WE STILL SAY TO BUY GOLD!
From Bob Willis with Bloomberg
The cost of living in the U.S. climbed more than forecast in January, led by higher prices for food and fuel that may be starting to filter through to other goods and services.
The consumer-price index increased 0.4 percent for a second month, (that's 4.8% annually) exceeding the 0.3 percent median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington.
Another Labor Department report showed more Americans than projected filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, a sign the improvement in the labor market will take time to develop.
Applications for jobless benefits increased by 25,000 to 410,000 in the week ended Feb. 12, exceeding the 400,000 median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance was little changed.
Energy costs increased 2.1 percent in January from a month earlier, and rose 7.3 percent for the prior 12 months, today’s report showed. Food prices rose 0.5 percent last month, the biggest gain since September 2008, and were up 1.8 percent for the 12-month period.
The cost of medical care increased 0.1 percent, (how can that be, Obamacare was to save us all?!)restrained by a 0.1 percent drop in medical services that was the biggest since November 1975.
An unemployment rate that’s held at or above 9 percent since May 2009 is also restraining labor costs. The threat of deflation, or a prolonged decline in prices that’s harmful to the economy, prompted Fed policy makers November 3 to announce the central bank’s purchase of $600 billion in additional Treasury securities by the end of June. (That's $600 Billion in order to decrease the value of your dollar and thus reduce the debt)
FROM NICOLE BULLOCK WITH THE FINANCIAL TIMES
U.S. States and cities face the prospect of downgrades after Fitch Ratings changed the way it analyses their burgeoning pension bills.
In a report published on Thursday, Fitch warns the new approach could lead to “limited negative rating action”, particularly for local governments with big wage bills. The changes to the way it assesses pension liabilities come amid growing concern over the scale of municipal debt problems and the effect on state and city finances of generous, unfunded public sector pension schemes that will run for many years.
Sharp falls in equities and other risky assets during the financial crisis reduced the funding levels of nearly all these pension plans, increasing the pressure on states and local governments when they have even less cash because of dwindling tax revenues to make up the shortfall. Revenues have tumbled while spending has been rising.
“The key questions are whether states and local governments are funding their pensions, how much it is taking up of their general fund and concern about the crowding out of spending for other needs,” said Laura Porter at Fitch.
The rating agency, which used data from 2009, said there was cause for near-term concern about “a number of” pension plans and pointed to the “considerable pressure that these obligations will place on many government budgets”. The greatest risk would come at the local level since labor-related costs were a higher percentage of local government budgets, Fitch said.
In Miami, Florida, a quarter of the city’s operating budget pays for pensions. Among states, Illinois stands out for setting aside 12 percent of its budget for its chronically underfunded pension.
In valuing pension liabilities in its credit analysis of states and local governments, the rating agency will now assume a return on assets of 7 percent, lower than the average return of 8 percent used by most pension plans. That translates to an increase in the average plan liability of 11 percent.
Using the 7 percent rate does not shift any plans from being adequately funded, which Fitch considers to be assets equal to 70 percent of liabilities, to “weak”, or under 60 percent. However, plans in Montana, Hawaii, Vermont and New Jersey are among those whose funding ratios fall under 60 percent using Fitch’s assumptions.
The Illinois State Employees Retirement System is the weakest at 37 percent, compared with 44 percent using its reported 8.5 percent assumed rate of return.
A hypothetical 6 percent assumption, however, would drag plans in Nevada, Massachusetts and Minnesota from adequately funded to weak ratios.
For state-run plans that also cover local workers, Fitch said it is difficult to assess how much of the liability is the obligation of the local government because plans typically do not provide this breakdown. That can overstate states’ obligation and understate what local governments owe.
(And what do Liberals propose we do? Spend more and tax more, yes, that ought to take care of the problem!)
Obama and the Internet "Kill Switch"
A raging debate over new legislation, and its impact on the Internet, has tongues wagging and fingers pointing from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C.
Just as the Egyptian government recently forced the Internet to go dark, U.S. officials could flip the switch if the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset legislation becomes law, say its critics.
Proponents of the bill, which is expected to be reintroduced (once was not enough, Obama must be determined to gain control) in the current session of Congress, dismiss the detractors as ill-informed — even naive.
The ominously nicknamed Kill Switch bill is sure to be a flashpoint of discussion at the RSA Conference, the nation's largest gathering of computer-security experts that takes place here this week.
The bill — crafted by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Tom Carper, D-Del. — aims to defend the economic infrastructure from a cyberterrorist attack. But it has free-speech advocates and privacy experts howling over the prospect of a government agency quelling the communication of hundreds of millions of people. (You know, like if the Fairness Doctrine is passed and it is deemed that what a commentator is saying is unfair-Obama would pull the plug. Wasn't their some guy named Adolf in the 30's who did that? Of course everyone got a free radio from the state. oNly problem was their was only 1 Channel!)
"This is all about control, an attempt to control every aspect of our existence," says Christopher Feudo, a cybersecurity expert who is chairman of SecurityFusion Solutions. "I consider it an attack on our personal right of free speech. Look what recently occurred in Egypt."
Its critics immediately dubbed it Kill Switch, suffusing it with Big Brother-tinged foreboding. "Unfortunately, it got this label, which is analogous to death panels (during the health care debates which they have in the U.K. and whose practices are beinf prepared in the U.S. by the A.M.A. NOT THE "EVIL" INSURANCE COMPANIES, THEY WANT TO KEEP YOU ALIVE, IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THEY MAKE MONEY.)," says Mark Kagan, director of research at Keane Federal Systems, an information-technology contractor for the government.
