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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

China warns Soros against 'declaring war' on its currency...

China warns Soros against 'declaring war' on its currency

Market Watch                                
Markets reporter

Soros is a man intimately familiar with currency crises
Getty Images
Not long after billionaire George Soros forecast a so-called hard landing for the Chinese economy, Beijing fired back by calling out the high-profile investor, warning him of betting against its currency, according to media reports Tuesday.

“Soros’ challenge against the renminbi and Hong Kong dollar is unlikely to succeed, there is no doubt about that,” said a government official in an opinion piece widely cited by several media outlets.

The article headlined, ”Declaring war on China’s currency? Ha ha,” was published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party which is widely viewed as Beijing’s propaganda tool.
A translation of the Mandarin version of the editorial linked by ZeroHedge includes references to the U.S. suffering from a “Dutch disease” and “financial predators.”
Reports of the People’s Daily’s article follow Soros’ recent prediction that a precipitous slowdown in the Chinese economy is inevitable.

“A hard landing is practically unavoidable,” Soros told Bloomberg Television last week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “I’m not expecting it, I’m observing it,” he said, referencing his China outlook.

Soros’ ties to seismic currency bets date back to 1992 when he accurately wagered that the pound would fall in value, forcing the British government to withdraw the currency from the European exchange rate mechanism. He also successfully bet against the Thailand baht ahead of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, which pushed several Asian economies to brink of sovereign default.
Although Soros hasn’t directly threatened to bet against China’s yuan, his reputation as the investor who broke the Bank of England might have been enough to draw Beijing’s attention.

Soros has been vocal about China’s recent economic woes, going as far as to warn that global markets are headed for a crisis akin to 2008 as China scrambles to find a new growth model.
Beijing’s admonishment to Soros marks the latest effort by the Chinese government to crack down on those it views as speculators trying to upend its market.

Soros didn't respond to a request for comment via email and a call placed to China’s Ministry of Finance wasn’t answered.
The yuan USDCNY, -0.0638% which fell 4.7% in 2015, FactSet data show, is expected to slide further to 7 yuan versus the dollar by the end of the year from 6.58 currently on mounting worries about the Chinese economy, according to Deutsche Bank analysts.

Beijing authorities unexpectedly devalued the yuan in August in response to slumping exports and indicated that it would introduce further changes on how to value the currency against its peers which analysts believe will give the government more flexibility in gliding the yuan lower.
Worries about China have persisted into 2016, playing a key role in wiping out some $3 trillion in market cap in the first week of the year.

It isn’t just Soros expecting a rough patch for China. Most economists forecast China’s gross domestic product to grow in the 6%-range due to the country’s slowing manufacturing activity.

One Salmon Costs More Than Barrel of Oil as Slump Deepens...

One Salmon Costs More Than Barrel of Oil as Slump Deepens

Bloomberg news

Rokahr and other advisers said there is a legitimate need for secrecy. Confidential accounts that hide wealth, whether in the U.S., Switzerland, or elsewhere, protect against kidnappings or extortion in their owners’ home countries. The rich also often feel safer parking their money in the U.S. rather than some other location perceived as less-sure.

“I do not hear anybody saying, ‘I want to avoid taxes,’ ” Rokahr said. “These are people who are legitimately concerned with their own health and welfare.”

No one expects offshore havens to disappear anytime soon. Swiss banks still hold about $1.9 trillion in assets not reported by account holders in their home countries, according to Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Nor is it clear how many of the almost 100 countries and other jurisdictions that have signed on will actually enforce the new disclosure standards, issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a government-funded international policy group.

Read More:


Opec pleads for Russian alliance to smash oil speculators

"Tough times requires tough choices. It is crucial that all major producers sit down and come up with a solution," said Opec chief al-Badri

The Opec oil cartel has issued its strongest plea to date for a pact with Russia and rival producers to cut crude output and halt the collapse in prices, warning that the deepening investment slump is storing up serious trouble for the future.

Abdullah al-Badri, Opec’s secretary-general, said the cartel is ready to embrace rivals and thrash out a compromise following the 72pc crash in prices since mid-2014.
"Tough times requires tough choices. It is crucial that all major producers sit down and come up with a solution," he told a Chatham House conference in London.

Mr al-Badri said the world needs an investment blitz of $10 trillion to replace depleting oil fields and to meet extra demand of 17m barrels per day (b/d) by 2040, yet projects are being shelved at an alarming rate. A study by IHS found that investment for the years from 2015 to 2020 has been slashed by $1.8 trillion, compared to what was planned in 2014.

Mr al-Badri warned that the current glut is setting the stage for a future supply shock, with prices lurching from one extreme to another in a deranged market that is in the interests of nobody but speculators. "It is vital that the market addresses the stock overhang,” he said.

