24 February 2009
22 February 2009
[NEW YORK.] >>President Barack Obama plans to increase taxes on the wealthy and cut spending for the war in Iraq as part of a plan to slash the U.S. budget deficit to $533 billion by the end of his first term, according to an administration official.
Obama wants to reduce the deficit because he’s concerned that over time, federal borrowing will make it harder for the economy to grow and create jobs, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The deficit Obama inherited on taking office last month was $1.3 trillion. The administration is scheduled to hold a so- called fiscal-responsibility summit at the White House tomorrow, with about 130 people invited, including about 50 members of the House and Senate from both parties. An overview of Obama ’s budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, will be released Feb. 26.
“We have been on an incredible spending spree,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today on CNN. “So I think it’s timely that the president’s having a meeting at the White House tomorrow to talk about the deficit because we’re spending money at a very, very rapid pace, far beyond anything in history.”
Most of the savings will be realized from increased revenue from Americans making more than $250,000 a year and winding down the war in Iraq, said the official. The New York Times said yesterday Obama will propose letting President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy lapse in 2010.
“I don’t think there’s an economist in the United States that thinks when you’re trying to get out of a recession and to create jobs, you ought to raise taxes,” Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program today.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, said investors won’t respond well to an Obama administration plan for higher taxes. “Wait ‘til you see the markets’ reaction to what he unveils later this week,” he said.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” disagreed. The idea that “raising taxes on the richest people” will harm the economy is “rubbish and it ignores history,” he said.
“We heard these same arguments when Bill Clinton raised taxes on the top 2 percent of the richest people in America to get rid of the deficit,” Rendell said. “He got rid of the deficit. And guess what happened? We produced 24 million new jobs. We had the eight years that were the most successful in the second half economically of the 20th century.”
To increase revenue, Obama will also propose taxing the investment income of hedge-fund and private-equity partners at ordinary tax rates, which are now as high as 35 percent and may rise to 39.6 percent under the administration’s plan, the Times reported yesterday. They are currently taxed at the capital- gains rate of as much as 15 percent.
Obama promised during the campaign that he would slash federal programs that weren’t working. “The president has said he can’t kick the can down the road anymore,” Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the White House budget office, said last week.
The $1.3 trillion deficit Obama inherited equals 9.2 percent of gross domestic product, said the administration official. The administration’s budget proposal cuts the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2013, at the end of Obama ’s first term.
Obama yesterday talked about the importance of reining in the ballooning federal deficit in his weekly address. He said the Treasury Department will begin ordering employers today to cut taxes taken from workers’ paychecks as part of his effort to pull the economy out of a recession.
The president said a “typical” family will start getting at least an extra $65 a month by April 1 as a result of the $787 billion stimulus package he signed into law this week. He said the measure is only a “first step.”
The president has also pledged $275 billion to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure and plans to announce measures to stabilize banks. Companies from General Motors Corp. to Alcoa Inc. are slashing jobs and cutting production as the recession threatens to become the worst slump in the postwar era.
Falling Home Sales
Government reports this week are likely to show sales of new homes plunged to a record low in January while durable goods orders dropped for a sixth month, economists said.
A Feb. 26 Commerce Department report will show new-home sales fell to 324,000 on an annual basis, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The same day, the department may report demand for goods meant to last several years dropped 2.5 percent.
A surge in foreclosures and plummeting demand for homes has depressed prices, sending the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index down 18.3 percent in December from a year earlier, according to a separate Bloomberg survey. Meanwhile, shrinking household worth pushed auto sales in January to the lowest level in more than 26 years, and factories are scaling back production as demand from consumers and businesses erodes.Copyright © 2009 Asnycnow15 News/English
|Flushing Local and Express|
The front of a tunnel-boring machine was lowered into a hole, 125 feet deep, near 11th Avenue Thursday, after Mayor Bloomberg hailed his extension of the 7 subway line as critical to the city’s future. Others worried that hole might become a drain on the MTA.
