Growth in US and EU debt
Welcome! Follow me on twitter at @johnrlottjr . Please e-mail questions to email@example.com.
The Obama administration restructured a half-billion dollar federal loan to a troubled solar energy company in such a way that private investors — including a fundraiser for President Barack Obama — moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment in case of a default, government records show.
Administration officials defended the loan restructuring, saying that without an infusion of cash earlier this year, solar panel maker Solyndra Inc. would likely have faced immediate bankruptcy, putting more than 1,000 people out of work.
Even with the federal help, Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month and laid off its 1,100 employees. . . .
The New York Times fully endorses Paul Krugman’s disgusting 9/11 column, since they haven’t fired him for writing it. A great number of their readers did not endorse it, so Krugman spent a few days hiding under his desk, with comments for both his initial screed and a subsequent expansion of his tinfoil-hat ravings turned off. Today he crawled back out to pen a little screed about how Republicans want everyone to be “free to die.”
What got Krugman thinking about this important subject was an exchange during the GOP presidential debate in Tampa:
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
Never forget that Paul Krugman is a liar, in addition to being a coward. The crowd did not “erupt with cheers and shouts of yeah!” when Wolf Blitzer said that. One or two people threw out a rowdy “Yeah!” It’s hard to tell if it’s the same person shouting it twice, so let’s just be charitable to the New York Times’ pet propagandist and say two.
Ron Paul’s answer to Wolf Blitzer’s question, transcribed precisely, was “No.”
What made the crowd erupt in cheers was Paul saying, “That’s what freedom is about: taking your own risk.” . . .
A JetBlue pilot is facing a weapons possession charge after a gun was found in his bag during a screening at New York's LaGuardia Airport.
A criminal complaint says Robert Paulson of Ankeny, Iowa, was going through screening procedures Sept. 8 when the screener saw something metal in the X-ray. A 40-caliber H&K pistol and bullets were found in his bag.
The complaint says Paulson had been in New York for at least the day and was returning to Iowa.
He was arraigned and released on his own recognizance. His next court date is Sept. 19. . . .
Gen. William Shelton, head of the Air Force Space Command, told House members in a classified briefing earlier this month that he was pressured to change prepared congressional testimony in a way that would favor a large company funded by Philip Falcone, a major Democratic donor, congressional sources told Fox News.
Republicans have raised questions about whether the project pursued by the company, LightSquared, is being unduly expedited by the Obama administration, which has pushed for national wireless network upgrades.
The Virginia-based satellite and broadband communications company has plans to build a nationwide, next-generation, 4G phone network that many, including Shelton, think would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems, a product used most commonly by the United States military.
A source familiar with the technology told Fox News that the LightSquared spectrum would be 5 billion times stronger than the military's GPS system, rendering the military's system almost useless.
"Imagine trying to have a telephone conversation while your neighbors are hosting a rock concert," the source told Fox News. "That’s the situation the military is facing."
Shelton, in testimony Thursday before a House Armed Services subcommittee, refused to suggest that interference problems could be mitigated, as he allegedly was being pressured to say. . . .
LightSquared, a wireless network backed by billionaire Democratic donor Philip Falcone, could beam broadband Internet everywhere—but some military officials fear it could interfere with critical GPS signals. Now, as The Daily Beast's Eli Lake exclusively reports, two U.S. officials allege the White House tried to influence their testimony to rush key testing, to LightSquare's benefit.
A second government official has come forward saying the White House tried to influence his testimony concerning a wireless broadband project backed by a Democratic donor that military officials fear might impair sensitive satellite navigation systems.
Anthony Russo, director of the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing, told The Daily Beast he rejected “guidance” from the White House’s Office of Budget and Management suggesting he tell Congress that the government’s concerns about the project by the firm LightSquared could be resolved in 90 days, a timetable favorable to the company’s plans.
“They gave that to me and presumably the other witnesses,” Russo said. “There is one sentence I disagreed with, which said that I thought the testing could be resolved in 90 days. So I took it out.”
