04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Standard & Poor's, bringing renewed focus to the inaccurate ratings of subprime mortgage securities that helped trigger the financial crisis.

A spokeswoman for Justice confirmed that the suit was filed in federal court late Monday in Los Angeles. Attorney General Eric Holder will announce it at a news conference later Tuesday, an official told CNN.

The suit charges S&P with giving deceptive ratings that greatly underestimated the risk to investors buying the mortgage securities in order for the agency to collect fees from the firms that were pooling the risky home loans into securities. It charges the nation's leading credit rating agency with misdeeds from 2004 through 2007, the period typically referred to as the housing bubble that preceded the meltdown in financial markets and the U.S. economy known as the Great Recession.

In a statement Monday, S&P called the lawsuit "entirely without factual or legal merit." The firm said that it "deeply regrets" that its ratings "failed to fully anticipate the rapidly deteriorating conditions in the U.S. mortgage market," but that it relied on the same data as U.S. government officials and other analysts who failed to predict the housing bust.

S&P is a division of McGraw-Hill, whose shares dropped 7% in Tuesday trading, after tumbling 13.8% Monday following early reports of the suit. Shares of fellow ratings agency Moody's also were lower Tuesday after a plunge late Monday.

A Moody's spokesman declined to comment when contacted Monday. A spokesman for Fitch, the other of the three big ratings agencies, said Monday the firm has "no reason to believe Fitch is a target of any such action."

Analysts have long pointed to ratings agencies as key culprits in the financial crisis.

Wall Street firms and other investors rely on the agencies to analyze risk and give debt a "grade" that reflects the borrower's ability to pay the underlying loans. The safest investments are rated "AAA."

Some investors, including pension funds and insurance companies, operate under guidelines that require them to hold a certain percentage of highly rated securities in their portfolios.

In the years preceding the meltdown of 2008, large numbers of mortgage-backed securities received AAA ratings, even though they were backed by such risky mortgages as loans to lenders with bad credit or to lenders who did not provide any proof of income.

Those mortgage-backed securities paid investors well while housing prices were going up and borrowers could sell their homes at a profit. But as the housing bubble collapsed, foreclosures soared. Critics say that because the major ratings agencies are paid by banks and other issuers of securities rather than investors, they succumbed to a conflict of interest in giving their seal of approval to dubious investments.

"Credit rating agencies allowed Wall Street to impact their analysis, their independence and their reputation for reliability," Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said in a 2010 hearing. "And they did it for the money."

A 2011 Senate report on the financial crisis said the agencies "weakened their standards as each competed to provide the most favorable rating to win business and greater market share."

 

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