Leonid Fedun, vice-president of Russia’s oil group Lukoil, said Opec policy had set off a stampede, comparing it to a “herd of animals rushing to escape a fire”. He called on the Kremlin to craft a political deal with the cartel to overcome the glut. “It is better to sell a barrel of oil at $50 than two barrels at $30,” he told Tass.

 Read More :

REVEALED: GOOGLE worldwide web of tax loopholes...

REVEALED: GOOGLE worldwide web of tax loopholes

Google's worldwide web of tax loopholes: Osborne under fire as Google is set to pay THREE times as much tax in France - even though it employs thousands more people and does more business in Britain
  • Government accused of agreeing 'derisory' £130m tax deal with Google
  • Google set to pay £380m in France despite UK being its largest base
  • French officials refusing to allow sales to be funnelled via Dublin not Paris
  • Tech giant planning £1bn London office for 5,000 staff despite its tax status
  • George Osborne had hailed £130m deal as a 'victory for the taxpayer'
  • But Downing Street and MPs have distanced themselves from his claims

Read more:



CBS Money Watch
By Aimee Picchi MoneyWatch January 26, 2016, 12:01 AM
A handful of industries are those "love to hate" types of businesses, such as cable-television companies and Internet service providers.

The federal government has joined the ranks of the bottom-of-the-barrel industries, according to a new survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Americans' satisfaction level in dealing with federal agencies --everything from Treasury to Homeland Security -- has fallen for a third consecutive year, reaching an eight-year low.

The declines represent some backsliding for the U.S. government, given that satisfaction saw some improvement in 2011 and 2012, which may have been the result of spending in the wake of the recession. While the comparison with private enterprise isn't apples to apples given the nature of government services, the findings have some implications for bureaucrats.

"Satisfaction is linked to broader goals in the political system that it wants to maximize, like confidence and trust," said Forrest Morgeson, director of research at the ACSI. "It's much more difficult to govern if the entire population dislikes you."

Although satisfaction is down for the federal government as a whole, the research found that consumers have vastly different views of specific agencies. The department that received the highest score was the Department of the Interior, which received a ranking of 75 points. That could reflect Americans' positive feelings toward national parks, which many visit while on vacation, Morgeson noted.

The lowest-ranked department may not be much of a surprise to taxpayers: Treasury, which received a score of just 55 points, or 20 points below the Department of the Interior. Treasury, as a reminder, oversees the IRS.

"If you think about the most contacted government agency, it'll be the IRS," Morgeson said. "If you think about what the IRS does, which is take money from citizens, you'll have low satisfaction."
Despite the overall lower score for the government, there were some signs of improvement in citizens' experiences, with the feds earning improved scores in customer service and information, which means many citizens believe agencies are delivering information in a clearer way than a year ago.

The government report is based on surveys with more than 2,000 people who were surveyed late last year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cash Is King as Europe Adapts to Negative Interest Rates...

Cash Is King as Europe Adapts to Negative Interest Rates: Chart
by  Oliver Suess 
January 26, 2016 — 9:10 AM CST

Europe’s ATMs worked overtime in 2015. A record 1.08 trillion euros ($1.17 trillion) of banknotes were in circulation, almost double the value 10 years ago, according to data compiled by the European Central Bank. That’s a counterargument to some bankers who say that electronic forms of cash will replace paper money sooner rather than later.

The value of banknotes in circulation rose 6.5 percent last year, the most since 2008. There are financial reasons - including negative rates on deposits - but part of the increase could be related to the influx of refugees, who don’t have bank accounts.
“Stronger economic growth, low interest rates as well as maybe some worries
about more turbulence on financial markets are driving cash holdings,” said Johannes Mayr, an economist at BayernLB in Munich.
ECB Balance Sheet Banknotes in Circulation, value of notes in billions of euros.
ECB Balance Sheet Banknotes in Circulation, value of notes in billions of euros.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Meet China’s Largest Empty Building – The Ghost ‘Pentagon’

Meet China’s Largest Empty Building – The Ghost ‘Pentagon’

Zero Hedge
January 25, 2016

While China’s ghost cities are now a well-known occurrence – massive empty spaces built “Fields of Dream” style for when ‘they’ come from the countryside – the following massive 500,000 square meters of ‘Ghost Pentagon’ surely takes the proverbial biscuit when it comes to mal-investment mania. As The BBC reports, the Pentagonal Mart – a shopping mall in Shanghai built in 2009 – inspired by the Pentagon in the United States – has now gained the dubious title of China’s largest empty building.

And from the inside out, the 70-acre site – only slightly smaller than the largest shopping mall in the world, the Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates – is almost entirely vacant…

Oil is crashing again

Oil is crashing again
Oscar Williams-Grut
Business Insider
January 25, 2016

After a rally Friday, oil is tanking again Monday morning.
Oil rocketed 8% on Friday, boosting stock markets around the world. Both Brent and US crude were trading higher in early trade Monday.
But at 9:30 a.m. GMT (4:30 a.m. ET), the price was diving again.
Brent is down 2.33% at $32.08:
US crude is down 2.53% at $31.38.