Russo said he objected to that language because “I have low confidence that we can complete all of the testing in 90 days.” He estimated that such testing would take at least six months. Russo called the White House efforts to alter his testimony “guidance rather than pressure.”
Russo’s comments come just days after four-star Air Force Gen. William Shelton, who heads U.S. Space Command, told Congress in a classified briefing that he felt pressured by the White House to change his testimony about the same project to make it more favorable to the company. . . .
A White House official fretted privately that the Obama administration could suffer serious political damage if it gave additional taxpayer support to the beleaguered solar-panel company Solyndra, according to newly released e-mails.
The firm had burned through millions of dollars and in January still tottered near collapse. The official wanted the government’s top budget official to warn Obama’s energy secretary about the risk, according to the e-mails.
At the time, the Energy Department was trying to pump taxpayer money into the California company to save it from imminent failure. The firm had received a $535 million federal loan from the agency in 2009, but early this year confided to the Obama administration that without a rapid infusion of cash it was in danger of defaulting.
“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” the Office of Management and Budget staff member wrote Jan. 31 in an e-mail to a co-worker. “If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will be arguably worse later than they would be today. . . . In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”
The e-mail suggests that, as the Energy Department pushed to release an additional $67 million in installments of the loan to Solyndra, the OMB was not participating in the decision about whether to help the company. OMB staff had been in charge of assessing the default risk of firms that received Energy Department loan guarantees. . . .
According to records filed with the Clerk of the House and a search of disclosure forms compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Solyndra spent nearly $1.9 million on lobbying activities over a period of 43 months from 2008 to 2011.
About $1 million of that was earned by the company's two in-house lobbyists, Joseph Pasetti and Victoria Sanville, over an 18-month period from 2010 until this year. But Solyndra has also had several big-name lobbying shops on its payroll, including established powerhouses Dutko Worldwide and Holland and Knight, which began representing the then-fledgling company in 2008.
While Holland and Knight helped the company with renewable energy tax credit issues, Dutko was brought aboard, according to its filings, to "identify decisionmakers and to assist with the client's loan application" through the Department of Energy.
It is that DOE loan that has touched off an outcry on Capitol Hill and has singed the Obama administration, just as President Obama campaigns across the country for his new jobs plan and Republicans look to scale back clean energy and environmental programs. . . .
On Jan. 12, 2009, Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet sent an Energy Department official an email marked "urgent" expressing outrage that Bush officials had decided a few days earlier that while the loan application had "merit" it needed further study before officials could move forward with a taxpayer-financed loan.
"I was appalled to learn on Friday that our application is being delayed yet again," Gronet wrote to Energy official Steve Isakowitz, writing there had been "countless communications" back and forth suggesting the application would be reviewed Jan. 15. . . .
. . . One speaker from South Africa breathlessly described the Chinese economic system of state-capitalism as “crisis-proof,” and said it was shifting the debate over economic models on the African continent. A French corporate executive was overheard lauding the merits of China’s Five-Year plans. Not perfect, he conceded, “but better than no plan at all – which is what we have in France.”
It took a Chinese speaker to bring the gathered ranks . . . down to earth at Summer Davos.
At a panel discussion on China’s latest Five-Year plan on Thursday, Zhang Weiying, an economics professor at Peking University, first noted that China routinely misses the important economic targets set out in its Five-Year plans by a wide margin (usually on the upside). Then he took a swing at the bureaucrats at the National Development and Reform Commission who devote vast amounts of time to producing the country’s economic blueprints. They are, he said, “a bunch of smart people doing something really stupid.”
Prof. Zhang went on to dismiss the massive stimulus spending that powered China through the global recession, also coordinated by the NDRC. Stimulus money can’t buy development, he said: that takes a commitment to markets, competition and entrepreneurship, which won’t happen while the NDRC calls the shots in the economy. In short, Prof. Zhang argued, China needs reform.
Prof. Zhang was undaunted by the fact that sitting on his panel was one of China’s top planning mandarin . . . who it’s safe to say is more used to dishing out criticism than taking it.
