2 Environment Rules Halted in New Mexico –

DOJ Secretly Subpoenas Private Twitter Information On Suspected WikiLeaks Associates | zero hedge Twitter Tattler:  The US  secretly subpoenaed the complete personal records of 635,561 Twitter users thought to be co-conspirators with Julian Assange in the WikiLeaks cable releases.  In addition, Twitter was to identify everyone else each of these 635,561 people follow on Twitter.  It is assumed that similar no-tell subpoenas have been served on Google and Facebook, Papal for the records of those who sent money, and most likely on the internet service providers for the 635,561 and their millions of friends.  Guilt by association used to require that someone be found guilty first.
 
Economists: It Doesn’t Look Good For U.S. Economy In Next Decade – To hear a number of prominent economists tell it, it doesn’t look good for the U.S. economy, not this year, not in 10 years. Leading thinkers in the dismal science speaking at an annual convention offered varying visions of U.S. economic decline, in the short, medium and long term. This year, the recovery may bog down as government stimulus measures dry up. In the long run, the United States must face up to inevitably being overtaken by China as the world’s largest economy. And it may have missed a chance to rein in its largest financial institutions, many of whom remain too big to fail and are getting bigger. First, the boost to growth from government spending will be drying up this year, he said. Renewal of expiring tax cuts is no more than a decision not to raise taxes, and the impact of one-year payroll tax cut is likely modest, he said.
 

 Food Inflation – When food prices rise in the developed world it is an inconvenience, something to grumble about. But, when food prices rise in the developing world it can make difference between going hungry and getting enough to eat. Food inflation is volatile. Agricultural prices tend to fluctuate because demand and supply are both inelastic and supply can vary due to the weather. However, despite the usual volatility, food prices seem to be showing a strong upward movement, reaching record highs in recent years. For example, in India a booming economy has GDP expanding at 9% a year. Official inflation is around 7%, but, headline food inflation is more than double at 17.8% [1 Indian food inflation at Economist, Jan 6th 2011] The Food and Agricultural Organisation said its food price index rose to 214.7 points in Jan 2001, above the peak of 213.5 set in June 2008. 1

 Floods threaten Australia’s third biggest city – (Reuters) – Residents in Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, sandbagged their homes against rising waters Monday as torrential rain worsened floods that have paralyzed the coal industry in the northeast and now threaten tourism. Four people were killed in and around Toowoomba, a major town west of Brisbane, and others were missing, Queensland state premier Anna Bligh told the Australian Associated Press "Mother Nature has unleashed something shocking out of the Toowoomba region," she said, describing it as an "extraordinary deluge that almost came out of nowhere." The worst floods in 50 years have at times covered an area the size of France and Germany combined in Queensland state. At least six people have been killed while dozens of towns have been isolated or partially submerged. More monsoon rains are expected all week.

Mary Blackburn and 46 other congressmen have proposed a law to declare pollutants aren’t pollutants ("The term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride." ) Only a couple of days into the new Congress, Representative Mary Blackburn and at least 46 colleagues have proposed an air-pollution solution that’s both simple and ingenious: Pass a law declaring that pollutants aren’t pollutants. Blackburn’s bill, H.R. 97, states: "The term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride." If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, sulfur hexaflouoride isn’t bound by the whims of Congress. If that particular greenhouse-gas pollutant (with a climate-disruption potential that’s 22,800 times that of CO2) wants to destroy our atmosphere, then that’s what sulfur hexafluoride is going to do. Blackburn’s bill is just one of several in this Congress that aim to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from simply doing its job. Other proposed measures would block efforts to clean our air for two years and take away EPA funding for enforcement of certain clean-air safeguards.

Jobs Report Signals a Long Haul for a Recovery – The year 2010 ended on a disappointing note, as the economy added just 103,000 jobs in December, suggesting that economic deliverance will not arrive with a great pop in employment.  Signs still point to a long slog of a recovery, with the unemployment rate likely to remain above 8 percent — it sits at 9.4 percent after Friday’s report — at least through the rest of the president’s four-year term.  The latest report was also a let-down for some within the White House, as recent economic data had suggested that the recovery would gain speed going into 2011. The political stakes are high, as Democrats and Republicans wrestle over who should take credit for the progress of the jobs market, or the blame for its failure to ignite.

