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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Rouhani Spars With Iran State TV Delaying Broadcast

By Kambiz Foroohar - Feb 6, 2014

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in unprecedented public sparring with state authorities, accused the official television company of trying to keep him off the air by deliberately holding up his address to the nation.

Rouhani said on Twitter yesterday that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting head, Ezatollah Zarghami, was obstructing his “discussion with the people.” As his speech was due to air, state TV showed video clips from the Islamic revolution of 1979 -- images of soldiers clashing with fist-pumping demonstrators, against a soundtrack of revolutionary slogans. Iranians mark the anniversary of the revolution on Feb. 11.

Rouhani has clashed with conservatives in Iran who have opposed diplomatic initiatives such as the phone conversation with President Barack Obama that ended a three-decade taboo, and the nuclear accord reached with world powers in Geneva in November. Zarghami reports to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the top decision-maker in the Islamic Republic.

Scrolling banners on the TV screen attributed the delay to technical problems. Local media, including the state-run Iranian Students News Agency, gave other, conflicting accounts, including disputes over the choice of a presenter and which journalists would put questions to Rouhani.
‘Bit Late’

The president referred several times to the spat once the program eventually went on air about an hour late. “We are a bit late, and the viewers might be tired,” he said in his introductory remarks.



U.S. Freeze Costs $3.5 Billion Including Travel Delays

Source: Bloomberg

Winter storms that brought heavy snowfall, freezing rain and Arctic air to the U.S. last month will probably cost more than $3.5 billion in economic losses, according to insurance broker Aon Plc.

Insurers estimated losses of more than $1.4 billion from the second week of January, the most costly of four extreme-weather periods during the month, the London-based broker said today in a report. Insured losses from the three other stretches totaled about $200 million.

At least 21 people were killed from Jan. 5 through 8, as more than 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow fell in the Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley and freezing rain pelted the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Widespread property damage and severe travel delays added to the costs.

“The combination of physical damages and business-interruption costs have quickly aggregated into direct economic losses well into the billions of dollars,” Steve Bowen, a senior scientist at Aon’s forecasting unit, said in a statement. He said this is the costliest year for “winter weather peril” since 2011.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-06/u-s-freeze-costs-3-5-billion-including-travel-delays.html

Treasury to Sell Record Amount of Bills as Debt Pact Expires

The U.S. Treasury Department will auction a record amount of three- and six-month bills next week, giving it greater flexibility after tomorrow’s expiration of an agreement that suspended the nation’s debt limit.

The U.S. will sell $42 billion in three-month bills and $42 billion in six-month securities at its weekly auction on Feb. 10. The three-month offering is $14 billion more than the previous week, while the six-month is $22 billion higher. Treasury will also auction $50 billion of 72-day cash-management bills the same day.

Congress and President Barack Obama agreed in October to suspend the debt limit until tomorrow as part of an agreement to end a 16-day partial government shutdown. Under the agreement, Treasury was effectively required not to have a cash balance as of tomorrow that exceeded the balance on the date of the pact, according to Stone & McCarthy Research Associates. Treasury is now free to issue as much debt as it wants until extraordinary measures used to create room until the limit are exhausted.

“The rule forced them into a position where their cash balances are smaller at a time when they have to pay out a lot in tax returns,” said Thomas Simons, a government-debt economist in New York at Jefferies LLC, one of 21 primary dealers that are required to bid at Treasury auctions. “The Treasury has a significant need for cash. Its prudent planning to have a lot of cash on hand.”

Rates Rise

Secretary Jacob J. Lew said that the U.S. expects to run out of borrowing capacity by the end of February. The Treasury uses so-called extraordinary measures, or accounting maneuvers, to stay under the ceiling. Lew said some measures that the Treasury has previously used to remain under the debt limit aren’t available this time.



Trade Gap Shrank in 2013 as U.S. Fuel Exports Climbed: Economy

The U.S. trade deficit in 2013 was the smallest since 2009, even as it ticked up at year’s end, as rising fuel exports and falling imports propelled the world’s biggest economy further toward energy independence.

The gap narrowed to $471.5 billion last year, the lowest since 2009, from $534.7 billion in 2012, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. The balance on petroleum products shrank 20.2 percent, also the biggest decline in four years.

Foreign sales went beyond fuel as demand for American-produced foods, capital equipment, autos and consumer goods all climbed to records in 2013, evidence of the rebound in global demand that will probably keep driving exports this year. Another report showing claims for jobless benefits dropped last week points to a healing in the U.S. labor market that will help boost consumer spending, ensuring imports also grow.

“The trade deficit will continue to narrow a bit over the course of 2014, mostly thanks to a smaller petroleum trade deficit,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York and the second-best trade forecaster over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “We’ll see another year of moderate growth.”

Stocks rose, with equities trimming a weekly loss, as investors were heartened by the decline in unemployment claims and weighed earnings releases of companies from Walt Disney Co. to Twitter Inc. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 1 percent to 1,769.66 at 1:11 p.m. in New York.



Jihadi Threat Grows as Egypt Turns to al-Seesi for Security

The rise of Abdelfatah al-Seesi in Egypt is pouring fuel on an Islamist militant campaign that threatens his image as the only man who can restore stability.

The defense minister, who overthrew elected leader Mohamed Mursi in July, is increasingly touted as a presidential candidate himself, winning the blessing of fellow generals last month. Expectations that he’ll end Egypt’s turmoil are helping to drive gains on markets. Yet the army-backed government’s strategy for restoring order risks fueling reprisals by militant Islamist groups who are expanding their capacity to attack.

