A grim warning cry on soaring US debt
President Obama’s self-congratulatory State of the Union message last week made it sound like our nation’s problems are behind us. But on Tuesday the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office set the record straight with a blistering warning. The CBO cautioned that America’s unaffordable public programs and crushing debt will condemn us to anemic economic growth. Total federal debt will reach $22.3 trillion by 2020. Unsustainable, says the CBO — especially when now-low interest rates return to normal. Don’t count on spendaholics in Congress to take this warning seriously. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), for example, responded to the CBO by boasting about this year’ s $468 billion federal deficit — the smallest since Obama took office — and smirking at “Republican rhetoric about ‘a big government’ boogeyman.” Sorry, senator. The CBO predicts you won’t be seeing deficits that small again except in the rear-view mirror.
Jobless claims lowest since 2000, but...
Very few Americans filed for unemployment last week. The jobless claims rate fell to 265,000 -- the lowest since April 2000 and a big drop from the past few weeks when over 300,000 people were filing for unemployment aid. At first glance, it's good news for the U.S. economy. More and more people have been finding work and transitioning faster from one job to the next. Last year America had the most job growth since 1999. Economist Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial thinks it could also be a positive sign for veterans. "Some of the surge earlier in the year was due to a jump in veterans returning home; that is starting to abate," she notes. Layoffs in the retail sector could also be mostly over after the ho-hum holiday shopping season. But economists caution not to cheer too loudly yet. Jobless claims often jump around a lot from week to week, and last week included the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which may have made people less inclined to file unemployment claims.
Is Atlantic City Headed for Bankruptcy?
Atlantic City has struggled for years as the near-collapses of the gambling industry there has eroded its tax base. But recent events in America’s Playground, namely a super downgrade of its credit into junk status and the unwillingness of the state to take over its finances, have firmly pointed the city down a path that could end in bankruptcy. This week, Standard & Poor’s credit ratings agency became the second to downgrade the former East Coast gambling mecca’s rating to junk status. It was what’s called a super downgrade, one that dropped the city a whopping four notches from BBB+ to BB, which is below investment grade. The downgrade came four days after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the city six notches from Ba1, just below investment grade, to Caa1, which is deep into junk bond territory. The downgrades by two of the three major ratings agencies means it will cost Atlantic City even more to finance its debt.
Feds’ Price War on Housing Puts Taxpayers at Risk
Government housing agencies seeking to entice more low-income homebuyers to purchase mortgages are engaged in a price war that could leave taxpayers on the hook if another housing meltdown occurs, according to experts. Both the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, housing giants known as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), have announced programs in recent weeks that reduce lending standards and mortgage costs to attract low-income buyers. President Barack Obama touted the FHA’s plan, which lowers annual insurance premiums on government-backed mortgages, earlier this month. That program follows Fannie and Freddie’s resumption in December of low down payment mortgage loans for eligible first-time homebuyers. The timing of the two measures is not a coincidence, some experts say. Edward Pinto, former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae...
Alibaba's Disappointing Earnings Pile On To List Of Problems
The Raging “Currency Wars” across Europe
The theater of the absurd became even more bizarre on Jan 22nd, when the European Central bank
Why Markets Still Fear the Federal Reserve
After two days of declines, the markets are rather flat today. The Dow Jones Industrials ere up a modest 45 points as of 11:45 EST, lifted partly by McDonald's , which announced that the fast-food giant would replace its chief executive officer. This helped save the Dow from a further drop after it fell more than 485 points in the past two days. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is flat at 2,000 points, signaling that investors remain uncertain about the future course of the financial markets. Much of that uncertainty stems from yesterday afternoon's announcement from the Federal Reserve. In typical Fed fashion, the latest policy statement from the Federal Open Market Committee showed little change in its position on current economic conditions, pointing to the positive impact that plunging gasoline prices have had on the average consumer's discretionary income. Moreover, the job market has been at its strongest levels since the economic recovery began...
Citrix plans 900 layoffs
Citrix Systems plans 900 layoffs after seeing lower income last year, but the maker of "work anywhere" software increased revenue 8 percent in 2014, the company announced Wednesday. About 700 full-time and 200 contractor positions are expected to be affected, and some offices consolidated, Citrix said. It was not immediately clear whether Citrix's 1,600 employees in Fort Lauderdale would be affected. The company has employees worldwide. U.S. employees will be notified shortly, while international workers will be notified according to country law, Chief Financial Officer David Henshall said during a conference call. CEO Mark Templeton said that while the decision to do layoffs was "difficult," the restructuring is necessary to realign Citrix's work force around its latest strategies. Citrix promised to add 200 jobs in Fort Lauderdale and invest $7.5 million in the region over three years in a 2013 incentives contract with the state.
