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August 11, 2010
by Richard Adams
The Obama administration‘s most public face, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, has tried to climb down from angry remarks he aimed at leftwing critics, calling them “crazy”.
In an interview with The Hill newspaper in Washington DC, Gibbs revealed frustration at attacks on the administration from liberal Democrats and others on the left, in terms likely to make relations even worse:
“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”
The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”
Within hours of the interview being published, Gibbs tried to walk back his remarks, calling them “inartful”. He told the Huffington Post:
I watch too much cable, I admit. Day after day it gets frustrating. Yesterday I watched as someone called legislation to prevent teacher layoffs a bailout – but I know that’s not a view held by many, nor were the views I was frustrated about.
Gibbs went on to say: “So we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies”.
His remarks reflect the White House’s sensitivity at criticism from the left of the Democratic party, who are unhappy that Obama has too often appeared to compromise on domestic policy while continuing Bush administration policies on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a continued failure to close Guantanamo prison.
Gibbs’s remarks were quickly taken up and dissected on liberal blogs.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon described Gibbs’s remarks as “one of the most petulant, self-pitying outbursts seen from a top political official in recent memory, half derived from a paranoid Richard Nixon rant and the other half from a Sean Hannity/Sarah Palin caricature of The Far Left”. Chris Bowers of the OpenLeft blog responded in a post headlined “Dear swing voters, you suck. Love, The White House”:
If the White House really doesn’t think it has any problems among self-identified liberals or progressives, and that all the complaints are coming from a grasstop elite, it needs to look at the data again.
August 11, 2010
by Scott Lanman
Federal Reserve officials decided to reinvest principal payments on mortgage holdings into long-term Treasury securities, making their first attempt to bolster growth since March 2009 to keep the slowing U.S. economy from relapsing into recession.
“The pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement in Washington. “To help support the economic recovery in a context of price stability, the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level.” The Fed retained a commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate close to zero for an “extended period.”
With growth weakening in the second quarter and company job gains in July falling short of estimates, today’s step signals that risks of a downturn have increased enough for the Fed to delay its exit from unprecedented stimulus. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress last month that the Fed was “prepared to take further policy actions as needed.”
The Fed said it will “continue to roll over the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury securities as they mature.” The reinvestment policy applies to agency debt and agency mortgage- backed securities held by the central bank.
The central bank left the overnight interbank lending rate target unchanged in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it’s been since December 2008. High unemployment, low inflation and stable price expectations “are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period,” the Fed said, repeating language from every policy meeting since March 2009.
“The pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months,” the FOMC said. The Fed will “continue to monitor the economic outlook and financial developments and will employ its policy tools as necessary to promote economic recovery and price stability.”
U.S. central bankers repeated that inflation is “likely to be subdued for some time.” Prices in June rose 1.4 percent from a year earlier, the third straight month of slowing gains under the Fed’s preferred index, which excludes food and energy costs.
Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig dissented from the decision for the fifth straight meeting.
Fed policy makers, at their last meeting in June, judged that the central bank “would need to consider whether further policy stimulus might become appropriate if the outlook were to worsen appreciably,” according to minutes of the session. Records of today’s meeting will be released Aug. 31.
Bernanke said in an Aug. 2 speech that “we have a considerable way to go to achieve a full recovery in our economy.” Still, he avoided signaling that the central bank would reverse months of reductions in record stimulus and liquidity programs, including the end to $1.7 trillion in purchases of housing debt and Treasuries.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said July 29 that while he expects a continued recovery, policy makers should be ready to buy Treasuries if the economy slows further.
The Fed’s last move in favor of easier policy came in March 2009, when policy makers agreed to buy $300 billion of Treasuries and more than double planned mortgage-debt purchases to $1.45 trillion while starting a pledge to keep the benchmark rate close to zero for an “extended period.”
This year the central bank stopped buying assets, raised the rate on direct loans to banks and shut emergency-lending programs for corporations, bond dealers and money-market mutual funds. It’s also developed tools for raising rates with a near- record $2.3 trillion balance sheet.
