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from Nicholas Wapshott:

Obama versus Congress on Guantanamo

A young girl holds a picture of Bobby Sands in a republican march to mark the 20th anniversary of the IRA hunger strike at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland May 27. REUTERS/Archive

Barely a week after Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in London, her ghost is stalking the corridors of power. At his press conference on Tuesday in Washington, President Barack Obama was asked about Guantánamo Bay prisoners refusing to eat. In doing so, the veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante, who asked the question, exposed a running sore in the Obama administration. He also invited direct comparison between Obama and Lady Thatcher – who faced a similar dilemma in 1981.

As a candidate in 2008, Obama, a distinguished Harvard-educated legal scholar known in the Senate for his common sense and humanity, promised to quickly close the prison for 166 terrorist suspects in the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The existence of a U.S. detention center that ignores the basic legal right of habeas corpus and the failure to bring prisoners to trial after so many years “erode our moral claims that we are acting on behalf of broader universal principles,” he said. He went on to repeat his pledge, yet five years on, Gitmo is still open for business.

The president’s embarrassment can be blamed, in part, on his naïveté. For a while after his inauguration in 2009 he appeared to be under the impression he had been elected the most powerful man on earth. It has taken four painful years for him to realize that the division of government guaranteed by the Constitution prevents him from doing not only what he wishes but what a majority of Americans have mandated.

from The Great Debate:

Social Security as solution, not problem

Social Security is not the problem – it is the solution.

Washington is filled with talk of a looming “retirement crisis.” The discussion focuses on funding Social Security and usually includes calls to cut benefits – either by changing payout formulas or raising the retirement age.

But the real problem is not the long-term solvency of Social Security. Rather, it is the fact that millions of Americans are facing an insecure and underfunded retirement.

from John Lloyd:

The moment for Irish unity is nearly over

The latest “troubles” in Northern Ireland began 45 years ago, and though much reduced, sometimes to invisibility, they are not over yet and will not be for some time. Protests over the Republican-dominated Belfast Council’s decision to fly the Union Jack just on certain days happened again over the weekend, if smaller and less violent than in the past few weeks.

This is what can happen after more than a century of demand for Irish independence: violence, on both sides, takes time to lose its attraction, and its adherents. Yet the bid for Irish unity, which from the late sixties to the late nineties was written almost daily in blood, has failed. Now, as we’re witnessing what may be its long withdrawal from politics, republicanism may not have another chance.

from Reuters Money:

Deficit cutting will widen retirement gap for minorities

New research finds an appalling 20 to one chasm in net worth between white and black Americans, and an 18 to one gap between whites and Hispanics. The Pew Research Center found that the net worth gap has widened during the Great Recession, mainly because the housing bust disproportionately cut into the wealth of African-Americans and Hispanics.

The housing crash hurt these households disproportionately because they tended not to have much in the way of other assets, especially when it came to retirement savings. So, the Pew report -- an analysis of the comprehensive U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation for 2009 – points to a terribly important social problem we face today – and the growing retirement security gap confronting minority households.

from Reuters Money:

How to find your investing sweetspot

Dan Greenshields, CFA, is President of ING DIRECT Investing, a subsidiary of ING Bank, fsb. The opinions expressed here are his own.

In baseball, good hitters don’t chase pitches in the dirt. They wait to swing on a ball in their sweetspot -- that small space over the plate at which they can maximize the power and accuracy of their bat. Good hitters are patient and make a point to play to their strengths.

from Reuters Money:

Charles Schwab to consumers: Rate our services

It's easy to find consumer reviews for restaurants, hotels and cars on websites like Zagat, Yelp and Edmonds. But what about financial services? Slim pickings.

This summer, Charles Schwab is rolling out Clients Speak, a ratings and review service that gives clients a public platform to talk about their experience with the company. Based in San Francisco, Schwab says it is the first brokerage firm to publicly allow clients to provide such feedback.

from Reuters Money:

Most Americans find their retirement goals unattainable: study

A man waits during a job fair at the Southeast LA-Crenshaw WorkSource Center in Los Angeles November 20, 2009.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni If you're feeling discouraged about reaching your ambitious retirement goals, rest assured you are not alone.

According to the newly-released study called Shedding Light on Retirement, 55 percent of Americans don't know how to achieve their retirement goals.

from Reuters Money:

Take Social Security now or later? Answer not so simple

Executive assistant Mario Rebellato, 68, looks at a staff availability chart as he helps field calls at Pimlico Plumbers in London July 29, 2010.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett It's a no brainer that your retirement will be better funded if you delay it. Work longer, and you (1) earn more money; (2) reduce the number of retirement years you have to cover; and (3) boost your Social Security benefits doubly, by delaying them (unclaimed, they'll grow roughly 7.25 percent a year), and by adding new earnings to the formula by which they are calculated.

But here's a question that's far tougher: What if you can't work longer, because you lost your job when you were 59 or 60? Should you start taking Social Security as early as possible (when you are 62) or defer it as long as you can?

from Reuters Money:

Retirement: Playing a frantic game of catch-up

Janet Patterson is pictured in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/HandoutJanet Patterson has faced a lot in her life. Divorce, alcoholism, depression. Each time the 59-year-old Californian has come back from the precipice, and she’s now an accomplished nurse who specializes in pediatrics and critical care.

But now Patterson is readying for the most daunting foe of all, and it’s a battle she’s not sure she can win:  She’s approaching retirement age with barely a dime to her name.
She’s got $46,000 in student loans, $3,000 racked up on various credit cards, an $8,000 loan on a used car. She has no property, and no savings to speak of. Except for $7,000 in a 401(k) -- which she’s already taken a loan against.

from Reuters Money:

Write a separate check for IRA fees, save big

Valerie Arbogast, France's Banque Populaire financial adviser, speaks with Eric Fresnel (R), head of packaging company Sleever, in Paris October 29, 2008.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier  If you're getting investment advice for your Individual Retirement Account (IRA), Roth IRA or Rollover IRA, you're probably paying for it, even if the charges aren't obvious. But by making that payment explicit, and covering it with funds from outside of your retirement account, you can magnify your retirement savings and get an extra tax deduction, too.

That's because the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that money paid to financial advisers for managing IRAs doesn't have to count against the annual IRA contributions limit. Put simply, if the fee you're paying to your adviser is a wrap fee, or a fee calculated as some percentage of the assets your adviser is managing, you can write a separate check for it and not allow it to deplete your retirement account. If, instead, your adviser is compensated by trade-related commissions, you can't separate them from your account and take advantage of this break.

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