Official: Gitmo prisoner traded for Bergdahl reaching out to Taliban
One of the five Taliban fighters traded last year for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is trying to make contact with the Taliban once again, Fox News has learned. A U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that the former Guantanamo prisoner has been intercepted making telephone calls to the Taliban. The development comes amid rising concerns over former Guantanamo detainees returning to the battlefield, and over the nature of the Bergdahl-Taliban trade itself last year, which was negotiated with the involvement of the Qatari government. Despite the apparent outreach by one of the traded prisoners, all five of the so-called “Taliban 5” are still accounted for in Qatar, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News. "There are no indications that they are a risk right now,” another defense official said. In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity to be aired at 10pm ET Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said, "first of all, we take all allegations of re-engagement very seriously.
Keiser Report: Open Sources & Open Cesspools
SkyMall attracts buyer interest after bankruptcy filing
An Idaho entrepreneur wants to buy the SkyMall catalog after last week's bankruptcy by Phoenix parent Xhibit Corp. Scott Jordan would "reimagine" SkyMall and bring it deeper into the digital age. Maybe SkyMall won't disappear after all. Less than a week after Xhibit Corp, the Phoenix parent of the SkyMall airline catalog filed for bankruptcy, at least one suitor has expressed interest in certain parts of the company, though his vision doesn't bode well for the remaining Phoenix staff. Scott Jordan, founder and CEO of apparel company SCOTTeVEST, said he would like to buy and "redesign" SkyMall. Jordan said he hasn't yet had an opportunity to bid for SkyMall assets but has contacted the bankruptcy trustee and is awaiting documents detailing the firm's operations. Jordan's own company, based in Ketchum, Idaho, has sold multi-pocketed jackets and other wares through SkyMall for years. If he pursues SkyMall, he would form a separate company to do so.
Obama budget to include $1 billion for Central America
President Barack Obama's fiscal 2016 budget on Monday will include $1 billion in new aid for Central America as part of a broad effort to address the unaccompanied child migration crisis, the White House said on Thursday. The move, disclosed earlier to Reuters by Democratic congressional aides, follows last year's arrival in the United States last year of tens of thousands of illegal migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - including more than 60,000 children traveling without their parents. The surge of arrivals caused widespread alarm in the country, and a political problem for Obama as he pushed Congress for a sweeping reform of U.S. immigration laws. Central American leaders had asked the United States for billions of dollars in aid to improve conditions in their countries and help stem the flow of would-be immigrants. Writing in the New York Times on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said inadequate education, institutional corruption, rampant crime...
U.S.-Cuba Travel Could Happen 'Within the Year
A bipartisan group of senators took a small but symbolic step toward normalizing relations with Cuba, introducing a bill Thursday that would allow U.S. citizens to travel freely to the island for the first time in more than half a century. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the lead sponsor of the measure and a strong proponent for opening Cuba, described the move as one that would not only improve Cuban society but would remove an unfair and unnecessary prohibition on Americans’ freedom to travel. “We’re simply saying that Americans should be allowed to have the right to travel wherever they would like to unless there’s compelling national security reason,” Flake said. Three other Republicans and four Democrats have cosponsored the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, and Flake said he expects “many more” to sign on as the bill moves through regular order in the Senate. Under current law, U.S. citizens of Cuban origin and a limited number of other Americans are able to travel to the island under a license.
The World's Next Mortgage Crisis?
My breakfast companion looked gloomy. He’d flown into Washington from Vienna the day before. When he deplaned, he found a shocking email waiting for him: a demand from his banker for immediate payment of €12,000. Although a resident of Austria, he had taken a home mortgage in Swiss francs, which carried a lower interest rate than mortgages in euros. But 48 hours before he had arrived in the United States, the Swiss franc had surged by 20 percent against the euro. That currency appreciation had wiped out his equity in the house. His frightened banker wanted a new infusion of cash to replace the vanished equity. In the second half of January, hundreds of thousands of homeowners across Europe—and especially across Central and Eastern Europe—have been jolted in similar ways. Their distress is contributing to a political and financial crisis in a region already shadowed by economic anxiety and Russian aggression.
Lord Christopher Monckton-Climate Change is Really a Basis for Elite Control
Can fancy burgers help US workers?
Shake Shack is ready to shake it up. Ever since Danny Meyer opened his take on a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in New York City in 2004, demand for Shake Shack's all-American food offerings has been insatiable. Among devotees in New York, the "ShackCam" - a camera which offered a live-video feed of the inevitably long line - was particularly popular. Fans waited nearly five years for Mr Meyer to open up a second location. But since 2009, the chain has been rapidly expanding, and it now has 63 locations in the US and around the world. Customers spend an average of $13 (£9) - significantly more than at most other competitor restaurants. On Friday, Shake Shack is poised to gorge on investor demand in its US market debut. Late on Thursday, it priced its offering at $21 (£14) per share - netting the firm over $100m to fund future expansion and valuing Shake Shack at $745m. But Shake Shack is changing more than what people eat and how much they pay for it.
