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U.S. 30-year mortgage rates post 1st fall since U.S. election - Freddie

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:14
NEW YORK, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Interest rates on U.S. 30-year fixed-rate mortgages posted their first weekly decline since the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 which Donald Trump won, mortgage...

BRIEF-Nokia OZO partners with Youku to create 3D 360 VR content

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:12
* Nokia OZO partners with Youku to create and distribute 3D 360 VR content Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage:

LyondellBasell plans to retain Houston refinery after asset review

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:09
NEW YORK, Jan 5 (Reuters) - LyondellBasell said on Thursday that it would retain its Houston-area refinery following a review of strategic options for the business.

BRIEF-Centrus Energy accounces private exchange offer of 8 pct PIK toggle notes

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:09
* Centrus Energy Corp. announces private exchange offer and solicitation of consents

FBI Relied on Third-Party Intelligence for DNC Hack Info ; Sanders Life-Size Trump Tweet ; Trump’s Intelligence Community Restructure

Who What Why - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:05

PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

WaPo Rewarded for False News on Russian Threat, Deceiving the Public (Trevin)

Articles about Russia spreading “fake news” and attacking the US power grid were both quietly retracted after going massively viral, details The Intercept.

FBI Did Not Examine Hacked DNC Servers (Jimmy)

The FBI reportedly relied upon the third-party security company CrowdStrike for analysis. No US intelligence agency conducted a forensic examination of the servers according to an intelligence official.

Criminal Justice Reform Still Possible? (Dan)

2016 was supposed to be the year of bipartisan criminal justice reform. That is until hard-line law-and-order conservatives pushed back against massive establishment (and some grass roots) support. Despite the setback, Senate Justice Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is considering another push for reform.

Time to Spring Peltier, Says Ex-Prosecutor (Russ)

In a letter to Obama asking for clemency for Native American activist Leonard Peltier, the former US Attorney who prosecuted him says 40 years behind bars is enough. Peltier was convicted of the deaths of two FBI agents in a wild shoot-out at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Sanders Brings Poster-Sized Trump Tweet to Senate Floor (Reader John)

The Senator used the prop to remind the Senate of Trump’s 2015 promise not to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

Trump Planning to Revamp Intelligence Agencies (Jimmy)

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are reportedly in Trump’s plan to downsize and restructure.

The post FBI Relied on Third-Party Intelligence for DNC Hack Info ; Sanders Life-Size Trump Tweet ; Trump’s Intelligence Community Restructure appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

Wal-Mart purchases ShoeBuy for $70 million

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:05

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Thursday that has purchased ShoeBuy, an IAC/InterActive Corp. property, for about $70 million. ShoeBuy, an online apparel and accessories retailer, was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Boston. The site will continue to operate as a standalone and complementary site to Jet.com, the e-commerce site that Wal-Mart purchased for $3.3 billion in an August 2016 deal. ShoeBuy's Chief Executive Mike Sorabella, the company's executives and its 200-plus employees will join the Wal-Mart organization, and the site's suppliers will have the option to expand their reach by selling merchandise on Jet.com. Wal-Mart shares are down 0.5% in Thursday trading, but up 9.2% for the past year. The S&P 500 index is up 12.5% for the last 12 months.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Odebrecht and Peru prosecutors strike initial deal in graft case

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:05
LIMA, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Brazilian engineering conglomerate Odebrecht SA has agreed to pay Peru an unspecified amount of money and provide local prosecutors with details on bribes it has distributed...

S&P places Macy's BBB rating on CreditWatch negative

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:05

Standard & Poor's Global Ratings on Thursday placed ratings on department store chain Macy's Inc. on CreditWatch negative, meaning it could downgrade the credit in the near term. S&P rates Macy's at BBB, or two notches above speculative, or "junk" status. The move comes after Macy's late Wednesday warned on 2016 profit after weaker-than-expected holiday sales. It also announced it was cutting 6,000 jobs. "The extent of any downgrade will incorporate our view of Macy's ability to cope with the weak operating trends in the department store sector that continue to reflect symptoms of secular changes in the retail industry," said S&P. "While many department stores have considerable excess real estate, consumers are increasingly shifting their purchases online, drawn by convenience, selection, and price transparency." Macy's shares were trading down 12%, while the S&P 500 was flat.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Trump and the Flawed Nature of US Democracy: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Truth-Out - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:04

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Noam Chomsky exposes the flawed and dangerous nature of the US political system. He also highlights the political import of Trump's victory for the two dominant parties, both of which have consistently failed the electorate.