Today’s decision defied easy prediction after a report Aug. 6 showed U.S. private employers added 71,000 jobs in July, below the 90,000 median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.5 percent. Including government workers, the U.S. lost 131,000 jobs in July, compared with the median estimate of 65,000.
The weak job market has inhibited growth in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Such expenditures rose at a 1.6 percent pace last quarter, down from a 1.9 percent rate in the previous three months that was smaller than previously estimated.
“They’re supposed to keep inflation under control, but they’re also supposed to promote full employment,” Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York, said in a Bloomberg Television interview before the announcement. “The Fed is starting to worry about hitting that full-employment goal any time in the next three or four years.”
Aeropostale Inc., a retailer to teenagers whose sales rose in July at one-seventh the pace analysts predicted, said changing consumer preferences and a “challenging” retail environment hampered spending. Sales at J.C. Penney Co., a department-store chain, fell 0.6 percent last month.
Still, Bernanke and other officials in recent weeks had maintained their outlook for a pickup in the economy over the next year. Corporate spending on equipment and software jumped at a 22 percent annual rate last quarter.
While weakness in housing and commercial real estate will restrain the recovery, and the job market’s “slow recovery” weighs on consumers, “rising demand from households and businesses should help sustain growth,” Bernanke said in a speech last week in Charleston, South Carolina.
United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package- delivery company, raised its annual profit forecast last month and posted second-quarter earnings that climbed more than analysts estimated on increased demand overseas.
The S&P 500 Index has rebounded 12 percent as of yesterday from its low this year on July 1.
Investors don’t expect the Fed to raise the federal funds rate until late 2011, based on futures contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade.
The housing market has faltered since a federal tax incentive for first-time homebuyers expired in April. Sales of previously owned homes fell 5.1 percent in June from May, housing starts slid to the lowest level in eight months and the 330,000 annual pace of new-home sales was the second-lowest in data going back to 1963 after May’s 267,000 rate.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, an academic group with a committee that marks the start and end of recessions, has yet to announce a date for the end of the downturn that started in December 2007, even after four straight quarters of growth. Some panel members including Stanford University’s Robert Hall and Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University have said it’s clear the contraction has probably ended.
August 11, 2010
by Patrick Allen
America is a “Mickey Mouse economy” that is technically bankrupt, according to Jochen Wermuth, the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) and managing partner at Wermuth Asset Management.
“America today looks like Russia in 1998. Consumers, companies and the government are all highly indebted. America as a result is a bankrupt Mickey Mouse economy,” Wermuth told CNBC.
The comments followed news that the Fed was extending its quantitative easing program following what the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) described as a fall in the pace of growth in output and employment.
The Fed has spent the past three years on a route of aggressive rate cuts and purchases of trillions in various securities but it is running out of measures it can take, Pimco’s co-CEO Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC.
Wermuth is a fund manager heavily invested in Russia and says if the same International Monetary Fund (IMF) team that managed the financial crisis in the former super power in 1998 now turned up at the US Treasury, they would withdraw support for current US policy immediately.
“The big evil for the IMF in Russia in 1998 was the prospect of the central bank funding government debt. The Fed is now even buying mortgage-backed securities,” he noted.
“Even before the (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, total US public and private debt as a percentage of GDP in the US stood at 290 percent, that figure is now far higher,” Wermuth added.
“US credit risk is huge and America has two options, either default or let the currency depreciate substantially against currencies such as the yuan and the rouble,” he explained.
“Last night’s news from the Fed simply creates the right conditions for dollar weakness and a reduction in US liabilities to foreign investors and governments,” Wermuth said.
August 11, 2010
Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said Iraq’s politicians had to find a way to “fill the void” after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year under a bilateral security pact.
“At this point, the withdrawal (of US forces) is going well, because they are still here,” Zebari said.
“But the problem will start after 2011; the politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011, because the army will be fully ready in 2020.
Zebari’s remarks came as US forces were in the process of withdrawing thousands of soldiers from Iraq to meet an August 31 declaration of an end to combat operations by US troops.
By that point, Washington has committed to having 50,000 troops stationed in Iraq, from about 64,000 now.
