2/5/09 News Radar

by JASON | 8:11 AM in |

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits jumped to a 26-year high last week, according to government data on Thursday that pointed to a rapid deterioration in the economy.

In addition, the number of people staying on the benefit rolls hit a record high in the week ended January 24, showing the weak labor market has yet to hit bottom. On Friday, the Labor Department will issue the employment report for January, and analysts are expecting a drop of 525,000 payroll jobs.

The department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose 35,000 to a seasonally adjusted 626,000 in the week ended January 31, the highest since the week ending October 30, 1982. The prior week's number was revised up to 591,000 from 588,000.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 585,000 new claims.

The number of people staying on the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of aid surged by 20,000 to a record 4.788 million in the week ended January 24, the latest week for which the data is available, from 4.768 million the previous week.

US credit card delinquencies hit a record high in January, and further deterioration is likely as the economy slows down and unemployment rises, Fitch Ratings says.

Payments at least 60 days late rose almost half a percentage point last month to a record 3.75 per cent, said Fitch. Credit card lenders also wrote off loans to delinquent borrowers at close to record levels, and such “charge-offs” were expected to breach records in the coming months.

Late payments on credit cards crept higher throughout 2008, said Fitch, but signs of borrower stress rose in the fourth quarter as late payments surged by 18 per cent. Charge-off rates in January were 40 per cent higher than a year ago at 7.5 per cent and were expected to approach 9 per cent during the second half of 2009.

Late payments and defaults on credit cards have been closely linked with levels of unemployment, which have risen dramatically. Non-farm employment fell 524,000 in December, contributing to the biggest decline in payrolls on a three-month moving average since 1945. The unemployment rate jumped to a 15-year high of 7.2 per cent, from 6.8 per cent in November.

Credit card lending has historically accounted for between 15 and 25 per cent of pre-tax income at JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, according to Moody’s. Analysts expect these businesses to shrink as lenders tighten credit standards and cut credit lines.

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. companies, struggling to contain escalating losses in the deepening recession, squeezed more output from their remaining workers last quarter.

Productivity, a measure of employee output per hour, rose at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, more than twice as much as forecast, a Labor Department report today in Washington showed. Labor costs climbed at a 1.8 percent rate, less than anticipated.

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Orders placed with U.S. factories fell in December for a fifth month, reflecting a pullback in business spending that will extend the recession.

Bookings declined 3.9 percent, more than forecast, after a revised 6.5 percent drop in November, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Other reports showed firings jumped at the end of January.

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans filing first- time claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly jumped last week to a 26-year high, signaling a deepening deterioration in the labor market.

Initial jobless claims increased by 35,000 to 626,000 in the week ended Jan. 31, the highest level since October 1982, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The total number of people collecting benefits jumped to a record 4.788 million a week earlier, today’s report showed.

Although defense minister Ehud Barak did not confirm that the Iranian ships on their way to the Gaza Strip carry arms for Hamas - in a radio interview Thursday, Feb. 5, DEBKAfile's military sources report that Tehran is preparing to send a number of arms vessels to break the blockade on Gaza, encouraged by the failure of the US, Egyptian and Israeli navies to confiscate the arms aboard the Cypriot-flagged arms ships now docked at Limassol.

The Iranians calculate that while not all the ships may get through the Israeli naval blockade, one would suffice. Our sources report that some are already on the way. They are expected to enter the Gulf of Suez and waters opposite Gaza over the weekend and try to drop their cargoes of weapons containers off shore. Israeli warships and spy planes are tracking them.

At a special conference Thursday, Feb. 5, prime minister Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and the defense minister agreed to Iranian arms ships must be prevented from unloading its cargo, even at the cost of a marine clash with Iran.

A United Nations human rights treaty that could prohibit children from being spanked or homeschooled, ban youngsters from facing the death penalty and forbid parents from deciding their families' religion is on America's doorstep, a legal expert warns.

Michael Farris of Purcellville, Va., is president of ParentalRights.org, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and chancellor of Patrick Henry College. He told WND that under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC, every decision a parent makes can be reviewed by the government to determine whether it is in the child's best interest.

"It's definitely on our doorstep," he said. "The left wants to make the Obama-Clinton era permanent. Treaties are a way to make it as permanent as stuff gets. It is very difficult to extract yourself from a treaty once you begin it. If they can put all of their left-wing socialist policies into treaty form, we're stuck with it even if they lose the next election."

