Terrorists Win! Modern Warfare 2 Kills Records and Civilians.

For once, marketers have told the truth: Modern Warfare 2 really was the entertainment industry's biggest launch ever.

First-day sales: 4.7 million copies, $310 million in North America and the U.K. Hollywood's biggest movie launch was The Dark Knight, which pulled in $158.3 million (and took three days to do it).

It wasn't an idle boast this past June by marketers that MW2 would blitz the world. Videogames are the future, movies are the past, at least in money terms.

Whatever happened to 9/11 and Bush's War on Terror? In MW2 you can even play a terrorist and shoot civilians at an airport massacre! And see Washington, D.C., go up in flames! Life's good.

Of course, there is the debate (see here and here) over whether such games contribute to real-life violence. Ho-fucking-hum. We're already an extremely violent society.

Gamers Answer Call of Duty, Launch Highly Profitable War Against Russia

This season's entertainment blockbuster, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, is the whole shooting match: Your chance to shoot Russians (or, if you prefer, innocent civilians), investors' opportunity to score off game maker Activision, and jingoists answering a call to glory on Veterans' Day.

Already hailed as the biggest videogame launch ever (even worldwide), MW2 is shipping out up to 8 million units this week, probably a record. The Street already gave its approval last Friday: Activision's stock rose in anticipation of the game's release. (See GamePro's review here.)

As I pointed out in June, marketers vowed the biggest entertainment-industry launch ever for the game. Call of Duty veterans may be pissed off that MW2 tries too hard to lure first-timers, but that's the war business for you.

Forget film offerings like the next Twilight or James Cameron's Avatar, Reuters says. This is your week to celebrate war. As one analyst says, "This is the one game that could buck the economic trend for the holiday season."

Fort Hood's Killer Shrink: Was He One of the Army Docs Pressured to Misdiagnose PTSD in Soldiers?

The Fort Hood killer psychiatrist's case of pre-traumatic stress disorder couldn't be more clear.

Especially if it's true that Major Nidal Malik Hasan defended suicide bombing in an Internet post as a heroic, even life-saving, measure.

Perhaps we'll learn as details unfold that Hasan — himself a suicide killer — was one of the Army's psychiatrists and psychologists who were pressured during the first five years of the Iraq War to not diagnose screwed-up soldiers as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, the Army's doctors were diagnosing soldiers as supposedly having "personality disorder," a pre-existing condition for which they wouldn't qualify for treatment. The military had a financial motive — keep healthcare costs down — in addition to the motive of covering up the huge PTSD problems of returning soldiers.

Who knows Hasan's motives at this point? (The WashPost has some good tidbits on his being a shrink assigned to study soldiers' trauma.) But perhaps his horribly twisted thinking was exacerbated by his legitimate frustration that Army docs like him were pressured for years to screw the screwed-up soldiers sent to them for diagnoses and treatment.

It's for sure that Hasan, like every other mental-health practitioner in the military, knew about that scandalous situation. Since 2007 or so, it has been laid out well in many mainstream outlets.

Gold and Blood at Record Highs, from Wall Street to the Congo

Everyday horror: A woman and her child flee from a burning compound during one of the Congo's typical election campaigns.

The soaring price of gold and the plummeting price of human life are converging this week. Is that good or bad news?

Gold prices surged to an all-time high today, spurred by the International Monetary Fund's sale of 200 tons of the stuff to India's central bank.

That's got to be great news for the Democratic Republic of Congo, which sits atop the world's most concentrated collection of untapped gold and other precious metals. Latest news on the Street shows that mining company Randgold advanced 6 percent after saying it's boosting its stake in the DRC's lucrative Moto gold deposit.

At this point, however, even more blood than anything else flows in the DRC, still the scene of the world's deadliest conflict since World War II.

Just yesterday, Human Rights Watch accused the UN peacekeeping force MONUC of actually supporting the Congo military's current campaign of murder and rape. The UN force is partners with the Congo army in Operation Kimia II.

The Congo is the rape capital of the world — sexual violence is a recognized tool of war — so the "rape of the Congo" is more than just a metaphor for the constant plundering of the country's natural resources.

Sad fact: The lust for the Congo's rich resources has never resulted in an easing of tensions over there, but has only intensified the civil war for control. So gold's record-high prices aren't exactly destined to spread peace and sunshine over central Africa.

Bears Maul Pakistan -- World's Worst, Most Dangerous Market

Pakistan's stock market took the planet's worst financial nose dive today. Its biggest fuel explorer plunged into a barren green hole, and its biggest bank, MCB, plunged 5 percent after being ignominiously being downgraded by Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit.

Very bad news in the world's seventh most populous country.

For historical value and general amusement/horror, click on the video above for the Karachi Stock Exchange's recent puff piece about what a wonderful opportunity Pakistan is for investors. The truth is that Pakistan's meltdown endangers every other South Asian economy.

Poor Pakistan. Talk about a bubble that's past the bursting point. Schools and colleges have been shut down for a week, and troops are hunting militants thought to be hiding in seminaries in the federal capital, Islamabad, as Dawn reports.

Top Doc: How to Make War on the Federal Budget

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From Security Spending Primer: Getting Smart About The Pentagon Budget

Confused about the federal budget? Don't worry, so are your congressmen and congresswomen.

Here's a guide from the National Priorities Project that explains the process and zooms in on some of the political wrangling. Security Spending Primer: Getting Smart About The Pentagon Budget includes the obligatory charts, so you're welcome to stage a pie fight when you're done reading.

