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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 27,921

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Obama’s Goals Clash as Allies Say Trade Push Widens Income Gap

Even as he calls income inequality the “defining challenge of our time,” President Barack Obama is pursuing new trade agreements that some of his political allies say will only make the problem worse.

Obama says expanded trade will generate high-paying jobs for an economy that’s still more than 1 million paychecks short of its pre-recession peak. His critics in the labor movement and some economists say previous deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, destroyed millions of factory jobs.

“It has absolutely been a contributor to the rise in inequality,” said economist Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington research group partially funded by labor groups. “We would have a different country, with less inequality, had we not seen the developments in the global economy that we’ve had over the last 15 to 20 years.”

The concern that Obama is fanning over the income gap could boomerang on his plans. Five fellow Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee this month said they won’t vote for giving the president “fast track” authority to speed trade deals through Congress, citing in part the risk to jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday said he also opposes the legislation. “Everyone would be well-advised just to not push this right now,” he told reporters in Washington.

The discontent in Obama’s party could be bad news for companies such as Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and Citigroup Inc. (C), which are seeking better protection for intellectual property in the Pacific trade deal.



Cruz Vows Spending Fight on Debt Cap Boehner May Avoid

Source: Bloomberg

By Kathleen Hunter Jan 30, 2014 11:28 AM E

Senator Ted Cruz vowed to use a debate over raising the federal debt ceiling as leverage to extract a new round of U.S. spending cuts, even as House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that defaulting would be “the wrong thing” for the country.

Cruz, the Texas Republican who led the fight to defund Obamacare that contributed to a 16-day partial government shutdown in October, said today he wouldn’t give in to Democratic demands to raise the debt limit without conditions.

“We should not raise the debt ceiling without significant structural reforms that address the out of control spending and out of control debt in Washington,” Cruz said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast. “The debt ceiling is the natural lever point to address the out-of-control spending and debt. It has historically been the most effective lever point to doing so.”

Cruz’s comments came as Boehner, an Ohio Republican, refused to say whether House Republicans would seek to attach spending reductions to a debt-ceiling increase.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-30/cruz-vows-spending-fight-on-debt-cap-boehner-may-avoid.html

California: Gov. Jerry Brown's approval rating hits new high in election year

Welcome to the Landslide State.

Gov. Jerry Brown's approval rating has hit a record high among voters and his budget proposal for the next fiscal year has won bipartisan support from rich and poor Californians living all across the state, according to a new poll.

As Brown prepares to announce his widely anticipated re-election bid, 58 percent of adults and 60 percent of likely voters told the Public Policy Institute of California that they approve of the way he is handling his job, up from 49 percent in December.

The governor's job performance won praise from more than 3 in 4 Democrats and a majority of independent voters -- the bread and butter of California's electorate.

And if November's gubernatorial election were held tomorrow, 53 percent of likely voters polled would pick Brown while 17 percent said they favor Tim Donnelly, a Republican assemblyman from Twin Peaks whose candidacy is supported by the tea party.

"All of this adds up to one thing," said Bill Whalen, a former aide to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. "Jerry Brown is in a formidable position to be re-elected."



Natural Gas Soars to Four-Year High as February Contract Expires

Source: Bloomberg

By Christine Buurma - Jan 29, 2014

Natural gas surged to a four-year high in New York as forecasts for tumbling stockpiles during a frigid winter prompted the strongest rally in 19 months.

Gas jumped 10 percent, the biggest percentage gain since June 14, 2012, on the last day of trading for February futures. WSI Corp., an Andover, Massachusetts-based forecaster, said the weather may be colder than usual in most of the contiguous U.S. from Feb. 3 through Feb. 7. A government report tomorrow may show that stockpiles slid 231 billion cubic feet last week, compared with a five-year average drop of 162 billion, according to the median of 15 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“It looks like a short squeeze,” said Aaron Calder, an analyst at Gelber & Associates in Houston. “We usually see a flurry of activity toward the end of expiration day, but this is kind of crazy. Traders are pricing in a very cold February, stronger storage withdrawals and concerns about low inventory levels at the end of the winter.”

