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April 18, 2014

Defend ‘Obamacare’ unabashedly, some Democrats say

Filed under: economics, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:36 am

WASHINGTON • With enrollments higher than expected, and costs lower, some Democrats say it’s time to stop hiding from the president’s health care overhaul, even in this year’s toughest Senate elections.

Republicans practically dare Democrats to embrace “Obamacare,” the GOP’s favorite target in most congressional campaigns. Yet pro-Democratic activists in Alaska are doing just that, and a number of strategists elsewhere hope it will spread.

President Barack Obama recently announced that first-year sign-ups for subsidized private health insurance topped 7 million, exceeding expectations. And the Congressional Budget Office — the government’s fiscal scorekeeper — said it expects only a minimal increase in customers’ costs for 2015. Over the next decade, the CBO said the new law will cost taxpayers $100 billion less than previously estimated.

Republicans already were pushing their luck by vowing to “repeal and replace” the health care law without having a viable replacement in mind, said Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant and blogger in North Carolina. Now, he said, Democrats have even more reasons to rise from their defensive crouch on this topic.

“Democrats need to start making the case for Obamacare,” Mills said. “They all voted for it, they all own it, so they can’t get away from it. So they’d better start defending it.”

Even some professionals who have criticized the health care law say the political climate has changed.

“I think Democrats have the ability to steal the health care issue back from Republicans,” health care industry consultant said Bob Laszewski said. “The Democratic Party can become the party of fixing Obamacare.”

In truth, some Democratic lawmakers often talk of “fixing” the 2010 health care law arrest records. But it’s usually in response to critics or in a manner meant to show their willingness to challenge Obama.

For instance, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who faces a tough re-election bid, used her first TV ad of the campaign to highlight her demand that Obama let people keep insurance policies they like.

But Landrieu and other hard-pressed Democrats have not gone as far as a pro-Democratic group in Alaska that is unabashedly highlighting the health law’s strongest points.

The independent group Put Alaska First is airing a TV ad that praises Democratic Sen. Mark Begich for helping people obtain insurance even if they have “pre-existing conditions,” such as cancer. The ad doesn’t mention Obama or his health care law by name, but it focuses on one of the law’s most popular features.

Other Democrats should consider such tactics, political consultant David DiMartino said.

“There is still time to tell the story of Obamacare to voters,” he said. Democratic candidates don’t want to be defined entirely by the health law, he said, “but now they can point to its successes to fend off the inevitable distortions.”

GOP strategists don’t agree. The recent upbeat reports might help Democrats temporarily, but “the negative opinion of Americans toward Obamacare is baked in,” Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said. “If Obamacare was truly trending positively,” he said, “Sebelius would have stayed, and Democrats in tough races would be picking a fight on Obamacare, instead of mostly hiding from it.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary closely associated with the health care law, is stepping down. Democrats say it’s a sign that the biggest problems are past, but Senate Republicans vow to use her successor’s confirmation hearings as another forum for criticizing the law.

Democrats hardest hit by anti-Obamacare ads — including Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — continue to defend the health law when asked, but they generally focus on other topics, campaign aides say.

Polls don’t suggest public sentiment is shifting toward Democrats, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. But with at least 7.5 million people enrolled despite last fall’s disastrous rollout of insurance markets, Blendon said, Democrats have some strong new material to use.

“Each of the Democratic candidates is going to have to make a calculation on whether or not they can motivate Democrats,” Blendon said. “For Democrats to get an advantage out of the law, they have to convince people they have something to lose if the Senate changes hands.”

Republicans need to gain six seats to control the 100-member Senate.

New political problems might arise for the health care law before the Nov. 4 election. For instance, the individual requirement to carry health insurance remains generally unpopular, and now penalties may apply to millions of people who remain uninsured.

So far, Republicans have had an edge in public opinion, particularly when those with strong sentiments about the law are considered. A recent AP-GfK poll found that strong opponents outnumber strong supporters, 31 percent to 13 percent. And motivated voters often make the difference in low-turnout nonpresidential elections criminal search. But the poll also found that most Americans expect the health law to be changed, not repealed.