Norway's Biggest Bank Calls For Country To Stop Using Cash

Norway's Biggest Bank Calls For Country To Stop Using Cash

International Business Times
By Abigail Abrams 01/22/16 AT 9:20 AM

The largest bank in Norway has called for the country to stop using cash, the Local reported Friday. This comes as the latest move in a country that has been leading the global charge toward electronic money in recent years, with several banks already not offering cash in their branch offices and some industries seeking to cut back on paper currency.

DNB, the bank with the proposal, has said eliminating the use of cash would cut down on black market sales and crimes such as money laundering.

“Today, there is approximately 50 billion kroner in circulation nd [the country’s central bank] Norges Bank can only account for 40 percent of its use. That means that 60 percent of money usage is outside of any control. We believe that is due to under-the-table money and laundering,” Trond Bentestuen, a DNB executive, told Norwegian website VG, the Local reported.

“There are so many dangers and disadvantages associated with cash, we have concluded that it should be phased out,” he added.

The country has already moved in this direction naturally. Bentestuen estimated that about 6 percent of Norwegians use cash on a daily basis, with the numbers higher among elderly people.

Norway’s Ministry of Finance is opposed to the proposal, however, and other critics have raised concerns about privacy issues as well as how the change would affect tourists. Privacy advocates in Norway have expressed worries for years that, without cash, there would be no way for an individual to purchase something without being tracked.

In 2014, Finans Norge, a financial industry organization in Norway, said the country was on pace to be a cashless society by 2020, Ice News reported. While DNB said its proposal will take time to complete, executives suggested the country start phasing out cash by discontinuing the 1,000 kroner note so it could focus on updating its banking system.

“Eighty-five percent of our customers say that they never or only very rarely go to the bank. Therefore we think it is a mistake to maintain a very old structure with local branch offices. It is better to follow the customers and improve the offers where the customers are: digital,” Bentestuen said.

Still, the Finance Ministry has no plans to change its laws for now.

“There are many, including the elderly, who still want to use cash and that must be allowed. Moreover, it isn’t unproblematic for privacy to make every transaction traceable,” Finance Ministry spokesman Tore Vamraak said, according to the Local.

In the meantime, DNB and Norway’s second largest bank, Nordea, have already stopped using cash in their branch offices. And the movement toward a goal of no cash has been going on for a while. The Norwegian Hospitality Association pushed to eliminate consumers’ right to pay cash at all stores and restaurants in 2013, The Local reported.

Other countries including Denmark and Sweden have made similar pushes as their populations also rely largely on electronic money.

A Norwegian five hundred Crowns currency banknote pictured in Stockholm, Dec. 8, 2011.Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

68% of Americans destroy credit before age 30: Survey

68% of Americans destroy credit before age 30: Survey

Fred Imbert

Have you made mistakes regarding your credit in the past? That could haunt you ... for a long time.
A whopping 68 percent of Americans make at least one major financial mistake, or "credit fumble," before turning 30, leading to a negative mark on their credit report, according to a Credit Karma survey.

These mistakes include overspending on credit cards, missing payments, defaulting on a loan or having an account sent into collections, the survey found.

The greater the offense, the longer it will reflect on your credit report, said Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma. In fact, it usually takes consumers seven to 10 years to erase negative marks from their credit, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

"I think what a lot of people don't realize ... is how a missed payment can stay on your credit," Hardeman said. "It can be one mistake that you don't think is a big deal that can cost you thousands in the long run."

Credit is an important factor in determining what kind of loans consumers receive, as well as whether they are approved for an apartment lease, Hardeman added.

The survey, released Thursday, found that 3 out of 4 respondents believed their credit-related mishaps have had a negative impact on their lives.

"These early mistakes can have a lingering impact on the quality of people's lives, and we feel that with better, targeted education and learning tools for new-to-credit consumers, this cycle can be broken," Kenneth Lin, Credit Karma's founder and CEO, said in a statement.

There are many reasons why someone may end up with a negative mark on their credit history, but the biggest one is lack of education, Credit Karma found.

More than 50 percent of respondents said they had received their first credit card by age 21, but 72 percent said they had received no education about personal finances before going to college.
Hardeman said consumers should know "the long-term ramifications before you take out a credit card or take out a loan."

Consumers also need to understand how their overall credit works, said Sean McQuay, credit cards expert at NerdWallet.

"Your credit shows how good you are at managing other people's money, not your own," he said.

One way consumers can regain proper footing on their credit is by applying for a secured credit card, McQuay said. "This gives you a chance to prove yourself ... and over time, you can apply for more traditional credit cards."

Secured credit cards work just like any other credit card. The only difference is the cardholder has to put up a certain amount of money as collateral, and his or her credit line will usually equal the collateral's amount.

