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Ron Paul addresses crowd of more than 10000 people at Minneapolis rally, counter-convention rivals RNC next door

Ron Paul addresses the crowd of 10,000+

(quote)

MINNE- APOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- While Republicans pow- wowed in St. Paul, sup- porters of Ron Paul threw their own party in neighboring Minneapolis. "Freedom brings people together," Paul said before a sold-out crowd at Tuesday's Rally for the Republic.

Paul, who said he entered the presidential race reluctantly, told the roaring audience, "I lost my skepticism. I hope you lost your apathy." As the congressman stepped on stage, red, white and blue confetti fell from the ceiling during a two-minute standing ovation.

Paul said he entered the presidential race not because of what he wanted to do but because of what he did not want to do. "I did not want to run people's lives. I did not want to run the economy and I did not want to run the world. I didn't have the authority to do it, and I didn't have the Constitution behind me to do it," said Paul, who has served in the House of Representatives for more than 30 years.

Ron Paul's 'counter-convention' rivals RNC next door  read more »

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Maliki pushes for firm withdrawal date, demands all foreign troops out by 2011

Hundreds of Shiite Muslims march in a rally in the holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, to denounce the surprise visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Iraq last week. Maliki publicly demanded a deadline for the U.S. departure from Iraq

(quote)

BAGHDAD — Days after top Iraqi and American officials suggested that a draft of the security pact between the countries was close, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki toughened his language, reiterating earlier Iraqi demands for a fixed date for the withdrawal of American troops. “It is not possible for any agreement to conclude unless it is on the basis of full sovereignty and the national interest, and that no foreign soldiers remain in Iraqi soil after a defined time ceiling,” Mr. Maliki said in a speech to Shiite tribal leaders in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki  read more »

Impact of Iraq War: US weakened. EU distracted. Russia’s $18.9 bil trade surplus & troops deeper into Georgia - nations panic

Russian troops arrived in the Khurcha settlement in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in western Georgia

(quote)

Fears were raised as Russian troops opened a second front by pushing deep into the west of Georgia. Yesterday other former Soviet bloc countries warned that the Kremlin was becoming ever more aggressive and authoritarian and could try to restore control to more of its former territories.

Georgian refugee cries in Gori, about 50 miles from Tbilisi, Aug. 11, 2008

Czech Republic foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg compared Russia’s incursion into Georgia to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush the so-called Prague Spring uprising against Communist rule.

Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic supports Georgia and added that “it is a sad coincidence” that the fighting in Georgia takes place at the moment when the country is marking the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968. And the presidents of Poland and three Baltic states, formerly members of the Soviet bloc, labeled Moscow’s approach “imperialist and revisionist.”  read more »

Who will defend the rights of detained laptops? Electronic devices can now be "arrested" at US borders, no suspicion required

laptops entering the country can be ‘detained’ just like people can

(quote)

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed. Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

laptops and iPods can be indefinitely confiscated without provocation or justification  read more »

US unemployment rate hits 4-year high at 5.7% - 51k jobs lost in July, 1.6 million over past year; employers cutting jobs, hours

US has lost 463,000 jobs so far in 2008

(quote)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Employers cut jobs in July for the seventh straight month, while the unemployment rate hit a four-year high, according to a government report released Friday. The Labor Department reported a net loss of 51,000 jobs in the month. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had been forecasting a loss of 75,000 jobs in the latest report.

The latest report brought job losses this year to 463,000. The June job loss number was revised to 51,000. The unemployment rate rose to 5.7% from a 5.5% reading in June. It was the worst reading since March 2004, and slightly worse than economists' forecast of a 5.6% rate. The rate has now jumped a full percentage point from a year ago. But the 5.7% unemployment rate tells only part of the problem facing job seekers. It doesn't include those who have become discouraged from looking for work, or those who have accepted part-time jobs when they want to be working full time. Counting the unemployed or underemployed, the rate rises to 10.3%, the first time that measure has hit double figures since November 2003.

the nation's unemployment rate climbed to a four-year high of 5.7 percent in July as employers cut 51,000 jobs, dashing the hopes of an influx of young people looking for summer work

Those who are out of work are also taking longer to find new jobs. There are now 1.7 million people out of work for six months or more, which is up 6% from a month early and is 28% above year-ago levels. Nearly one in five people counted as unemployed have now been out of work for six months or more. "It is becoming increasingly hard for Americans to find work in this economy," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "As the construction, manufacturing, and now retail sectors are reeling from job losses, too many workers are being forced to reduce their hours and take part-time jobs just to make ends meet." Tig Gilliam, chief executive of Adecco Group North America, a unit of the world's largest employment firm, said there's few signs of a turnaround in the labor market on the horizon. "I think we're going to see more of the same for at least another quarter, and it could be the rest of the year," he said.