From the hole at 25th Street, the machine will dig a tunnel north past the new line’s only station at 34th Street and then turn east on 41st, where it will continue to Times Square. The 1.5-mile line is “being paid for by the city,” Bloomberg said, but the city’s refusal to guarantee cost overruns has already led to the dropping of a planned second station at 10th Avenue. It also won’t pay nearly $200 million for the new cars needed to make the extension run.
“We’re going to do this on-time and on-budget,” Bloomberg said confidently. “The city’s involved.”
The city’s financing the project with $2.1 billion in bonds that will be repaid from tax revenues realized from the future development of the Hudson Yards area. But the credit crunch has now delayed a deal to build office and apartment towers over the MTA’s West Side rail yards, and the city has yet to move on an additional bond offering.
“I’m worried,” said rider advocate Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. He points to estimates that the 7 line extension could ultimately cost $3.5 billion to $4 billion. “You tell me where the money’s going to come from,” he said. “The project is a threat to the MTA’s finances and the rest of its capital program.”
16 February 2009
Cops Suspect Man Was Eaten By Tribe. Six Indians from a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon have been accused of cannibalism. Brazilian police charged the members of the Kulina tribe with murdering Ocelio Alves de Carvalho, a 21-year-old local farmer, and eating parts of his body.
According to the police, the body was quartered and then carved up, with more than 100 cuts. Several organs, including his heart, brain and liver, were missing when the body was found.
Danish Criminals Take Toll On Blood. People all over Denmark are getting phone calls from their local blood banks because of a war in the criminal underworld. A gang war has caused a great deal of shootings and stabbings in the last few months, and so the Danish blood bank is in dire need of 600 extra blood donors in order to save the victims in the ongoing fighting.
There was a little humble pie dished out at the T.D. Banknorth Garden this past week. The World Champion Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins, possessors of the NHL's best record, hosted some fellow contenders at home in the last seven days, and lets just say that the results left something to be desired.
General Motors Corp., the biggest U.S. carmaker, should sell its Opel and Vauxhall brands because plans to keep and reorganize the European units put them at risk of closure, the company’s labor leaders in the region said.
Copyright © 2009 Asnycnow15 News/English. [http://twitter.com/Asnycnow15News]
The amendment carried with 54.4 percent of the vote to 45.6 percent, according to preliminary results, said Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council. The referendum marked the second time in 14 months Chavez sought to remove the limits that kept him from seeking unlimited re-election.
“I’ve received an injection of patriotic fire,” Chavez , 54, said last night in a victory speech from a balcony at the Miraflores presidential palace as thousands of supporters cheered and waved flags below. “I’ll dedicate myself for life to the service of the Venezuelan people.”
Chavez now has a chance to extend his drive to turn the oil- exporting country into a socialist state, which he says will take until 2019. Without a constitutional check on his power, the former army lieutenant colonel may stay in office indefinitely, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said.
Chavez already controls Venezuela’s energy wealth through the state oil company, and holds sway over congress and the courts through supporters and appointees, Lopez said in an interview.
The president, who celebrated 10 years in office on Feb. 2, announced he’ll be a candidate in 2012 as fireworks were launched across Caracas. Chavez has spent billions of dollars in oil revenue to offer free health care, subsidized groceries and reading programs for the poor.
“He’s clearly going to be very emboldened,” said Michael Shifter, vice president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. “He’s going to move ahead in radical fashion with his revolution.”
Voters narrowly rejected removing term limits in 2007, Chavez ’s first electoral defeat since winning the presidency in 1998.
In the referendum, Chavez regained some of the support he lost in 2007, when the country suffered widespread food shortages. More than 6 million votes were cast in favor of the amendment yesterday, 1.6 million more than in the last referendum. Still, that’s short of the 7.3 million votes Chavez won in the 2006 presidential elections.
The opposition garnered 5 million votes yesterday, an increase of about 535,000 over 2007.