The above chart breaks down the "discretionary" budget, the stuff that Congress and the White House wrangle over. As the NPP's summary of its report notes: "Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama Administration is not cutting defense. In fact, the Pentagon budget is projected to grow 25 percent over the next decade."

Oh, you say, it's those nasty Iraq/Afghan wars, right? Wrong. "Even without including current war allocations, U.S. military spending is at its highest level since World War II," the NPP report says. "This takes into account the war-time budgets of Vietnam and Korea."

Down-to-a-Trickle Economics: Cash Flow in the Gaza Strip

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Photo: Sameh Habeeb

Liquidity in the Middle East generally refers to something red, not green. But in the Gaza Strip, there's not much of either these days. Jews and Arabs are accidentally in some sort of detente at this exact second, so not a lot of blood is flowing.

The Gaza Strip, meanwhile, is almost permanently cut off from the flow of money, according to Sami Abu Shamalia's "Cash Flow in the Gaza Strip," on opendemocracy.net.

The banking system, with its seven hours' worth of reserves, is for all practical purposes defunct. There's no production, no exports, a deliberate shortage of currency enforced by the Israeli blockade of just about everything that people need to exist.

Instead of redevelopment in the aftermath of the Gaza War, the Strip is experiencing what the Guardian (U.K.) quotes a U.N. report as calling "de-development."

This A.M.: Obama Talks the Talk on Wall Street, but a Federal Judge Walks the Walk; Execs Party in Foreclosed House, Flee Swine Flu in Private Jets

For Obama, a Chance to Reform the Street Is Fading (NYT)

The president "sternly admonished the financial industry and lawmakers to accept his proposals." Obama says Wall Street is "choosing to ignore" the "lessons of Lehman and the crisis."

Judge Rejects Settlement Over Merrill Bonuses (NYT)

Astonishing, rare, and powerful rebuke of Wall Street by federal judge Jed Rakoff that far outstrips Obama's for-public-consumption scolding — and embarrasses the president and Obama's SEC chief Mary Schapiro. WSJ's "Judge Tosses Out Bonus Deal" points out that the "unusual ruling ... casts doubts about how the [SEC] handles probes of major U.S. companies." Rakoff's ruling strengthens NY AG Andy Cuomo's attempt to file civil-fraud charges against Bank of America's CEO Ken Lewis. Meanwhile, Lewis tells Japan that "there is a potential for a rebound that beats the forecasts." He's talking about the global economy, not his own future.

No Easy Exit for U.S. As Housing's Savior (WSJ)

Housing market's only doing better because the government's propping it up.

Swine Flu Means $25,000 Chartered New York Flights for Senior Executives (Bloomberg)

"Demand for private travel during the swine flu pandemic is boosting the charter business, worth about $33 billion a year worldwide."

For France, a Joie de Vivre Index (WSJ)

"Sarkozy to Add New Indicators, Such as Well-Being, to Measure Economic Health." Clever. Based on Joseph Stiglitz's analysis.

Wells Fargo Dismisses Executive Accused of Using Foreclosed Home for Parties (WSJ)

Bank seized $12 million beach house lost amid Madoff scheme, and senior veep Cheronda Guyton used it to party like it was 1999.


Movies Marketing Videogames: Microsoft's Live-Action Trailer for 'Halo 3: ODST'

Start creaming in your jeans. Here's the trailer for Microsoft's Halo 3: ODST that last week's shorter trailer for Halo 3: ODST was touting.

The jingoistic, colonialistic, dead-soldier-mentality Xbox game itself is having its sorta debut tonight, though parts of it have already "leaked" out. It's a bigger deal than Barack Obama's speech last night, if you're talking about who the hell is moving the economy forward. Coupled with other new videogame releases this month — The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5 among them — the videogame industry may rake in $400 million in September just from new releases. Coupled with $300 million from sales of previously released games, the industry may be recovering its health after a period of decreased sales. If games are an indicator of the recession, that's good news.

If you're in the film business, the news might not be so good. It wouldn't be out of the question if games eclipsed film and TV.

You may recall that Peter Jackson intended to do a film/game version of Halo, but it crashed, and he moved on to mentor District 9. So here's the new Halo videogame, being marketed by a violent, stupid, pretentious, expensive, live-action trailer, which is assessed here at Big Money. The Big Money boys ask: "Does the trailer make the game seem disturbing or does it make you want to play along?" Answer: Both. But I'll always have a soft spot for Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death, which you don't need an Xbox to play.

Afghan, Iraq wars: The guerrillas in the budget


Sounding a tone that the previous administration never would have dared, Defense Secretary Robert Gates admits that the Taliban have the upper hand in Afghanistan and says public support for the war will evaporate in less than a year unless that "momentum" is changed.

Not one word about a "war on terror" and nothing about "staying the course" from Gates — the Wall Street Journal story this morning by Yochi J. Dreazen and August Cole about their interview with Gates shows a SecDef sounding shockingly candid:

"People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we're making headway," he said. "If they think we're stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast."

The WSJ reporters sound their own note of realism by writing that the Taliban "are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country."

Meanwhile, the meter's running. The Nation points out (in a tiresomely tendentious piece about the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) that overall U.S. military funding will consume a fifth of all mandatory and discretionary spending and is "the proverbial $704 billion gorilla in President Obama's $3.4 trillion budget."

WABC notes that Congressman Anthony Weiner is talking about how New York City's cops, firefighters, and other municipal workers who have been sent to the two war zones have missed 800,000 days of work since 2001, costing the city's taxpayers more than $148 million to cover their military leave. He wants the federal government to pick up that tab. (Good luck with that.)

For cost-of-war figures and factoids, check out the National Priorities Projects calculations.