August 11, 2010
My Fox New York
by Luke Funk
Your thumbprint might soon be the key to an afternoon candy bar. A Massachusetts based vending machine company is joinng the growing ranks of companies that are field-testing new technologies.
Next Generation Vending and Food Service is experimenting with biometric vending machines that would allow a user to tie a credit card to their thumbprint.
“For a certain demographic that is pretty cool,” says company president John S. Ioannou.
Next Generation is currently testing about 60 of the biometric machines in various locations in the northeast.
The company is also testing other technologies. Ioannou says the key to the transforming the vending machine business is making the consumer feel more engaged.
The days might be numbered where a consumer watches a bag of chips roll through the machine and drop. Next Generation is also testing a machine that includes a 46″ touch-screen display that acts similarly to an iPhone display. The user can click on an item, flip the image and even see the nutrional information on the back of the packaging.
Ioannou says initial results are good saying, “The feedback is extraordinary.”
The machines include internally mounted cameras to monitor what is going on outside of the machine.
The tests are scheduled to run through the end of 2010. After that, Next Generation will decide if it is worth rolling out across its sales region in the northeast and Pennsylvania.
The company is also installing wireless or Ethernet connections on all of its current machines so there will be real-time reporting of the amount of goods in the machine for restocking purposes. Monitors will even be able to report when a coin is stuck in the machine. All of the current machines will be upgraded by the end of 2011.
There are other innovations that are being tested outside of the United States, including machines that use retinal scans to identify and charge consumers for their purchases.
August 11, 2010
by Mike Adams
Three years after the USDA destroyed the U.S. raw almond business by forcing almond producers to fumigate or pasteurize their nuts, a significant victory has been achieved that could overturn that onerous regulation. A federal appeals court has ruled that California almond farmers may now challenge the USDA regulation in the courts.
Why is this a victory? Because for years, a federal district court has ruled that almond growers could not even challenge the rule. The USDA’s power over farmers was absolutely, the court seemed to say, and no mere peasants can challenge the King.
But today that has all changed. A Cornucopia Institute press release announces the details of this court decision:
From the Cornucopia Institute…
See original release at http://www.cornucopia.org/2010/08/f…
WASHINGTON, DC – A federal appeals court ruled today, overturning a lower court decision, that a group of California almond farmers have the right to challenge a USDA regulation requiring the treatment of their raw almonds with a toxic fumigant or steam heat prior to sale to consumers. For the past three years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied American consumers the right to buy raw almonds, grown in the USA, when they shop in grocery and natural food stores.
A group of almond growers sued the government to challenge USDA’s rule, but the federal district court ruled that courtroom doors were closed to the growers’ claims. The controversial rule has cost individual farmers millions of dollars in lost sales since it was enacted in September 2007.
“We are delighted by the court’s decision,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director. Cornucopia has been coordinating the legal strategy for the farmers’ lawsuit. “At long last the farmers who have been injured by this rule will have the opportunity to stand in court and state why this poorly thought out regulation should be thrown out,” Fantle added.
The USDA and the Almond Board of California imposed the treatment scheme to minimize the risk of salmonella contamination outbreaks like those that had occurred with almonds in 2001 and 2004. USDA investigators were never able to determine how salmonella bacteria somehow contaminated the raw almonds that caused the food illnesses but they were able to trace back one of the outbreaks, in part, to the country’s largest “factory farm,” growing almonds and pistachios on over 9000 acres.
Family-scale growers have argued that the onerous and expensive mandated treatment regime is only needed by the giant industrial producers, who have less control over the quality of their nuts, and has hurt their market because it consumer resistance.
Many in the industry have questioned the logic exempting foreign-grown almonds from the treatment scheme. Imports have displaced raw domestic nuts in many major markets and retail locations across the U.S. This regulatory loophole is part of what has been crushing California producers.
“I am very happy with this first step in overturning this destructive regulation,” said Nick Koretoff, an almond farmer and plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The treatment mandate has been a financial catastrophe for me. My consumers want raw, untreated healthy almonds and I have been denied the opportunity to sell them what they want.”