However, McQuay also said the consumer needs to be mindful of the risks involved with secure credit cards.

You need to have the cash on hand," he said. "Even $100 can be a lot of money for someone to just give over."

For the study, Credit Karma and research firm Qualtrics surveyed 1,051 American adults ages 31 to 44 from late November 2014 to early 2015.

Google to face grilling by UK lawmakers over tax deal

Google to face grilling by UK lawmakers over tax deal

By Tom Bergin
January 25, 2016

By Tom Bergin
LONDON (Reuters) - A British parliamentary committee will ask Google to testify about a back tax deal under which it will pay 130 million pounds ($185 million) to settle claims covering a 10-year period -- an amount the opposition Labour party has described as derisory.
Meg Hillier, the Labour party chairwoman of parliament's Public Accounts Committee, tweeted at the weekend she would call Google, now part of holding company Alphabet Inc, and the UK tax authority (HMRC) to explain the "cosy deal".

Google said it was a fair deal and that it complied with all tax rules. HMRC said the deal meant Google "will pay the full tax due in law."

Finance minister George Osborne said the agreement represented a victory for the action the government had taken against corporate tax avoidance.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman described it as "a step forward" but acknowledged there was more to do to ensure companies paid their fair share.

Corporate tax avoidance has prompted anger in recent years among citizens who question whether the burden of paying the cost of combating the financial crisis was evenly shared.

A study conducted by accountants PricewaterhouseCooper for the 100 Group, a lobby body representing around 100 of the biggest UK companies, showed their combined corporation tax bill was half 2010 levels in 2015, despite rising profits.

Businesses say they benefit the exchequer in other ways such as collecting VAT (sales tax) on behalf of the government and employing staff who pay income taxes.

Google's tax deal brings its total UK tax bill over the period to around 200 million pounds.
Over the period, its total of around 24 billion pounds in UK revenues would have generated a tax bill of almost 2 billion, if the UK unit reported taxable profits in line with group margins of around 30 percent, according to Reuters calculations based on Google filings.

Google's tax bill is reduced because profits from its European sales are channeled to Bermuda. Google says its Bermuda operation does not impact the tax it pays in the UK.

Executives say the reported UK profit margins are far below the group average because most of its algorithms and codes, which drive the company’s profits, are developed outside the country.

In 2013, the company faced a parliamentary inquiry after a Reuters investigation showed the firm employed hundreds of salespeople in Britain despite saying it did not conduct sales in the country, a key plank in its tax arrangements.

($1 = 0.7015 pounds)
(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Susan Thomas and Keith Weir)

Wal-Mart: It Came, It Conquered, Now It's Packing Up and Leaving

Wal-Mart: It Came, It Conquered, Now It's Packing Up and Leaving

by  Shannon Pettypiece
January 25, 2016 — 4:00 AM CST

The Town’n Country grocery in Oriental, North Carolina, a local fixture for 44 years, closed its doors in October after a Wal-Mart store opened for business. Now, three months later -- and less than two years after Wal-Mart arrived -- the retail giant is pulling up stakes, leaving the community with no grocery store and no pharmacy.

Though mom-and-pop stores have steadily disappeared across the American landscape over the past three decades as the mega chain methodically expanded, there was at least always a Wal-Mart left behind to replace them. Now the Wal-Marts are disappearing, too.
“I was devastated when I found out. We had a pharmacy and a perfectly satisfactory grocery store. Maybe Wal-Mart sold apples for a nickel less,” said Barb Venturi, mayor pro tem for Oriental, with a population of about 900. “If you take into account what no longer having a grocery store does to property values here, it is a significant impact for us.”

Oriental is hardly alone. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said on Jan. 15 it would be closing all 102 of its smaller Express stores, many in isolated towns, to focus on its supercenters and mid-sized Neighborhood Markets. The move, which will begin by the end of the month, was a relatively quick about-face. As recently as 2014, Wal-Mart was touting the solid performance of its smaller stores and announced plans to open an additional 90.

That’s a big problem for small towns, often with proportionately large elderly populations. For the older folks of Oriental -- a retirement and summer vacation town along the inter-coastal waterway -- the next-nearest grocery and pharmacy is a 50-minute round-trip drive.

Wal-Mart says it is sensitive to the dislocations its business decisions are causing.
“In towns impacted by store closures, we have had hundreds of conversations with elected officials and community leaders to discuss relevant issues and we are working with communities on how we can be helpful,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick.

Wal-Mart has been under increasing pressure lately as sales in the U.S. have failed to keep up with rising labor costs. It’s also been spending more on its Web operations. In October, the company announced that profit this year would be down as much as 12 percent. The outlook contributed to a share decline of 29 percent during the past 12 months.

“It is more important now than ever to review our portfolio and close the stores and clubs that should be closed,” Wal-Mart’s Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in a statement on the company’s website.

