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Thursday
Mar062008

Fed Report Signals Weakness in Variety of Industries

The economic downturn, which started in the handful of states where the housing market was in the worst shape, is spreading to almost every corner of the country and to a wide variety of industries, according to a Federal Reserve report released yesterday.

The trouble is showing up in such disparate ways as weaker demand for staffing services in New England, lower trucking volume in Ohio and surrounding states, and a resistance to spending money on capital projects by financial institutions on the West Coast.

That assessment is based on the "beige book," a compilation of anecdotes from businesses around the country gathered by the Fed's 12 regional banks. The previous report, in the middle of January, found signs of weakness in certain states and industries but described a U.S. economy that was generally holding up.

This time, two-thirds of the Fed's districts described a softening or weakening in the pace of business activity, and the others all referred to subdued, slow, or modest growth.

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Thursday
Mar062008

Govt. Needs to Investigate Predatory Lending Practices

Mortgage Foreclosures Rise


By Kathleen M. Howley / Bloomberg

U.S. mortgage foreclosures rose to an all-time high at the end of 2007 as borrowers with adjustable-rate loans walked away from properties before their payments increased, the Mortgage Bankers Association said today.

New foreclosures jumped to 0.83 percent of all home loans in the fourth quarter from 0.54 percent a year earlier. Late payments rose to a 23-year high, the organization said in a report today.

``We're seeing people give up even before they get to the reset because they couldn't afford the home in the first place,'' said Jay Brinkmann, vice president of research and economics for the Washington-based trade group.

The Bush administration is urging lenders to avert foreclosures by modifying mortgage terms amid the worst housing slump in a quarter century. The Federal Reserve has slashed its benchmark interest rate twice this year to try to avert the first recession since 2001. The central bank yesterday said the net worth of U.S. households decreased by $532.9 billion during the fourth quarter as home values fell.

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Thursday
Mar062008

Congress Threatens To Pull Funding for Air Force Tankers

Congressional leaders threatened yesterday to withhold funding for one of the U.S. military's biggest aircraft programs because the $40 billion contract went to a group that includes a European manufacturer.

Since Friday, when the Air Force awarded the initial part of a contract to replace 179 Air Force refueling tankers to the team of Northrop Grumman and European Aeronautic Defence and Space, congressional leaders have questioned why that bid was chosen over one by Boeing, the largest U.S. aircraft manufacturer. Critics have said that the Air Force is outsourcing its purchasing in a way that could threaten national security and have accused the service of not taking the creation of American jobs into account.

At a two-hour hearing of the House panel that controls defense spending, committee chairman John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), said: "There is the industrial base you have to consider. The political implications are important. . . . This committee funds this program. All this committee has to do is stop the money, and this program is not going forward."

After the hearing Murtha said, "This is not a done deal."

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Thursday
Mar062008

Hizballah 'Ready' to Fight Israel and America


Hizballah will not start the next war, but if it comes, it is ready to fight both Israel and the United States, the group's deputy chief Naim Kassem said in an interview with the Hizballah-affiliated newpaper Al-Akhbar. "The Israelis know they have to pay a high price in any war," Kassem said in the interview published on Wednesday.

Hizballah "is well prepared to face an Israeli, American and international war."

His comments follow a spike in tensions stemming from the assassination of a top Hizballah terrorist in a Damascus car bombing. Hizballah blamed Israel for killing Imad Mughniyeh, but Israel denied involvement. Israeli sources were quoted this week as saying that Hizballah now has 20,000 short-range and 10,000 long range rockets, including those that can reach deep into Israel.

The U.S. recently deployed U.S. warships off the coast of Lebanon, presumably as a show of support for Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's pro-democracy, anti-Syrian government.

Thursday
Mar062008

Pelosi's Bill Could Benefit Husband's Stock Holding

On Aug. 2, Pelosi (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Early Treatment for HIV Act, a bill that could boost Medicaid coverage of HIV-related drugs, including Procrit, which is manufactured by Amgen and marketed by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, a firm in which Pelosi's husband owns at least $250,000 Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) campaign.

Specifically, the legislation would give states the option to allow patients who are HIV-positive, but do not have AIDS, to qualify for Medicaid coverage earlier in the course of the virus. Currently, Medicaid coverage doesn't kick in until a patient develops AIDS.