That puts Republicans in a tricky situation: GOP primary voters demand repeal, but general election voters in November are looking for fixes.

“It’s not a cheap and easy political target anymore,” Laszewski said. “Republicans are going to have to tell us what they would do different.”

Democrats deride GOP proposals to “replace” the 2010 health care law, saying they collapse under close scrutiny. Since they generally contemplate a smaller federal government role, many of the GOP ideas are likely to leave more people uninsured. Some approaches do not completely prohibit insurers from turning away people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who advises many top Republicans, said the emerging GOP plans aren’t tied to the ups and downs of Obama’s law but look ahead to the 2016 presidential election, when the party will need alternatives.

Ultimately, he said, “there can’t be a Republican ‘replace.’ … There needs to be a bipartisan reform.” That doesn’t seem likely, but Holtz-Eakin said it was the only kind of change that will prove durable.

Democrats can cheer the latest statistics, “but they are not out of the woods yet,” he said. “They have waived and deferred a million things they knew were unpopular, and those are still out there.”

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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April 17, 2014

BNSF outlines fertilizer shipment plan to feds

Filed under: economics, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:40 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — BNSF Railway Co. will add trains in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana solely for transporting fertilizer for spring crop planting, the railroad has told a federal oversight board.

“Simply put, we are working to deliver high volumes of fertilizer into the marketplace as quickly as we can,” the railroad said in a mandated response to the Surface Transportation Board that was released Thursday.

The federal board this week ordered BNSF and Canadian Pacific Railway to report their plans by Friday to ensure delivery of fertilizer shipments this spring.

BNSF beat the deadline. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific had not filed a response by midday Thursday.

The federal board ordered the railroads to submit the plans in response to a hearing it held last week on recent service problems in the nation’s rail network. Farmers and representatives of agriculture producers told the board that delays in fertilizer delivery could disrupt planting.

The board also ordered the railroads to provide weekly status reports on fertilizer delivery for the next six weeks, beginning April 25.

Increased crude oil and freight shipments have largely been blamed for causing the rail delays. BNSF, which is the biggest shipper in the Upper Midwest, has also said that rail service has been backlogged because of bad winter weather quick guaranteed personal loans.

BNSF is based in Fort Worth, Texas, but is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., based in Omaha, Neb.

In its reply, BNSF said it expects to move 52 fertilizer-dedicated trainloads over the next six weeks. The railroad said each train would pull 65 to 85 cars.

“This trainload goal is built on our forecasting discussions with our trainload customers,” BNSF said in its response.

The railroad said 21 trainloads are destined for South Dakota, 10 for North Dakota, six for Minnesota and two for Montana.

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union in Washington, D.C., said rail service disruptions have hit those states hardest.

Johnson, a former North Dakota agriculture commissioner, said adequate fertilizer supplies are crucial for U.S. crop production.

“The demand for fertilizer is great, and it cannot be late by a week or two,” Johnson said. “There will be enormous logistical and economic impacts if fertilizer is not available.”

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April 16, 2014

The Syrian

Filed under: money, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:32 am

ISTANBUL—They beg on the street corners with their Syrian passports open so passersby don’t confuse them with Roma.

Others crowd the congested, winding streets of Istanbul in their luxury cars with Syrian license plates.

Outside of the 220,000 refugees from Syria living in temporary camps lining the southern border, no one knows exactly how many displaced Syrians are living inside Turkey’s major cities, but estimates place the number at between 500,000 and 1 million people.

Syrian refugee family in Turkey ‘trying to leave this miserable life’

They can be found all over Istanbul, a sprawling metropolis of more than 14 million.

Syrian children dodge the hectic traffic, asking drivers stopped at lights for money. One afternoon, as we drove down Kennedy Ave., a main roadway that loops around southern Istanbul on the banks of the Sea of Marmara, a little girl ran through the stopped cars, tapping windows to get the passengers’ attention. When my Turkish translator stopped the car and rolled down the window, she spoke to us in quick Arabic, begging.

Fathers and sons approach diners at one of Istanbul’s many outdoor cafes, pleading for food. Some families spend their days at Taksim Square, the scene of deadly riots nearly a year ago that began over the attempted gentrification of nearby Gezi Park.