Shuttered Stores

Towns like Clearwater, Kansas, and Merkel, Texas, are among those hit by Wal-Mart closures. In Godley, Texas, with a population of roughly 1,000, Wal-Mart opened a small store just a year ago. Within months, the only other grocery store in town -- Brookshire Brothers, part of an employee-owned regional chain -- shut its doors. Now with Wal-Mart gone, the closest full-service grocery store is about a 20-minute drive away.

In some cases, closed businesses may reopen now that Wal-Mart has left. In Merkel, the Lawrence Brothers grocery store, which closed two months ago, is planning to reopen now that Wal-Mart is packing up, said Jay Lawrence, head of the regional chain in Texas and New Mexico.
Residents of Oriental, where some city officials originally tried to block Wal-Mart from opening, are hoping for a similar outcome now that the megastore is gone. But for the moment the damage has been done, they say.

Renee Ireland Smith, who ran Town’n Country, said the store immediately saw sales fall by 30 percent once Wal-Mart opened in May 2014. Whenever her store cut prices, Wal-Mart would reduce its prices even more. Smith’s mother, who owned the store, invested $100,000 in savings into the doomed effort. But by October, the family decided to cut its losses and close the business.
“They ruined our lives,” said Smith of Wal-Mart. “They came in here with their experiment and ruined us.”

read more

Sunday, January 24, 2016

There was already a Bear Market Beneath The Surface of The Stock Market in The US for a long time

Marc Faber, editor and publisher of “The Gloom, Boom & Doom" report, says the Chinese economy is growing at a much slower pace, closer to 2-4 percent, that's what its government is indicating.
Jan 23, 2016, 01.19 PM | Source: CNBC-TV18 CNBC Money Control

There was already a Bear Market Beneath The Surface of The Stock Market in The US for a long time

Q: How do you read the picture right now? You are bearish on China and I don’t think that 6.9 percent gross domestic product (GDP) number is something that you were in agreement with, now we have central banks hinting at some kind of action, there are experts talking about action in Japan and of course in the ECB, how do you read this fall that we have seen so far in January and just the overall set up?

Marc Faber : Basically the market in the US began to decline a long time ago if you look at the average stocks in the US. It is down over the last 12 months by 26 percent from their highs, the average stock but the indices held up very well until the end of December because the indices do not reflect what is happening in the market. For example, you have an index, you have 500 stocks, if three stocks are very strong, they can push up the index while 497 stocks go down. So we have to look at the market beneath the surface and beneath the surface there was already a bear market in the US for a long time, for a year or more but there are some stocks and maybe another 20 shares such as Facebook, Amazon, Google that were driving and keeping the index up. The interventions by the Central Banks have a numerous unintended consequences - they lead to rise in stock prices. But for many people, this is not favourable because particularly in real estate, the affordability becomes an issue, they don’t have the money to buy expensive homes and so the home ownership rate in the US has been way down.

read more here

Marc Faber: Dont Listen to the Davos People

Marc Faber :  Basically the Chinese economy is much weaker than the government is telling you. Economy at the present time is growing at maximum 2-4 percent. In general, we have a colossal credit bubble in China and this credit bubble has to be deflated one way or the other. India in this respect is in a better position because we don’t have that kind of a credit bubble. We also have some excessive credit in some sectors of the economy but not to the extent China has. In my view, the Chinese economy -- you just have to look at imports and the exports from Taiwan, from South Korea, these are relatively reliable statistics. Then you look at the Baltic dry index and freight cost in China and electricity consumption and everything points out that the economy is not growing at 6.9 percent. This is complete nonsense but of course it is published by the government. So I am telling you, don’t listen to the Davos people.  read more here

Trump's Boast: Blacks will like me better than Obama

Trump's Boast: Blacks will like me better than Obama

fox news

Donald Trump is making a bold prediction about black voters.
In an interview airing Sunday on Fox’s “Media Buzz,” Trump told me there is already great affection for him in the black community.
“Look, the African Americans love me because they know I am going to bring back jobs,” he told me at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.
Okay, a pretty standard Trumpian boast. But then he said this:
“They are going to like me better than they like Obama. The truth is Obama has done nothing for them.”
The statement was so audacious that it took me a split-second to react.
“Did you just say,” I interrupted, “African-Americans are going to like you better than the first African-American president.”
The billionaire didn’t back off.
“I think that relatively speaking - I mean he does have a slight advantage in all fairness- but I think relatively speaking when I am finished I think they will absolutely love Donald Trump,” he said. 
Keep in mind that most blacks routinely vote for Democrats. Ronald Reagan once got 14 percent of the African-American vote and it was considered a triumph.
There was one poll last fall that showed Trump with 25 percent support among blacks, but it would be a shocker if those numbers held up.
In the interview, Trump told me he has cut back his attacks on members of the media as losers and idiots because the press is treating him with more respect, mentioning the Wall Street Journal editorial page and a recent Time cover story.
Soon after we wrapped the interview, though, National Review attacked Trump as a menace to American conservatism, and he responded by calling it a failing publication with little influence. It was as if things had suddenly returned to normal.

