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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Drop for Fifth Month

Source: Bloomberg

The number of contracts Americans signed to buy previously-owned homes unexpectedly fell in October for a fifth consecutive month amid higher borrowing costs that are denting the real-estate recovery.

Higher mortgage rates and price increases driven by a tighter supply of homes for sale may be keeping some prospective buyers out of the real-estate arena. Further gains in hiring and confidence would help boost the housing-market recovery as well as the U.S. economic expansion.

“When mortgage rates went up, people got spooked and rushed into the market to seal deals,” Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said before the report. “The numbers that we’re seeing for pending home sales are payback for the stronger numbers earlier this year.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 39 economists for pending home sales ranged from a decline of 2.5 percent to an advance of 3.5 percent.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-25/pending-sales-of-u-s-existing-homes-drop-for-fifth-month.html

Iran Nuclear Deal Leaves Israel Odd Man Out With Few Options

By Calev Ben-David - Nov 25, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed the world for years to limit Iran’s nuclear program. After rejecting a deal designed to do just that, he finds himself the odd man out with his own options, including military action, limited.

Government officials and analysts said Israel may now try to influence the shape of any final accord, and won’t seek to hit Iranian facilities. Iran has accused Israel of killing scientists in its nuclear and missile programs, and covert operations may be more likely than an attack, analysts said.

Israel’s rejection of the accord reached in Geneva by Iran and six leading nations over the weekend was swift. The agreement is a “historic mistake” that leaves the world “a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon,” Netanyahu said.

The first accord since the Iranian nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003 eases sanctions on Iran in return for concessions on its atomic work. Its six-month timetable is meant to give negotiators time to seek a comprehensive deal to halt Iranian nuclear work that they, like Israel, think is a cover to build weapons.

“We have to get ready for the real battle, which is how the final agreement will look,” Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said in an interview with Israel Radio. The challenge will be “to see where the red lines are.”



Obama Moves to Prevent Rift With Allies Over Iran Deal

By Mike Dorning and Margaret Talev - Nov 25, 2013

President Barack Obama moved to keep a deal with Iran over its nuclear program from being undermined, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said lawmakers would weigh whether new sanctions are needed.

“We cannot close the door on diplomacy,” Obama said during a speech today in San Francisco. “Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically,” though it is not right for national security. The agreement reached over the weekend will place the first real constraints on Iran’s nuclear program in a decade, he said.

Reid said today that members would “take a look at this to see if we need stronger sanctions” after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving holiday break on Dec. 9.

Obama’s aides have been calling lawmakers urging them to hold off passing more sanctions against Iran. The president spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the six-month interim deal with Iran “an historic mistake.”

The agreement among the U.S. and other world powers with Iran provides a foreign policy achievement for a president whose standing has been damaged by the flawed rollout of his health-care law. Any political boost may be limited because the accord is temporary and the negotiating partner isn’t trusted by the U.S. public.

Diplomatic Breakthrough

For now, the deal averts the risk of another U.S. military action in the Middle East and represents a breakthrough in relations between the U.S. and Iran 34 years after the Islamic revolution broke ties.



Faucets At $1,000 Abound As Home Equity Spigot Opens

By Kathleen M. Howley - Nov 25, 2013

A year ago, New Jersey contractor Michael Mroz’s customers were focused on saving money when renovating kitchens and baths, he said. Now, with a resurgence of home equity lending, they’re ready to pay for the best.

“People don’t want granite countertops -- they want marble costing at least 25 percent more,” said Mroz, owner of Michael Robert Construction in Westfield, an affluent town less than an hour’s commute to Manhattan. “Money is so cheap today, people can splurge on $1,000 faucets.”

Spending on home renovations is rising to records as banks such as Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) increase lending for home equity lines of credit, or Helocs, after property prices this year gained at a pace not seen since the last housing boom. Heloc originations could rise 16 percent this year and reach another five-year high in 2014, according to Mustafa Akcay, an economist for Moody’s Analytics, powering the earnings of Home Depot Inc. (HD) and boosting the economic expansion.

Helocs are making a comeback as the housing market recovers enough to make the junior mortgages a safer bet for banks more than seven years after the beginning of the housing crash that saddled them with billions of dollars of losses. The median price for an existing home probably will gain 11 percent this year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington, after plunging about 33 percent during the crash.

‘Enormous Impact’

“The biggest use of Helocs is renovations, and the biggest spur for renovations is Helocs,” said Kermit Baker, director of Harvard University’s Remodeling Futures program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “When the two fuel each other, it has an enormous impact on the economy.”



Obama Says It’s Up to Republicans to Fix Broken Immigration Laws

By Michael C. Bender and Julie Bykowicz - Nov 25, 2013

President Barack Obama urged the Republican-led U.S. House to pass changes to immigration law, focusing on an issue that may benefit his party as the flawed rollout of his health-care law hurts his popularity.

“It’s up to Republicans in the House to decide if we can move forward as a country on this bill,” Obama said in a speech today in San Francisco, calling the nation’s immigration system “broken.”

Sixty-three percent of Americans favor providing a way for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements, according to a poll released today by the Public Religion Research Institute. That number, which includes majorities of both Republicans and Democrats, matches a March survey from the Washington-based group that studies public opinion.

The Democratic-led Senate in June passed with bipartisan support an immigration measure that included a path to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said Nov. 13 that he has “no intention” of considering the comprehensive Senate bill and instead preferred a piecemeal approach.