Zhang Xiaoqiang offered a spirited defense of the most powerful economic agency in China, but the audience seemed to be with Prof. Zhang as he warmed to his theme. Since the NDRC was established, he said, the pace of reform “has seriously slowed down.” . . .
Banks have stepped up their actions against homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, setting the stage for a fresh wave of foreclosures.
The number of U.S. homes that received an initial default notice -- the first step in the foreclosure process -- jumped 33 percent in August from July, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.
The increase represents a nine-month high and the biggest monthly gain in four years. The spike signals banks are starting to take swifter action against homeowners, nearly a year after processing issues led to a sharp slowdown in foreclosures.
"This is really the first time we've seen a significant increase in the number of new foreclosure actions," said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac. "It's still possible this is a blip, but I think it's much more likely we're seeing the beginning of a trend here." . . .
Other factors have also worked to stall the pace of new foreclosures this year. The process has been held up by court delays in states where judges play a role in the foreclosure process, a possible settlement of government probes into the industry's mortgage-lending practices, and lenders' reluctance to take back properties amid slowing home sales. . . .
A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show.
The program — designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans — has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies.
President Obama has made “green jobs” a showcase of his recovery plan, vowing to foster new jobs, new technologies and more competitive American industries. But the loan guarantee program came under scrutiny Wednesday from Republicans and Democrats at a House oversight committee hearing about the collapse of Solyndra, a solar-panel maker whose closure could leave taxpayers on the hook for as much as $527 million. . . .
President Obama has made “green jobs” a showcase of his recovery plan, vowing to foster new jobs, new technologies and more competitive American industries. But the loan guarantee program came under scrutiny Wednesday from Republicans and Democrats at a House oversight committee hearing about the collapse of Solyndra, a solar-panel maker whose closure could leave taxpayers on the hook for as much as $527 million. . . .
But no one seems to be talking about the $2,000 per worker [per year] tax on employers, to begin in 2014. Enacted as part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it will be levied on firms with 50 or more employees who do not offer the right kind of health insurance to their workers.
Millions of Americans are looking for work, and the number in poverty, 46.2 million, is the highest since the Census Bureau began compiling poverty data 52 years ago.
This tax might be one reason for the slow employment growth we observe two years after the end of the recession, in June 2009.
Although the tax will not take effect until 2014, businesses are adjusting now. They are not stupid, they plan ahead. . . .
Price WaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm, has estimated that 828,000 franchise establishments in America account for more than $468 billion of GDP and more than 9 million jobs, based on data from the Census Bureau. . . .
Where the franchisor and the franchisee own and operate multiple locations, these sets of firms are treated as one company for tax and health care purposes. . . .
If a business does not offer health insurance, then, beginning in 2014, it will be subject to a tax if it employs more than 49 workers in all its establishments. For 49 workers, the tax is zero. For 50 workers, the tax is $40,000, since the business does not pay the tax on the first 30 workers. For 75 workers, it is $90,000; and for 150 workers, the tax is $240,000. Each time a business adds another employee, the tax rises. . . .
Nearly imperceptible to all but the most trained tax policy eyes, President Barack Obama’s blueprint to boost employment hinges partly on a provision that makes health plans taxable for individuals who make more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.
“If your incomes are above those levels, and you benefit from employer-sponsored health insurance, you’re going to have to pay a modest amount of tax on the value of the health insurance,” explains Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The tax provision was included as a way to defray the nearly $447 billion price tag for Obama’s template to get Americans back to work.
Under the White House’s calculations, the provision means that higher earners would pay about 7 percent more on the value of their health coverage. Put another way, it caps what the wealthy can deduct for the cost of their coverage, lowering the amount to 28 cents.
“This proposal is part of a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share,” a senior White House official said, adding that shifting the deduction from 35 percent to 28 percent makes it “more in line with what middle class families receive today." . . .
The IRS and Treasury just put out for public feedback a new rule to help businesses contend with a big penalty under health reform that could potentially smack them with tens of thousands of dollars in costs, a fine that could hit already cash-strapped small businesses.