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

Trump's presidential victory exposed to the whole world the flawed nature of the US model of democracy. Beginning January 20, both the country and the world will have to face a political leader with copious conflicts of interest who considers his unpredictable and destructive style to be a leadership asset. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, world-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky sheds light on the type of democratic model the US has designed and elaborates on the political import of Trump's victory for the two major parties, as this new political era begins.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, I want to start by asking you to reflect on the following: Trump won the presidential election even though he lost the popular vote. In this context, if "one person, one vote" is a fundamental principle behind every legitimate model of democracy, what type of democracy prevails in the US, and what will it take to undo the anachronism of the Electoral College?

Noam Chomsky: The Electoral College was originally supposed to be a deliberative body drawn from educated and privileged elites. It would not necessarily respond to public opinion, which was not highly regarded by the founders, to put it mildly. "The mass of people ... seldom judge or determine right," as Alexander Hamilton put it during the framing of the Constitution, expressing a common elite view. Furthermore, the infamous 3/5th clause ensured the slave states an extra boost, a very significant issue considering their prominent role in the political and economic institutions. As the party system took shape in the 19th century, the Electoral College became a mirror of the state votes, which can give a result quite different from the popular vote because of the first-past-the-post rule -- as it did once again in this election. Eliminating the Electoral College would be a good idea, but it's virtually impossible as the political system is now constituted. It is only one of many factors that contribute to the regressive character of the [US] political system, which, as Seth Ackerman observes in an interesting article in Jacobin magazine, would not pass muster by European standards.

Ackerman focuses on one severe flaw in the US system: the dominance of organizations that are not genuine political parties with public participation but rather elite-run candidate-selection institutions often described, not unrealistically, as the two factions of the single business party that dominates the political system. They have protected themselves from competition by many devices that bar genuine political parties that grow out of free association of participants, as would be the case in a properly functioning democracy. Beyond that there is the overwhelming role of concentrated private and corporate wealth, not just in the presidential campaigns, as has been well documented, particularly by Thomas Ferguson, but also in Congress.

A recent study by Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen on "How Money Drives US Congressional Elections," reveals a remarkably close correlation between campaign expenditures and electoral outcomes in Congress over decades. And extensive work in academic political science -- particularly by Martin Gilens, Benjamin Page and Larry Bartlett -- reveals that most of the population is effectively unrepresented, in that their attitudes and opinions have little or no effect on decisions of the people they vote for, which are pretty much determined by the very top of the income-wealth scale. In the light of such factors as these, the defects of the Electoral College, while real, are of lesser significance.

To what extent is this presidential election a defining moment for Republicans and Democrats alike?

For the eight years of the Obama presidency, the Republican organization has hardly qualified as a political party. A more accurate description was given by the respected political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute: the party became an "insurgent outlier -- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Its guiding principle was: Whatever Obama tries to do, we have to block it, but without providing some sensible alternative. The goal was to make the country ungovernable, so that the insurgency could take power. Its infantile antics on the Affordable Care Act are a good illustration: endless votes to repeal it in favor of -- nothing. Meanwhile the party has become split between the wealthy and privileged "establishment," devoted to the interests of their class, and the popular base that was mobilized when the establishment commitments to wealth and privilege became so extreme that it would be impossible to garner votes by presenting them accurately. It was therefore necessary to mobilize sectors that had always existed, but not as an organized political force: a strange amalgam of Christian evangelicals -- a huge sector of the American population -- nativists, white supremacists, white working and lower middle class victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation, and others who are fearful and angry, cast aside in the neoliberal economy while they perceive their traditional culture as being under attack. In past primaries, the candidates who rose from the base -- Bachmann, Cain, Santorum and the rest -- were so extreme that they were anathema to the establishment, who were able to use their ample resources to rid themselves of the plague and choose their favored candidate. The difference in 2016 is that they were unable to do it.

Now the Republican Party faces the task of formulating policies other than "No." It must find a way to craft policies that will somehow pacify or marginalize the popular base while serving the real constituency of the establishment. It is from this sector that Trump is picking his close associates and cabinet members: not exactly coal miners, iron and steel workers, small business owners, or representatives of the concerns and demands of much of his voting base.

Democrats have to face the fact that for 40 years they have pretty much abandoned whatever commitment they had to working people. It's quite shocking that Democrats have drifted so far from their modern New Deal origins that some workers are now voting for their class enemy, not for the party of FDR. A return to some form of social democracy should not be impossible, as indicated by the remarkable success of the Sanders campaign, which departed radically from the norm of elections effectively bought by wealth and corporate power. It is important to bear in mind that his "political revolution," while quite appropriate for the times, would not have much surprised Dwight Eisenhower, another indication of the shift to the right during the neoliberal years.