‘Passed the Barrier’
“We’ve passed the barrier of 5 million,” opposition leader Omar Barboza said in comments broadcast by Globovision. “We’ll continue with our proposal of a different country. Sooner or later we’ll triumph.”
Chavez , known for his confrontational style, adopted a conciliatory tone toward the opposition in a news conference yesterday, and on the day before the vote offered to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama anytime. He regularly accused former President George W. Bush of aiding Venezuela’s opposition, and last year expelled the U.S. ambassador in Caracas.
Chavez rushed to hold the referendum ahead of a looming economic recession. He proposed the vote the day after regional elections in November when the opposition won the three biggest states and Caracas, and instructed the National Assembly to act quickly.
Venezuela, the fourth-largest supplier of crude oil to the U.S., depends on oil for 93 percent of export revenue and half the government’s budget. Crude prices have plunged 74 percent since touching a record in July.
Caracas-based Banco Mercantil said in a Feb. 3 report that oil income will fall 66 percent this year, and Morgan Stanley forecasts the economy will contract 1 percent, even as inflation accelerates. Consumer prices rose 30.7 percent in January from a year ago, the fastest pace in Latin America.
The prospect of re-election may push Chavez to take “needed but unpopular” measures now to deal with the economy, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist Alberto Ramos wrote in a note to investors yesterday, citing devaluation of the currency, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, and less government spending.
New taxes and higher gasoline prices are also now more likely, Alejandro Grisanti, an economist at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York, said today in a research note.
The price on the government’s benchmark bonds due in 2027 was quoted at 51.42 cents on the dollar in European trading at 3:24 p.m. in London, down from 51.90 cents on Feb. 13. The yield on the debt rose 0.121 basis points to 18.65 percent, almost double the 9.34 percent yield from a year ago. A basis point is equivalent to 0.01 percentage point.
There are already signs the government is low on cash. Chavez ordered the central bank to transfer $12 billion of reserves into a development fund last month. Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said yesterday the government may back out of a planned takeover of Banco de Venezuela, the local unit of Spain’s Banco Santander SA.
Service providers to Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, have complained of unpaid bills and begun to take drilling rigs out of service.
Still, Chavez may view the victory as a renewed mandate to squeeze the private sector, Ramos said.
After his 2006 re-election, he took advantage of a five-year run-up in oil prices for nationalizations. He took over the biggest telecommunications and electricity companies, a steel mill and the cement industry. He also forced foreign oil companies Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp. and Repsol YPF into joint ventures as minority partners.
The collapse of oil prices means hard choices lay ahead, said Carlos Luna, a professor of international relations at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.“He’s going to have a clock running against him,” Luna said. “People are expecting big things from him at the exact moment that the economic crisis is knocking at the door.”Copyright © 2009 Asnycnow15 News/English
BLOOMBERG. Pakistan acknowledged for the first time that its territory was used to plot the November terrorist attack in Mumbai and said eight suspects have been charged.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s comments today reverse his government’s denials of any significant Pakistani role in the Nov. 26-29 assault on India’s financial center. Terrorism and cyber-crime charges were filed today against the suspects, who are accused of helping 10 gunmen attack hotels and other targets, Malik said.
In India, whose officials have said Pakistan was stalling in the Mumbai investigation, the Foreign Ministry called Malik’s announcement “a positive development.” The ministry said in a statement that “we will share whatever we can” after Malik said Pakistan needs more information from India.
India handed Pakistan and other governments a dossier on Jan. 5 that cited intercepted communications and other evidence to identify the banned Pakistan-based guerrilla group Lashkar-e- Taiba as the author of the attack. India demanded that the plotters be extradited and repeated today that “we would also expect that the government of Pakistan take credible steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan.”
“The fact that they are admitting some culpability by Pakistanis is a huge start,” said Vikram Sood, a retired Indian intelligence chief who leads a New Delhi institute on international affairs. “But there still are very big questions: Why has Pakistan not made the ban on Lashkar-e-Taiba effective?”