Bombings and shootings that were mostly confined to the Sinai peninsula have spread to Cairo and the Nile Delta. Militants claimed to have shot down a military helicopter in Sinai last month with surface-to-air missile, suggesting they have upgraded their arsenal. The army’s growing war against those groups runs in parallel with a drive to crush Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has left its leaders in jail and hundreds of its supporters dead.

“The repressive tactics used by the military establishment in trying to restore stability, the crackdowns on human-rights activists and protesters, are turning Egypt into a breeding ground for extremist groups,” said Islam Al Tayeb, a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Manama, Bahrain. “It’s no surprise that these attacks are gaining momentum.”



Democrats Split Over Syria, Iran

The unity that guided congressional Democrats through last fall’s budget battles is fracturing over debates in the foreign policy arena. Republicans are looking to take advantage of their rivals’ inter-party fights.

Over strong objections from the president, 16 Senate Democrats support a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran should the country fail to reach a permanent agreement with international negotiators to roll back its nuclear program. Those senators, along with 43 Republicans, argue that tough sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place and further pressure would flex American muscle in the 6-month talks toward crafting a permanent solution. The bill drew support from Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, and Harry Reid, D-Nev., both close allies of Obama’s but also leading supporters of policies favoring Israel. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, America’s most powerful pro-Israel advocacy group, has lobbied members of Congress from both parties to support the sanctions.

Other Democrats are siding with the Obama administration, which argues that imposing new sanctions damaged “good-faith” negotiations while empowering Iran’s hard-liners rooting for the talks to fail. (A National Security Council spokeswoman charged last month that the sanctions bill could end negotiations and bring the U.S. closer to war.)

The Senate bill has been losing steam ever since the White House ratcheted up pressure on Senate Democrats to abandon the it. Introduced in December by Democrat Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Sen. Mark Kirk. R-Ill., the legislation was backed by 59 members – but now Senate leaders say they will hold off bringing the legislation to a vote until the six-month negotiation process ends.

Adam Sharon, a spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Menendez chairs, said the New Jersey Senator stands behind the bill that bears his name.



Mysterious Noises Traced To Rare 'Frost Quakes'

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Chuck Herron heard the loud thud, then another and another. It sounded like someone was dropping big snowballs on the roof of his home.

The house is more than 100 years old and creaks, Herron said, but he had "never heard anything like that before."

As his neighbors in tiny Paris, Mo., huddled around televisions Sunday for the Super Bowl, many were startled by similar strange noises. Some even saw flashes of light and called 911.

Scientists say the community experienced a rare natural phenomenon known as a "frost quake," which happens when moisture in the ground suddenly freezes and expands. If conditions are just right, the soil or bedrock breaks like a brittle frozen pipe, generating mysterious noises that range from an earthquake-like rumble to sharp cracking sounds sometimes mistaken for falling trees.

This winter has been ripe for frost quakes, known technically as cryoseism. Temperatures have been frigid, but occasional warm-ups have allowed for thawing. And the temperature swings have sometimes been abrupt.



I've experienced something sort of similar when ice fishing on a lake with lots of ice when I was a kid. Scared the hell out of me and my dad just laughed and called it a 'ice quake'.

I must also add and a couple of weeks ago, when we hit the low temp of -19, our house popped and snapped all night long...

Global warming my ASS! (there I just had to say it this one time...)

Ethan Couch, 'Affluenza' Teen Who Killed 4 In Crash, Given No Jail Time

Source: Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A judge has ordered no jail time for a Texas teenager in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people.

Ethan Couch was given probation last year for the wreck. He was back in court Wednesday after prosecutors requested 20 years in jail on charges related to two injured people.

The hearing was closed to the public. Defense attorney Reagan Wynn told reporters afterward that Judge Jean Boyd ordered the teen to be sent to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents.

The judge didn't identify the facility. However, the family previously offered to pay for a $450,000-a-year center in California.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/ethan-couch-affluenza-teen_n_4729821.html

Russia Says It's Against A Western-Backed UN Resolution On Syria's Humanitarian Crisis

UNITED NATIONS — Russia's United Nations ambassador says Moscow is against a U.N. Security Council resolution that would push for greater humanitarian access to Syria to deliver desperately needed aid.

Vitaly Churkin told a press briefing Wednesday that "hard, pragmatic and purposeful work is necessary" to resolve specific humanitarian issues — not a new council resolution which will almost certainly aim "to politicize the problem."

Council diplomats said they expect to circulate a Western and Arab-backed draft resolution this week after peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition failed to achieve any concrete results last week, especially on possible humanitarian aid convoys to besieged parts of Homs.

Churkin said the latest information he saw on Tuesday was that an agreement on aid to Homs "is about to happen."


FACT CHECK: GOP I-Told-You-So Chorus Over Health Overhaul Study Misrepresents Its Conclusions

WASHINGTON - New estimates that President Barack Obama's health care law will encourage millions of Americans to leave the workforce or reduce their work hours have touched off an I-told-you-so chorus from Republicans, who've claimed all along that the law will kill jobs. But some aren't telling it straight.

The analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the law will give several million people an opportunity to work less or not at all, because they won't be stuck in jobs just for the sake of keeping the health insurance they get from employers. To some Republicans, that amounts to "wreaking havoc on working families," ''dire consequences for workers" and a shower of pink slips across the land — conclusions unsupported by the report.

The study estimates that the workforce will be reduced by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers by 2021 as people choose to leave it. More would take early retirement, work fewer hours or otherwise rearrange their work-home balance to take advantage of new subsidies for health insurance and new markets for individual policies that don't depend on having a job.

In a key point overlooked in the GOP response, the report says: "The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labour that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses' demand for labour."

In other words, workers aren't being laid off. They are taking themselves out of the workforce, in many cases opening job opportunities for others.


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