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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
Number of posts: 69,332

Journal Archives

Restaurant Industry Suddenly Tanks, Worst Plunge since the Beginning of the Financial Crisis

Restaurant Industry Suddenly Tanks, Worst Plunge since the Beginning of the Financial Crisis
by Wolf Richter • February 3, 2016

Plunges like this only occur when something big is going on.

The restaurant industry has been unscathed by the economic slowdown. The meme is that Millennials like to spend their money on “experiences” – such as eating out, drinking at their favorite watering holes, and going places (and eating out) – rather than buying stuff, particularly stuff at brick-and-mortar stores.

These brick-and-mortar stores have been singing the blues of dismal sales, earnings warnings, layoffs, and store closings as consumers refuse to splurge. And to add insult to injury, consumers have been shifting their spending online. But the restaurant industry has been flying above the fray, benefiting from Millennials’ preference for “experiences.”

Or that was the meme. The National Restaurant Association just released its Restaurant Performance Index for December. And it suddenly plunged.

The RPI is a composite of the Current Situation Index and the Expectations Index, both of which track restaurant operators’ responses on same-store sales, traffic, labor, and capital expenditures. “Steady-state level” is 100. Values above indicate expansion, values below indicate contraction. In the data series going back to 2003, the RPI has ranged from its peak of 103.5 in 2004 to its low 96.5 during the worst moment of the Financial Crisis.

“As a result of broad-based declines in both current situation and expectations indicators,” – as the report started out – the RPI for December fell to 99.7, from 101.3 in November and from 102.1 in October, 2.4% in two months, the worst two-month plunge since early 2008, at the cusp of the Financial Crisis. .................(more)


Not much joy at Yahoo!

Yahoo Inc Chief Executive Marissa Mayer is set to reveal cost-cutting plans that include slashing 15 percent of the company's workforce, or roughly 1,600 jobs, and closing several business units, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The plans are expected to be announced after Yahoo's fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. (on.wsj.com/1Tx30jF) It did not specify which business units might be closed.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said the company could not comment during its quiet period before releasing earnings.

Activist investors have pressed Yahoo to sell its core business rather than spin it off, even though a sale would likely incur more taxes. ..............(more)


I'm supporting Mr. Paul for president !!!

Negative Interest Rates Already in Fed’s Official Scenario

Negative Interest Rates Already in Fed’s Official Scenario
by Wolf Richter • February 2, 2016

But forget QE-4.

The Germans, with Teutonic precision, call them “Punishment Interest.” Negative interest rates are spreading from the ECB’s negative deposit rate across the bond market and to some savings accounts in the Eurozone. The idea is to enrich existing bond holders and flog savers until their mood improves. Stock prices are allowed to get crushed by reality.

Negative interest rates destroy one of the most essential mechanisms in an economy: the pricing of risk. Investors end up taking huge risks with no reward. Many of them will get cleaned out down the road.

In Switzerland, punishment interest already causes “perverse unpredictable effects,” as mortgage rates have started to soar. It’s wreaking havoc in Denmark and Sweden. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz let the idea float that he’d unleash punishment interest to destroy the Canadian dollar. The Bank of Japan announced Friday morning – timed for maximum market effect – that it too would inflict negative interest rates on its subjects.

In the US, Ben Bernanke has been out there preaching to the choir about them. Over-indebted corporate America, except for the banks, would love this absurdity; it would allow them to actually make money off their mountain of debt.

“Potentially anything – including negative interest rates – would be on the table,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen told a House of Representatives committee in early November. ..................(more)


Happy Groundhog Day!

Jim Hightower: Manna From Hell

by Jim Hightower

War is hell.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a global corporate peddler of rockets, drones, bombs, and all the other hellish weaponry of military conflict. In that case, war is manna from hell. So bring it on.

Indeed, it seems as if Beelzebub himself is in charge these days, with U.S. military forces enmeshed in at least 135 countries in 2015 alone. Plus, such chicken hawks as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are maniacally beating their flabby chests and screeching for even more military adventurism.

This perpetual warmongering is music to the ears of the people who serve as the CEOs and biggest investors in the war machine. It means a windfall of perpetual profits for them. ..................(more)


Is Team Clinton Campaigning Against President Obama on Iran Diplomacy?

Is Team Clinton Campaigning Against President Obama on Iran Diplomacy?