The U.S. government has pressed Pakistan to cooperate in prosecuting the plotters and Malik stressed that his government is doing so. “Our sincerity is pure, we have gone the extra mile,” he said at a press conference in Islamabad.
Pakistan announced on Feb. 9 it would charge the suspects, after a meeting of its cabinet committee on defense, which includes Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the chiefs of the politically powerful armed forces. That announcement came the day before U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke arrived for his first visit to Pakistan as President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the region.
As Malik commented at the news conference, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anshuman Gaur said officials were watching him live on several Indian television networks -- a sign of the importance of Pakistan’s response to relations between the neighboring countries.
“People are watching it not only here at the ministry, but right across the country,” Gaur said.
Banned in 2002
While Pakistan formally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002, the group continued to operate under the name Jamaat ud-Dawa, according to independent analysts and a United Nations counter- terrorism committee. Pakistan appears likely to be “seriously constrained” from any broad crackdown on Lashkar-e-Taiba by its military and intelligence agencies, the Washington-based RAND Corp. said in a Jan. 19 report.
India’s allegation that Lashkar carried out the Mumbai assault is sensitive for Pakistan’s military, whose Inter- Services Intelligence Directorate has backed Lashkar and other Islamic groups as proxy forces in Kashmir, the territory both countries claim. While Pakistan formally denies supporting the groups, independent Pakistani and U.S. scholars, retired officials and Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, have confirmed the policy.
Indian Help Sought
Malik said Pakistan’s investigation into the Mumbai attack so far has been flawed “because of lack of evidence from India, so we have sent a set of 30 questions to India for which we need answers.” He said Pakistan wants the full statement of the surviving gunman, Ajmal Kasab, who is in Indian custody.
Six of the eight people charged by Pakistan are under arrest, Malik said. He didn’t specify what charges they face or the penalties if they are convicted. While Malik did not specify the nationalities of the suspects, Pakistan has acknowledged it is holding several Pakistani citizens in its investigation.
Malik named Hamad Amin Sadiq, who has been arrested, as the “main operator” in the plot, without elaborating. Sadiq’s role was previously unreported. Others held include Zarar Shah and Zia-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who has been described by U.S. and Indian officials as a top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander.
Funding was obtained in Spain and Italy and the terrorists used mobile phone SIM cards from Austria and India, Malik said. One person involved in the attacks , Javed Iqbal, lived in Barcelona, and Malik declined to give details about his arrest.
The group used e-mail to communicate using Internet domains based in Russia and Houston, he said. Malik said the attackers sailed in three boats from near the Pakistani port city of Karachi and that one of the boats has been seized.Spanish authorities had no knowledge of any connection to Spain in the case and have been in contact with their Pakistani counterparts since the arrests were announced today, according to an Interior Ministry official in Madrid who declined to be identified.
14 February 2009
The newsgathering role of mobile-phone tool Twitter continues to gather pace, as one subscriber capitalises on his account's success to launch a breaking-news service/news aggregator.
As a Twitter service, BreakingNewsOn (BNO News) became known for breaking news before it hit traditional media houses' wires. The Twitter account was set up in May 2007 by Michael van Poppel, based in Tilburg in the Netherlands. He says he realised the value of news that September, when he got hold of an unpublished videotape of Osama bin Laden which he sold to Reuters.
Twitter is a micro-blogging/social networking tool for mobile phones and web users. Launched in March 2006, it enjoyed an explosive rate of growth in 2008, with registered users topping six million, a 600 per cent increase in just 12 months.
The service allows users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters (known as "tweets"). Messages are displayed on the user's profile page on the Twitter website (www.twitter.com) and also delivered to those who have signed up to receive them, so-called "Followers". (At this stage, the social networks on Twitter are not as large as those found on social-networking sites such as Facebook. Barack Obama, for instance, had 232,970 followers on Twitter and 5,073,529 Supporters on Facebook, on 4 February).