Attorney John Vetne, who has been representing the almond farmers, said the Appeals Court made a “very strong decision affirming farmers’ rights.” The USDA had been arguing that farmers did not even have the right to legally challenge the USDA regulation. “We are pleased that the Appeals Court rejected USDA’s argument that courthouse doors are closed to farmers. We now intend to demonstrate to the federal district court that USDA acted outside of authority granted by Congress when it denied California almond growers a consumer market for raw almonds,” Vetne added.
Tens of thousands of consumers have expressed their discontent with the raw almond treatment rule in comments to the USDA. Organic and raw foods enthusiasts were particularly incensed that the nuts, despite being processed with propylene oxide (identified as a carcinogen by the federal EPA) or steam-heat, were still allowed to be labeled as “raw” — many believe that essential nutrients in food can be destroyed by heat, radiation and toxic chemicals.
The Cornucopia Institute, an organization known for its research and defense of family farmers involved in organics, artisan and local food production, was impressed with how many consumers have a real passion for maintaining the availability of raw food and nuts, including almonds, and have been willing to financially support the farmers in their legal challenge. “Contributions continue to flow in supporting this effort,” Fantle noted.
“I and many of my friends look forward to the day when we will once again be able to easily purchase truly raw, authentic almonds from California in my local store,” said Joan Levin, a Chicago resident and raw foods consumer. “We hope this Appeals Court ruling brings that day closer,” she said.
August 11, 2010
Some House Democrats and advocacy groups are getting squeamish about the move to fund the $26 billion jobs bill by making cuts to food stamps, a federal assistance program currently depended on by nearly 41 million Americans.
Some Democrats are upset and advocacy groups are outraged over the raiding of the food-stamp cupboard to fund a state-aid bailout that some call a gift to teachers and government union workers.
House members convened Tuesday and passed the multibillion-dollar bailout bill for cash-strapped states that provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or ensure that more teachers won’t be let go before the new school year begins, keeping more than 160,000 teachers on the job, the Obama administration says.
But the bill also requires that $12 billion be stripped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, to help fund the new bill, prompting some Democrats to cringe at the notion of cutting back on one necessity to pay for another. The federal assistance program currently helps 41 million Americans.
Arguably one of the most outspoken opponents on the Democratic side is Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who has blasted the move as “a bitter pill to swallow” but still voted yes.
“I fought very hard for the food assistance money in the Recovery Act, and the fact is that participation in the food stamps program has jumped dramatically with the economic crisis, from 31.1 million persons to 38.2 million just in one year,” DeLauro said in an e-mail sent to FoxNews.com. “But I know that states across the nation and my own state of Connecticut also desperately need these resources to save jobs and avoid Draconian cuts to essential services for low income families.”
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that several state advocacy groups, including the Texas Food Book Network and the Houston Food Bank, rallied for House members to strike down the legislation, which passed 247-161 in the House. Three Democrats voted against the measure, while two Republicans voted in support of it.
Democratic rank and file members, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, say the cuts won’t take effect until 2014 and will merely return food stamp benefits to pre-stimulus levels.
The Food Research and Action Center said a family of four would see benefits drop about $59 per month starting in 2014.
“While we support the education initiatives (in the bill), we adamantly oppose using food stamps to pay for them,” said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. “The rain on food stamps to pay for other things absolutely has to stop and stop now.”
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the number of people on the food stamp rolls has been growing to record levels for 18 straight months. Nearly $5.5 billion in aid went out to beneficiaries in May alone. The number of May recipients marked a 19 percent increase from a year ago and the USDA projects that next year’s enrollment will reach about 43.4 million.
Republicans, meanwhile, vocally opposed the state aid bill. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News it rewarded “irresponsible states” and their unions.
“It is basically taxpayers from fiscally (responsible) states bailing out fiscally irresponsible states. … Medicaid funding, teacher funding, the more popular of the public unions, what this is, it’s a bailout to prevent states from doing the necessary spending prioritization that they need do,” he said.