The job losses also show spreading weakness in the labor market. Construction lost 22,000 jobs as housing continued to suffer, while manufacturing employment plunged 35,000 jobs, as automakers cut production in the face of weak sales. But the job losses were spread far beyond the battered construction and auto industries. Retailers cut 17,000 jobs, while business and professional services lost 24,000 positions. Problems in housing and credit markets continued to hit the job base as commercial banks, Wall Street firms and real estate firms cut more than 4,000 between them.

the Fed is set to keep rates unchanged because of inflationary pressures

But there were a number of service sector employers outside of finance and real estate that saw problems as well. Publishing lost 3,400 jobs, due to continued problems at newspapers and magazine. Airlines also cut 900 jobs. Even with gains in health care and a narrow increase in leisure and hospitality employers, service sector companies cut a total of 30,000 jobs. And the service sector is the broad area of the economy that provides more than 80% of the non-government jobs. Government employers added 25,000 jobs to mitigate the losses in the private sector. But Gilliam said that's not necessarily a positive for the economy. "It's good to have the government adding jobs in the short term, but that's not an long-term solution either," he said.

In another sign of weakness, the average hourly work week fell 0.1 hour to 33.6 hours. The average hourly wage edged up 6 cents to $18.06, bringing salaries up 3.4% over the year-ago levels. That's well below the 5% rise in overall prices paid by consumers over the 12 months ending in June, meaning that paychecks are not keeping up with costs. In terms of the impact on gross domestic product, every tenth of an hour drop in the workweek is equivalent to a loss of 300,000 to 350,000 jobs, Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, estimated. He cut his third- quarter growth forecast to 0.7 percent at an annual rate, less than half his prior projection of 1.5 percent.

(unquote)

Images courtesy of CNN Money, AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, and EPA

Original Source: CNN Money and Bloomberg

Impact of Iraq War: US national deficit zooming to new record of half trillion for fiscal year 2009, could worsen as costs mount

The US Government's budget deficit is tipped to soar to a record of nearly half a trillion dollars in fiscal 2009

(quote)

WASHINGTON - The White House predicted yesterday that President Bush would leave a record $482 billion deficit to his successor, a sobering turnabout in the nation's fiscal condition from 2001, when Bush took office after three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

The worst may be yet to come. The deficit announced by Jim Nussle, the White House budget director, does not reflect the full cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential $50 billion cost of another economic stimulus package, or the possibility of steeper losses in tax revenues if individual income or corporate profits decline.

The new deficit numbers also do not account for any drains on the national treasury that might result from further declines in the housing market. The White House forecast was prepared before passage of the huge housing assistance package that Bush has promised to sign. That legislation would put taxpayer money at risk in numerous ways, especially if housing prices continue to decline.

Costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have<br />
sapped the US budget

Next year's record figure includes only $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could cost three times that much, and it is based on economic assumptions that could prove unrealistic. The White House is assuming economic growth next year of 2.2 percent, down sharply from the 3 percent estimate of February but still brighter than the 1.7 percent growth estimate of many private-sector economists. The White House is also assuming rosier numbers for inflation and unemployment rates. "That's not the real number," former Bush Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill said of the $482 billion deficit forecast. "It's upward of $500 billion and counting. It's a mind-boggling number."

Nussle predicted yesterday that the deficit would more than double in the current fiscal year - to $389 billion, from $162 billion in 2007 - before shooting up to $482 billion in fiscal 2009, which begins in about two months. "We are not happy about the deficit," Nussle conceded.

Edward Lazear of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers and budget director Jim Nussle discuss the projected deficit for fiscal 2009

The deficit projected for 2009 would be the largest in absolute terms, easily surpassing the record of $413 billion in 2004. The White House and many economists prefer to measure the deficit as a share of the economy. Measured against the size of the economy, next year's mark is still eclipsed by the deficits of Bush's first term, as well as the deficits of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The projected 2009 deficit would be 3.3 percent of the economy. That is the largest share since 2004, but well below the percentages recorded in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1983, the deficit was 6 percent of the overall economy.