Magnitude-7.1 quake jolts Alaska; 4 homes lost

Magnitude-7.1 quake jolts Alaska; 4 homes lost

Jan. 24, 2016 7:33 PM EST

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A magnitude-7.1 quake knocked items off shelves and walls in Alaska early Sunday morning, jolting the nerves of residents in this earthquake-prone region. There were no reports of injuries, but four homes were lost to explosions or fire following the quake.
Alaska's state seismologist, Michael West, called it the strongest earthquake in the state's south-central region in decades. Alaska often has larger or more powerful earthquakes, such as a 7.9 last year in the remote Aleutian Islands.
"However, last night's earthquake is significant because it was close enough to Alaska's population centers," West said, adding that aftershocks could continue for weeks.
The earthquake was widely felt by Anchorage residents. But the Anchorage and Valdez police departments said they hadn't received any reports of injury or significant damage.
The earthquake struck at about 1:30 a.m. Alaska time and was centered 53 miles west of Anchor Point in the Kenai Peninsula, which is about 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Vincent Nusunginya, 34, of Kenai said he was at his girlfriend's house when the quake hit.
"It started out as a shaking and it seemed very much like a normal earthquake. But then it started to feel like a normal swaying, like a very smooth side-to-side swaying," said Nusunginya, director of audience at the Peninsula Clarion newspaper. "It was unsettling. Some things got knocked over, but there was no damage."
Two homes in Kenai were destroyed in gas leak explosions and the other two were fully engulfed before firefighters determined it was safe enough from gas for them to enter the homes, Kenai battalion chief Tony Prior said. He said firefighters focused on keeping the flames from those homes from spreading to nearby houses.
"No injuries. Thank God," he said. "The second one was a major explosion. We're fortunate that no one was hurt."
About 30 homes were evacuated, and some people took shelter at the Kenai National Guard Armory.
Workers with the gas utility were examining the remaining homes Sunday afternoon with the goal of getting displaced residents back in their homes later in the day.
The USGS initially reported the quake as a magnitude-7.1, but downgraded shortly afterward to magnitude-6.8 before raising it back to 7.1.
"Some earthquakes have challenges associated with them, they are unusual or hard to monitor," West said. "This is neither of them. Southern Alaska is well instrumented, and this earthquake is of the style and type that we would expect in this area."
The biggest aftershock Sunday was 4.7, and West said a magnitude-5 or magnitude-6 aftershock is possible.
There were reports of scattered power outages from the Matanuska Electric Association and Chugach Electric in the Anchorage area. The Homer Electric Association reported on its website that about 4,800 customers were without power early Sunday in the Kenai Peninsula.
The Alaska Department of Transportation reported on its Facebook page that there was road damage near the community of Kasilof, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in a statement Sunday that he was relieved there wasn't more damage. He urged all Alaskans to have a response plan for when a major natural disaster takes place.
The hashtag #akquake trended early Sunday on Twitter as people shared their experiences and posted photos of items that had fallen off walls and shelves.
Andrea Conter, 50, of Anchorage, said she was surprised by the quake's strength.
"This was a wild one," the former Southern California resident said. "I looked at the closed-circuit cameras at work and it lasted over 50 seconds and that is considerable for an earthquake."
"When I bought my house in Anchorage I had a geological map that shows what are the sturdiest parts of town and there were a few where I said, 'If there's an earthquake, that house is toast,'" Conter said. "That's how I chose my house. Literally. Drove my real estate agent nuts. But, I didn't have one thing fall in my house. It was kind of clutch."
Andrew Sayers, 26, of Kasilof was watching television when the quake struck.
"The house started to shake violently. The TV we were watching fell over, stuff fell off the walls," he said. "Dishes were crashing, and we sprinted toward the doorway."
Later, he was driving to his mother's home when he came across a stretch of road that was damaged in the quake.
"We launched over this crack in the road. It's a miracle we didn't bust our tires on it," he said.
After reaching his mother's house, Sayers checked on his grandparents, who live about a mile away.
"No damage, except their Christmas tree fell over," he said.
Associated Press writers Rashah McChesney in Juneau and Michelle A. Monroe and Tarek Hamada in Phoenix contributed to this report.

CRUZ: 'We Have Got DRUDGE REPORT,' Mainstream Media 'Stranglehold' Is Over...

CRUZ: 'We Have Got DRUDGE REPORT,' Mainstream Media 'Stranglehold' Is Over

real clear politics

watch video here
HOWARD KURTZ: When you bash the media , and you have been treated unfairly at times portrayed as somebody who scares little children, but isn't that in your interest to do that? Your base loves that. They don't like the mainstream media.

TED CRUZ: There is a reason they don’t like the mainstream media because they are partisan liberal democrats.