If the Democratic Party is going to be a constructive force, it will have to develop and commit itself credibly to programs that address the valid concerns of the kind of people who voted for Obama, attracted by his message of "hope and change," and when disillusioned by the disappearance of hope and the lack of change switched to the con man who declared that he will bring back what they have lost. It will be necessary to face honestly the malaise of much of the country, including people like those in the Louisiana Bayou whom Arlie Hochschild studied with such sensitivity and insight, and surely including the former working class constituency of the Democrats. The malaise is revealed in many ways, not least by the astonishing fact that mortality has increased in the country, something unknown in modern industrial democracies apart from catastrophic events. That's particularly true among middle-aged whites, mainly traceable to what are sometimes called "diseases of despair" (opioids, alcohol, suicide, etc.). A statistical analysis reported by the Economist found that these health metrics correlate with a remarkable 43 percent of the Republican Party's gains over the Democrats in the 2016 election, and remain significant and predictive even when controlling for race, education, age, gender, income, marital status, immigration and employment. These are all signs of severe collapse of much of the society, particularly in rural and working class areas. Furthermore, such initiatives have to be undertaken alongside of firm dedication to the rights and needs of those sectors of the population that have historically been denied rights and repressed, often in harsh and brutal ways.

No small task, but not beyond reach, if not by the Democrats, then by some political party replacing them, drawing from popular movements -- and through the constant activism of these movements, quite apart from electoral politics.

Much of the rest of the world -- with the notable exception of some of Europe's extreme nationalist and anti-immigrant political leaders -- also seems to be rather anxious about Trump's aims and intents. Isn't that so?

Trump's victory was met in Europe with shock and disbelief. The general reaction was captured quite accurately, for instance, on the front cover of Der Spiegel [a major German weekly]. It depicted a caricature of Trump presented as a meteor hurtling toward Earth, mouth open, ready to swallow it up. And the lead headline read "Das Ende Der Welt!" ("The End of the World"). And in small letters below, "as we have known it." To be sure, there might be some truth to that concern, even if not exactly in the manner in which the artist and the authors who echoed that conception had in mind.

Yemeni charity worker murdered, sparking fears of targeted campaign against women

MiddleEasteye - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:03
Language Undefined

Amat al-Aleem al-Asbahi, who campaigned for female literacy, was shot dead on a Taiz street, as the civil war rages on

US STOCKS-Wall St flat as banks, discretionary stocks fall, tech rises

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:00
* 153,000 jobs added in private sector vs est. 170,000 in Dec

Riots in Algeria: Import traders blamed

MiddleEasteye - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:59
Language Undefined

Bejaia, a coastal city in eastern Algeria, has seen clashes between youths and the police amidst the backdrop of strikes by traders

Turkey attacked: Officer and guard killed in car bomb blast in Izmir

MiddleEasteye - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:59
Language Undefined

Two attackers, one armed with eight hand grenades, are shot dead as police safely detonate second car bomb

Sears' comparable sales slump 12-13 pct in holiday shopping season

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:56
Jan 5 (Reuters) - Struggling retailer Sears Holdings Corp said on Thursday its comparable sales for November and December fell by 12-13 percent, the latest department store operator to report...

Mexican cenbank sells dollars in Mexico, New York to prop peso

Reuters Us Markets - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:55
MEXICO CITY, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Mexico's central bank said on Thursday that it has conducted dollar sales via domestic banks as well as in New York in a bid to boost the battered peso, which hit a...

CORRECTION: Constellation Brands reports improved Q3 earnings, as beer sales increase 16%

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:53

Shares of Constellation Brands Inc. rose a little more than 1% after the beer, wine and spirits company reported improved third quarter revenue and profit. Net income for the quarter was $406 million, or $1.98 per share, which is up 50% compared with the year earlier period. Adjusted earnings per share for the third quarter were $1.96, above the $1.72 FactSet consensus. Sales for the quarter hit $1.8 billion, up 10% compared with a year ago and in line with FactSet's $1.8 billion consensus. The company said beer sales increased 16%, while sales of wine and spirits rose 5%. Constellation Brands increased its fiscal 2017 outlook on earnings per share, projecting a lower tax rate. The company expects earnings in the range of $6.55 per share to $6.65. The FactSet consensus on 2017 per-share earnings is $6.45 Shares of Constellation Brands are up 10% in the trailing 12 months, while the S&P 500 Index is up more than 12%.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Michigan Mine Gains Two State Permits, Tribe Vows to Continue Fight.

Truth-Out - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:51

This story is part of "Sacred Water," EHN's ongoing investigation into Native American struggles -- and successes -- to protect culturally significant water sources on and off the reservation.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality this week approved a general mining permit and an air use permit for the Back Forty mine in the western Upper Peninsula despite tribal opposition over its location on sacred ground.