Natural gas for February delivery jumped 52.4 cents to $5.557 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement since Jan. 25, 2010. Trading volume was 46 percent above the 100-day average at 2:50 p.m. Prices are up 31 percent this month, heading for a fourth consecutive monthly gain.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-29/natural-gas-drops-second-day-this-week-amid-colder-u-s-weather.html

Locally we are dealing with propane shortages around mid-michigan. Besides the extreme cold, we had a wet harvest season that required much more drying of corn before storage and we are shipping quite a bit of propane to China.

Normal propane costs had been around 1.99g but now is going for around $5 with one distributor asking $7.99g with a minimum 200g delivery.

We use a combo of wood, heating oil and electric to stay thawed but are working our way through the woodpile in a hurry.

Westerners Among Al Jazeera Staff Charged in Egypt for Terrorist Activity

By Salma El Wardany - Jan 29, 2014

Egypt’s authorities pressed charges of joining a terrorist group against 20 staff members of the Arab television channel Al Jazeera, including an Australian, two Britons and a Dutch citizen.

The defendants, the rest of whom are Egyptian, are also charged with spreading false news that endangers national security and harms Egypt’s image, according to a faxed statement from the prosecution yesterday. It said they used two suites in a luxury hotel in Cairo as a media center to pursue those aims.

The prosecutors said the defendants “fabricated footage” to create “unreal scenes” and give the impression to the outside world that “the country is witnessing a civil war.” It said their efforts were intended to serve the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist group by Egyptian authorities last month.

The Brotherhood has been the target of an unprecedented crackdown since Egypt’s army toppled elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July. Many of its top leaders are on trial, including Mursi, and hundreds of supporters have been killed by security forces as they protested the military intervention.

Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar’s ruling family, who are among the main supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, and backed Egypt with financial aid during Mursi’s one-year presidency.



Russia Raises Stakes for Ukraine as Yanukovych Digs In

By Kateryna Choursina and Daryna Krasnolutska - Jan 29, 2014

Russia ramped up pressure on Ukraine with a threat of withholding aid until it forms a new cabinet as President Viktor Yanukovych refused to drop conditions for pardoning protesters, prolonging the country’s crisis.

As President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would hold aid to Ukraine until the country has a new government, lawmakers in Kiev haggled for 12 hours over amnesty proposals after a string of concessions by the administration. A day after accepting his prime minister’s resignation, Yanukovych pushed through a bill that requires activists to relinquish seized buildings before their comrades in custody are freed.

Yanukovych, 63, is facing calls to resign in protests that have spread from the capital to other cities since his rejection of a European Union association pact in November. The demonstrations turned deadly last week and the turmoil has reignited a tug-of-war between Russia and Europe for influence in the nation of 45 million people. The opposition vowed to stay on the streets.

“The law does everything to escalate the situation,” Vitali Klitschko, 39, the leader of the opposition UDAR party, said before the vote. “The opposition will hold its position and fight on for the release of all detained and arrested activists.”



California Farms Going Thirsty as Drought Burns $5 Billion Hole

By Elizabeth Campbell and Megan Durisin - Jan 28, 2014

Near the confluence of the Merced and San Joaquin rivers, the heart of the California farm belt, Bob Kelley watches the driest year ever erode water supplies and prospects for the dairy business his family began in 1910.

The amount of water available for the 2,800 acres (1,133 hectares) of corn and alfalfa Kelley grows to feed more than 6,500 cows may drop as much as two thirds, so fewer crops will be planted and some animals will be sold to avoid the expense of buying grain, he said by telephone from Newman, about 83 miles (134 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco.

“It would impact us for not just 2014, but all of 2015,” said Kelley, 60, who runs a local water district that will cut output by at least half. “I’m anticipating a very difficult time, and I’m probably the best off of anybody I know.”

The drought in California, the top U.S. agricultural producer at $44.7 billion, is depriving the state of water needed to produce everything from milk, beef and wine to some of the nation’s largest fruit and vegetable crops, including avocados, strawberries and almonds. Lost revenue in 2014 from farming and related businesses such as trucking and processing could reach $5 billion, according to estimates by the 300-member California Farm Water Coalition, an industry group.