A group of 16 illegal aliens is suing an Arizona rancher, claiming he violated their civil rights, falsely imprisoned them and inflicted emotional distress by holding them at gunpoint on his property along the border.

The federal lawsuit against Douglas, Ariz., rancher Roger Barnett, his wife, Barbara, and his brother, Donald, is taking place before Judge John Roll in U.S. District Court and will run through Feb. 13. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, is representing the five female and 11 male illegals.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire are telling the federal government to back off because plans for a federal handgun license, "hate crimes" laws to regulate Christians' speech about their own religious beliefs on homosexuality, President Obama's youth corps for mandatory public service and the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" to "balance" talk radio are none of them constitutional.

Such plans by the bureaucrats and administrators in Washington, D.C., are "altogether void" and if mandated, "shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States," the lawmakers are warning.

WASHINGTON – The President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force has been expanded to include six new agencies to help in the focus on mortgage and securitization fraud cases, Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip, the Task Force Chairman, announced today.

The Task Force’s expanded roster includes the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The new member agencies represent a continuing focus by the Task Force to crack down on mortgage fraud, particularly with regard to ongoing investigations into securitization fraud. The additions mark the largest expansion of the Task Force since it was formed in July 2002.

“The Task Force is uniquely suited to providing the kind of thoughtfulness and collaboration that can be invaluable in tackling mortgage fraud at the corporate level, and in trying to analyze whether and when law enforcement action is appropriate,” said Deputy Attorney General Filip. “These new members reflect the breadth and depth of the mortgage crisis that we are now confronting, and the urgency of the task before us.”

The British government says that the United States threatened to withhold shared intelligence if evidence of the torture of a UK citizen at Guantanamo Bay is released

To the shock and horror of civil liberties watchdogs, the Obama administration later appeared to stealthily confirm that position.

The allegation was made by British foreign secretary David Milliband, who told the United Kingdom's High Court that if evidence was disclosed, the US would stop sharing intelligence with the UK, an action that would directly threaten British national security.

The UK resident, Binyam Mohamed, launched a challenge in British court to force the public release of documents detailing his treatment. Mohamed is presently in a hunger strike at the US detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at last report was in an emaciated state. He says confessions he made regarding his involvement with terrorism resulted from torture.

After announcing $2 billion in loans from Russia, the president of Kyrgyzstan announced the United States will no longer have access to the Manas air base, the lone base U.S. commanders have permission to use in Central Asia and a key supply line for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"More than once we have discussed with our American partners the subject of the economic compensation to Kyrgyzstan for the presence [of the U.S. base], but unfortunately, we did not find an understanding from the United States," Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said Tuesday. "For over three years, we have been talking of the need to review the terms of the agreement, which do not satisfy us completely, yet we have not seen an understanding from the United States."

Morell said the Russian government is aware that the Obama administration wants to nearly double the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year and that the two land routes into Pakistan — through which the U.S. military receives 80 percent of its supplies — are increasingly vulnerable to attack. Insurgents destroyed a 100-foot iron bridge in the Khyber Pass Tuesday, cutting the main route for supplies bound for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Supreme Allied Commander Gen. John Craddock has suggested NATO allies could approach Tehran about opening up an Iranian route.

OTTAWA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Canada's position at the upcoming meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers will be that each country must get its own financial system in order, but that an international body is also urgently needed to restore confidence, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.

And he asserted that President Obama will either backtrack on his stated intentions to end those policies or put the country at risk in ways more severe than most Americans — and, he charged, many members of Obama’s own team — understand.

“If it hadn’t been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth — then we would have been attacked again,” he said. “Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S.”

Basically saying if they had not been successful getting their way with Congress that they then would have to pull off subsequent attacks.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Drivers better buckle up or pay the price: More cash-strapped states want to give law enforcement officers the authority to pull over motorists just for not wearing their seat belts.

More than a dozen states that are considering making the switch to primary seat-belt enforcement laws need to do so before July to be eligible for millions in federal money.

One of those states is Ohio, which would get $26.8 million if it changes its law. Currently, officers in the state must first have some other reason to stop drivers over before issuing seat-belt citations.

States without primary seat-belt enforcement that want the federal money must pass a bill and have it signed by the governor by June 30 - and begin issuing citations by Sept. 30 - to qualify for federal funds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Don't go blaming the local cops...

Washington decided to get to the bottom of the countries which create problems for the United States. They prepared a draft law to strengthen the sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Syria. President Obama released quite harsh statements against Iran, but the USA has not been able to frighten the Islamic Republic yet.

