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Friday 08.29.2014

Cars in the US Might Soon Be Mandated to Broadcast Speed and Location Data
The United States Department of Transportation is taking the next step towards creating a “vehicle-to-vehicle” communications system. The system implemented would mandate that all light autos on the road receive and broadcast critical information to one another, reports RT. The purpose is ostensibly to "save lives" by helping drivers avoid crashes. Earlier this year, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that V2V technology “represents the next generation of auto safety improvements,” and is an appropriate next step after safety belts and air bags. But, get this, the details, that would be delivered, contain vehicle-specific information that would put data like speed and direction in the hands of other drivers, and at a minimum, police cars. The technical report reads, "when a DSRC unit sends out a BSM, the BSM needs to: Contain the relevant elements and describe them accurately (e.g., vehicle speed; GPS position; vehicle heading; DSRC message ID, etc.).”

Obama Vows Russia Penalties, but Avoids Calling Ukraine Advance an Invasion
President Obama confronted a pair of volatile international crises with restraint on Thursday as he said he was not close to authorizing airstrikes against Islamic extremists in Syria and played down the latest escalation of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. With tensions rising in Europe and the Middle East, Mr. Obama emphasized that a military response would not resolve either situation and pledged to build international coalitions to grapple with them. Despite pressure from within his own government for more assertive action, he tried to avoid inflaming passions as he sought new approaches. Mr. Obama confirmed that he had asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for options for military strikes in Syria to target the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has established a virtual state straddling the border of those countries. But speaking with reporters before a meeting of his national security team, the president said no action in Syria was imminent because he had not even seen military plans.

Detroit secures $275 million in bankruptcy exit financing
Detroit secured a commitment for $275 million in bankruptcy exit financing through Barclays Capital, with city officials saying the interest rates on the bonds it will sell came in lower than expected and with broad interest from the bond markets. The money is to be used to pay off a $120-million “quality of life” loan the city took out after filing for bankruptcy, as well as for some of the reinvestment plans the city laid out in its bankruptcy exit strategy that will be subject to confirmation hearings starting next week. In addition, some will be spent to meet terms of deals with creditors under the plan. The financing commitment helps refute what many feared at the beginning of Detroit’s bankruptcy: that major banks and financialinstitutions would avoid lending money to the city and would be locked out of the bond markets. The office of Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency manager, said the bond commitment came after “a robust process that included expressions of interest from a number of prospective...

German Finance Minister Tells EU Leaders: Free Money Party's Over
Has Germany had enough? Hot on the heels of Mario Draghi's 'demands' that EU leaders undertake "structural reforms" to boost competitiveness and overcome the legacy of Europe's debt crisis, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble unleashed perhaps the most worrisome statement tonight for all the free-money-party-goers - the music is about to stop. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Schaeuble blasted "Europe needs to find ways to foster growth," adding that "the ECB has reached the limit in helping the Euro Area." In a clear shot across the bow of his 'core' cohort, Schaeuble said he "understood" Hollande's demands but shot back that "monetary policy can only buy time." As WSJ notes, the French are seeking aid... Growth in France had already ground to a halt in the first quarter, and Paris now says the persistent weakness means it won't be able to meet its deficit reduction target this year.

What’s driving Russia to raise the stakes in Ukraine?