The disruption to communications and economic activity "could be catastrophic," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Computer-security expert Ira Winkler, a staunch advocate of the legislation, counters, "The fact that people are complaining about this fact is grossly ignorant of the real world. The fact critical infrastructure elements are even accessible to the Internet is the worst part to begin with."
The overheated debate takes place against the backdrop of revolution in the Middle East and a recent breach of Nasdaq's computer system. Both underline the power of the Internet, its vulnerability and the importance of cybersecurity.
It also underscores the delicate balance between protecting the Internet — the largest communications device — and unfettered free speech. (Freedom of Speech, I was wondering when we were going to get there. This from the same group of morons who say the 2nd amendment doesn;t grant you the right to keep an bear arms; you know, just after it says "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed!)
The autocratic government of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak ordered the shutdown of four major Internet service providers, effectively shuttering the Internet in Egypt for several days. Could that happen in the U.S. if the bill becomes law? (Yes!-wake the **** up people!)
In the U.S., there are 2,000 to 4,000 Internet providers, many of whom virulently oppose government interference that would put a clamp-down on their businesses.
A national necessity?
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other congressional members introduced a placeholder bill and stressed that a cybersecurity measure is a top priority for the 112th Congress. (Well, it couldn't possibly be for any totalitarian aims. After all, look at the Left and their freedoms, you know, like Lenin and Stalin and Hitler, guys who loved freedom!)
Carper, Collins and Lieberman have yet to announce plans to reintroduce the bill. But it is likely to be included as part of a larger, more comprehensive bill that includes other bits of legislation, say sources close to Lieberman who are not authorized to speak publicly about the bill.
"There can be no debate over whether our nation needs to improve its cyberdefenses," Lieberman, chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said in a statement. "Our legislation is designed to improve these defenses, while protecting the fundamental freedoms that we all cherish."
Proponents of the bill say it is narrowly crafted and does not intend to limit speech but to eliminate the vulnerability of critical systems such as banks, the power grid and telecommunications from attacks by terrorists or agents of hostile countries.
Indeed, the bill specifically does not grant the president power to act unless a cyberattack threatens to cause more than $25 billion in damages in a year, kill more than 2,500 people or force mass evacuations. The president would have the ability to pinpoint what to clamp down on without causing economic damage to U.S. interests, for anywhere from 30 to 120 days with the approval of Congress, according to the bill. (of course, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn)
"This is not Big Brother," says Tom Kellermann, vice president of security awareness at Core Security Technologies, and a former security expert for the World Bank. "It's not about shutting off the Internet, but taking a scalpel to command control to key services to protect them."
Winkler, chief security strategist of TechnoDyne, a systems-integration specialist for financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies, agrees. "Nobody is giving Obama the ability to kill Twitter access," Winkler says. "There might possibly be unintended consequences, but people are ignoring imminent harm because there may be theoretical harm if the country devolves into a state of anarchy."
Opposition and execution
Cyberthreats aside, deep questions persist over what critics claim is the bill's heavy-handed approach, what it means to free speech and whether it can be enforced practically.
The crux of the issue, to computer-law expert Fertik and others, is if the Internet is a national asset, should it be nationalized? (There it is!)
"Determining where the Internet connects to infrastructure is hard to define and impose," Kagan says.
"In its current form, the legislation offers no clear means to check that power," says Timothy Karr, campaign director for media-policy group Free Press, a non-profit organization.
A 1934 federal law (from FDR, another power hungry Socialist!) that created the Federal Communications Commission allows the president to "authorize the use or control" of communications outlets during moments of emergency of "public peril or disaster." The Lieberman-led bill would be considered a specific extension of that and let the nation's chief executive prioritize communications on the Internet, says Fertik.
A provision in the bill lets the president take limited control during an emergency and decide restrictions. "It, essentially, gives the president a loaded gun," Fertik says.
"Say there is a mounted attack from a terrorist group on the Internet," Fertik says. "(The law) could present the president with a kill switch option. But what are the conditions, and how far does (the law) go?"
The debate extends to minutiae in the bill's wording.
It neither expressly calls for the creation of an Internet kill switch nor does it exclude one. It only requires the president to notify Congress before taking action, and it specifically prohibits judicial review of the president's designation of critical infrastructure. The non-profit Center for Democracy and Technology, in a measured letter to Lieberman, Collins and others, wants more specifics on the sweep of "emergency" measures mentioned in the bill.
"In our constitutional system of checks and balances, that concentrates far too much power in one branch of government," says Karr. "The devil is always in the details, and here the details suggest that this is a dangerous bill that threatens our free-speech rights."
Giving the president broad power to "interfere" with the Internet — even bottling up chunks of it in the name of national security — would require him to go to court to stop communications, says Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
What's more, a new law may be next to impossible to administer widely, technology experts say.
"Whether nuclear or the Internet, there is no 'off' button or switch. There is a clear chain of command," Kagan says. "This notion of an all-consuming switch only happens in the movies."
Mubarak was able to temporarily silence the Internet because there are a small number of Internet providers in Egypt. Yet, even with the nationwide digital blockade, activists still communicated effectively, using old-fashioned methods.
Silencing portions of the Internet faces a steeper challenge in the U.S., where there are thousands of Internet providers and where the federal government's previous efforts to clamp down on hostile threats have met with little success, says EPIC's Rotenberg.
He points to a non-Internet example, the struggle to contain the nation's borders. "That was tried with (the Department of Homeland Security) on the border fence, and it was a disaster," Rotenberg says. (of course if we brought the troops home from Iraq, Korea, Afghanistan, etc. and put them in Abrams along the border with Mexico and issued "shoot to kill" orders since 20 million illegals entering the country realistically constitutes and economic invasion, the border could be secured-no fence, just lots of lead!)
That's my opinion.