The position of the new US administration regarding the issues of the axis of evil does not differ much from that of the previous administration. Obama said that he would be ready to resume dialogue with Iran in case Teheran scraps the national nuclear program, refuses to support Hamas and Hezbollah groups and stops making threats to Israel.

Obama said that he wanted bigger carrots and bigger sticks not to let Iran build a nuclear weapon. The United States will therefore use tougher sanctions against the nation to change Iran’s behavior, he added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made anti-Iranian statements already during her presidential campaign. “And I want the Iranians to know that if I am the president, we will attack Iran. And I want them to understand that. Because it does mean that they have to look very carefully at their society. Because whatever stage of development they might be in their nuclear weapons program, in the next 10 years during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them. That's a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that,” she promised.

China continues to enlarge and develop its military potential. The chief of the missile troops of the Chinese Army, Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, announced both the quantitative and the qualitative modernization of the national strategic forces.

The administration of the Chinese Communist Party set a goal during the 1990s to create the missile and nuclear forces of China which would match the nation’s position in the world. China’s missile troops have been through a number of significant changes during the recent decade. Spokespeople for the Chinese administration say that the nation’s missile troops were now based on information technologies. To put it in a nutshell, China is now capable of striking even the USA.

Why do the Chinese increase the capacity of the national nuclear arsenal?

The chairman of the Center for Military Forecasts of the Institute of Military and Political analysis, Anatoly Tsyganok, believes that China takes efforts to become a world superpower and decided to enlarge its strategic forces to substantiate its ambitions.

The initiative carries a direct threat to both Russia and the United States, although Russia can suffer from this danger more. Russia’s border on China runs for over 5,000 kilometers. China is an overpopulated nation which needs to get rid of excessive people. Russia seems to be the only way out at this point. China is in a very good shape now, and Russia is unable to put an end to its growing nuclear initiatives.

Its Dong Feng missile systems are capable of striking a blow on Moscow and St. Petersburg, which means that China can attack practically any Russian city.

“The government of Kyrgyzstan decided to cease the use of the Manas base by the armed forces of the coalition,” Itar-Tass quoted the Kyrgyz president as saying. The president added that the decision was based on economic issues and the generally negative attitude to the operation of the base in the country.

The Kyrgyz president reminded that his nation signed the agreement regarding the army base in 2001, when Afghanistan was in a state of war.

“Kyrgyzstan met the wishes of the United States and offered its territory for the anti-terrorist struggle, which was a serious contribution to the struggle. We talked about a year or two, but now it has been eight years. We have repeatedly discussed the questions of the economic compensation to Kyrgyzstan with American partners, but have not been able to come to understanding at this point,” the Kyrgyz president said.

BISHKEK (AFP) – Kyrgyzstan's government on Wednesday approved the closure of a U.S. airbase on its territory used as a vital supply route for Western military operations in Afghanistan.

The decision by the Central Asian state came as a snub to the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has singled out Afghanistan as the main front in U.S. military operations overseas and plans to deploy 30,000 more troops there over the next 18 months.

The Associated Press reports that 14 gunmen were seen disembarking from the Faina with their commander on Thursday. Witnesses said two boats have been sent to collect more than two dozen other pirates still on board. It is also reported that the 20 crew on board are uninjured. The ransom was dropped onto the Faina’s deck from a plane earlier in the week. Later on Thursday, the ship is expected to dock at the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department on Wednesday put the brakes on a Bush administration plan to expand oil and gas drilling in Utah's wild red-rock country near Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew the leases of 77 oil and gas parcels, or 130,000 acres. The leases were also near Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon, an area with prehistoric rock art. Salazar said that the auction Dec. 19 took place without a proper environmental review and consultation with the National Park Service.

Salazar said the department would reconsider the leases and decide whether they were appropriate. It's possible that "a very large portion" of the land could be put up for lease, he said.

The cancellation of the leases was one of the first actions that the Obama administration has taken to protect environmentally sensitive public lands. Salazar called it "an important first step to making sure we have the right balance between development of our resources and protection of our environment."

I wonder if Utah citizens agree???

Russia's nuclear power chief says his country plans to start up the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran this year. Sergei Kiriyenko told Russian media Thursday that assuming nothing unexpected happens, the launch will go as planned before the end of 2009. He said there are no unresolved questions with his Iranian counterparts regarding the technical start-up. Russia began working on the project in 1995, and says it has already delivered the fuel to get Iran's first nuclear power plant running.

