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Consumer Confidence Plunges In Early December

NEW YORK | Fri Dec 7, 2012 11:01am EST
(Reuters) - Americans' outlook on the economy and their finances took a turn for the worse in early December due likely to anxiety about the potential for higher taxes resulting from contentious discussions in Washington over fiscal issues, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading of the overall index on consumer sentiment plunged to 74.5 in early December, the lowest level since August.

It was far below November's figure of 82.7 and the median forecast of 82.4 among economists polled by Reuters.

"Confidence plunged in early December as consumers confronted the rising likelihood that political gridlock would push the country over the fiscal cliff," survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement. He was referring to concerns of an economic contraction next year if the White House and Congress fail to reach a budget pact by year-end.



Russia: The US Is Trying To Start Another Cold War

Source: Business Insider

Russia has accused the US of trying to start a new Cold War after Congress passed a law banning Russians linked to serious human rights abuses from entering America.

Moscow furiously claimed that the new law, which also bars blacklisted Russians from owning US land and using the banking system, was evidence of a "vindictive desire" to damage Russia's world standing.

"Apparently, Washington has forgotten what year this is and still thinks the Cold War is going on," the Russian foreign ministry said on its official Twitter account. It added that the move would "adversely affect the prospects of bilateral cooperation" between the two powers.

Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, later said Russia would respond by introducing its own visa ban for US human rights abuses.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-the-us-is-trying-to-start-another-cold-war-2012-12#ixzz2ENTAuDhi

U.S. Deploys Ships to Monitor North Korea Rocket Launch

By David Lerman & Sangwon Yoon

The U.S. is deploying ships to monitor and potentially shoot down a rocket North Korea plans to fire as soon as next week, as Japan readied its military to destroy any possible debris.

“We’ll move them around so we have the best situational awareness that we have,” Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said at a Pentagon news conference in Washington yesterday. “To the degree that those ships are capable of participating in ballistic missile defense, then we would position them to be able to do that.”

North Korea’s plan to fire the rocket between Dec. 10-22 reflects signs of growing instability in the totalitarian state, a South Korean government official said today. Leader Kim Jong Un has worked to secure his hereditary grip on power since his father Kim Jong Il died a year ago, and last month called for a crackdown on “rebellious elements.”

The regime’s priority is ensuring the success of the launch after a similar attempt exploded in April and not any possible nuclear weapons test, the official said, speaking to reporters in Seoul on condition of anonymity. Locklear yesterday made a similar point.



Michigan Senate OKs Bills Prohibiting Abortion Coverage By 'Obamacare' Health Exchange

Source: MLIVE

LANSING, MI - Health plans participating in Michigan's "Obamacare" health exchange could not cover elective abortions unless the coverage is offered as a separate optional rider purchased by women, under legislation that won approval mostly along party lines Thursday in the state Senate.

The passage of three bills came while union members packed the gallery's second floor to watch for a much-anticipated vote on right-to-work legislation announced in the morning. Democrats slowed up action on the abortion bills by asking that the bills be read in their entirety.

Majority Senate Republicans also passed a bill that would let health facilities assert as a matter of conscience an objection to participating health services. Providers would have to inform patients of other places to go.

Michigan is pursuing a joint federal-state "partnership" exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act. It will let people and businesses shop for and buy insurance on an online Travelocity-like website.

Read more: http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/12/michigan_senate_oks_bills_proh.html#incart_river

Report: Israel Threatens To Cancel Hamas Truce If Islamic Jihad Leaders Enter Gaza


Members of Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad say Israel has warned the militant group's two top leaders against trying to enter the Gaza Strip this week.

The pair had planned to visit Friday, along with Khaled Meshal the leader-in-exile of Hamas, Islamic Jihad's sister group.

Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas have been holding indirect talks, through Egypt, following an Israeli offensive on militant targets in Gaza last month.

A truce between Israel and Hamas has been in place since November 21, when an Egypt-brokered cease-fire went into effect, putting an end to Israel's eight-day Gaza offensive, Operation Pillar of Defense.

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/report-israel-threatens-to-cancel-hamas-truce-if-islamic-jihad-leaders-enter-gaza-1.483156

Depression Deepens Greek Middle Class Despair With Crime

By Oliver Staley - Dec 6, 2012
Anastasia Karagaitanaki, 57, is a former model and cafe owner in Thessaloniki, Greece. After losing her business to the financial crisis, she now sleeps on a daybed next to the refrigerator in her mother’s kitchen and depends on charity for food and insulin for her diabetes.

