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Durable-Goods Drop Imperils Outlook for U.S. GDP Pickup

By Michelle Jamrisko - Aug 26, 2013

Orders for durable goods dropped in July by the most in almost a year, calling into question the strength of the projected pickup in U.S. growth.

Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years fell 7.3 percent, the first decrease in four months and the biggest since August 2012, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The retreat was broad-based, with demand excluding the volatile transportation category unexpectedly falling.

The figures signal business investment was off to a slow start in the third quarter just as housing, a mainstay of the expansion, shows signs of cooling. Demand for military gear also declined last month, highlighting the risk that federal budget cuts will continue to slow the world’s biggest economy in the second half of the year.

“Growth will stay moderate,” said Michael Gapen, a senior U.S. economist in New York, at Barclays Plc, who forecast non-transportation orders would drop. “The fiscal drag will last longer.” Barclays cut its tracking estimate for growth this quarter to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent after the report.



Jail Becomes Home for Husband Stuck With Lifetime Alimony

By Sophia Pearson - Aug 26, 2013

Ari Schochet has grown so accustomed to being sent to jail for missing alimony payments that he goes into a routine.

Before his family-court hearing, Schochet, 41, sticks on a nicotine patch to cope with jailhouse smoking bans, sends an “Ari Off the Grid” e-mail to friends and family, and scrawls key phone numbers in permanent ink on his forearm.

The former Citadel Investment Group Inc. portfolio manager, who once earned $1 million a year, has been jailed for missing court-ordered payments at least eight times in the past two years as he coped with the end of his 17-year marriage.

The reason he ran afoul of the law was simple. He was out of work for most of that time, a victim of a weak economy, and he ran through his savings trying to pay his wife alimony and child support that totaled almost $100,000 a year.

“It’s a circle of hell there’s just no way out of,” Schochet said. “I paid it as long as I could.”

Schochet and ex-spouses in similar changed circumstances say New Jersey’s law unfairly imposes lifetime alimony on them. If they fail to make payments, like the $78,000 a year Schochet owes his ex-wife in alimony, they can be jailed for contempt of court regardless of whether they have a job or resources.



Obama Faces Toughest Foreign Policy Challenge in Syria

By David Lerman and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan - Aug 25, 2013

In deciding how to respond to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, President Barack Obama faces the toughest foreign policy dilemma of his administration.

Failing to take action after calling the use of chemical weapons a “red line” risks opening the U.S. to condemnation as toothless and numb to a humanitarian disaster while encouraging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and allies to continue committing atrocities.

Ordering cruise-missile strikes or other military action may embroil the U.S. in another Mideast war with little public support. Military action also may inadvertently aid the Islamic extremists allied with al-Qaeda who are battling Assad, trigger retaliatory terrorist attacks by Assad’s Hezbollah and Iranian allies and create a backlash elsewhere in an unsettled Muslim world.

“Barack Obama’s administration is in a grave predicament, much of its own making,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said in a blog posting on the council’s website.

“A president of the U.S. cannot say something crosses a red line and then go on conducting business as usual,” Haass said. “Doing so dilutes the impact of both threats to foes and assurances to friends.”



Fukushima Leaks Prompt Government to ‘Emergency Measures’

Source: Bloomberg

By Takashi Hirokawa, Jacob Adelman, Peter Langan and Yuji Okada - Aug 26, 2013

Japan’s government will lead “emergency measures” to tackle radioactive water spills at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, wresting control of the disaster recovery from the plant’s heavily criticized operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)

“We’ve allowed Tokyo Electric to deal with the contaminated water situation on its own and they’ve essentially turned it into a game of ‘Whack-a-Mole,’” Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters today at Fukushima. “From now on, the government will move to the forefront.”

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is led by Motegi, “is working to draw up, by some time in September, both emergency measures and more fundamental steps to eliminate the roots of the contaminated water problem, as well as measures to be carried out going forward,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a response to written questions.

More than two years after the March 2011 nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric’s recovery effort has taken a turn for the worse. Japan’s nuclear regulator last week questioned the company’s ability to deal with the crisis, echoing comments earlier in the month by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-26/fukushima-filter-shutdown-adds-to-tepco-water-management-woes.html

A Blazing Giant Stirs California to High Alert

Source: NYTimes

Published: August 25, 2013

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — A wildfire near Yosemite National Park — already one of the biggest in California’s history — continued to grow on Sunday, prompting mandatory evacuation orders for some residents and raising anxiety among officials because of the potential threat to a major source of San Francisco’s water and power supplies.

The so-called Rim Fire had burned about 134,000 acres as of late Sunday — about 9,000 acres more than it had the previous day — making it the 14th largest fire since California began keeping records on wildfires in 1932 and the second largest in Tuolumne County.