BEIJING: It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the stultifying variety show China Central Television beams into hundreds of millions of living rooms on the eve of each Lunar New Year holiday. But the program, called the Shanzhai, or "knockoff," Spring Festival Gala, was not to be.

After television stations withdrew their promised slots, the extravaganza's producers turned to the Internet. Those who tried to download the three-hour program on Jan. 25, however, were disappointed. The show had been blocked, presumably for its mockery of a hallowed state-molded institution.

This is the first of a two-part series on the growing fears of protectionist moves being taken by governments around the world to tide over the economic recession touched off by U.S. financial turmoil. - Ed.

Fears of a return to protectionism are growing as one government after another takes measures that may impede free trade under the pretext of helping their domestic industries overcome the global recession.

The World Trade Organization reported recently that 16 countries have already taken a total of 19 new protectionist measures since last September.

Experts worry that such anti-free trade moves would provoke retaliation from other countries and may eventually cause trade wars similar to those during the Great Depression.

South Korea is cautious over whether to purchase unused nuclear fuel rods from North Korea due to the astronomical asking price, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

A delegation of South Korean nuclear experts visited the North from Jan. 15 to 19 to examine the status of atomic fuel rods and assess the economic and technical feasibility of buying them for use in nuclear power plants.

"North Korea suggested a price of unspent fuel rods during our fact-finding team's visit to the North," a source said on condition of anonymity. "No decisions have been made yet with regard to whether to purchase the fuel rods."

The source declined to elaborate on the suggested price, only saying it was a far higher than international market price.

Other sources said the North claimed the price should include the cost of extracting the fuel rods. That would make it approximately ten times the market price, according to them.

The real issue behind the flare up between North and South Korea.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit South Korea on Feb. 19-20, as part of her first trip abroad as U.S. Secretary of State, government sources in Seoul said yesterday.

A four-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl were rescued from sexual abuse during what police said was the largest child pornography bust in Ontario history. Police announced the arrests of 31 people, who face a total of 93 charges, at a press conference this morning. Those charged include a 14-year-old, who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and a 60-year-old. The charges range from sexual assault to possession of child pornography. The suspects are all men, and many were relatives or neighbours of victims, police said.

LITTLE ROCK—A car exploded in the Arkansas town of West Memphis on Wednesday, severely injuring the chairman of the state's medical board, Dr. Trent Pierce. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms believe "some sort of explosive device" was used, MSNBC reported. Earlier, there was speculation the blast may have had a mechanical cause. The car was reported to be a Lexus hybrid. No other details were immediately available.

“Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew—not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? … Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Jewry, would be the self-emancipation of our time. … In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Jewry.”

One may think that this lengthy quote is just another rant from the infamous Adolf Hitler. However, it is not. This quote is from none other than Karl Marx, the father of Communism and Socialist revolutionary ideals. Interestingly enough, Marx was a descendant of a long line of Cabbalist Jewish Rabbis in which he took much effort to make people forget.

“We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”

One may say that this quote is easily posted from Marx. Isn’t it? They would be wrong. This was taken from a speech given by the infamous Adolf Hitler in May 1, 1927.

To some the mere suggestion that Adolf Hitler roams anywhere near the subject of Socialism and Marxist theory is nothing short of heresy. However upon closer examination of historical documentation one can easily find the unique singularity that binds all of the so-called “Revolutionary” movements since the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848 and other such writings.

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., seeking to raise cash to avoid a federal bailout, is in talks to sell its Volvo Car unit to China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., according to three people familiar with the discussions.

BANGKOK - GENERAL Motors Inc, barely staying afloat with the aid of a US bailout, is now seeking funds from Thailand's government and banks to keep its auto business running in the South-east Asian nation.

The company is asking Thailand's Ministry of Industry and local banks to help fund its one-ton pickup truck manufacturing and planned a US$445 million (S$670.7 million) diesel engine factory in the eastern seaboard province of Rayong. Thailand is a major production and export hub in Asia for pickup trucks.

The Romanian Senate adopted a bill to approve a payment of over 140 million euro to Ford Motor Company for the development programs in its car factory in Craiova, Romania, this week.

The Emergency Ordinance specifies the allocation of 94.5 million euros for investment in automobile production, and 48.55 million euros for engine production. The Budget Finance Committee adopted the budget without amendments.