“In Istanbul, from my personal experience, this street, six months ago or so there were no Syrians begging,” says the International Crisis Group’s Didem Collinsworth as she points out the window down to Galata Towers. “Now there are so many Syrians sitting on the street . . . The situation is deteriorating.

“Turkey bankrolls this humanitarian effort. Yes, Turkey is building camps but that has kind of slowed down because they are expensive to build, they fill up quickly and they are expensive to maintain and run,” Collinsworth says from her office near the tower, constructed by the Genoese in the 14th century.

“In the meantime, the inflow has not stopped.”

In February, as the United Nations reported the crisis was escalating, at least 500 Syrians fled to Turkey every day; some days, between 1,000 and 2,000 moved through the crossing points at Turkey’s southern border. In a bleak milestone, the UN reported earlier this month that Lebanon has now taken in 1 million Syrians since the conflict began in 2011. The agency reports there are now 2.5 million Syrians registered as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.

By the end of this year, the Turkish government expects the number of Syrians within Turkey to balloon to 1.5 million.

The Republic of Turkey — the biggest, most stable state bordering Syria — has shouldered the burden of caring for the displaced mostly alone. It has spent close to $3 billion but has only received $183 million from the international community, says Collinsworth cash advance loan no fax.

Few countries grant Syrians asylum. In fact, 58,450 Syrian asylum applications were received by the EU by the end of August 2013, according to Eurostat and UN data. Of that number, Germany took in 19,360, followed by Sweden at 15,480. Canada has only accepted 512 from when the conflict began to 2012, the data shows.

There are no precise numbers on how many are in Istanbul because so many are illegal. They flee Syria so hurriedly that many leave without their passports. Yet, valid passports are needed to apply for work permits and to obtain other benefits.

Back home, they were engineers, tailors, teachers, doctors and farmers. In Istanbul, most live in crowded apartments and take jobs no one else would touch at low wages. Legal papers are needed to obtain a Turkish work permit.

Redwan Ahmd is one of the displaced. The 23-year-old university educated engineer left his world behind and fled Aleppo seven months ago. He works in a caf

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April 14, 2014

Appeal granted in Lev Tahor case, children do not have to go to Quebec

Filed under: legal, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:32 pm

A Superior Court judge has ruled 14 Lev Tahor children subject to a Quebec court order no longer have to return to that province, where they would be placed in foster care.

Judge Lynda Templeton ruled Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Fuerth erred in his original Feb. 3, 2014 decision that upheld the Quebec order. Her ruling means the children may stay in Ontario, but she directed the Ontario Court of Justice to address the question of what will happen with the seven children who are currently in foster care.

They are there because of an impromptu flight that saw some of the 14 children removed from the country ahead of the first appeal hearing. Eight of those children were apprehended and seven were placed in foster care with Jewish families in Toronto.

The Ontario Court of Justice is the court with the jurisdiction to decide whether they should remain in foster care. The court has already ordered eight hours of weekly visits by the parents of the children and directed Chatham-Kent Children’s Services to pay a portion of the travel costs.

Quebec child protection authorities have documented allegations of abuse, underage marriage and a substandard education regime within Lev Tahor. Leaders of the ultraorthodox Jewish sect have denied all allegations of abuse and say they are the victims of a smear campaign targeting the group for its religious beliefs.

The group originally fled Quebec ahead of a November ruling for the removal of 14 children, which kicked off a long legal saga that sought to determine whether the Quebec order could be enforced in Ontario. Fuerth ruled that it could, but allowed a stay of 30 days on his decision to permit time for the families to appeal.

On the day that appeal was scheduled to be heard, it was found that some of the children had fled the country. Templeton held a secret hearing and issued an emergency order for the apprehension of 14 children. Eight of the children were found, while six of the children subject to the original order remain in Guatemala with their parents.

A few families not subject to any court orders that they knew of attempted to get passports for their Canadian-born children to leave the country, but found that Quebec had issued apprehension orders for their children as well.

Guidy Mamann, lawyer for the group, says the orders apply to all children in the sect. It’s unclear if, or when, they will be brought before an Ontario court.