Submarined in the new health-reform law is this big onerous penalty, called a “shared responsibility payment,” that the government can slap against businesses with more than 50 workers if they don’t provide “affordable” health benefits to their full-time employees, which the government gets to define. . . .
Beginning in 2014, the government will slap businesses with a higher $3,000-per-employee penalty if the government finds they provide workers “unaffordable” health insurance.
And who gets to define “unaffordable”? The government.
How is it defined? The government will assess the $3,000 penalty if any worker has to take a tax credit or has to enroll in state health exchanges because his or her boss pays less than 60% of the full value of the coverage, or the premium the employee pays is more than 9.5% of household income.
But now the Treasury Department and the IRS are asking for input from the public on a proposed “safe harbor” that says small businesses wouldn’t have to pay the new fine, so long as they can prove to the government their health insurance is really “affordable.”
So how can companies qualify for this safe harbor? Watch this -- because health reform has raised serious privacy issues about what the government can know about your household income.
The small business has to prove to the IRS that its insurance is affordable by showing the government the wages that it paid to employees, instead of reporting to the government the employee’s household income.
Meaning, the IRS would deem a business’s coverage affordable so long as a worker’s premium costs did not exceed 9.5% of his W-2 wages. . . .
The amount represents more than 10% of the $180 billion in jobless benefits paid nationwide during the period. (See a sortable chart of each states’ overpayments) The tally covers state programs, which offer benefits for up to 26 weeks, from July 2008 to June 2011. Layers of federal programs that help provide benefits for up to 99 weeks weren’t included.
The figures were released Wednesday as the Obama administration promotes its bid to reduce waste at federal agencies. The federal government foots the bill for administering the programs, and states are supposed to pay for the benefits. Many states exhausted their unemployment insurance trust funds during the long recession and slow recovery, prompting them to borrow from the federal government to replenish their funds.
Improper payments most often occur when recipients claim benefits even though they have returned to work; employers or their administrators don’t submit timely or accurate information about worker separations; or recipients don’t correctly register with a state’s employment-service organization. . . .
A federal judge on Wednesday blocked enforcement of a first-in-the-nation law that restricted what Florida physicians can say about guns to their patients, ruling the law violates the U.S. Constitution's free speech guarantees and does not trample gun rights.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said it was important to emphasize "the free flow of truthful, non-misleading information within the doctor-patient relationship."
"This case concerns one of our Constitution's most precious rights — the freedom of speech," Cooke said. "A practitioner who counsels a patient on firearm safety, even when entirely irrelevant to medical care or safety, does not affect or interfere with the patient's right to continue to own, possess or use firearms."
The law was passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law June 2 by GOP Gov. Rick Scott. The governor, the National Rifle Association and other supporters contended it was a violation of privacy and possibly the Second Amendment for doctors to question patients about guns at home.
But physicians' groups representing some 11,000 doctors and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence sued. They said the law halted meaningful discussions between doctors and patients — especially parents with guns — about keeping the weapons out of the hands of children.
Dr. Lisa Cosgrove, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the ruling will help save lives. She said doctors routinely counsel patients about safety issues at home, on everything from backyard swimming pools to use of bike helmets. . . .
The Energy Department (DOE) is not backing down in its efforts to support clean energy companies, despite a Republican push to pummel the Obama administration for approving a $535 million loan guarantee to a now-bankrupt solar firm.
The department could approve as many as 15 renewable energy loan guarantees by the end of the month when a program launched under the stimulus law ends. . . .
To date, the DOE has finalized 17 loan guarantees for a range of solar, wind and geothermal projects. The department has issued 15 conditional commitments that must be finalized by Sept. 30.
The department, for example, finalized an $852 million loan guarantee for a NextEra Energy solar project in California last month. . . .
But the administration has pushed back on the allegations in recent days. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the emails were a “scheduling matter” and were not intended to put additional pressure on officials to finalize the loan.
Meanwhile, the Energy Department is arguing that the Solyndra debacle shows that the United States must double down on its investments in clean energy to compete with countries like China, which has invested billions in solar energy. . . .
At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.