Thursday, 28 January 2016 11:27
By Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed

Watching the fourth Democratic debate in South Carolina on January 17, many people understandably got the impression that Hillary Clinton was campaigning for President Obama's third term. But in the aftermath of the debate, her team attacked Bernie Sanders for supporting President Obama's efforts to engage Iran.

The attack was dishonest. An honest attack would have been: "Look, Hillary Clinton has a difference of opinion with President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry about diplomacy with Iran. Obama and Kerry want to accomplish whatever can be accomplished through engagement with Iran. Yes, enforce the agreement on Iran's nuclear program, but don't stop there. See if we can work with Iran to help defeat ISIS in Iraq. See if we can work with Iran to end the civil war in Syria. See if we can work with Iran to end the war in Yemen. See if we can work with Iran to help end the war in Afghanistan."

Clinton, on the other hand, wants to jack up confrontation with Iran on every possible front. She wants to define the "Iran deal" to be as small as possible, limited exclusively to Iran's nuclear program, so she'll have a free hand to escalate against Iran on other fronts. And her problem with Bernie Sanders on Iran diplomacy is that he supports the Obama-Kerry view, that we should accomplish whatever we can by engaging with Iran, rather than the view that we should try to have as much confrontation with Iran as we can get away with without attacking the Iran deal directly.

That would have been an honest attack.

But such an honest attack, team Clinton might have feared, could provoke pro-diplomacy, antiwar sentiments among Democrats. So instead of the honest attack, team Clinton took the Obama policy, crossed out Obama's name and wrote in "Sanders," and launched the same attack they did on Obama in the 2008 campaign: Obama/Sanders is naïve on dealing with Iran. ..........(more)


Iowa Spotlight (cartoon)


Uri Avnery on the Current Reality of the Israeli Peace Movement

Uri Avnery
January 30, 2016

HAMELIN, A small town in Germany (not so far from where I was born), was infested with rats. In their despair, the burghers called upon a rat-catcher and promised him a thousand guilders for liberating them from this plague.

The rat-catcher took his pipe and played such a sweet melody that all the rats came out of their holes and joined him. He marched them to the Weser river, where they all drowned.

Once freed from this plague, the burghers saw no reason to pay. So the piper took out his pipe again and produced an even sweeter melody. The enchanted children of the town gathered around him and he marched them straight down to the river, where they all drowned.

Binyamin Netanyahu is our pied piper. Enchanted by his melodies, the people of Israel are marching behind him towards the river.


THE ISRAELI Peace Camp is in despair. No savior is in sight. Many just sit in front of their TV set and wring their hands.


Let me first say that I admire Schocken. “Haaretz” (“The Land”) is one of the last bastions of Israeli democracy. Cursed and detested by the entire rightist majority, it leads the intellectual battle for democracy and peace, All this while the written media are in dire financial straits, in Israel and around the world. From my own experience as a magazine owner and editor – who lost this battle – I know just how heroic and heartbreaking this job is. ...............(more)


Will the 2016 Primaries Be Electronically Rigged?

Will the 2016 Primaries Be Electronically Rigged?

Thursday, 28 January 2016 12:18
By Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik, Truthout | News Analysis

"You've heard the old adage 'follow the money.' I follow the vote, and wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that's an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to ... make bad things happen." — Steve Stigall, CIA cyber-security expert, in remarks to the US Election Assistance Commission

Primary election rigging in the coming weeks and months is all but assured if American voters and candidates don't take steps to prevent it now. Evidence that US voting systems are wide open to fraud and manipulation should be taken seriously in light of the unprecedented high-stakes elections we're facing.

Not in recent history have American voters been presented with such radically polarized candidates, forcing a crucial choice for the direction of our future, and possibly upending long-established centers of power.

It's no secret that US primaries have been tightly controlled by the two ruling parties, usually to the benefit of their favored candidates. If this internal manipulation (some might call it rigging) is not publicly condoned, neither is it loudly condemned.

This year, however, the primary season is shaping up to be a battle royal between the political establishment and outsider insurgencies who are challenging the party elites and defying their usual filters, money and manipulations. And it seems all bets are off.

As a brazen Donald Trump kicks down the door of the GOP, tens of millions in super PAC dark cash has (so far) failed to buy the candidacy for a lackluster Jeb Bush. Accusations abound that Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has stacked the deck for Hillary Clinton. Yet nothing - not even corporate media's censorship or outright hostility toward Bernie Sanders - has blunted his skyrocketing grassroots campaign. ...................(more)


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