KURTZ: Every single journalist?

CRUZ: Almost without exception.

KURTZ: Almost without exception?

CRUZ: Almost without exception they have a partisan agenda. And we understand - let's take a substantive issue: police officers. If you have one police officer somewhere who does something he shouldn't have, the press will breathlessly report on this terrible, horrible police officer and all the democratic politicians will jump in and demonize and vilify the cops. 

Let me ask you something? How come the press doesn’t tell stories of heroism? 

The great news is we don't live anymore in a world of three networks that have a stranglehold on information. We have got the internet. We have got the Drudge Report. We have got talk radio. We have got social media. We've got the ability to go directly around, and directly to the people.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Alphabet Close to Overtaking Apple as Most Valuable Company

Alphabet Close to Overtaking Apple as Most Valuable Company

Alphabet could soon become the most valuable company in the world.
The Google powerhouse traded on Friday morning with an equity value above $500 billion, less than 10 percent shy of Apple’s value. Investors value the search firm’s earnings from rapidly growing digital advertising more than twice as highly as Apple’s in a saturating smartphone market. Wall Street, however, may be overlooking Alphabet’s risks.

Global smartphone sales growth slowed to 10 percent last year, according to the consulting firm IDC. Reports of cutbacks at Apple suppliers suggest tepid demand for its latest phones. Analysts fear that the company may struggle this year to match the 230 million or so iPhones sold in the last fiscal year to September.

An oversupplied market could bring price wars, which could hurt margins — and the iPhone accounts for about 60 percent of Apple’s revenue and a bigger chunk of its profit. As a result, investors expect little growth in the company’s top line this year and are paying only about 10 times estimated 2016 earnings for the stock.

The mobile digital advertising market, meanwhile, should almost triple to nearly $200 billion globally by 2019, consultants at eMarketer reckon. Alphabet’s sales are forecast to grow about 15 percent this year. This wind at Alphabet’s back and the possibility that its self-driving cars, robots or medical endeavors will pay off help explain why it commands a price-to-earnings multiple above 20.

A subpar earnings report from Apple next week, or a strong one from Alphabet the week after, could bring a new name to the top of the world’s most valuable companies list.

Investors are, however, prone to overconfidence in technology trends. Facebook is snagging more and more ad dollars. European antitrust authorities are circling. Moreover, some of Alphabet’s revenue comes courtesy of iPhone users: it cost Google $1 billion in 2014 to keep its search bar on the Apple device, Bloomberg reports based on transcripts of a court case.

Alphabet is far more reliant on Internet advertising than Apple is on the iPhone. Ads bring in about 90 percent of the company’s revenue. Any hint of investor skepticism about that market could keep Apple at the top of the list.


Tech companies use materials mined illegally by children in Africa

Tech companies use materials mined illegally by children in Africa

Apple says no quick fixes to complex challenges in supply chain

Illegal child labor runs rampant at mines in the Republic of Congo, where a key ingredient used in rechargeable batteries is often found in popular electronics made by Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., HP Inc. and Samsung Electronics, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.
The allegations are just the latest to showcase unfair labor practices in the sprawling supply chains of technology companies. Previous accusations have run the gamut from excessive overtime to unhealthy working conditions and unfair wages that have led to health problems and riots, even deaths.
Read more here



Tunisian youths demand jobs, say govt is failing them

Tunisian youths demand jobs, say govt is failing them

KASSERINE, Tunisia (AP) --
 Unemployed young people from the Tunisian city that touched off nationwide protests say the government is failing them and protested anew Saturday in a precarious calm enforced by a nationwide curfew.
Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring protest movement, is the only democracy to rise from those turbulent demonstrations five years ago, touched off by the suicide of a young man who despaired of making a living. The country has a 15 percent unemployment rate but among young people one in three is jobless.
The government imposed a nationwide curfew on Friday night and has not said when it will be lifted.
The nationwide protests this week were triggered by the death of a young man in Kasserine who was electrocuted when he climbed a transmission tower to protest losing out on a government job. The protests then spread to cities throughout the country, including scattered demonstrations in the capital Tunis, where a bank and some stores were looted.
On Saturday, a small crowd at a government building in Kasserine reasserted their demands for jobs, while in Tunis the prime minister said the situation was under control.
"We want to send a message to the president in my name and the name of everyone: We are demanding work. We're not destroying. We're not burning. We're not causing chaos but just demanding jobs," said Maher Nasri, an unemployed graduate.
Tunisian leaders say they understand the protesters' frustration but blamed criminals for the violence. The Interior Ministry said 261 people had been arrested, with a total of 423 since the unrest began.
Emerging from an emergency government meeting to address the unrest, Prime Minister Habib Essid said the security situation was under control and he emphasized his optimism for the country's future.
The government, he pledged, "would be firm faced with the difficulties and multiple challenges of security, economy and society it confronts."
"The democratic process in Tunisia is an irreversible choice, despite the attempts of some to put in in doubt," he said.
A coalition of Tunisian human rights activists, lawyers, labor leaders and employers won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for their successful efforts to prevent Tunisia from descending into chaos and authoritarianism. But multiple terror attacks in 2015, claimed by the Islamic State group, have caused incalculable damage to a North African economy heavily dependent upon tourism.
And in Kasserine, protesters said the government needed to do far more to win their trust.
"We want solutions that can be implemented," said Ahlam Gharsalli. "We need urgent solutions because we're fed up with waiting."
Ben Bouazza reported from Tunis. Lori Hinnant contributed from Paris.