The 26 November Mumbai attacks are considered a watershed, when Twitter activity marked the point (as Forbes reported on its website) that citizen journalism progressed to "real time".
"It was Twitter's moment. Users tagged posts with information or commentary on the crisis, turning a service that specializes in distributing short, personal updates to tight networks of friends and acquaintances into a way for people around the world to tune into personal, real-time accounts of the attacks."
Forbes points out that Indians were already "infatuated" with SMS, which went some way to explaining why the technology was so quickly harnessed in a crisis.
BNO News supplied 59 hours of continuous coverage of the Mumbai attacks, from 26 November. The BNO News blog (http://www.bnonews.com/blog) recorded on 3 December: "As the day went on, and as the news spread across the world, a record number of people joined BreakingNewsOn ...
"BNO News brought you updates from local media, international media, news agencies and even BNO News sources in Mumbai. BNO News worked over the course of the events on a detailed casualty list which showed the number of dead, the injured and their nationalities for each local hospital. The list was updated several times.
"BNO News also provided exclusive information from the Taj and Oberoi hotel management. Their staff shared up-to-the-minute details with our team about the situation inside the hotels and ruled out conflicting media reports.
"BNO's coverage on BreakingNewsOn also grabbed widespread attention among our current followers with hundreds of so-called 'retweets' [that is, tweets forwarded to other users] over the course of three days.
"And it also shows how journalists are following the service. De Pers, a national newspaper in the Netherlands, showed live updates from BreakingNewsOn on its website during the first six hours of the Mumbai coverage. Also, De Tijd, a newspaper from Belgium, cited information directly from our Twitter coverage in their stories. The story also told its readers to follow BreakingNewsOn for the latest news from Mumbai."
BNO signed up over 1,000 followers during and in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. It now (on 4 February) has 23,517 followers.(http://twitter.com/BreakingNewsOn).
The immediacy and growing popularity of Twitter has been a crucial part of BNO's success, and now Van Poppel hopes to expand the service into a breaking-news website (www.bnonews.com), planned to launch in late February or March.
Twitter alerts will provide an initial news item and a follow-up link to more reports on the BNO site. Alerts will be labelled "developing", "urgent" or "flash". RSS feeds, email alerts, compatibility with instant messaging platforms and SMS alerts are also in the pipeline.BNO News "tweets" headlines from wire services and major news events, but currently does not link Twitter "followers" to the stories on the web. Twitter users often use URL-shortening services such as bit.ly to allow longer URLs to be used as links within Twitter's 140-character limit.
Copyright © 2009 Asnycnow15 News/English
07 February 2009
06 February 2009
Just last week, after more than a decade of tinkering, Robert Walsh and Sassan Davoodi of the MTA confessed that the agency had yet to harness GPS technology that would tell riders the location of the next bus.
"Totally unacceptable!" bellowed outraged City Councilman John Liu of Flushing, reported to the New York Post..
Of course it was just a couple days ago that they started letting people submit lost-and-found reports via the Internet.
04 February 2009
03 February 2009
02 February 2009
A local New York City woman who was mistakenly evicted from her apartment has been back in her home with her two children, but the drama continues.
01 February 2009
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has long pushed the issue of affordable housing, but with Democrats now controlling the Senate for the first time in 43 years, and a Democratic governor, Silver could gain support that has eluded him since 1997.
“The longer we don't do this, the more apartments we lose from that affordable category,'' Silver said in an interview with The Associated Press Friday. “You have a foreclosure crisis going on, which is even more housing. That's a problem, so now obviously, we have a governor that has supported modifying rent regulation in the past, and we have a Senate Democratic majority that I believe are supporters.''
Silver has been working on this since 1997 when he was forced to make concessions in rent-control laws that he described as landlord friendly. That year he delayed the adoption of a state budget for months because he was holding out to fight changes supported by former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, and the then-Republican led Senate.
He had some success, but the changes still caused New York City to lose roughly 300,000 units that were previously rent-controlled, Silver said.
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