Scientists found the origins of the Ebola outbreak — by tracking its mutations
One of the big mysteries in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is where the virus came from in the first place — and whether it's changed in any significant ways. These unanswered questions could be making it more difficult to diagnose the disease and find treatments. A new analysis could help show if Ebola is changing over time. Now scientists are starting to get some answers. In a new paper in Science, researchers reveal that they have sequenced the genomes of Ebola from 78 patients in Sierra Leone who contracted the disease in May and June. Those sequences revealed some 300 mutations specific to this outbreak. The new analysis could help determine if the virus' behavior has changed — and provide information for future diagnostic tests and treatments. Among their findings, the researchers discovered that the current viral strains come from a related strain that left Central Africa within the past ten years.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's son buys Rosa Parks archive
Hundreds of items that belonged to civil rights icon Rosa Parks that have been sitting unseen for years in a New York warehouse have been sold to a foundation run by the son of billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett, the younger Buffett said Thursday. Howard Buffett told the Associated Press that his foundation plans to give the items, which include Parks’ Presidential Medal of Freedom, to an institute he hasn’t yet selected. Buffett said the items belong to the American people. “I’m only trying to do one thing: preserve what’s there for the public’s benefit,” he said. “I thought about doing what Rosa Parks would want. I doubt that she would want to have her stuff sitting in a box with people fighting over them.” A years-long legal fight between Parks’ heirs and her friends led to the memorabilia being removed from her Detroit home and offered up to the highest bidder. Parks, who died in 2005 at age 92, was one of the most beloved women in U.S. history.

Japan Household Spending Slumps, Output Flat As Tax Pain Persists
Japanese household spending fell more than expected and factory output remained anemic in July after plunging last month, government data showed on Friday, suggesting that soft exports and a sales tax hike in April may drag on the economy longer than expected. While the Bank of Japan is in no mood to expand monetary stimulus any time soon, the data will keep it under pressure to act if the economy fails to gather momentum after contracting in the April-June quarter, analysts say. Separate data showed core consumer inflation, which excludes volatile prices of fresh foods but includes oil products, hit 3.3 percent in the year to July, matching a median market forecast. When excluding the effect of the April tax hike, it stood at 1.3 percent, still distant from the 2 percent inflation target the Bank of Japan pledged to meet sometime next year. Industrial output rose 0.2 percent in July, much less than a 1.0 percent increase projected in a Reuters poll, data by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade...

Where Did ISIS Come From?

California Welfare Program Overpayments Total $848 Million
The California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) welfare program has a total of $848 million in outstanding overpayments to state aid recipients, according to a recent report from the nonprofit California Common Sense. The report, titled "California Welfare Overpayments: Fraud, Internal Errors, and Limited Investigation," indicates that, as of March 2014, just 40% of the $848 million total has been recovered over the last decade. In FY 2012-13, "identified overpayments" to CalWORKs welfare recipients totaled $112.8 million. That money could have funded an additional 13,000 people in the CalWORKs program that year, according to the report. CalWORKs enrollees and the program's administrative officials are both responsible for causing overpayment errors, but "on average, CalWORKs beneficiaries cause 7,233 error cases annually, and the program's administration causes only 1,752 error cases... Beneficiary-caused errors have led to an average of $1,400 in overpayments per case,...

America’s most indebted generation? Gen X
Millennials may owe more in student loans than any American generation, but their Generation X elders are actually the most in debt. That’s according to a study released Wednesday by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis economists William Emmons and Bryan Noeth. The study showed that the single most indebted birth cohort in the nation are 44 year olds, who owe on average $142,077, most of that composed of mortgage debt.This figure is actually a marked improvement, as every generation, including Generation X, has made progress paying down or discharging debt. For its part, Gen X has reduced what it owes by between 10% and 15% since 2008. But even on this score, they were beaten out by the much-maligned Millennial generation. These folks, also known as Generation Y, reduced debt even more aggressively than Gen Xers, discharging or paying down upwards of 25% of what they owed in 2008. Emmons and Noeth point out that “millennials were very young during the housing boom...

Progressive Groups Push for Federal ‘Czar’ to Oversee Local Police Departments
Progressive organizations are calling for a federal police “czar” as a way to increase oversight of local police departments and prevent a future incident like that which occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. An open letter to President Barack Obama, featured in a full-page ad in the Washington Post this week, called for Obama to take six executive actions to prevent police from running afoul of the law. “If somebody isn’t tasked with ensuring the implementation of equitable policing in cities across the country, then no one will do the job,” one recommendation said. “The administration must appoint a federal czar, housed in the U.S. Department of Justice, who is specifically tasked with promoting the professionalization of local law enforcement, monitoring egregious law enforcement activities, and adjudicating suspicious actions of local law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding.” The Justice Department did not immediately respond to phone and email inquiries...