Evergreen Solar Inc., indirectly received $5.3 million through a state grant to open a $450 million facility in 2007 that employed roughly 800 people. The company, once a rock star in the solar industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, saying it couldn't compete with Chinese rivals without reorganizing. The company intends to focus on building up its manufacturing facility in China.
SpectraWatt, based in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., is also a solar cell company that was spun out of Intel in 2008. In June 2009, SpectraWatt received a $500,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the stimulus package. SpectraWatt was one of 13 companies to receive the money to help develop ways to improve solar cells without changing current manufacturing processes.
The company filed for bankruptcy last month, saying it could not compete with its Chinese competitors, which receive "considerable government and financial support." . . .
Another winner of stimulus who ultimately lost is Mountain Plaza Inc. Despite declaring bankruptcy in 2003, the company received $424,000 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation as part of a grant aimed at installing "truck stop electrification" systems that allow idling truckers to plug-in during extended stops and turn off their exhaust-belching, environment polluting diesel engines.
Mountain Plaza had filed for bankruptcy protection again in June 2010. TDOT, which received a $2 million stimulus grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the project, said it didn't learn about the bankruptcy until October, but it is closely monitoring the project.
Elsewhere, Olsen's Crop Service and Olsen's Mills Acquisition Co. also failed despite Olsen's Mills receiving $10 million to increase employment, add equipment and machinery, refinance existing debts and work capital for operations and acquire land. The payout -- part of a $64 million package to nine rural businesses in Wisconsin for economic development loan assistance -- was delivered in January 2010, after Olsen's Mills filed for bankruptcy protection for defaulting on a $60 million bank loan.
Dr. Ivar Giaever, a former professor with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 13, from the premier physics society in disgust over its officially stated policy that "global warming is occurring."
The official position of the American Physical Society (APS) supports the theory that man's actions have inexorably led to the warming of the planet, through increased emissions of carbon dioxide.
Giaever does not agree -- and put it bluntly and succinctly in the subject line of his email, reprinted at Climate Depot, a website devoted to debunking the theory of man-made climate change.
"I resign from APS," Giaever wrote.
Giaever was cooled to the statement on warming theory by a line claiming that "the evidence is inconvertible."
"In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?" he wrote in an email to Kate Kirby, executive officer of the physics society.
"The claim … is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this 'warming' period," his email message said. . . .
A tiny car company backed by former Vice President Al Gore has just gotten a $529 million U.S. government loan to help build a hybrid sports car in Finland that will sell for about $89,000.
The award this week to California startup Fisker Automotive Inc. follows a $465 million government loan to Tesla Motors Inc., purveyors of a $109,000 British-built electric Roadster. Tesla is a California startup focusing on all-electric vehicles, with a number of celebrity endorsements that is backed by investors that have contributed to Democratic campaigns.
The awards to Fisker and Tesla have prompted concern from companies that have had their bids for loans rejected, and criticism from groups that question why vehicles aimed at the wealthiest customers are getting loans subsidized by taxpayers.
"This is not for average Americans," said Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, an anti-tax group in Washington. "This is for people to put something in their driveway that is a conversation piece. It's status symbol thing." . . .
Cramer is bearish on Tesla Motors (TSLA), and he suggests selling if you own it. The California-based Tesla has a P/E ratio of -11.2, and a forward P/E ratio of -13.2, as of the September 12 close. Five-year annualized EPS growth forecast is 20.0%. Tesla pays no dividend yield. . . .
Tesla Motors is attempting to rapidly expand into the mainstream electric car market but we have concerns with its dependence on lithium. Lithium is believed to have the second smallest accessible metal supply in the world, which stands right above the “rare earth metals” category. Should Tesla be highly successful and sell thousands of its new Model S in conjunction with other large scale electric car competitors there is a real probability that the price of lithium batteries could sky rocket. Given that this is the most expensive part of an electric car this could destroy a profit margin that Tesla doesn’t even have yet. . . .