Officials said that firefighters had contained about 7 percent of the fire, which began just over a week ago, and that it had caused no loss of life or significant property damage. And although the fire has burned some acreage in Yosemite, the most visited area of the park, the Yosemite Valley, is not threatened so far, officials said.

Despite its size, the fire has not threatened population centers or heavily trafficked parts of Yosemite, but it was more the potential of the fire than the actual damage so far that spurred officials into action. Officials said that the fire tripled in size from Wednesday to Thursday and then doubled again from Thursday to Friday.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/26/us/a-blazing-giant-stirs-california-to-high-alert.html?_r=0

Iran Army Warns US Of 'Harsh Consequences' Over Syria

AFP - A top Iranian military chief warned on Sunday that the US will face "harsh consequences" if it intervenes in ally Syria over claims of chemical attacks, Fars news agency reported.

"If the United States crosses this red line, there will be harsh consequences for the White House," armed forces deputy chief of staff Massoud Jazayeri was quoted as saying.

But the Iranian military leader warned Washington, its Western allies and Israel against playing with "fire".

"The terrorist war under way in Syria was planned by the United States and reactionary countries in the region against the resistance front (against Israel)," Fars quoted Jazayeri as saying.

"Despite this, the government and people of Syria have achieved huge successes.

"Those who add fire to the oil will not escape the vengeance of the people," added Jazayeri.



Russian MP Says Obama ‘Clones’ Bush in Drive For War

MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) – The United States is moving towards war with Syria, a senior Russian lawmaker said Sunday lashing President Barack Obama as “clone” of George W. Bush in his drive for war.

“Obama is restlessly heading towards war in Syria like Bush was heading towards war in Iraq. Like in Iraq, this war would be illegitimate and Obama will become Bush’s clone,” Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian lower house’s international committee, said on Twitter.

His remarks came after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday the White House is studying different military options against Syria.

"President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that and we are prepared to exercise whatever option - if he decides to employ one of those options," Reuters quoted Hagel as saying.



Interesting noise coming out of Russia concerning Syria...stay tuned

Russia: Don't Turn Syria Into Another Iraq

Source: CBS NEWS

By DAVID MORGAN / CBS NEWS/ August 25, 2013, 2:11 PM

(CBS News) The Russian Foreign Ministry today drew a parallel between reports that Syrian government forces has used chemical weapons and claims by the administration of President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction - claims which lead to a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a decade ago.

In a statement reported by Reuters, Moscow warned against assigning blame without a full investigation by U.N. inspectors of Wednesday's alleged toxic gas attack on the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital. Moscow's warning came after a U.S. officials said the Obama administration has "very little doubt" the Assad regime in Syria is guilty of deadly chemical weapon use.

Russia also warned the U.S. against taking unilateral military actions toward the Assad regime.

"We once again decisively urge (the United States) not to repeat the mistakes of the past and not to allow actions that go against international law," the foreign ministry said.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57600013/russia-dont-turn-syria-into-another-iraq/

Poll || Most Americans Oppose Intervention In Syria Even If Chemical Attack Confirmed

Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria's government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed, a Reuters/Ipsos poll says.

About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act.

More Americans would back intervention if it is established that chemical weapons have been used, but even that support has dipped in recent days - just as Syria's civil war has escalated and the images of hundreds of civilians allegedly killed by chemicals appeared on television screens and the Internet.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken August 19-23, found that 25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it. That represented a decline in backing for U.S. action since August 13, when Reuters/Ipsos tracking polls found that 30.2 percent of Americans supported intervention in Syria if chemicals had been used, while 41.6 percent did not.

Taken together, the polls suggest that so far, the growing crisis in Syria, and the emotionally wrenching pictures from an alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb this week, may actually be hardening many Americans' resolve not to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East.



Al-Qaida Vows To Strike At Hezbollah For Lebanon Bombings

Al-Qaida's North African branch blamed Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah for twin bombs that hit the northern city of Tripoli on Friday and threatened retribution, a US-based intelligence monitoring website reported on Saturday.

Although al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is not operational in Lebanon, its statement shows a growing regional hatred against Hezbollah by radical Sunni Muslim groups and a wider, deepening sectarian divide in the Middle East.

AQIM said in tweets it knew "with certainty" that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah was responsible for the attack that killed more than 42 people in Tripoli.

"That vile party... should know that it will meet retribution soon," AQIM said, according to the SITE monitoring service.

Hezbollah, which was once lauded by both Sunnis and Shi'ites for its battles against Israel, has lost support from many Sunnis since it joined Syrian President Bashar Assad's side in his 2 1/2-year-old fight against a majority Sunni uprising.


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