A budget body blow — latimes – Rhetoric about shared sacrifice often has an ennobling resonance. Its reality can be excruciatingly painful, as Los Angeles residents will discover when they begin to sort through the implications of the austerity budget Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver Monday.In fact, when it comes to the city and county of Los Angeles, the new state budget will deliver not the "pain" Brown keeps reminding us is inevitable, but torment.Take, for example, just three of the proposals local officials confirm they expect to see in Brown’s first budget: drastic cuts to Medi-Cal and the CalWORKS welfare-to-work program, and the diversion of so-called low-level offenders from the state prison system to local jails. County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka told me this week that his office has been in talks with Sacramento for a couple of weeks on how to handle the staggering additional costs Los Angeles will be forced to assume. "They’re just pushing these problems down to the local level with no real thought about the consequences, and I find that amazing,"

Housing: The see-no-evil muddle-through approach — David Streitfeld reckons that if mortgage delinquencies continue to pile up without turning into foreclosure actions, that could be good for the economy as a whole: Foreclosure activity fell 21 percent in November from October, the biggest monthly decline in five years. Here in Phoenix, foreclosures fell by more than a third in the same period… If the slowdown continued through this month and into the spring, it could be a boost for the economy. Reducing foreclosures in a meaningful way would act to stabilize the housing market, real estate experts say, I think he’s probably right. Consumer confidence is a key factor in the health of the housing market and there’s an obvious connection from lower supply to higher prices, to higher confidence in housing as an asset class. That confidence might well turn out to be misplaced, of course. But a warm occupied home is a much happier thing, economically speaking, than a cold and empty one, even if the occupiers haven’t made a mortgage payment in years. Foreclosures carry a large economic cost and all things being equal, the less of them there are the better.
 

2 Environment Rules Halted in New Mexico –Acting on a campaign promise, New Mexico’s new Republican governor, Susana Martinez, has scuttled a state regulation requiring annual 3 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.  A second environmental rule intended to control the discharge of waste from dairies in southern New Mexico was also dropped before publication. A different state rule that caps greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants remains in effect for the time being.  During her campaign, Governor Martinez described the regulation of heat-trapping emissions as burdensome for industry and harmful to the state’s economy. Her swift action upon taking office comes as the newly elected governors of two other southwestern states, Arizona and California, are setting a different tone, firmly advocating greater reliance on clean energy.

 
Illinois Lawmakers Propose 75 Percent Income Tax Hike – Gov. Pat Quinn and the leaders of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly have agreed on raising the state income tax. If the bill passes, the plan would raise the personal income tax rate from the current 3 percent to 5.25 percent. That’s a 75 percent increase. In real dollars, that would mean if you currently owe $1,000 in taxes, next year you would owe $1,750. The increase is for four years. After that, the personal income tax would go down to 3.75 percent. The Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly believe this income tax increase, a corporate tax hike, and a $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes would erase the state’s $15 billion budget deficit. The permanent portion of the increase would be used several ways. Some would be devoted to schools and some to repaying an $8.5 billion loan that would be used to pay overdue bills, state Senate President John Cullerton said.
 

BP, Halliburton Likely to Face Criminal Charges Over Spill…In light of the presidential report on the Gulf oil spill that’s due to be released next week, speculation is running rampant that the companies involved — BP, Halliburton, and Transocean — could soon be facing criminal charges.  It seems only fair that the companies that caused the largest offshore environmental disaster in US history should be made to face trial, though no individual is likely to do any time as a result. Here’s the story, from the Associated PressMonths of investigation by a presidential commission and other panels reinforce the likelihood that companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will be slapped with criminal charges that could add tens of billions of dollars to the huge fines they already face, legal experts said Thursday …

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