It’s unbelievable how competition has come out of the woodwork for the electric car space with big names like Ford (F), Toyota (TM), Nissan (NSANY.PK), and more in the line up. . . . If Toyota or other major names find the space unprofitable they can leave it and survive but this isn’t the case for Tesla Motors. Further, big auto names can afford to hang out in this space longer and may even attempt to financially bleed out Tesla Motors. The only hope Tesla Motors has in surviving currently against competition is to start running circles around them in terms of sales numbers. Otherwise it may get squashed like a fly if it stops to take a breather. . . .
But make no mistake about it, the albatross around Weprin’s neck is named Obama, and Democrats who value honesty will tell you privately that the president’s 37 percent approval rating in the district is making it difficult for Weprin to win a race that in almost any other time would be a slam dunk, no matter how mediocre a campaign the Democratic nominee ran.
Polling conducted by Siena College shows that jobs and the economy are the top issues of the day, and Republican calls for voters to “send a message” to President Barack Obama clearly have worked far better than Democratic charges that Turner and his party want to eliminate Medicare and Social Security. . . .
Citing reports that at least a handful of absentee ballots had been mailed to voters who are now deceased, Republican Bob Turner obtained a court order impounding absentee ballots cast in the special election for New York's 9th congressional district. . . .
"Many Democrats -- including deceased ones -- were sent ballots without applying," O'Reilly said. "Looks like clear election fraud, so we filed papers to impound all ballots cast and mailed." . . .
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called it a "very frightening decision" and evoked images of the "Old West" where "you have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle it in the streets." . . .
District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty responded with a plan to require residents of the nation's capital to register their handguns. "More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence," Fenty said. . . .
In San Jose, the number of homicides rose 73% to 26 this year through July compared with the same period a year earlier, the highest year-to-year increase the city has experienced in at least the last 10 years, according to city and state records. . . .
The ranks of people in poverty increased to 46.2 million from 43.6 million. The last time the poverty rate reached 15.1 percent was in 1993. It climbed to 15.2 percent in 1983. Median household income in 2010 was $49,445, down from $50,599 the year before. [A decline of 2.3 percent] . . .
The number of those lacking health insurance increased to 49.9 million from 49 million, or about 16.3 percent of the population, a change the bureau said wasn’t statistically significant.
The income figures declined even as the U.S. economy expanded 3 percent in 2010. Growth has slowed this year to an annual rate of less than 1 percent, sparking concern that the financial struggles of families will continue to worsen and hamper the recovery. . . .
President Barack Obama will tout his American Jobs Act at WestStar Precision, a small business run by a donor to the president's inaugural, in Apex, North Carolina on Wednesday, September 14. WestStar’s president, Ervin Portman, is a Democratic county commissioner for Wake County who donated $1,000 to the Obama inauguration fund. Portman also donated through Act Blue, a progressive PAC, toward the successful 2008 campaign of Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).
According to the White House press office, WestStar is a company “that will benefit from the bipartisan proposals in the American Jobs Act.” Obama’s tour of the company’s 10,000-square foot office and warehouse will be followed by a speech at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where the president will continue to urge that Congress pass his plan. . . .
Police Lt. Delmar Lange thought that Hoven had done the right thing firing shots and forcing the robbers to flee. “[Hoven] could see the hostage situation developing. He could not retreat any farther. He was in the back room. If it was me, I would have done the same thing,” Lange told the Detroit Free-Press. Lange thought that the video cameras clearly showed that Hoven had no alternative. The robbers were “very aggressive and very dangerous in what they did and how they did it.”
At least one of the three other workers in the store was also convinced that Hoven did the right thing, sending Hoven a thank-you card with a photograph of his four children. . . .
A Michigan pharmacist who fought off armed attackers by firing a gun of his own to thwart a robbery attempt in May was hailed by many as a hero.
After the hair-raising confrontation that was captured on surveillance video, Jeremy Hovan’s employer rewarded him with a pink slip. Now, Hovan is fighting back, filing a federal lawsuit against Walgreens for wrongful termination.
“No life was lost, no life was harmed, and nothing was stolen,’’ Hovan’s lawyer, Dan Swanson, told NBC News. “So in that context, I think he was a hero. He was exercising his reasonable right of self-defense in the face of a gunman who attempted to pull a trigger three times and shoot him. Presumably, shoot him dead.’’