Friday, January 22, 2016

CHIPOTLE accused of covering up norovirus outbreak...

Chipotle's Being Accused of Trying to Cover Up Its Norovirus Outbreak


by Michal Addady 
January 21, 2016, 12:48 PM EST

A lawsuit claims the chain was trying to protect its stock price.

Chipotle has reportedly been hit with a lawsuit that claims the chain attempted to conceal a norovirus outbreak.

The class-action, filed on Tuesday, raises questions about an outbreak at a Simi Valley, Calif. location that affected at least 234 customers, NBC reports. The lawsuit states that a kitchen manager who was suffering symptoms continued to work at the restaurant from Aug. 18 until he was diagnosed with norovirus two days later. It says that when at least two customers had complained they were suffering symptoms, Chipotle CMG -1.59% attempted to cover up the outbreak instead of immediately alerting authorities.

The complaint accuses Chipotle of “disposing of all food items, bleaching all cooking and food handling surfaces and replaces its sick employees with replacement employees from other restaurants before notifying county health officials.” The manager of the food safety program at the Ventura County Environmental Health Division says that this prevented authorities from conducting certain investigation procedures, including sampling the food.

Chipotle had been enduring a string of food safety issues at the time, and the lawsuit claims that the fast casual restaurant tried to cover up the newest outbreak in an attempt to prevent damage to its stock price.
Chipotle’s communications director, Chris Arnold, said in a statement to Fortune, “As a matter of policy, we don’t discuss details surrounding pending legal actions. I’d note, however, that when this incident occurred, we took appropriate measures to address it, including notifying health officials in Ventura County.”

Signal points to first iPhone sales decline...

Fewer orders at Apple suppliers could signal first iPhone sales decline

Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:23am EST

An iPhone 6S Plus is seen at the Apple retail store in Palo Alto, California September 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Some of Apple Inc's main Asian suppliers expect revenues and orders to drop this quarter, indicating iPhone sales are almost certain to post their first annual decline since the flagship product was launched almost a decade ago.

The forecasts of lackluster sales by companies including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world's biggest contract chipmaker, and smartphone camera lens producer Largan Precision Co Ltd add to concerns about Apple's outlook amid slowing global demand for smartphones.

Industry executives say the latest iPhone did not have enough new features from the previous model to tempt users, raising fears that Apple's innovative streak - and the profits it has generated - may be running its course.

Apple, which reports December-quarter results on Tuesday, declined to comment on its sales outlook.
"Visibility is only a month at a time and demand is quite weak," Largan Precision Chief Executive Adam Lin told an earnings briefing, referring to his company's overall business.

Other suppliers said Apple now only gave them orders one month in advance, instead of the usual three months.

"We have to be very flexible in terms of capacity," said an executive at one of those firms, declining to identify their company or be named due to a confidentiality agreement that prevents Apple suppliers from discussing its order book.
Apple has previously said that individual data from its supply chain was not an accurate reflection of its outlook.

But TSMC, which makes some of the chips that go into iPhones, forecast this month that first-quarter revenues would likely fall by up to 11 percent year-on-year, adding that demand for high-end smartphones would also be weak.

An 11 percent quarterly decline would be the steepest revenue drop for TSMC in almost 7 years, Thomson Reuters data shows.

Earlier this month, people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Taiwan-based Foxconn, which assembles most iPhones, had taken a rare decision to cut working hours over a major holiday during which workers usually rack up overtime.

Foxconn, the trade name for Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, saw its December revenues slump by a fifth and 2015 sales miss expectations.

A more detailed picture about Apple's outlook could emerge next week if key suppliers including LG Display Co Ltd, SK Hynix Inc and Samsung Electronics Co provide first-quarter forecasts when they report December-quarter earnings.

First-quarter revenues at both LG Display and Hynix are expected to fall around 10 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

Analysts say iPhone sales could pick up during the second half of the year, when the company usually launches new products, but with competitors such as Samsung Electronics and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd sharpening their edge, some suppliers are not so sure.

"The pace of innovation has slowed. Apple is going toward the same direction as other brand names," said another Taiwanese Apple supplier.

(Additional reporting by Se Young Lee in SEOUL and Miyoung Kim and Aradhana Aravindan in SINGAPORE; Editing by Miral Fahmy)