function exists on your computer for a reason. Use it.

Rule #7: Remember Small Touches

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? I bet you remember it. I do. After a brief conversation with the chief executive officer of a well-known franchisor, I was surprised to receive an envelope in the mail with a short handwritten thank-you note along with several coupons for his product. The coupons were for small amounts, but the gesture left a big impression on me.

My insurance and financial planning adviser gets plenty of business from me because of numerous, small touches during the year. Several times a year I can expect to receive a handwritten note, a short voice message, or a copy of an article that I might find valuable given what he knows about my interests. None of these touches are accompanied by a hard sell, but I wouldn't consider bringing my business to anyone else.

Business is far too competitive to risk making a bad impression. But it's not that hard to make a positive one. Just think about the way you like to be treated as a client. Follow these seven rules to stand apart.

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Seaford dad Tony Williamson dies from freak illness

By Siobhan Ryan

Victim Tony Williamson

A father who suffered a tiny cut died six days later after a flesh-eating disease spread through his body at the rate of three inches an hour.

Tony Williamson contracted blood poisoning and necrotising fasciitis (NF), an infection which kills flesh under the skin.

There are more than 2,000 NF cases reported each year and three quarters of patients die.

Mr Williamson, 60, a removal man, brushed off the half-inch cut as nothing to worry about but now his widow is campaigning for men to drop their macho attitude to medical problems.

Carole Williamson, a drama teacher, said: "Tony was a wonderful husband but he was stubborn and would dismiss injuries with it's nothing to worry about or I'll be fine.

"Too many women like me have been made widows by this attitude."

Mrs Williamson, 60, intends using an inquest into his death next week to raise awareness about the disease and to urge men to be more careful with their health. She had never heard of NF until her husband's death.

The disease is caused by a number of bacteria and can invade broken skin. The patient rapidly becomes unwell with flu-like symptoms including vomiting.

Without strong antibiotics, given intravenously, or even surgery to cut away infected tissue, patients suffer shock, collapse and low blood pressure.

It ultimately leads to organ failure. In Mr Williamson's case, it led to a fatal heart attack.

He had recently been given the all-clear after treatment for lung cancer and was fit and healthy. The former aircraft engineer was transporting furniture from a client's home in London to France when he scratched his right forearm.

Mrs Williamson said: "It was something that happened quite a lot in his line of business. Tony said there was no cause for alarm and he was the type of man who would never put on antiseptic cream or seek medical attention.

"He made his delivery in Lyons and then travelled to Cannes to pick up a return load of furniture. Two days after suffering the cut he telephoned me from our house in France to say he had been sick.

"He thought it was probably food poisoning and again said there was no cause for alarm. The next day, when he arrived at the house in Lyons, he was still being sick.

"I now know, of course, nausea is an early sign of NF. Two days later he had to lay in the back of the lorry while a colleague took over the driving. When they reached Cannes, Tony got out of the lorry and collapsed. He was taken by ambulance to Grasse Hospital but as they had no intensive care he was transferred to Cannes Hospital.

"At midnight he suffered a heart attack. The toxins had invaded his body and his system had simply closed down."

A post-mortem examination in England confirmed NF and blood poisoning caused his death.

Mrs Williamson, who lives with their son James in Claremont Road, Seaford, said: "I found it hard to accept no attempt was made to check Tony's condition during the journey but, men being men, they don't like showing signs of what they see as weakness.

"He certainly didn't think he was so ill but if he had sought treatment would anyone have known the cause and could he have been saved?

"I want to tell the world this bacteria exists and that it can, without treatment, kill in such a short space of time.

"I hope to impress those at the inquest how you can contract it from the most minor of injuries even a paper cut.

"Perhaps we can all learn from this tragedy."

Mrs Williamson, who taught at Roedean and now works at Brighton and Hove High School and St Mary's Hall in Brighton, is raising money for the Lee Spark NF Foundation which raises awareness.

TV presenter Ben Fogle is currently battling a similar flesh-eating bug which he contracted after being bitten while filming in Peru this summer.

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Headless bodies found in Mexico


Police in Mexico have found nine decapitated bodies close to a highway in the southern state of Guerrero.

Local officials said the victims were a policeman and eight soldiers.

Nine heads were found earlier in plastic bags close to a supermarket, reportedly with a note warning of more decapitations to follow.

Nearly 5,400 people have been murdered in drugs-related violence this year. Thousands of troops have been deployed across Mexico to tackle drugs gangs.

Local media reported that the soldiers were believed to have been abducted on Saturday as they left a nearby military base, close to the city of Chilpancingo.

Another three decapitated bodies were found on Sunday on the outskirts of the city, officials said.

President Felipe Calderon has deployed about 40,000 troops and police since December 2006 against the drugs cartels.

However, Mexico's top prosecutor has said that the violence is likely to worsen in 2009 as drug gangs split and fight for turf.

Officials say the increasingly gruesome nature of the violence shows that the drugs gangs are being squeezed, intensifying their internal squabbles.

In a statement, the defence ministry said the murders of the soldiers were the result of "the severe blows the Mexican army and air force have dealt to organised crime" and described the drug gangs as "cowards" who had been "cornered and weakened".

But the latest killings suggest the drug traffickers are prepared to take on the security forces, says the BBC's Stephen Gibbs In Mexico City.

The gruesome tactic of decapitation would appear to be designed to spread fear among anyone who threatens them, he says.

Local media reported that a message was found next to the nine heads warning, "For each one of us they kill, we'll kill 10 of them."

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Saudi court tells girl aged EIGHT she cannot divorce husband who is 50 years her senior

By Mail Foreign Service

A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

Lawyer Abdullar Jtili said:"The judge has dismissed the plea, filed by the mother, because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty."

Mass wedding in Riyadh

Grooms take part in a mass wedding ceremony in Riyadh in June. Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman and a local group organized a mass wedding for about 1600 couples to help people unable to afford expensive ceremonies

"She doesn't know yet that she has been married," Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

Relatives who did not wish to be named said that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother.

They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18.

The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of £5,000, as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said.

The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.

Mr Jtili said he was going to appeal the verdict at the court of cassation, the supreme court in the ultra-conservative kingdom which applies Islamic Sharia law in its courts.

Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the
Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common.

In Yemen in April, another girl aged eight was granted a divorce after her unemployed father forced her to marry a man of 28.

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U.S. votes against "right to food" in UN General Assembly

UN General Assembly press release:

Draft resolution XX on the right to food, approved on 24 November by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, would have the Assembly reaffirm that hunger constitutes an outrage and a violation of human dignity, requiring the adoption of urgent measures at the national, regional and international level, for its elimination.

Full vote below.

Vote on Right to Food

The draft resolution on the right to food (document A/63/430/Add.2) was adopted by a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: United States.

Abstain: None.

Absent: Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Uganda.

"Why do they hate us?" we ask.

The real question we should be asking is: "Why do we hate them?"

Remember that the U.S. ruling class helped to cause the world food crisis. The U.S.' policy of promoting "free trade" and neoliberal reform through the IMF/World Bank is quite literally promoting starvation. Just look at what we did to Haiti. This vote seems to be a new low, as far as I can tell. Calling the "right to food" a human right in a toothless diplomatic resultion costs nothing and requires no further action. I'm not sure if this vote was motivated by free market fundamentalism or pure sadism.

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