Obama said he’s “hopeful” about making progress on the measure, and would back Boehner’s step-by-step approach “as long as all the pieces get done.”



Obama Phones Israel's Netanyahu Following Iran Nuclear Deal

President Barack Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, pledging future consultations with the U.S. ally regarding the nuclear deal made between Iran and six major powers that Israel opposes on Saturday.

The White House announced the call while Obama was aboard Air Force One en route to Seattle for a fundraising event.

Netanyahu, who had warned of the deal's insufficiency in the weeks leading up to the agreement, told his cabinet the deal was a "historic mistake."

In a readout of the phone call, the White House said the president and prime minister reiterated their commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.



US is Faced With a Feverish Populism of Anger and Hatred

Sunday, 24 November 2013 09:45
By Michael Kimmel, Nation Books | Book Excerpt

Perhaps the biggest evolutionary change in contemporary social attitudes in the United States has been an increased embracing of people regardless of gender or gender preference. Needless to say there are many battles to be fought, but as Truthout has documented over the years much progress has occurred. Enormous challenges remain, but the overall arc of gender equality is bending in the direction of justice.

With the sharing of power and acceptance of "non-masculine" values, according to sociologist Michael Kimmel, also comes a backlash. The angry white male is a major force in the ferocious efforts to return the United States to a patriarchal society. Such is the topic of Kimmel's latest book: Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era.
An excerpt from the Introduction to "Meet America's Angry White Men":

Rick is one of the men you will meet in this book, men who feel they have been screwed, betrayed by the country they love, discarded like trash on the side of the information superhighway. Theirs are the hands that built this country; theirs is the blood shed to defend it. And now, they feel, no one listens to them; they've been all but forgotten. In the great new multicultural American mosaic, they're the bland white background that no one pays any attention to, the store-bought white bread in a culture of bagels, tortillas, wontons, and organic whole-grain designer scones. They're downwardly mobile, contemptuously pushed aside by fast-talking, fast-driving fat cats and bureaucrats.

And they're mad as hell.

You see them pretty much everywhere these days - yet they're often invisible. They patrol America's southern border, determined to keep out Mexican immigrants. They tune in to venomous talk-radio hosts who translate economic anguish, psychological distress, and political confusion into blind rage. They swarm into populist Tea Party rallies, hoping to find like-minded kinsmen willing to join with them to turn the country around. Some even take up arms against their own country, establishing semiautonomous enclaves and blowing up federal buildings. And, of course, when threatened by external forces, they muster up their coldest steel-eyed Dirty Harry imitation and say, "Make my day."



Medical Marijuana For Your Furry Friends

Some Pet Owners Have Looked To Cannabis To Treat Their Sick Pets

November 22, 2013 11:30 PM

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When it comes to sick pets many owners will go to great lengths to help them feel better.

Now, some have started to take matters into their own hands and have turned to a remedy that isn’t even legal in some states, CBS 2′s Maurice Dubois reported Friday.

Rowyn Capers’ dog, “Luna,” was suffering from late-stage lymphoma and was put on an intense schedule of chemotherapy. The treatments came with devastating side effects.

“Her lymph nodes were like golf balls and she was coughing constantly and she couldn’t breath and I just thought it’s time to say goodbye,” Capers said.

Capers gave Luna medical marijuana to help ease her suffering.

“The first time I dosed her I was so scared. We were looking at her all night,” Capers said, “The more I increased her cannabis dose the less side effects that she had. The vomiting stopped, the diarrhea stopped.”



Relief Sweeps Tehran As Nuclear Deal Raises Hopes On Economy

By Lionel Barber, Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Relief rather than euphoria swept through the streets of Tehran on Sunday after world powers reached a historic deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, in return for easing crippling sanctions aimed at preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Despite Israel warning of a “historic mistake”, Iran held out hope of an end to its own isolation and eventual economic revival.

The US and its partners – Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – hailed the agreement freezing key elements of Iran’s nuclear programme as a victory for diplomacy and vindication of a successful sanctions strategy.

Among Iranians shopping in central Tehran, the verdict was near unanimous: Iran has pulled back from bristling confrontation to a pragmatic approach aimed at giving the new government led by President Hassan Rouhani breathing space to tackle an economy struggling with rocketing inflation, recession and high unemployment.



Thanksgiving by the numbers: 768 million pounds of cranberries, 25.1 million airline passengers...

Whether you are sympathizing with the animated turkeys in the new movie “Free Birds,” pulling out your recipe for green bean casserole, or waiting for your favorite “Duck Dynasty” stars to appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, this American holiday unites like no other. In between courses, or maybe during a break between back-to-back football games, here are a few Thanksgiving facts and numbers to test out on friends and family.

In 2012, 254 million turkeys were raised in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. About 46 million will be eaten at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation, which estimates that with the average prepared turkey weighing 16 pounds, at least 736 million pounds of turkey will be consumed over the holiday.

About 768 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the US in 2012. (Wisconsin and Massachusetts are the two states that produce the most cranberries.)
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will celebrate its 87th anniversary in 2013. Roughly 3 million people will line the parade route in New York, while 50 million will tune in to NBC to watch at home. This year’s parade will feature 32 balloons and 900 clowns.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, 25.1 million airline passengers are expected to take to the skies.


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