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Shadow Banking
Shadow banking is back in the news. First there are ongoing problems in China where bad loans outside of the traditional banking system are causing increasing financial strain. Then, here in the U.S., regulators are also becoming more concerned about the rising use of leveraged loans by non-bank intermediaries or things like peer-to-peer lending, where the largest such company in this space, Lending Club, just filed for an IPO. In order to gain a better understanding of these potential risks and how they come to pose a threat, shadow banking expert Laura Kodres from the IMF tells Financial Sense Newshour that forms of shadow banking are “definitely picking up.” Although we’re not yet back to the same levels reached in the last financial crisis, she warned “it’s certainly in that upward direction.” Since shadow banking activities are also closely tied to low rates and the search for yield, in order to prevent financial disruption...

Malaysia Airlines lost $97.4 million last quarter
Malaysia Airlines now knows more about the financial cost of its horrifying year. The carrier lost $97.4 million in the three months ended in June, as it reeled from its second aircraft disaster of 2014 -- the shooting down of a flight over Ukraine. The report is likely to be the airline's last as a public company, coming one day before a major restructuring is expected to be announced. State investor Khazanah, which owns nearly 70% of the airline, plans to buy out small shareholders as a first step to overhauling the national carrier. The fund, which is expected to release more details Friday, has promised other changes that will amount to a "complete overhaul" of the airline. Thousands of job cuts are expected, something analysts say is needed to help the bloated airline compete with more nimble rivals. Labor unions are expected to oppose the measures. Malaysia Airlines was once a symbol of national pride. But the airline was in big financial trouble before the twin disasters of Flight 370 and Flight 17 claimed the lives of 537 people.

$40 million lawsuit slams Ferguson police actions during recent protests
In a $40 million federal lawsuit, five people arrested recently in Ferguson, Missouri, accuse police of using "wanton and excessive force" and treating U.S. citizens "as if they were war combatants." A complaint filed Thursday alleges that police officers from Ferguson and St. Louis County used unnecessary force and made unjustified arrests as they cracked down on protests after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier this month. The lawsuit lists Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Ferguson officer Justin Cosma, several unnamed officers and the city and county governments as defendants. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A St. Louis County police spokesman declined to comment, referring inquiries to the county counselor's office. The suit -- which includes accusations of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and assault and battery, details circumstances allegedly surrounding several arrests.

Fed Chair Yellen's assets up 8% during 2013
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's assets rose in value by at least 8% during 2013, raising their total to between $5.3 million and $14.1 million, according to her latest financial disclosure released Thursday. Yellen's biggest asset is a trust fund she set up in 1992 with her husband, George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist. The value of the trust fund is estimated at between $1 million and $5 million. Yellen's assets have likely been driven up in value by a rebounding economy and a rising stock market. In 2012, her disclosure form estimated her assets at between $4 million and $13 million. Some of Yellen's listed assets belong to her alone; others are co-owned with Akerlof. The disclosure documents provided only a broad range rather than a specific figure for total assets. Yellen's disclosure form covers calendar year 2013, when she served as the Fed's vice chair before succeeding Ben Bernanke in February to become the first woman to head the central bank.

Ebola outbreak could infect 20,000 people

When Do We Start Calling This “The Greater Depression”?
We started by calling it the financial crisis of 2007. Then it became the financial crisis of 2008. Next it was the downturn of 2009-2009. By the middle of 2009 it was clearly the biggest thing since the 1930s, and acquired the name of “The Great Recession”. By the end of 2009 the business cycle trough had been passed, and people breathed a sigh of relief: “The Great Recession” would be its stable name–we would not have to change its name again, and move on to labels containing the D-word. But we breathed our sigh of relief too soon. Although politicians and their senior aides went on speaking tours playing up “recovery summer”, the United States did not experience a rapid V-shaped recovery carrying it back to the previous growth trend of potential output. In this the post-2009 recovery was lightyears different from the post-1982 recovery. Between the start of 2005 and the end of 2007 U.S. real GDP grew at 3.1%/year. The recession trough in 2009 saw the U.S. real GDP level 11% lower than the 2005-2007...