The legislation could also extend to HIV drugs Prezista and Intellence, manufactured by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. But these two drugs would not always be for early treatment of HIV.

The legislation has more than 50 co-sponsors, including some Republicans. However, considering Pelosi's potential interest in the legislation, her sponsorship of the bill is questionable, said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group.

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Thursday
Mar062008

Parents of 166,000 Students Could Face Criminal Charges

By Bob Unruh / World Net Daily

A breathtaking ruling from a California appeals court that could subject the parents of 166,000 students in the state to criminal sanctions will be taken to the Supreme Court.

The announcement comes today from the Pacific Justice Institute, whose president, Brad Dacus, described the impact of the decision as "stunning."

"The scope of this decision by the appellate court is breathtaking," he said. "It not only attacks traditional homeschooling, but also calls into question homeschooling through charter schools and teaching children at home via independent study through public and private school."

"If not reversed, the parents of the more than 166,000 students currently receiving an education at home will be subject to criminal sanctions," he said.

WND broke the story of the ruling against Phillip and Mary Long of Los Angeles.

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Thursday
Mar062008

Baxter Heparin Contaminant Found!

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday, 5th March, they had found evidence that the heparin blood thinning product made by Baxter that has been linked to several deaths and serious reactions in hundreds of patients contains a contaminant that is hard to detect using standard tests.

Speaking at a news conference, FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock is reported by the New York Times as saying:

"At this point, we do not know whether the introduction was accidental or whether it was deliberate."

Woodcock said the FDA had not yet established how the compound got into the active ingredient.

According to the FDA, 19 people have died in the last 14 months and 785 are reported to be gravely ill of severe allergic reactions after receiving injections of Baxter's heparin, but investigators have not yet established a direct link between these events and the contaminated heparin.

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Thursday
Mar062008

Bush: Congress Irrelevant on Iraq

The Bush administration says the 2002 congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq gives it the authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq and negotiate far-reaching agreements with the current Iraqi government without consulting Congress.

The assertion, jointly made Tuesday by U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long, drew an incredulous reaction from Democrats on a Joint House committee during a hearing on future U.S. commitments to Iraq.

“It's the view of the administration that as long as there’s trouble in Iraq that you have authorization of this Congress to continue there in perpetuity and define trouble as you desire?” asked Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

“We have authorization to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” Satterfield replied. “The situation in Iraq continues to present a threat to the United States.”

The Bush administration also feels it does not need to seek the authorization of Congress to ratify two pending agreements with Iraq: a “Strategic Framework” that would govern “normalized” relations with the U.S., and a Status of Forces Agreement that would govern the “authorities and protections” of U.S. troops in Iraq past Dec. 31, the expiration of a U.N. resolution that the administration says authorizes their presence.

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Wednesday
Mar052008

Russian Mafia in Bed with Wall Street, CEO says

Every day, thousands of Americans look to invest their money in stocks, and many of them go through brokers and traders to simplify the process.

Unfortunately, according to Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, a majority of those purchasers will be victims of Wall Street's criminal tactics and will help line the pockets of corrupt brokers and lawyers. Byrne, a Utahn who founded Overstock.com, talked to a crowd in the Union on Monday about how New York financial media and law firms have teamed up with big-wig business elites to create massive amounts of profit at the cost of American consumers.

Byrne said when someone purchases a stock, there is a three-day stock settlement period during which a broker or a trader must provide a purchaser with that stock. However, through loopholes in the system, brokers and traders can legally not provide you with that stock almost indefinitely, giving the purchaser an IOU instead, Byrne said.

"It's my thesis that certain people have figured out how they can abuse that loophole, and flood the market...often in connivance with a broker dealer," he said.

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Wednesday
Mar052008

Crimes by Homeland Security Agents Stir Alert!

By Jay Weaver & Alfonso Chardy / Miami Herald

Bribery! Drug trafficking! Migrant smuggling!

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes. Instead, so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington recently issued an alert about the ''disturbing events'' and the ``increase in the number of employee arrests.''

Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times -- even when not on the job.

''It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law,'' Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo obtained by The Miami Herald.

Winkowski's memo cites employee arrests involving domestic violence, DUI and drug possession. But court records show Customs officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican border states have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses.

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