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Detroit Retirees Fret About Medicine in Orr Benefit Plan

By Chris Christoff - Jun 27, 2013

Detroit city retiree Rose Roots worries about the cost of prescription drugs, gasoline and house repairs. She never imagined anyone would cut her pension.

“It’s unbelievable that this day and time, in 2013, workers are threatened with being stripped of part of their pension and health benefits,” said Roots, a 76-year-old who worked three decades for the employment and training department. “Bankruptcy is one thing, but to start a remedy going after retirees?”

Shrinking benefits for 30,000 employees and retirees is part of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan to avoid the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy by erasing a $386 million deficit and reducing long-term debt of at least $17 billion. Orr proposes switching many retirees to federal health-care programs and eliminating pensions for employees with less than 10 years of service. His plan would also mean undetermined cuts to retirement checks.

The notion that pensions could be trimmed or wiped out is culture shock in the birthplace of the U.S. auto industry, where union strength dominates politics and negotiated benefits gave workers comfortable, middle-class lives over decades.

“That’s the way it’s always been,” said retiree Catherine Phillips, 55, who said she went to work for the city at 22 on her mother’s advice because of superior benefits. “I’m the first generation in my family who will not be comfortable. I’m going to be on edge.



Consumer Sentiment in U.S. Declines Less Than Forecast

By Alexandria Baca - Jun 28, 2013

Consumer sentiment fell less than forecast in June from an almost six-year high a month earlier as Americans grew more upbeat about the economic outlook.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan said today that its final index of confidence eased to 84.1 this month from 84.5 at the end of May, which was the highest since July 2007. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 83 in the gauge after a preliminary reading of 82.7.

Rising residential property values and gains in employment have spurred demands for housing and automobiles, underpinning Americans’ confidence in the outlook for the expansion. At the same time, bigger gains in confidence may prove difficult after the recent retreat in stock prices and an increase in borrowing costs.

“Consumer sentiment seems to be holding up fairly well despite some of the more recent turmoil we’ve seen in the market,” Sean Incremona, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, who projected a rise in the gauge to 84, said before the report. “Equity prices are still pretty solid, the housing market’s recovering and the job market has looked better over the course of the last several months.”

Stocks maintained losses after the report and another figure that showed business activity cooled more than projected. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.5 percent to 1,604.95 at 10:20 a.m. in New York.



Anti-Hacking Bill Aiding Verizon Delayed by Snowden Leaks

By Chris Strohm - Jun 28, 2013

Legislation to give Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Google Inc. (GOOG) legal protection for sharing cyber-attack information with the U.S. government has stalled after leaks about spy programs showed the companies are already turning over data.

Lawmakers have stopped advancing cybersecurity legislation until at least September as they gather more information about the National Security Agency surveillance programs and hear from constituents to assess the political fallout, Senate and House members from both parties said in interviews.

Disclosure of the NSA programs “probably couldn’t have come at a worse time” for advancing a cybersecurity bill, said Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. The Texas Republican said he’s postponed introducing his legislation at least until September.

“There’s very little faith in the institutions of government right now,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Republican party leader. “If you look like you’re not sufficiently critical and sufficiently vigilant in defending people’s liberties I think they’ll express that at the polls.”

Former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden this month exposed classified programs, authorized by a secret surveillance court, that collect phone-call records of millions of U.S. citizens from New York-based Verizon and monitor Internet communications of suspected foreign terrorists.



Egypt Clerics Warn Of 'Civil War' As Rivals Clash


By Tom Perry and Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO | Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:27am EDT

(Reuters) - Egypt's leading religious authority warned of "civil war" on Friday and called for calm as political factions clashed ahead of major rallies the opposition hopes can force the Islamist president to quit.

A member of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood was shot dead overnight. Dozens of people were wounded in Alexandria, many by shotgun pellets, when opposition marchers clashed with Islamists on Friday, two days before President Mohamed Mursi's critics hopes millions take to the streets to demand new elections.

"Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war," clerics of the Al-Azhar institute said. In a statement broadly supportive of Mursi, it blamed "criminal gangs" who besieged mosques for street violence which the Brotherhood said has killed five of its supporters in a week.

The movement's political wing warned of "dire consequences that will pull the country into a violent spiral of anarchy". It held liberal leaders, including former top U.N. diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, personally responsible for inciting violence by hired "thugs" once employed by the ousted dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/28/us-egypt-protests-idUSBRE95Q0NO20130628

Business Activity in U.S. Cools More Than Forecast

By Lorraine Woellert - Jun 28, 2013
Business activity in the U.S. cooled more than projected in June, a regional report showed, as fiscal constraints and stagnant export markets buffeted manufacturers.

The MNI Chicago Report’s business barometer dropped to 51.6 this month from 58.7 in May, which was the highest in more than a year. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between expansion and contraction. The median forecast of 55 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 55.

The Chicago index has been out of synch with other regional factory reports, surging in May when others pointed to a slump, and dropping this month as measures from the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Philadelphia point to a rebound. Manufacturing, which makes up about 12 percent of the economy, might be feeling the effects of federal government spending cuts that went into effect in March.

“A large part of it reflects pullbacks in government spending,” Guy Lebas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said before the report. “That’s having effects, although not massive effects. The manufacturing sector doesn’t appear to be accelerating but it’s not deteriorating at least.”