“I feel like my life has slipped through my hands,” said Karagaitanaki, whose brother also shares the one-bedroom apartment. “I feel like I’m dead.”

For thousands of Greeks like Karagaitanaki, the fabric of middle-class life is unraveling. Teachers, salaries slashed by a third, are stealing electricity. Families in once-stable neighborhoods are afraid to leave their homes because of rising street crime.

Karagaitanaki’s family can’t afford gas to heat their home this winter and will rely on electric blankets in the chilly northern Greek city. They live on the 785 euros ($1,027) a month their mother collects monthly from their late father’s pension. Two years ago, Karagaitanaki sold her jewelry for 3,000 euros, which she gave to her two sons. Her blood sugar is rising because she can’t afford the meat and vegetables her doctor recommends and instead eats rice and beans she gets from the Greek Orthodox Church.



Greenspan Says Painless Solution to U.S. Debt is Fantasy

By Joshua Zumbrun & Tom Keene - Dec 6, 2012 9:22 AM ET

Reducing U.S. long-term deficits will inevitably cause economic pain, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said.

“The presumption that we’re going to have a painless solution to this, I think, is fantasy,” Greenspan said today during a “Bloomberg Surveillance” television interview with Tom Keene and Sara Eisen. “There are a lot of risks out there but the one thing I can be reasonably certain of is we won’t get through this whole issue without some pain.”

The U.S. faces twin fiscal challenges with more than $600 billion of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to hit at the beginning of next year, threatening to send the economy into an austerity-induced recession, even as rising long-run deficits may prove unsustainable.

Greenspan, 86, who preceded Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the central bank, blamed U.S. deficits on growth in spending and blamed both political parties, saying “strangely enough, and ironically, the spending surge which is creating the problem here is fundamentally both Republicans and Democrats.”



Netanyahu Says Settlements to Be Israeli in Merkel Clash

Source: Bloomberg

By Patrick Donahue - Dec 6, 2012 9:17 AM ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said expanded West Bank settlements near Jerusalem will eventually become part of Israel as he clashed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the prospective housing plan.
The West Bank land where Netanyahu gave preliminary approval for building 3,000 new homes last week, sparking a wave of international criticism, is a “small corridor” between Jerusalem and a major settlement bloc, Netanyahu said today after meeting with the German leader in Berlin.
“The curious thing is that most governments” that have looked at the settlement activity, “including the Palestinians themselves, as revealed in leaked documents, understand that these blocs, these arrangements, are going to be part of Israel in a final political settlement of peace,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader signaled he wouldn’t back away from the expansion plans, which threaten to split a future Palestine and cut off Palestinians from their desired capital of east Jerusalem. Merkel, who said that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s “reason of state” seven decades after the Holocaust, said the two disagreed over the settlement issue.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-06/netanyahu-says-settlements-to-be-israeli-in-merkel-clash-1-.html

Clinton Wins Majority Support For 2016 Presidential Bid

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- A majority of Americans now back U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a presidential bid in 2016, a latest nationwide poll showed on Wednesday.

The ABC News and Washington Post poll found that 57 percent of Americans say they will support Clinton to run for the president candidacy to succeed Barack Obama four years later while 37 percent oppose it.

A broad gender gap was shown in the poll when Clinton enjoys a stronger support among women. A total of 66 percent of women and 49 percent of men say yes to a Clinton presidential candidacy.

Clinton, who is expected to retire before Obama's second term, also closes out her diplomatic career with considerable approval and popularity.

The poll showed that 68 percent of Americans approve her work as Secretary of State, second only to Collin Powell among the last five on the position. Sixty-six percent of Americans hold a favorable view of her overall, a new high in her public career as the First Lady, U.S. Senator and the top U.S. diplomat in the Obama administration.



Israel Accuses US Of Backing European Settlement Backlash

Tthe newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, quoted unnamed Israeli diplomats as saying the outcry could not have occurred without the complicity of the Obama administration, which has profound differences with Mr Netanyahu over settlements.

“We would not be mistaken to say that Europe was acting with Washington’s encouragement,” the paper’s commentator, Shimon Shiffer wrote. “The White House authorised Europe to pounce on the Netanyahu government and to punish it.”

One Israeli official told the Daily Telegraph that while the US was unlikely to have ordered such a move, it may have signalled approval.

“It’s more likely that they [the Americans] have been informed and have not raised any objection, but also showed some understanding and maybe even more,” he said. “There’s probably an understanding between the US and the Europeans that this is the right thing to do at this point.”


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