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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 29,876

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US Manufacturing Growth Slows; Construction Spending Falls


The pace of U.S. manufacturing growth slowed in April as the sector expanded only modestly, an industry report showed on Wednesday. A separate report showed that construction spending fell in March.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity fell to 50.7 from 51.3 in March, coming in below expectations for 50.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

In a sign of potential resiliency, the forward-looking new orders component edged up to 52.3 from 51.4, while production improved to 53.5 from 52.2.

But employment fell to 50.2 from 54.2, boding poorly for the Labor Department's national unemployment report due on Friday.

Read more: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100694720

Syria Is No Libya

JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey is quoting making the following statements in Buzzfeed:

"Whether the military effect would produce the kind of outcome that not just members of Congress but all of us would desire — which is an end to the violence, some kind of political reconciliation among the parties and a stable Syria — that's the reason I've been cautious, is the right word, about the application of the military instrument of power, because it's not clear to me that it would produce that outcome," Dempsey said at a lunch with reporters.

Dempsey warned that the Syrian situation isn't quite analogous to Libya just before the fall of Moammar Qaddafi, because of the Syrian army's superior air force.

"The air defense picture in Libya was dramatically different than it is in Syria," Dempsey said. "In Syria there are five times more air defense systems, some of which are high end air defense systems. The US military has the capability to defeat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, take longer, and require more resources."..

Here, from The Wall Street Journal, is a look at what our people believe Syria has in its possession, from Russia:



Obama Moving Toward Sending Lethal Arms To Syrian Rebels, Officials Say

Source: Washington Post

By Karen DeYoung, Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 4:47 PM

President Obama is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition and has taken steps to assert more aggressive U.S. leadership among allies and partners seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, according to senior administration officials.

The officials emphasized that supplying arms is one of several options under consideration and that political negotiation remains the preferred option. To that end, the administration has launched an effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government — and the more direct outside intervention that could provoke — should lead him to reconsider his support of Assad.

But Obama, who spoke by telephone with Putin on Monday and is sending Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Moscow in the coming days, is likely to make a final decision on the supply of arms to the opposition within weeks, before a scheduled meeting with Putin in June, officials said.

But the senior official, one of several who discussed internal administration deliberations on the condition of anonymity, said Obama has “not closed the door to other military actions,” in response to calls from the opposition and some members of Congress for protection against Syrian ballistic missiles and airstrikes.

Read more: Link to sourhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-preparing-to-send-lethal-arms-to-syrian-opposition-officials-say/2013/04/30/3084d0d4-b1a6-11e2-bbf2-a6f9e9d79e19_story_1.htmlce

U.S. Homeownership Rate Falls to Lowest Since 1995

Source: Bloomberg

By Prashant Gopal and John Gittelsohn - Apr 30, 2013

The U.S. homeownership rate fell to the lowest in almost 18 years, reflecting rising demand for rentals and investor purchases in the housing market.

The share of Americans who own their homes was 65 percent in the first quarter, down from 65.4 percent a year earlier and the lowest level since the third quarter of 1995, the Census Bureau reported today. The vacancy rate for rented homes dropped to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent a year earlier, while vacancies for owner-occupied houses fell to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent.

Investors are buying single-family homes and renting them out to capitalize on demand among families unable to qualify for a mortgage. Their purchases, many made with cash, are helping to support the housing recovery and pushing up prices. Home values in 20 cities increased 9.3 percent in February from a year earlier, the most since May 2006, according to the S&P/Case- Shiller (SPCS20Y%) index released today.

“Credit conditions are still tight and investors are taking advantage, in the interim, of favorable yields,” Paul Diggle, property economist for Capital Economics in London, said in a telephone interview. “They’re making hay while the sun shines.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-30/u-s-home-vacancies-fell-in-first-quarter-from-prior-year.html

Libya Militias Besiege State Buildings, Pressuring Government In Islamist-Liberal Power Fight

Source: Associated Press

By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 5:07 PM

TRIPOLI, Libya — Gunmen swooped in on trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns and surrounded Libya’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday, cutting off roads and forcing employees out of the building in the latest instance of powerful militiamen showing their muscle to press their demands on how Libya should be run more than a year after Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster.

Over the past three days, militiamen stormed the headquarters of the Interior Ministry and state-run TV and besieged the Foreign Ministry while publicly calling for the removal of Gadhafi-era officials from government posts and the passage of the so-called “isolation law,” which would bar from political life anyone who held any position —even minor— under the ousted autocrat’s regime.

However, analysts and democracy advocates believe militiamen are using the isolation law as a way to get rid of Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who has vowed to restore the authority of the state and disband the armed groups that have become a power unto themselves in Libya. Many of the militias have an Islamist ideology, while Zidan is seen as more secular and liberal.

“In essence this is power struggle between liberals and Islamists. This is a very dangerous turn that could force Zidan to step down,” said political analyst Saad al-Arial. “Each wants to push the other aside, and the way to do so is in parliament and in the street.”

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/militiamen-besiege-libyas-justice-ministry-in-defiance-to-government/2013/04/30/037e5eca-b17e-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html

Russia Bans Commercial Flights Over Syria Following Incident On Monday

MOSCOW, April 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s aviation authority issued a decree on Tuesday banning all Russian airlines from flying over Syrian territory following an incident on Monday in which a passenger plane reportedly had to make a detour to avoid military action in the war-torn country.