The new estimate of the 2009 deficit was $74 billion higher than Bush and Nussle had predicted in the president's budget six months ago. Bush had expected the impact of the tax rebates and war funding to begin subsiding in 2009, reducing the deficit by $3 billion. Instead, Nussle said, the slowing economy will push the deficit to a level that would easily beat the record $413 billion deficit of fiscal 2004.

The bleak outlook for the budget will crimp the ability of the next president to carry out ambitious spending plans. And it adds to fiscal pressures that were already building because of the growth of Medicare and Social Security.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of Brendan Smialowksi / Bloomberg News, AFP, Stuff.co.nz

Original Source: Boston Globe and Washington Post

Supplies up, demand declines, oil trades near 7-week low - drops below $125 for first time in over 6 weeks

a techinician works on one of the Strategic Petroleun Reserve's wellheads in the Gulf Coast

(quote)

July 24 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil traded near a seven-week low after reports showed demand in the U.S. and Japan, two of the three largest oil consuming countries, fell as high prices crimp fuel consumption. U.S. fuel demand averaged 19.9 million barrels a day last week, the lowest since January 2007, the Energy Department said yesterday. Japan imported 0.7 percent less oil in June than a year ago, the first decline in nine months, the Ministry of Finance said today.

"Our overall view is that oil prices are at a point that will bring about demand-side adjustments that will ultimately cause prices to be at a lower level," said David Moore, a commodity strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd. in Sydney. "There seems to be an intangible factor here where sentiment has swung quite sharply in the past couple weeks."

Bubble burst? near-term oil futures, per barrel, weekly closes and latest

Crude oil for September delivery was at $124.23 a barrel, down 21 cents, at 11:36 a.m. Singapore time on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Yesterday, oil dropped $3.98, or 3.1 percent, to settle at $124.44 a barrel, the lowest close since June 4. Futures have lost 5 percent this week. Oil prices also fell as the Energy Department report showed that gasoline supplies rose 2.85 million barrels last week. Stockpiles of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, climbed 2.42 million barrels. Brent crude oil for September settlement was at $125.10 a barrel, down 19 cents, on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange at 11:34 a.m. Singapore time. It dropped $4.26, or 3.3 percent, to close at $125.29 a barrel yesterday, the lowest settlement since June 4.

Demand has declined for three straight weeks, the Energy Department report showed. U.S. fuel consumption averaged 20.3 million barrels a day in the past four weeks, down 2.1 percent from a year earlier, the department said. Refineries operated at 87.1 percent of capacity last week, down 2.4 percentage points from the week before, according to the department. It was the lowest utilization rate since the week ended May 9. Refineries were forecast to operate at 89.5 percent of capacity last week, unchanged from the week before, according to the median of analyst estimates in the Bloomberg survey. Crude-oil inventories dropped 1.56 million barrels to 295.3 million. Stockpiles were forecast to decline 675,000 barrels, according to the survey results.

a trader gestures in the crude oil options pit at the New York Mercantile Exchange

Oil has tumbled 16 percent from a record $147.27 a barrel on July 11, as a stronger U.S. dollar limited the appeal of commodities as a hedge against inflation and high prices cut fuel consumption. Prices also fell the past two days as Hurricane Dolly moved away from oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Energy companies evacuated some oil rigs as a precaution. That cut production in the Gulf by 4.7 percent, the U.S. Interior Department said yesterday. Companies that carried out evacuations include BP Plc, Noble Corp., Chevron Corp., Devon Energy Corp., Citgo Petroleum Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Oil and other commodities may drop further and the dollar increase if the Federal Reserve boosts interest rates to curb inflation. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser yesterday said higher mortgage costs and continued declines in house prices pose no bar to raising interest rates. Policy makers must increase borrowing costs before inflation expectations become "unhinged," Plosser said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday.

The dollar traded at 107.74 yen at 11:11 a.m. in Singapore, after rising 0.5 percent yesterday, when it reached 107.97, the highest since June 26. The U.S. currency was at $1.5684 per euro, after rising 0.5 percent yesterday and touching $1.5670, the strongest since July 9.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of AP/Energy Department, Bloomberg News and LA Times

Original Source: Bloomberg

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