Hovan was working the overnight shift at a Walgreens in Benton Harbor, Mich., in May when two armed gunmen burst through the front door. One pointed a gun in the back of one of Hovan’s fellow employees, while the other leapt over the counter into the pharmacy area. Hovan immediately grabbed a gun of his own in his left hand, while holding the phone in his right hand.
Caught on the surveillance video, the armed robber behind the counter attempted to fire at Hovan three times, but the gun malfunctioned. Hovan fired three shots of his own, causing both gunmen to flee the store without anyone being hurt or anything being stolen. A fellow employee quickly scrambled to retrieve one of the guns left behind. The two gunmen are still at large
“I feared for my life, and in self-defense, I fired my weapon as I continued to move from him,’’ Hovan said at a press conference. “He hurdled over the counter in a single motion and pointed his weapon at me. The gunman repeatedly attempted to fire upon me.’’ . . .
Political payoffs. Nearly one-quarter of this latest stimulus package -- sorry, American Jobs Act -- is aid to state and local government, to keep teachers and other public employee union members on the job and paying dues to the unions. Altogether unions gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. Pretty good return on their "investment," eh? . . .
Conservatives, according to this speech, want to "wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades" and "simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations."
These sentences came four paragraphs after Obama insisted that "the most affluent citizens and corporations" should pay more taxes (which spurs job creation how?) and not long before he promised to "take that message to every corner of the country." . . .
Union opposition to the Greek government's austerity program intensified Monday as tax collectors went on strike, and power workers vowed to sabotage a new emergency property tax aimed at plugging a budget gap spotted by international creditors.
Tax and customs workers walked off the job for two days to protest cuts in their bonus pay while the power company union said it would "not allow the company to be used as a tax-collecting mechanism" for the property levy, which will be included on household electricity bills and is expected, together with fresh public sector cuts, to reap €2 billion ($2.7 billion) this year.
The government, which said it chose that system of payment because of inefficiencies within the tax authorities, called the union threat "unacceptable."
The latest bout of labor unrest came as the European Commission said Greece's budget deficit this year will be more than expected. It said the country's deficit as a percentage of national income would likely reach 9.5 percent, up from the originally predicted 7.6 percent. . . .
In the first eight months of the year, the country's budget deficit was €18.1 billion, already exceeding the annual target of €17.1 billion. The ministry attributed the bulk of the shortfall to the deeper than expected recession this year — the Greek economy is expected to contract a further 5.3 percent — but said that the public finances will get better in the next four months as new tax hikes and spending cuts come into effect. . . .
There were only 1.75 full-time private-sector workers in the United States last year for each person receiving benefits from Social Security, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Social Security board of trustees.
That means that for each husband and wife who worked full-time in the private sector last year there was a Social Security recipient somewhere in the country taking benefits from the federal government. . . .
Jackie Kennedy hated Martin Luther King so much she could barely look at photographs of him.
In interviews taped in 1964 but only just released, she said the black civil rights leader was a ‘terrible man’ and a ‘phoney’.
She claimed King bragged of being drunk at her husband John F Kennedy’s funeral and had been caught trying to set up an orgy.
The interviews also revealed that JFK was so worried about vice-president Lyndon Johnson succeeding him that he schemed with his brother Robert to stop it happening.
Seven conversations between Mrs Kennedy and Arthur Schlesinger, a historian and Kennedy aide, were taped in the months after the president’s assassination on November 22, 1963. . . .
Mrs Kennedy said her view of King was formed after being told of secret FBI wiretaps which showed him trying to organise a sex party before he attended the March on Washington in August 1963, at which he delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
She said her brother-in-law Robert told her that King made disparaging remarks about JFK at the funeral and about Cardinal Richard Cushing, who delivered the eulogy.
‘I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible,’ she said. . . .
‘He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it [the funeral] – and things about they almost dropped the coffin. I mean Martin Luther King is really a tricky person.’