Marine Sgt Lawrence Hutchins Conviction Dropped In Iraq Murder

The military appeals court ruled Sgt Lawrence Hutchins was improperly held in solitary confinement for seven days without access to a lawyer.

Sgt Hutchins, the leader of a unit found to have killed a 52-year-old retired policeman, has served about half of an 11-year sentence.

His lawyer Maj Babu Kaza said he believed Sgt Hutchins would be freed.

"Sgt Hutchins and his family have suffered enough with this case, and it's time for this to be over," Maj Kaza said. "Enough is enough."

Shot in ditch

The case centres on the shooting death of retired Iraqi policeman Hashim Ibrahim Awad during a raid in Hamdaniya, near Baghdad, in April 2006.



'World Order Unjust And Immoral!' Ecuador’s Correa Rips Into Snowden Coverage

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa came up with scalding online remarks over criticism his country faced from the US press for potentially granting asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“They’ve managed to focus attention on Snowden and on the ‘wicked’ countries that ‘support’ him, making us forget the terrible things against the US people and the whole world that he denounced,” Correa said Wednesday in response to a Tuesday Washington Post editorial.

“The world order isn’t only unjust, it’s immoral,” Correa added.

The US newspaper accused Correa of adhering to double standards in the NSA leaker case, as Ecuador is considering harboring Snowden from prosecution over US espionage charges. It descried the Ecuadoran president as “the autocratic leader of a tiny, impoverished” country with an ambition to replace the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as “the hemisphere’s preeminent anti-US demagogue”.

The Washington Post lashed out at a legislation recently adopted by Ecuador, saying that it diminishes freedom of press. It also said Ecuador is profiting from duty-free trade with the US while criticizing Washington’s policies.



Aurora Shooting Suspect James Holmes Ordered To Wear Harness Anchoring Him To The Floor During Trial

DENVER -- Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes will be restrained during his trial by wearing a harness under his clothes that will be anchored to the floor.

A judge ruled Thursday that Holmes must be restrained because he's charged with violent crimes.

Defense lawyers asked that Holmes not be shackled because it would make him look like a criminal to the jurors.

he judge said jurors won't see the harness, and the anchoring cable will blend in with computer cables at the defense table.

The judge ruled earlier that Holmes can wear civilian clothing at his trial.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/james-holmes-ordered-wear-harness-trial-article-1.1384624#ixzz2XSwhAAMz

White House Assembles List of Potential Bernanke Successors at Fed

The Obama administration is assembling a shortlist of candidates for the Federal Reserve chairmanship, in the expectation that Ben Bernanke won't seek reappointment when his second term ends in January, according to people familiar with the matter.

Janet Yellen, the Fed's vice chairwoman, is widely seen in financial markets as the leading contender for the job. Ms. Yellen is a Democrat who served as the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and has held a variety of posts at the Fed, including governor, San Francisco Fed president, and Mr. Bernanke's second-in-command since October 2010.

Ms. Yellen has been an outspoken advocate of the Fed's easy-money policies. Her involvement in formulating those complicated policies could give her an advantage in the eyes of the White House, since she would have insight into how they work and the challenges of changing them. But she also has drawbacks that could work against her—including a lack of market experience at a time when markets are on edge, in addition to having little exposure to top White House officials.

Lawrence Summers, the former head of Mr. Obama's National Economic Council, could be another top contender. Mr. Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary under Mr. Clinton, is close to many of Mr. Obama's top economic advisers and is widely viewed in the administration as a top economist. But he faces obstacles, too, including questions about how well he would fit into the Fed's collegial and consensus-oriented culture: Mr. Summers has a reputation as a blunt-spoken and sometimes tempestuous leader.

Mr. Obama has a deep bench of other respected economists among Democrats to choose from, including two former Fed vice chairmen, Princeton University professor Alan Blinder and Roger Ferguson, who advised Mr. Obama's first campaign for president in 2008, and Christina Romer, the former head of Mr. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Timothy Geithner, Mr. Obama's former Treasury Secretary, is sometimes mentioned in markets as a potential successor to Mr. Bernanke, though Mr. Geithner has said he doesn't want the job.



Kerry Plunges Back Into Mideast Peace Diplomacy

By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press
AMMAN, Jordan June 27, 2013 (AP)
Secretary of State John Kerry plunged back into the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Thursday, using Jordan as a base for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In is fifth visit to the region to try to restart peace talks, Kerry held a four-hour dinner meeting with Netanyahu that stretched into Friday morning. He was to have lunch with Abbas on Friday in Amman, and more meetings could be in the offing.

Kerry left Amman on Thursday evening in a convoy of nearly a dozen vehicles for the roughly 90-minute drive to Jerusalem. A Jordanian military helicopter flew over his convoy during the trip, according to a reporter who was allowed to make the trip with Kerry and his delegation.

Netanyahu was about an hour late, apparently telling Kerry that he was delayed because he had been attending a graduation ceremony for Israeli military pilots. They started talking around 9:30 p.m. local time in a suite at a hotel in Jerusalem and ended their discussion around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

There were no immediate readouts of the discussion from Israeli or U.S. officials.


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