Rosaviatsia, the Federal Air Transportation Agency, said earlier that a charter plane belonging to Russia’s NordWind Airlines flying from Egypt's resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh to Russia's central-western city of Kazan decided to increase its altitude for safety reasons after one of the pilots spotted combat activity below the plane. The Airbus 320 plane carrying 159 passengers landed in Kazan as scheduled, but the incident prompted the aviation authority to issue new restrictions.

“In order to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members on Russian commercial flights, Rosaviatsia has sent out an order to avoid Syrian air space,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Irina Tyurina, a spokeswoman for Russia’s union of travel agencies, told RIA Novosti that the pilots had reported seeing “flashes over Syrian territory where they were flying.” She added that the source of the flashes was not yet clear.



Skyrocketing Inflation: Russia Now Charging NASA $70 Million Per Seat To Fly US Astronauts

Source: Associated Press

By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 5:19 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is paying $424 million more to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space, and the agency’s leader is blaming Congress for the extra expense.

NASA announced its latest contract with the Russian Space Agency on Tuesday. The $424 million represents flights to and from the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, as well as training, for six astronauts in 2016 and the first half of 2017. That’s $70.6 million per seat — well above the previous price tag of about $65 million.

Russia currently provides the only means of getting people to and from the space station, and its ticket prices have soared with each new contract.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said if Congress had approved the space agency’s request for more funding for its commercial space effort, the latest contract would have been unnecessary. He is urging full funding of the Obama administration’s 2014 budget request of $821 million in seed money for the commercial crew program.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/skyrocketing-inflation-russia-now-charging-nasa-70-million-per-seat-to-fly-us-astronauts/2013/04/30/0d0f1e2e-b1bb-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html

Russian Political Analysts Comment On US-Planned Military Training In Persian Gulf

Moscow. Farid Akberov. “US will deploy its troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in the Persian Gulf. The goal is to influence the presidential elections in Iran this year”, said the Russian political analyst, Director General of Center for Studying Modern Iran Rajab Safarov at the event “Trainings in the Persian Gulf: preparation for realizing the threat”, APA's Moscow correspondent reports. He noted that on May 6, the US will start large-scale trainings in the Persian Gulf with the participation of more than 30 countries: “US trainings in the Persian Gulf directly contradict Russia's national interests and Iran’s policy”.

Chairman of Russian Islamic Committee, political analyst Heydar Jamal said the US and western countries’ threats against Iran are not persuasive. According to him, Iran understands that the US will not start war against Iran in the current situation: “Without resolution of the problem in Syria, armed attack on Iran is not persuasive. The trainings in the Persian Gulf are another bluff of the US against Iran”.

Military commentator of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, retired colonel Viktor Baranets also assessed the US trainings in the Persian Gulf as the next bluff against Iran: “US and NATO generals are not so fool to start war against Iran. Iran is able to defeat any attack from the Gulf. War can be difficult for the US. The US understands it well. Therefore, its threat against Iran is nothing but a political bluff, because the US has not solved the problem in Syria yet. Bashar Assad regime is almost about to win. ”
Baranets said ban imposed by Russia on sale of C-300 missiles is a mistake.

"There is Russia and China factor. It is known that civil war is going on in Syria. Taking into account the results of the events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Egypt, it is possible to imagine how the problem in Syria will be solved. The war is becoming regional. If war starts against Iran, it means the beginning of the third world war," he said.



Some interesting commentary out of Russia, indeed.

PHOTOS: The Face Of Israel's Discriminatory Home Demolition Policy

Demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are part and parcel of Israel’s publicly stated plans to reduce and control the demography of Palestinians and non-Jews in Jerusalem. With little chance of receiving building permits, Palestinian families often decide to build anyway, hoping that maybe their home will be spared.

By Activestills |Published April 30, 2013

On Wednesday April 24, Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinian houses in the At Tur neighborhood on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. The pretext, as usual, was that the owner had built illegally, though he had spent months applying for permits from the Jerusalem Municipality and provided all requested documentation. One of the structures demolished was an addition built to house the youngest generations of the 45-member Jaradat extended family, illustrating one of the basic quandaries facing East Jerusalem Palestinians: As families grow and children get married to start families of their own, where can they live if the government will not grant them permission to build?


Israelis sometimes display a disturbingly blasé attitude toward the demolition of Palestinian homes. One sometimes encounters the attitude, even among self-proclaimed leftists, that “there are laws,” and since an Israeli Jew cannot build a house without permission, why should a Palestinian be able to? They might even offer examples of how their own family wanted to build and were denied permission. So if Israelis obey the law, isn’t it the Palestinians’ fault when they are punished for breaking it?


This attitude may seem reasonable to foreigners as well. Most countries have zoning and building regulations that are generally respected as a necessity for maintaining orderly communities. But what these attitudes fail to grasp is the systematic discrimination faced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation, a context well-documented by various human rights organizations. It is no accident that the average Israeli seeking housing or permission to build simply has far more options and opportunities than the average Palestinian.




Maria Shriver Is Coming Back To NBC News

NEW YORK (AP) -- Maria Shriver is coming back to NBC News.

The network announced Tuesday that Shriver will join it as a special anchor working on issues surrounding the shifting roles of women in American life.

Shriver said her mission with the new NBC job is to inspire and elevate humanity. The mother of four will be based in Los Angeles. She will keep her own production company operating.


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