The state was the driest ever in 2013, a third straight year of little moisture. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency on Jan. 17 as arid conditions he called “unprecedented” continued well into the annual rainy season that runs from October through March. Reservoirs on Jan. 27 were at 61 percent of average, while the mountain snow-pack as of Dec. 30 that supplies most of the state’s water was at 20 percent of normal for that time of year, data show.



One in Eight U.S. Kindergartners Found Obese in Survey

By Michelle Fay Cortez - Jan 29, 2014
One in eight children in the U.S. is obese when they enter kindergarten, with the ratio increasing through the elementary school years, a nationwide study found.

By eighth grade, 1 in 5 U.S. students is obese and another 17 percent are overweight, according to the study released today by the New England Journal of Medicine. Most of the increase takes place before fifth grade, giving researchers key information about the obesity epidemic among American children and the ages at which they are most vulnerable.

Obesity more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents from the early 1980s, though researchers say the rates may now have plateaued. The condition puts people at risk for diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, stroke and arthritis. First lady Michelle Obama has focused on childhood obesity, urging food companies to make healthier products and encouraging more exercise with her “Let’s Move” campaign.

The study found that 5-year-olds carrying extra weight for their age were four times more likely to become obese during the elementary school years. Almost half of those who developed obesity were overweight when school started. The reverse was also true: among overweight kindergartners, only 13 percent were normal weight in eighth grade.

The findings suggest obesity develops mainly in children who are already overweight and tapers off over time, as the pool of susceptible students is exhausted, the researchers said.



I can only remember 2 kids in my kindergarten class (1962) that would have been considered obese. The one, who I was great friends, with had a medical condition that caused her weight retention. Today she is a beautiful lady with no weight problem at all. What hell she had to go through though during those early school years because of it. Smart as a wipe to boot!

Fed Officials Unite Behind Taper as Yellen Era Begins

By Joshua Zumbrun and Aki Ito - Jan 29, 2014

Federal Reserve policy makers cut the pace of bond buying for a second straight meeting, uniting behind a strategy of gradual withdrawal from Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented easing policy as Janet Yellen prepares to succeed him as chairman.

The Federal Open Market Committee said it will trim monthly purchases by $10 billion to $65 billion, citing labor-market indicators that “were mixed but on balance showed further improvement” and economic growth that has “picked up in recent quarters.”

It was the first meeting without a dissent since June 2011, showing the tapering strategy has brought together policy makers concerned the Fed’s record $4.1 trillion balance sheet risks causing asset price bubbles with those who, like Vice Chairman Yellen, say more needs to be done to reduce unemployment.

Related: Bernanke’s Unprecedented Rescue Unlikely to Be Repeated

“As we transition from Bernanke to Yellen, she’s in a pretty good place in terms of holding together the center of the committee,” said Stephen Stanley, the chief economist for Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “It should be relatively easy to hold together a pretty wide consensus.”

Policy makers pressed on with a reduction in the purchases, put in place to speed a recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, even after payroll growth slowed in December and amid a rout in emerging-market currencies.



Putin Warns of ’Outside Interference’ in Ukraine in Merkel Call

Source: Bloomberg

By Patrick Donahue and Jason Corcoran - Jan 29, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin said “outside interference” in Ukraine is unacceptable as German Chancellor Angela Merkel exhorted the Russian leader to help stop violence in the neighboring nation.

The Russian and German leaders offered diverging views on addressing the unrest after speaking yesterday by phone, as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych failed to quell nationwide street protests calling for his resignation.

“The unacceptability of any outside interference was stressed” by Putin in the call, according to the Kremlin’s website. The chancellor called on Putin “to help seek constructive and results-oriented dialog between the government and opposition,” according to a statement from the chancellery in Berlin.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-29/putin-warns-of-outside-interference-in-ukraine-in-merkel-call.html

The Russian response will be much more telling after the Olympics are done and over with, imo.
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