California Community Relying On Bottled Water May Be Grim Preview Of Things To Come
Residents of a poor Central California community relying on bottled water after their wells ran dry paint a grim picture of what could happen across the state as the record-breaking drought continues to plague the West. Roughly 300 homes dependent on private wells in Tulare County’s East Porterville received a total of 15,552 1-gallon water bottles on Friday after county officials found out that residents had been silently suffering without running water for months, the Los Angeles Times reported. Those residents have been collecting nonpotable water from a 2,500-gallon tank in front of a fire station and have looked into drilling new wells, but it’s a costly endeavor with a 12- to 18-month wait. Many East Porterville residents had remained mum on their water woes because of fears their landlords would evict them or that the Department of Child Support Services would take their children, Michael Lockman of Tulare County's Office of Emergency Services...

Could crowdsourcing boost America’s homeland security?
What should our government do to keep the homeland secure? You may find this surprising - but one part of the government genuinely wants to listen and use your ideas. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T) division is to provide innovative solutions to the nation's homeland security challenges. From now until Sept. 7, officials are inviting citizens to speak up and advise them on future security as part of the “Collaboration Community.” The DHS S&T Collaboration Community is hosted on an unclassified, publicly accessible website that invites participation from first responders, industry, academia, and anyone with an opinion on how to improve future security. Over the past several months, DHS S&T has been preparing its “Visionary Goals” to act as a roadmap for future security challenges. Based on the policies and priorities of the White House, the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, and guidance from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson...

U.S. beef prices spiking

How Employee Buyouts of Companies Work
Turner Broadcasting announced a voluntary employees buyout offer this week for its U.S.-based employees at TNT, TBS, CNN and other divisions. “Employee buyouts” are solutions many business owners consider when looking to sell their firm or needing to cut staffing costs, which is the Turner case. But, when people in the media or friends talk about employee buyouts at companies, it is important to realize there are two different kinds, either of which may be a strategy for a business owner, and how they work very differently. One definition of employee buyout is when an employer offers a group of employees a voluntary severance package. This voluntary offer is presented as a way to avoid layoffs and still reduce staff. There usually is an incentive to sweeten the offer, maybe extra severance pay, so the targeted group of employees accept the buyout. Turner offered 600 of its 9,000 employees a buyout package to consider that reportedly included nine weeks additional pay plus...

Tyson Foods, Hillshire Complete $8.5B Merger
Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale on Thursday said it had completed its $8.5 billion purchase of Hillshire Brands of Chicago, a day after the companies reached a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over antitrust concerns. The publicly traded meat processor announced the completion of the merger in a news release, and said the combination "positions Tyson Foods as a clear leader in the prepared foods business." "As of today, Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands are officially together in one great company," Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith said. "Part of our strategic growth plan has been to shift toward higher-margin prepared and branded foods. This transaction gives us a portfolio of complementary, proven brands as a new springboard and accomplishes in a short time what would have taken us years to build on our own." Tyson Foods said the combination of companies creates a single entity with more than $40 billion in annual sales and a portfolio that includes the Tyson, Wright, Jimmy Dean,...

The Department of Justice o Give Leftist Groups Cut of B of A Settlement
The Department of Justice (DOJ) keeps giving radical leftist groups that support President Obama huge amounts of cash collected from big banks to settle discrimination and mortgage abuse lawsuits filed by the government. Judicial Watch first reported the scheme two years ago when Countrywide Financial Corporation doled out $335 million to settle its discrimination lawsuit with the feds. The money was supposed to be distributed to more than 200,000 minority victims who supposedly were charged higher interest rates and fees than white borrowers based on their race not their credit. Instead, a chunk of the money went to Democrat-tied groups not connected to the lawsuit, including the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the open-borders National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Now many of the same groups will get more money from a record $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America. It’s a “historic resolution,” according to Attorney General Eric Holder,...

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