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April 13, 2014

Foster families have been

Filed under: economics, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:48 am

MONTREAL—They speak Yiddish, follow the Jewish law to the letter and they’ve been on standby for months, waiting to welcome into their homes the children of Lev Tahor, the ultra-orthodox sect at the centre of a two-province child abuse probe.

Four months after child-welfare authorities in Quebec first went to court to have 14 children from two families taken into protective custody, the hassidic community of Montreal has been waiting to play its part.

Foster families able to meet some of the exacting needs of the children — namely, speaking Yiddish and keeping a high degree of religious observance — have been located. Now they are waiting for the ruling of an Ontario court judge Monday that could send the children along Highway 401 from Chatham-Kent to the hassidic enclave of Outremont in central Montreal.

“It was last week that they were expecting the children would be returned to Quebec, and so they have made contingency plans,” said David Ouellette, associate director of public affairs with Montreal’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “As far as the foster families are concerned in Quebec, they’ve been ready for months.”

Four months, to be exact. It was last November that Quebec’s director of youth protection first went to court seeking an order that the 14 children be taken into temporary foster care for physical and psychological examinations. Social workers testified that the children were living in filth, lacked access to doctors and dentists, received a religious education that didn’t come close to meeting the provincial curriculum and were subject to a regime of psychological abuse and underage marriages.

A few days before that court order was granted, the entire Lev Tahor community fled to Ontario. They hoped to find escape from the snooping social workers and freedom to follow their strict interpretation of the Torah. Instead, they have been subject to the scrutiny of Ontario social workers, a police raid and an immigration probe that resulted in the detention and deportation of several adult members of the group.

Mixed in with those Ontario tribulations was the failed exodus of the children and their parents, who took a run for Guatemala last month. That incident resulted in six children being forcibly returned to Canada when they landed at the Trinidad airport; one infant child being apprehended with his 17-year-old mother at the Edmonton airport; and another six who made it to the Central American country and are currently fighting attempts to have them brought back.

The seven children who did not escape the long arm of Canadian law are currently with Ontario foster families fast payday loans.

Stephen Doig, executive director of Chatham-Kent Children’s Services said there are three possible outcomes of Monday’s court decision: the children could be returned to their families; the children could remain with foster families in Chatham-Kent; or the children could be returned to Quebec.

He said that the agency has been sensitive to religious considerations in their dealings with the children and has had help from nearby social service agencies that have Yiddish or Hebrew-speaking staff members that can act as translators.

“Some of the children and many of the adults in Lev Tahor speak or understand some English as well,” Doig said.

But adding to the difficulty of handling kids from a community like Lev Tahor — one that frowns on speaking any language but Yiddish, whose interpretation of kosher means extreme dietary restrictions and whose contact with the outside world is said to be next to nil — is what the children are said to have endured since last November. Put it all together and long-term care for the children may require a more intensive effort that only an ultra-orthodox Jewish clan can provide.

Eluzor Moscowicz, who has been caring for five Lev Tahor children for more than a year, said that when the children arrived in his home, they were unclean and wore too-small shoes that had left them with a stunted gait when they walked.

He told the Canadian Jewish News in February that they were suspicious and uncertain about such things as using scented soap or bathing. He said the children also had a habit of informing on one another, which coincides with testimony by a former Lev Tahor member that they were encouraged to report bad habits or breaches of the community’s strict rules to the group’s leadership.

The seven children affected by Monday’s court ruling may be in better physical shape, but the ordeal they have gone through since last November will have left psychological marks all the same, Ouellette suggested.

“The whole idea of having hassidic foster families is to ease the trauma that these kids are going to go through,” he said.

And even when the final decision is handed down, there could still be one additional snag that draws out the fate of the Lev Tahor children just a little bit longer. Monday will be marked by a flurry of preparation for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which would prevent observant Jews from travelling or working on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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December 4, 2012

Sanergy toilets turn poop into profit

Filed under: news, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:36 am

In China’s Hunan Province, using the bathroom often means squatting over a dirty hole in the ground. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world lack adequate sanitation — more than a third of the global population — and 2 million die each year of diarrheal disease.