The Obama administration pushed hard for the $26 billion bill. The White House argued that it is essential to protecting 300,000 teachers and other nonfederal government workers from election-year layoffs and will not add to the national deficit.
“If we do nothing, these educators won’t be returning to the classroom this fall, and that won’t just deprive them of a paycheck, it will deprive the children and parents who are counting on them to provide a decent education,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden shortly before the bill passed on Tuesday.
“This proposal is fully paid for, in part by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations that ships American jobs overseas. So it will not add to our deficit,” he said. “And the money will only go toward saving the jobs of teachers and other essential professionals…I urge members of both parties to come together and get this done, so that I can sign this bill into law.”
August 11, 2010
by S. L. Baker
A half century ago, Linus Pauling began his pioneering research into how vitamin C impacts health (http://www.naturalnews.com/025802.html). Now, almost 25 years after Pauling’s death, a new study backs up his contention that vitamin C has remarkable healing and protective benefits. In fact, now scientists have discovered how vitamin C may put the brakes on the growth of cancer cells.
Margreet Vissers, associate professor at the University of Otago’s Free Radical Research Group in New Zealand, headed the study which was just published in the journal Cancer Research. “Our results offer a promising and simple intervention to help in our fight against cancer, at the level of both prevention and cure,” Dr.Vissers said in a statement to the press.
She pointed out that the role of vitamin C in cancer treatment has been debated for years, with many anecdotal accounts claiming vitamin C can help in both the prevention and treatment of cancer. In earlier studies conducted by Dr. Vissers, she demonstrated the vitamin’s importance in keeping cells healthy. And these findings suggested that vitamin C might be able to limit diseases such as cancer that involve cells that go haywire. In the case of a malignancy, for example, cells have unregulated growth.
So Dr. Vissers and her New Zealand research team decided to investigate whether vitamin C levels were lower in patients with endometrial tumors. They also looked to see whether these low vitamin C levels correlated with the aggressiveness of a malignancy and the resistance of a tumor to medical therapy.
The results? Tumors were less able to accumulate vitamin C when compared with normal healthy tissue and a lack of vitamin C allowed tumors to survive and grow more easily. Tumors with low vitamin C levels were found to contain more of a protein dubbed HIF-1 which helps cancer thrive and spread, even under conditions of stress.
The findings are important because they provide evidence for the first time of a relationship between HIF-1 and levels of vitamin C levels in cancerous tumors. And it appears treating cancer patients with adequate amounts of vitamin C might well reduce HIF-1, help limit the rate of tumor growth and increase the responsiveness to tumors to therapy. Vitamin C might even prevent the formation of solid tumors in the first place, according to Dr. Vissers media statement.
August 11, 2010
by David Gutierrez
A report by the Chicago Tribune has revealed that officials in the village of Crestwood, just outside Chicago, have been secretly introducing tainted well water into the town water supply for years.
“I feel deceived,” village resident Tom Parkis said.
For years before the story broke, town residents had wondered if there might not be something wrong with their water. For example, Frank Caldario was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2009, at the age of 30.
“I can’t help but wonder if what happened to me had something to do with the water,” said Caldario, a non-smoker.
“It’s just unreal for someone my age to get that.”
Several months ago, the Tribune revealed that village officials had been using tainted well water for years, while telling the public and state regulators that all the village’s water came from Lake Michigan. Yet during some periods, up to 20 percent of the town’s drinking water came from the polluted well.
In response to the article, the Illinois Department of Public Health conducted a survey of disease rates in Crestwood between 1994 and 2006. The researchers found that rates of kidney and gastrointestinal cancer were significantly higher in Crestwood men than in the population at large, and rates of lung cancer were significantly higher in both men and women. The researchers could not prove that the higher cancer rates were caused by the polluted water, but did find it to be a possible cause.
Now residents are worried about the effects that drinking contaminated water over the long term may have had on their health.
“Of course there’s a concern. If I said it wasn’t in the back of my head, I’d be lying,” said Dominic Covone. “You don’t want to think something bad could happen from just drinking water.”
Since the story broke, the village has used more than $1 million in taxpayer funds to defend itself against lawsuits.