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dkf's Journal
dkf's Journal
October 1, 2013

Russia seeks to fill vacuum in the Middle East

BEIRUT — Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union affirmed the United States as the dominant power in the Middle East, a resurgent Russia is seeking ways large and small to fill the vacuum left by the departure of American troops from Iraq and the toppling of U.S. allies in the Arab Spring revolts.

The recent diplomacy that averted a U.S. strike on Syria underscored the extent to which Moscow’s steadfast support for its last remaining Arab ally has helped reassert Russia’s role. Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as the world leader with the single biggest influence over the outcome of a raging war that is threatening the stability of the wider region, winning concessions from both President Bashar al-
Assad and President Obama to secure a U.N. resolution requiring Syria to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal.

Less conspicuously, Russia has been nurturing new alliances and reviving old friendships further afield, reaching out to countries long regarded as being within the American sphere of influence in ways that echo the superpower rivalries of the Cold War era.

Those countries include Egypt and Iraq, traditional Arab heavyweights that have been exploring closer ties with Moscow at a time when the Obama administration has signaled a reluctance to become too deeply embroiled in the region’s turmoil.


October 1, 2013

Beyond this shutdown our government has lost the ability to talk to the other side.

Friendships across the aisle are rare, such that there is complete dysfunction as both sides stay in their corner and talk only to people who believe as they do.

There is no cooperation, no desire to get past gridlock, too many red lines.

What's more the people passionate about politics see compromise as the worst thing ever, versus making government work.

Any middle ground is seen as a betrayal, a caving in, the actions of the spineless and to be reviled.

Congress isn't going to function if that is the general attitude so get used to shutdowns and brinksmanship. That's the only option when you are uncompromising.

We the people should be demanding cooperation. Instead we demand no concessions. Thus we are where we are.

October 1, 2013

ISM rises in September; construction report cancelled due to shutdown

An index of factory activity showed moderate expansion in September.

Economists were expecting the Institute of Supply Management's index of national factory activity to tick lower in September to 55.0 from 55.7 the month before.

The Commerce Department's construction spending report, which had been expected at 10 a.m., will likely be cancelled due to the government's partial shutdown, Dow Jones reported.

A department spokeswoman said Monday the construction report wouldn't be released 10 a.m. Tuesday in the event of a shutdown.


October 1, 2013

Merck to Fire 8,500 in Strategy Overhaul That Shifts R&D

Merck & Co. (MRK), the second-biggest U.S. drugmaker by sales, will fire 8,500 workers and revamp its research and development after seeing new medicines delayed by U.S. regulators.

The positions eliminated are in addition to 7,500 job cuts Merck had already announced, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey -based company said in a statement today. The firings now equal about 20 percent of the global workforce, and will cut across the entirety of Merck, including R&D, sales and management.

The 8,500 jobs to be eliminated are in addition to the 7,500 positions Merck has already announced, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based company said in a statement today.

The overhaul, to save $1 billion next year, is part of a strategy being set by Chief Executive Officer Ken Frazier and R&D chief Roger Perlmutter, hired in April to replace Peter Kim. Under Kim, experimental drugs in cardiovascular, surgery, and osteoporosis suffered setbacks while rival drugmakers were able to get new products to market.

“While these actions are essential to ensure that Merck can continue to fulfill its mission into the future, they are nevertheless difficult decisions,” Frazier said in the statement.


October 1, 2013

White House joke: Okay, let's start negotiating, I guess we'll call Ted Cruz?

Chuck Todd says that if Boehner controlled his caucus the White House might negotiate, but Ted Cruz controls more House Republican votes than Boehner.

Boehner has tried to educate the house caucus but they won't listen. They have to crash the car for the TP to get it.

October 1, 2013

Congressional Leaders are weak and resent each other.

Jim Vandehei made some interesting points...