To David Auerbach, that is both a human-rights crisis and an entrepreneurial gold mine. He and his business partners hatched a plan for profiting on both ends of a messy problem: Sell pay-per-use toilets to local entrepreneurs, then collect the waste and sell that too, after converting it into fertilizer.

Auerbach spent several years in China teaching English after college, then moved on to stints at the Clinton Foundation and Endeavor, a non-profit that supports entrepreneurs in emerging markets. At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he teamed up with fellow grad students Ani Vallabhaneni and Lindsay Stradley. Vallabhaneni had worked with a chain of dialysis clinics for low-income patients in the Philippines, and Stradley was a veteran of Teach for America and Google.

On a trip to Kenya, the trio saw locals paying about 5 cents to use an unlined pit latrine. Even more common were “flying toilets” — plastic bags used as a toilet, tied off and then thrown outside. The ground is often covered in them.

When they returned, the three cofounders — all 31 now — wrote the business plan for Sanergy and its brand of Fresh Life toilets. Their vision won the 2011 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and landed the $100,000 Diamond Prize at the 2011 MassChallenge Startup Competition and Accelerator.

A Fresh Life toilet is 3′ x 5′ and made of prefabricated concrete. The floor has a squat plate and two holes, one for urine and one for solid waste, that lead down to removable waste cartridges. The toilets are sold at cost for $500, which includes installation, painting and daily waste collection. Owners are considered franchisees and have to supply toilet paper, soap and a hand-washing stand.

Right now, Stradley says, there are 150 toilets operating in Nairobi’s crammed Mukuru slum, and the company is selling another five to 10 toilets per week. About a third of Fresh Life operators have already purchased an additional unit.

Bob Orengo, a franchisee in Mukuru, sees about 47 customers a day. At five Kenyan shillings a pop, that’s about U.S. $19 a week.

“It’s a good way to start your own business and be self-employed,” he told CNNMoney through an interpreter.

Another Fresh Life operator in Mukuru, Esther Muniyiva, has about 96 customers a day and makes around $40 a week. The big benefit, she says, is that the area around the toilet is clean: “Some people think the toilet is so clean that they could eat in there too.”

Joshua Boger, the former CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, was one of Sanergy’s judges in the MassChallenge competition. He says one of the company’s biggest challenges now is how fast to scale up.

“You don’t build a fertilizer plant for a million people if you only have 100 customers, so they have to go slow — but not too slow,” he says.

Sanergy collects about 1.5 tons of waste each day and sold its first batch of fertilizer in July — two tons at market price, which generally runs $300 to $600 a metric ton, Stradley says. That’s about twice the global price because, thanks to a local fertilizer shortage. It’s badly needed by Kenya’s huge horticulture industry, one of the largest flower exporters to Europe.

It takes Sanergy four to six months to change raw human waste into fertilizer. The process could be sped up with an investment in infrastructure, and Stradley says the company plans to build a high-tech waste management facility within the next year.

The same waste can be used for both fertilizer and biogas, but the company isn’t operating at a scale yet where it makes sense to generate electricity to sell back to the grid, Stradley says: “We need about a thousand toilets to have enough waste to do that.”

If Sanergy’s plans pan out, that won’t be a problem. Within five years, the company’s founders want to provide toilets to more than half a million Africans, generating 11,000 tons of fertilizer annually and 7.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Their aim is to be profitable within 18 months and to raise an equity investment round of $2 million in early 2013. But investors might question whether the model is sustainable, says Jenny Aker, an assistant professor of development economics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University whose research focuses on West Africa.

“If sanitation services aren’t commonly used or culturally appropriate, would the community be willing to pay for it?” she asks. If Sanergy expands into rural areas, the impact will probably be much lower than in urban zones , simply because there are fewer potential customers, says Aker.

And there’s the issue of using human waste as fertilizer. It’s fine if it’s just used in the flower industry. “What would people think about using human manure as part of growing their food?” Aker asks. “That’s something to consider long-term.”

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November 29, 2012

BP banned from federal contracts

Filed under: online ads, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:56 am

The U.S. government temporarily banned oil giant BP from bidding on any new federal contracts as a result of its recent criminal pleas stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The move prevents ) from getting new federal government “contracts, grants or other covered transactions,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which was charged with issuing the ban.