CT Tax Commissioner: Walmart Tax Refund Service Just A Lure To Get You To Shop At Walmart
Walmart recently announced a service that allows consumers who use certain participating tax preparers to pick up their refunds at a Walmart store. The program already has one high-profile detractor in the form of Connecticut Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan who says he believes the program is intended to get consumers to spend their refunds at Walmart. In a statement yesterday, Sullivan described the Direct2Cash program as “just a way to lure taxpayers into spending at Walmart the minute they get their hard-earned refunds.” He has called on his staff to look at how the nation’s largest retailer is implementing the service in Connecticut. He may also seek the assistance of the state’s Attorney General as well as the Department of Banking and Department of Consumer Protection in investigating the service. In addition to the fee paid to tax-preparation partners — like the 3,000 or so Jackson Hewitt preparers that will be in Walmart stores offering $50 Walmart gift cards...
Billionaire: US faces 'massive job killing machine'
Billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene faced some harsh criticism after reports last week that he said America's lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted, but Greene insisted to CNBC Wednesday that he was "completely misquoted." "What I said was, 'the global equalization of wages and technology, which is growing at an exponential pace, has killed so many millions of jobs in America and other Western economies and it's going to kill them at an even faster pace going forward.' I said, 'we have our work cut out if we want to build a real economy, an inclusive economy that I grew up in, that I want to see for all Americans,'" he said in an interview with "Closing Bell." The original interview, which appeared in Bloomberg and was conducted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, occurred in a busy, noisy room, Greene said. He was quoted as saying, "America's lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted...
Greece Steps Back Into Line With European Union Policy on Russia Sanctions
Gathering in Brussels, European foreign ministers scrambled on Thursday to hold a united front against Russia over Ukraine, calming worries that the election of a far-left government in Greece hostile to sanctions could upend Europe’s policy toward Moscow. This week’s victory of the anti-establishment Syriza party in Greece had been widely seen as enhancing dogged but previously unsuccessful efforts by Russia to divide members of the European Union and undermine the bloc’s sanctions policy. In the end, however, Greece backed away from strong statements denouncing sanctions and joined other countries in the 28-member bloc in a unanimous vote in favor of expanding a list of sanctioned individuals, mostly Russians, and of work to prepare “any further action” to pressure combatants to respect a stillborn truce agreement from last year. Greece also joined other countries in endorsing a six-month extension of sanctions imposed last March that would otherwise have soon expired.
Iraq's Oil Problem
McCain boots 'low-life scum' from hearing
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain had harsh words for protesters who shouted criticism at 91-year-old Henry Kissinger at a hearing Thursday. "Get out of here, you low-life scum," the Arizona Republican told the protesters. Kissinger, the diplomat who was secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, as well as President Ronald Reagan secretary of state George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, were on hand for a hearing on global security challenges. As the hearing started, several protesters approached the table where Kissinger was seated, holding signs and shouting at him. "I've been a member of this committee for many years and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place," McCain said. "You know, you're going to have to shut up or I'm going have you arrested," he said, summoning Capitol Hill police.
Surge of Illegals Puts Thousands of Immigration Cases on Hold
The Obama administration is notifying thousands of immigrants awaiting court hearings that their cases have been pushed back nearly five years, the result of a fast-tracking of higher-priority cases related to the surge of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who came across the Southern border last year. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has begun notifying employees in the immigration court system that non-priority cases were being cleared from the court docket until Nov. 29, 2019, evidently the result of mounting backlogs and delays across the U.S. immigration court system. The Journal said that it was not yet clear how many people would be affected, but that it would easily be in the thousands and could reach as many as tens of thousands, according to people familiar with the situation. Non-priority cases tend to be those immigrants who are not being held in detention, living freely, and do not have a specific pressing matter...
Officials: Up to 1K possibly exposed to measles in Ariz
With as many as 1,000 people across three Arizona counties potentially exposed to the measles, state public-health officials are asking people who think they may have come in contact with the virus to isolate themselves. In addition, they are asking those who may have been exposed not to show up at doctors' offices, emergency rooms or urgent-care centers, where others could be exposed to the highly contagious virus, which can linger in the air for two hours. Maricopa County Public Health Director Bob England said parents who are concerned about sending their children to school or day care should start asking direct questions. "It is perfectly reasonable to ask their child-care provider or school how many kids in that school are not vaccinated because parents chose not to," he said. To date, officials have confirmed seven cases of measles: five in Pinal County, two in Maricopa County.
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