She said Robert told her of the FBI wiretaps: ‘He said this with no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy.’ . . .
But the sharpest criticism was for Johnson, who John F Kennedy chose as his running mate in 1960. Mrs Kennedy said her husband would say to her: ‘Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?
‘And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him ... do something to name someone else in 1968.’ . . .
President Barack Obama is proposing a series of tax increases, mainly on the wealthy, to help cover the cost of a $447 billion economic stimulus proposal, budget chief Jack Lew said on Monday.
Lew said Obama's plan would raise $400 billion over 10 years by placing new limits on itemized deductions for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000. . . .
Italy's borrowing costs have jumped sharply higher in a debt sale.
The Treasury Ministry says the average interest rate for a 12-month bond in Monday's auction rose to 4.153 percent from 2.959 percent in last month's offer. . . .
Italian yields had eased considerably last month, thanks to the European Central Bank's purchase of Italian and Spanish bonds on the open market. Cremonesi says in a statement that "risk aversion is still driving the markets." The spread on 10-year Italian bonds compared with German ones reached 378 points in late morning.
. . . Three concurrent studies recently revealed that pet owners tend to have lots of physical and emotional advantages, including better self-esteem, better physical conditioning, and better health and happiness compared with people in pet-free households.
Friends with Benefits
While it has long been known that pets can help people overcome major life-stressors (think therapy dogs), scientists wanted to determine whether pets were beneficial to people in everyday life. And it turns out a pet is quite a good friend indeed. In one study, surveys of pet owners and non-owners revealed that pet people exercised more, felt less lonely and more extroverted, had greater self-esteem, and were just healthier and happier overall compared with people who didn't own pets. A second study revealed that the more social interaction people had with their dogs, the happier and better adjusted the people were. And finally, the third study showed that focusing on their pets helped people deal better with negative emotions. . . .
What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te (sic) atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. . . . A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?
The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it. . . .
"It seems almost in bad taste to talk about dollars and cents after an act of mass murder," he observed, then went ahead and did so: "If people rush out to buy bottled water and canned goods, that will actually boost the economy. . . . The driving force behind the economic slowdown has been a plunge in business investment. Now, all of a sudden, we need some new office buildings."
That was former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, who added that "the attack opens the door to some sensible recession-fighting measures," by which he meant "the classic Keynesian response to economic slowdown, a temporary burst of public spending. . . . Now it seems that we will indeed get a quick burst of public spending, however tragic the reasons." He went on to denounce the "disgraceful opportunism" of those who "would try to exploit the horror to push their usual partisan agendas"--i.e., conservatives who he said were doing exactly what he was doing. . . .
Hundreds of Longshoremen stormed the Port of Longview early Thursday, overpowered and held security guards, damaged railroad cars, and dumped grain that is the center of a labor dispute, said Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha.
Six guards were held hostage for a couple of hours after 500 or more Longshoremen broke down gates about 4:30 a.m. and smashed windows in the guard shack, he said.
No one was hurt, and nobody has been arrested. Most of the protesters returned to their union hall after cutting brake lines and spilling grain from car at the EGT terminal, Duscha said.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union believes it has the right to work at the facility, but the company has hired a contractor that's staffing a workforce of other union laborers. . . .
Police from several agencies in southwest Washington, the Washington State Patrol and Burlington Northern Santa Fe responded to the violence to secure the scene that followed a demonstration Wednesday.
"We're not surprised," Duscha said. "A lot of the protesters were telling us this in only the start."
One sergeant was threatened with baseball bats and retreated, Duscha said. "One officer with hundreds of Longshoremen? He used the better part of discretion."
The train was the first grain shipment to arrive at Longview. It arrived Wednesday night after police arrested 19 demonstrators who tried to block the tracks. . . .
The blockade appeared to defy a federal restraining order issued last week against the union after it was accused of assaults and death threats. . . .
"In a jobs state of emergency, to actually have official Congress people who would not come to work last night shows contempt for the president, that is really unpatriotic for a congressman to do such an heinous act," Jesse Jackson told Redding News Review. . . .