1) the rank and file of both parties have never been stronger and leaders weaker.
2) congressional leaders despise their counterparts. They don't speak, don't negotiate and show disdain for each other.
3) freshmen republicans got into office solely due to being against Obamacare and government. Their constituents don't like government health care or government for that matter and have no problem with a government shutdown.
4) special interest groups have figured out how to elect uncompromising candidates and true believers.

His take away...dysfunction is only going to get worse.

In retrospect I wonder if this is a result of getting rid of earmarks which were doled out as favors.

October 1, 2013

Durbin: Medical device tax repeal could be ‘on the table’

Durbin: Medical device tax repeal could be ‘on the table’

Washington (CNN) - A repeal of the medical device tax may be a point of compromise between the House and Senate as the two houses of Congress work to end the government shutdown, the number two Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday.

“We can work on something, I believe, on the medical device tax. That was one of the proposals from Republicans, as long as we replace the revenue,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said on CNN’s “New Day.”

The medical device tax is a 2.3% excise tax created to in part fund Obamacare and went into effect at the beginning of 2013.

The tax is largely considered unpopular, including among some Democrats whose states harbor medical device employers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, for example, penned an op-ed for a trade magazine advocating for a repeal last year while she was running for the Senate.


September 30, 2013

Larry Sabato says vast majority of R house seats are completely safe.

The only risk is a primary if they aren't conservative enough.

Unless things get so bad that many many individuals feel the impact, there is no downside for house Rs.

That is scary.

September 30, 2013

Fed may have to move goal posts on unemployment rate.


“The committee would also take into account additional measures of labor-market conditions,” Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, said Sept. 18. “Thus, the first increases in short-term rates might not occur until the unemployment rate is considerably below 6.5 percent.”

It’s becoming increasingly clear why Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke should have avoided linking the central bank’s policy decisions to specific unemployment rates.

Bernanke said in June he expected the Fed would complete its bond buying when the jobless level was around 7 percent, and policy makers have pledged since December they won’t consider raising interest rates as long as it exceeds 6.5 percent. With a decline in August to 7.3 percent for the wrong reason -- Americans giving up on finding work -- Fed officials are being forced to shift their guideposts.

The flawed measure has contributed to the market’s confusion over the direction of monetary policy, and Fed officials now are struggling with how to minimize it as a policy benchmark without damaging their credibility, according to Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Corp. in New York. The Federal Open Market Committee’s Sept. 18 decision not to taper its $85 billion in monthly bond buying surprised investors across the globe.

“Picking the unemployment rate as the key growth-side indicator was a huge mistake for the Fed,” said Harris, one of the few economists to correctly predict the Fed wouldn’t taper in September. “It was supposed to be a marker that the average Joe could look at and say, ‘Ah! OK, now we’ve hit a broad-based recovery.’ Now, they’ve almost immediately abandoned it.”
September 29, 2013

U.S. Moves on Syria, Iran Anger Saudi Arabia

RIYADH—The Obama administration's handling of overtures on Syria and Iran have outraged regional ally Saudi Arabia, which is signaling it wants to do more to boost the power of armed Sunni rebel groups on the ground in Syria as the U.S. pursues diplomacy.

Saudis fear that Syrian President Basher al-Assad will use the time afforded by U.S.- and U.N.-backed diplomacy on Syria "to impose more killing and to torture its people," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Thursday night in New York, in a warning that was overshadowed by the attention paid to the weekend's first public contacts in three decades between the presidents of Iran and the U.S.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia wants "intensification of political, economic and military support to the Syrian opposition…. to change the balance of powers on the ground" in Syria, Prince Saud said in his remarks to the Friends of Syria group, a coalition of Western and Gulf Arab countries and Turkey that supports the Syria opposition against Mr. Assad. The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a transcript of his remarks.

The Saudi government has had no public comment so far on the groundbreaking phone call Friday between U.S. President Barack Obama, whose country Saudi Arabia sees as the main military protector of its interests, and new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, whose country Saudi Arabia sees as its main threat.


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