Among BP’s government contracts are hundreds of leases it has signed to drill for oil or gas in the United States and agreements worth billions of dollars to supply the government with fuel. Wednesday’s move does not impact existing agreements.

“EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout,” the EPA said in a statement. “Suspensions are a standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case.”

The ban will remain in effect “until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets federal business standards,” the agency said.

BP said it is already working with the EPA to prove it is meeting standards, and said that this temporary suspension should be lifted “soon no fax cash advance.”

Shares in BP fell earlier in the day, but recouped most of their losses by noon.

Earlier this month, BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of misconduct or neglect of ship officers, a felony count for obstruction of Congress, a misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act and a misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty in relation to the 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drill rig that killed 11 people.

The explosion and subsequent oil spill poured millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and led to what EPA called “the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.”

BP also agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines as part of the settlement earlier this month. The company said it has now spent over $40 billion on spill related costs.

In addition to charging BP as a company, the federal government also brought criminal charges against two high ranking BP employees involved with the drilling, who now face jail time if convicted.

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November 27, 2012

Cyber Monday starts early this year

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 am

Post-Thanksgiving online discounts were once relegated to Cyber Monday — but these days, websites are launching deals even before Black Friday. And the resulting shopping frenzy is expected to set records.

IBM Benchmark reported total online sales for Black Friday were up nearly 21% from last year. On Thanksgiving, sales rose more than 17% compared to 2011. Black Friday was the stronger of the two days, eclipsing Thanksgiving by 4:10 p.m. ET.

And a long list of retailers — including , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500) and ) — unveiled “pre-Black Friday deals” even before Thanksgiving. , Fortune 500) posted its one-day online shopping discounts on Black Friday, as did beauty brand MAC Cosmetics.

“We’ve absolutely seen this whole weekend turn into one big promotional event,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. “Black Friday deals are no longer just for the [brick-and-mortar] store, and Cyber Monday deals are no longer just for Monday.”

Cyber Monday’s original appeal, as the first weekday after Thanksgiving, was access to quick Internet speeds while at work. But now broadband at home is ubiquitous, and consumers can also shop on a slew of mobile devices.

And so retailers’ online deals stretch well ahead of Cyber Monday — in some cases, nearly a full week before.

“Retailers are trying to draw consumers in earlier, and one way to do that is to stagger the deals: Pre-Thanksgiving, some on Thanksgiving Day, another set over the weekend, and finally the big bang to close it out on Cyber Monday,” Henderson said.

Mobile devices have become increasingly important during that week before Cyber Monday creditreport. The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase on Black Friday this year increased by nearly two-thirds from 2011, IBM data show.

Apple’s iPad made up nearly 10% of online shopping traffic on Black Friday this year, according to IBM, while the iPhone brought in almost 9% and Android devices comprised 5.5%.

And IBM said shoppers are taking advantage of the technology to find better deals. Despite spending more overall, the average online order fell 4.7% to $181.22, and the number of items in each order decreased 12% to 5.6.

Retailers are taking note. Companies like , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) developed special Black Friday mobile apps featuring exclusive deals and store maps.

Still, despite the expanded schedule, Cyber Monday itself remains an important part of the holiday shopping season.

Andrew Lipsman, an industry analyst at data tracking firm ComScore, said he expects sales for the one-day Cyber Monday shopping event to be around $1.5 billion this year. That’s up from his calculations of $1.3 billion in 2011.

It will be a few weeks before full details on Thanksgiving week’s sales are made clear, but last year both Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke records. Total spending over the four-day weekend after Thanksgiving 2011 reached a record $52.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday 2012 was shaping up to be robust, with shoppers turning out even on Thanksgiving Day at stores including Toys R Us and , Fortune 500).

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November 19, 2012

Greenspan: Recession ’small price to pay’ to fix debt

Filed under: news, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:04 am

Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said Friday that a mild recession would be a “small price to pay” for getting the nation’s debt problems under control.