The open pit gold, zinc and copper mine would be near tribal burial sites and centuries old raised garden beds along the Menominee River, the center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin's creation story.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but it makes what we're trying to do much harder," said Menominee Guy Reiter, who was reached while en route to the Menominee River to demonstrate and hold ceremony to raise awareness about the recent permits.

Reiter, other Menominee members and tribal allies have spent the past year trying to stop the mine from polluting their culture, and the ancestral land and water that birthed it. The tribe has cited 24 sites of historical and cultural relevance within the mine's potential footprint.

Reiter, who has emerged as the Menominee's leading voice in the fight, has been organizing water walks, ceremonies and peaceful protests on and near the Menominee River. Since the Menominee Reservation is about 80 miles from the mine many members visited the sacred ground along the river for the first time in their lives this year in gathering to protest the mine.

The Back Forty fight has taken place largely out of the national spotlight on Native American sovereignty fights over development and natural resource management this year. In the Dakota Access pipeline fight the Standing Rock Sioux were recently handed a victory when President Obama denied a permit on a portion of pipeline that would have passed right by their reservation in North Dakota. However, the company in charge of construction, Energy Transfer Partners, has not backed down and opponents of the pipeline fear that President-elect Donald Trump may reverse the decision. (Editor's note: Changes made 1/3/17 to reflect the status of the denied permit)

Also this week President Obama protected more than a million acres of public lands in southeastern Utah largely due to urging from five tribes with spiritual ties to the area, which will be known as Bears Ears National Monument.

Reiter said that the tribe provided comments to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality specific to the cultural concerns given the mine's location but "we've received nothing," he said. "We're still waiting."

There are also environmental concerns: the Menominee is the biggest river system in the Upper Peninsula, forms the Michigan-Wisconsin border and is a crucial waterway for many fish species, including the threatened lake sturgeon. An estimated half of Lake Michigan lake sturgeon come from the Menominee River system.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but it makes what we're trying to do much harder."-Guy Reiter, Menominee Joe Maki, head of the mining division of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, acknowledged the tribe's concerns but said all comments received about the mine received careful consideration. 

Menominee chairwoman, Joan Delabreau, said the decision not only impacts the tribe but everyone who lives within the Great Lakes basin. "The approved desecration of our ancestors' burial sites is absolutely disgraceful. What's more egregious is the fact that the State of Michigan is knowingly permitting a foreign-company the right to destroy the water and environmental quality," she said in a statement.

Back Forty has been in the works for more than a decade. The mine would cover about 83 acres near the headwaters of the Menominee River. The company seeking the mine permit, Canada-based Aquila Resources Inc., estimates the mine will yield 532,000 ounces of gold, 721 million pounds of zinc, 74 millions pounds of copper, 4.6 million ounces of silver and 21 million pounds of lead -- metals used in many modern-day conveniences.

The mine doesn't yet have full approval. Maki said that there are still two necessary permits before any mining begins: the National Pollution Elimination System (NPDES) permit and a wetlands permits. The NPDES permit goes through the US Environmental Protection Agency and it's unclear when it will go through, Maki said.

The wetlands permits goes through the state and Aquila pulled out their original application months ago, Maki said. "I think they might re-submit that next month," he added.

In the meantime the Menominee aren't backing down.

"The tribe will continue to fight for the protection of our ancestors and the water and environmental quality," Delabreau said.

Massachusetts sheriff offers prison inmates to build Trump's wall

Top Reuters News - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:49
BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts county sheriff has proposed sending prison inmates from around the United States to build the proposed wall along the Mexican border that is one of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's most prominent campaign promises.

Massachusetts sheriff offers prison inmates to build Trump's wall

Reuters US Politics - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:49
BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts county sheriff has proposed sending prison inmates from around the United States to build the proposed wall along the Mexican border that is one of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's most prominent campaign promises.

Sears to close 150 stores as it tries to improve performance

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 09:46

Sears Holdings Corp. said Thursday that it will shutter an additional 150 stores in an effort to increase financial flexibility and improve operating performance. Shares are up 5.9% in early trading. Sears announced earlier in premarket that it will sell its Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. , a deal that has a cumulative value of $775 million, including use of the Craftsman license royalty-free for 15 years. Sears will generate up to $1 billion in liquidity through a $500 million loan, secured by real estate properties valued at more than $800 million and a previously announced standby letter of credit facility of up to $500 million, the company said. Sears will close 109 Kmart stores and 41 Sears stores. While these locations generated $1.2 billion in sales over the past year, they had an adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of about $60 million for that period. Same-store sales at both Sears and Kmart for the first two months of the fourth quarter so far have declined in the range of 12% and 13%. Sears shares are down 45.5% for the last year while the S&P 500 index are up 12.6% for the same period.

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