Food stamp use spikes: One in seven rely on them – The use of food stamps has increased dramatically in the U.S., as the federal government ramps up basic assistance to meet the demands of an increasingly desperate population.The number of food stamp recipients increased 16% over last year. This means that 14% of the population is now living on food stamps. That’s about 43 million people, or about one out of every seven Americans. In some states, like Tennessee, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon, one in five people are receiving food stamps. Washington, D.C. leads the nation, with 21.5% of the population on food stamps."The high unemployment rate caused the high participation rate,"
Treasuries Fail to Recoup Loss as Commodities Signal Inflation – Treasuries failed to climb back from a loss yesterday as commodities rose to a 26-month high, feeding speculation the Federal Reserve will be successful in its efforts to spur inflation. Demand for the relative safety of U.S. government securities ebbed after Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said his nation had taken “concrete action” to help the European Union with its debt problems. Fed Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said on CNBC yesterday he is concerned about the influence of central bank actions on commodity prices. “The Fed is trying to create inflation and inflation expectations,” “Commodity prices seem to be picking up."
Banks Use Swaps to Exploit Woes of US States, Cities, WSJ Says – The worsening finances of U.S. states and cities offer banks the opportunity to profit by means of credit derivatives, the Wall-Street Journal reported. UBS AG has started making markets in credit-default swaps linked to municipal bonds and other securities; sellers of the swaps are obliged to compensate buyers if a city or state government misses an interest payment or reorganizes its debt, the newspaper said. Last month, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley met in New York to discuss standardized paperwork for “muni CDSs,” the Journal said.
China’s Gas Imports More Than Double on Rising Demand for Winter Heating – China more than doubled imports of natural gas last month because of increased demand for heating during winter, the nation’s top economic planner said. Purchases jumped 150 percent from a year earlier to 1.9 billion cubic meters, the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website today, without giving comparative figures. Imports gained 17 percent from October, it said. The country has increased gas production and imports to meet rising demand in winter since last month, according to the commission. Beijing’s gas demand surged fourfold to 770 million cubic meters from a month earlier, it said.
China Car Market to Extend Gains Over U.S., Automakers Say – Sales growth in China may outstrip the U.S. again in 2011 even as the Asian nation’s government is set to end incentives this month that helped boost its auto sales by 34 percent to 16.4 million through November. Next year, auto sales in China may reach 20 million in China, according to Booz & Co. and Nomura Holdings Inc. analysts, while light-vehicle sales in the U.S. may be as much as 12.8 million units,
Homeowners use ‘show me the note’ to fight foreclosure – In 2009, the Geweckes filed a lawsuit to block their foreclosure. At the heart of their case is this question: Who owns their mortgage? They allege the investor trust that claims to doesn’t because there’s no proper record of the mortgage’s transfer to the trust. Their complaint also alleges that the mortgage didn’t get to the trust until 18 months after the trust closed to new loans. If US Bank, the trustee, can’t prove ownership, it can’t foreclose, the Geweckes say. Their argument is one that more borrowers are making as they fight foreclosures in courts nationwide. Their attorneys allege that companies used shoddy practices at the height of the subprime lending boom when reselling mortgage loans in rapid-fire fashion, leaving questions now about mortgage ownership as foreclosures mount.
Fed extends dollar swap arrangements — The Federal Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday said it’s extending through Aug. 1, 2011 its U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangements with the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Swiss National Bank. The swap arrangements, established in May, had been authorized through Jan. 2011. The swap lines with the ECB, BOE, SNB and BOJ will provide these central banks with the capacity to conduct tenders of U.S. dollars in their local markets at fixed local rates for full allotment, similar to arrangements that had been in place previously. They are designed to improve liquidity conditions in global money markets and to minimize the risk that strains abroad could spread to U.S. markets, the Fed says
The value of a nuclear Iran – By far the most interesting leak that surfaced from the US cable disclosures is the repeated insistence of the Saudi king exhorting the United States to withdraw from Iraq by taking a detour through Iran. There is something deliciously self-serving about Saudi exhortations for the US to act on Iran to prevent the rise of a new power in the Middle East, especially if the US were to step back and ask a tougher question about the role of "other snakes". In case that is too obtuse, what I am referring to is the "snake" of religious terrorism, and in particular the problem of disaffected youth in predominantly Sunni kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait et al; as well as those in anarchies such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is not entirely clear that the natural enemy of such youth is necessarily the Americans; more likely, it is the established order of the Middle East, where the wealth of nations is controlled by a bunch of aging monarchies.
2010 Extreme Weather: Deadliest Year In A Generation – This was the year the Earth struck back. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 – the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined. "It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves," said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010. "The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year."
Peak Oil And Population Decline – A solution that is sometimes proposed for the dilemma of fossil-fuel decline is a global campaign for the humane implementation of rapid population decline (RPD). With all due respect for the attempt to find a satisfying answer to the question of overpopulation, such a proposal would conflict with the available data on the rate of decline in fossil fuels. The annual rate of population decline, in a civilization in which fossil fuels are the principal source of energy, must roughly equal that annual rate of fossil-fuel decline, which is probably about 6 percent. Unfortunately there is no practical humane means of imposing a similar 6 percent annual rate of decline on the world’s population. If we let Nature, i.e. loss of petroleum, take its course, a decline of 6 percent would result in a drop in world population to half its present level, i.e. to 3.5 billion, by about the year 2020, a mere decade from now. The only means, however, would be a rather grim one: famine.
For the Unemployed, the Dream’s a Nightmare – Work hard and play by the rules and you’ll get ahead. That’s been an article of faith, since at least the birth of this nation, in what has come to be called the American dream. That’s now a shattered dream for millions of Americans, according to a new study released by Rutgers University. "This recession is not as bad as the Great Depression, but it’s a close cousin," said Carl Van Horn, director of Rutgers’ John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, and co-author of The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures. "This study reveals what happens when you have a long, tough recession," Van Horn said. "It changes people’s thinking and people’s attitudes. There is now an air of resignation and pessimism."
Middle Class Stuck with Bad Times – Over the past two years, millions of Americans have been reeling from high joblessness and the collapsing housing bubble. A comprehensive new analysis of economic data and attitude surveys released last week finds that 93 percent of Americans took a big financial hit over the last 18 months. Researchers defined that hit as unemployment, a substantial income drop or large new expenses that most often were caused by medical costs or family obligations. No, it’s not just the recession. That loss of economic security is magnified by the erosion of defined-benefit plans, which makes retirement less secure. Another factor is the rise in the number of “contract employees” who have no job security. That’s helped create unprecedented year-to-year swings in family income.