In an interview with CNN’s Ali Velshi, Greenspan said cutting spending on “so-called social benefits” would hurt the economy, but argued that it would cause less damage than raising taxes.

“I think if we have to have a moderate recession to solve this huge fiscal problem that’s in front of us — I think that’s a very small price to pay,” he said. “We’re not going to get out of this thing without pain.”

Greenspan said he was not referring specifically to the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that are set to go into effect January 1, known as the fiscal cliff, but to the “broad crisis with respect to our debt.”

The “inexorable rise” in government spending on social benefits, which occurred under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has corresponded with a decline in household savings, said Greenspan.

The decline in savings has undermined the economy by removing the “root source” of funding for capital expenditures and therefore productivity, he continued. As the economy has slowed, the government has been forced to borrow “foreign savings” to pay for social benefits at home.

“This is obviously an unsustainable situation that we have got to come to grips with sooner rather than later,” he said.

Greenspan acknowledged that cutting spending on benefits would be painful and damage the economy in the short run, but he said there is no other alternative and warned that investors are losing patience.

“I don’t see any way out of this without the brute changes that need to be made, and they are hurtful,” he said. “But if we don’t do it the market is going to do it for us.”

While Greenspan said he opposes increasing taxes, he does support allowing Bush-era tax breaks to expire in exchange for a reduction in government spending.

“If you have to allow a rise in taxes to cut a deal on a major benefit cut, that’s a good deal for me,” said Greenspan.

President Obama is meeting with top congressional leaders Friday to begin the process of negotiating a solution to the fiscal cliff.

The Wall Street Journal said the Obama administration is considering a plan to replace massive spending cuts with a combination of smaller, targeted cuts and tax increases. By postponing the so-called sequester, lawmakers could put off a number of large deficit-reduction decisions until mid-2013.

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November 13, 2012

U.S. to become biggest oil producer and energy independent

Filed under: finance, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:32 pm

The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer before 2020, and will be energy independent 10 years later, according to a new forecast by the International Energy Agency.

The recent resurgence in oil and gas production, and efforts to make the transport sector more efficient, are radically reshaping the nation’s energy market, reported Paris-based IEA in its World Energy Outlook.

North America would become a net exporter of oil around 2030, the global organization said Monday.

“The United States, which currently imports around 20% of its total energy needs, becomes all but self sufficient in net terms — a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy importing countries,” the IEA stated.

The U.S. is experiencing an oil boom, in large part thanks to high world prices and new technologies, including hydraulic fracking, that have made the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock commercially viable.

From 2008 to 2011, U.S. crude oil production jumped 14%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas production is up by about 10% over the same period.

According to the IEA, U.S. natural gas prices will rise to $5.5 per million British thermal units (MBtu) in 2020, from around $3.5 per MBtu this year, driven by rising domestic demand rather than a forecast increase in exports to Asia and other markets.

“In our projections, 93% of the natural gas produced in the United States remains available to meet domestic demand,” it said. “Exports on the scale that we project would not play a large role in domestic price setting.”

North America’s new role in the world energy markets will accelerate a change in the direction of international oil trade toward Asia, and underscore the importance of securing supply routes from the Middle East to China and India.

The IEA said it expects global energy demand to increase by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and the Middle East accounting for 60% of the growth, and more than outweighing reduced demand in developed economies.

That will push world average oil import prices up to $125 per barrel (in 2011 dollars) by 2035, from around $100 per barrel at present, but they could be much higher if Iraq fails to deliver on its production potential.

Iraq is set to become the second largest oil exporter by the 2030s, as it expands output to take advantage of demand from fast growing Asian economies.

New fuel economy standards in the U.S. and efforts by China, Japan and the European Union to reduce demand would help to make up for a disappointing decade for global energy efficiency.

“But even with these and other new policies in place, a significant share of the potential to improve energy efficiency — four-fifths of the potential in the buildings sector and more than half in industry — still remains untapped,” the IEA stated.

Policymakers are still missing out on potential benefits for energy security, economic growth and the environment.

Growth in demand over the years to 2035 would be halved and oil demand would peak just before 2020, if governments took action to remove barriers preventing the implementation of energy efficiency measures that are already economically viable, the global organization said.

Source

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