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Likely Scenario That Will Be Pretense For War With Iran February 10, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Commentary, Congress, Main, Military News, Politics, US News, White House, World News.
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This will be my last post on Not A Pundit. With the birth of my second “baby pundit” I find that I am having to squeeze my news posts at odd hours of the day. I leave you all with this final post on what I hope will not come to be true, but I think that Zbigniew Brzezinski has laid out a likely scenario that will be pretense for war with Iran.

Unless you live like a hermit or live in a cave, you must be aware of the Bush saber rattling towards Iran. The nuclear weapons issue is important but some analyst agree Iran is years away from being able to build a weapon. I’m not an intelligence official so it may be true or it may not be true, but one thing that is true is the capture of five Iranians in Iraq that has increased tensions between both the US and Iran. Iraq has become a military quagmire at a time when North Korea, Venezuela and Iran are testing our world hegemony. That is not a good thing to show the world. So what to do?

Iraq has become a proxy battleground between Washington and Tehran, which is challenging – at least rhetorically – the U.S.’s dominance of the Gulf. That has worried even Iraq’s U.S.-backed Shiite prime minister, who – in a reflection of Iraq’s complexity – also has close ties to Iran.

Prof. Gary Sick, a leading authority on Iran, believes the U.S. is seeking to divert world attention from the crisis in Iraq and organize a coalition of Israel and conservative Sunni Arab states to confront Iran.

“The truth is that Iraq is a mess. It is in a state of low-level civil war. And all of these groups are largely self-motivated,” he said on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site. “But it’s much easier to blame it on the Iranians.”

Would the US go to war with Iran alone? Yes and no. At this point I don’t see the US confronting Iran militarily without some Sunni Arab support. Not necessarily military but tacit approval from those nations. Israel and NATO frankly are the better military allies.

The truth is that Iraq is a powder keg ready to explode. In more ways than just a proxy war between the US and Iran. But a powder keg indeed:

In Tehran, political analyst Hermidas Bavand said U.S. force increases were leading many Iranians to believe Washington is looking to pick a fight.

“It’s an extremely dangerous situation,” Bavand said. “I don’t think Tehran wants war under any circumstances. But there might be an accidental event that could escalate into a large confrontation.”

The US has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf with additional battle carriers. The troop surge supposedly to go to Iraq is forming in Kuwait awaiting their orders. Hhmm…I wonder when they’ll reach Iraq?

Let there be no doubt of possible war with Iran, because our President has made it clear:

Bush said Monday the U.S. “will respond firmly” if Iran escalates military action in Iraq and endangers U.S. forces. The U.S. accuses Iran of arming and training Shiite Muslim extremists in Iraq. U.S. troops have responded by arresting Iranian diplomats in Iraq, and the White House has said Bush signed an order allowing U.S. troops to kill or capture Iranians inside Iraq.

This leads me to my final point that reminds me of an article that went over the newswires that grabbed little attention. Basically Zbigniew Brzezinski laid out to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee what he thought would be the likely outcome of a continued military quagmire in Iraq and the likely scenario leading to a confrontation with Iran.

Zbigniew Brzezinski also told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bush administration policy was driven by “imperial hubris” and has proved to be a disaster on historic, strategic and moral grounds.

“If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, and I emphasize what I am about to say, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large,” Brzezinski said.

Brzezinski set out as a plausible scenario for military collision: Iraq fails to meet benchmarks set by the U.S., followed by accusations that Iran is responsible for the failure and then a terrorist act or some provocation blamed on Iran. This scenario, he said, would play out with a defensive U.S. military action against Iran.

That, Brzezinski said, would plunge the U.S. into a quagmire that eventually would range across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Brzezinski’s Solution:

Proposing a massive shift in policy, Brzezinski said the U.S. should announce with no ambiguity its determination to leave Iraq “in a reasonably short period of time.”

Can this be something that our President will do? I’m not holding my breath. Can Congress use its legislative power to push for such a massive policy shift? Lets all hope they can. They can recall the National Guard back to the states. They can place a cap on troops in Iraq. They can refure to provide funding for additional troops. They simply can refuse to authorize the President to go to war with Iran. Plain and simple. Our congressional leaders just need to actually debate the issue this time in the full light of day, instead of the weak abdication of power they showed when authorizing the war in Iraq.

Dow Jones News Top Stories Of The Day – February 2, 2007 February 2, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Economic News, Main.
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SOLID JANUARY US JOBS GAIN BUT JOBLESS RATE TICKS UP

U.S. payrolls increase by a healthy 111,000 in January after closing 2006 on a very strong note, while the jobless rate ticks up to 4.6% and wage growth slows, suggesting the favorable mix of solid economic growth and low inflation continues into 2007. Data suggest that Fed policymakers can extend the current pause well into 2007.

WENDY’S 4Q NET INCOME PLUNGES

Fast-food chain’s net falls 90% to $3.03 million, or 3c a share, reflecting a loss from discontinued operations. Income from continuing operations drops 62% to $9.9 million, or 9c a share. Revenue falls 1.1% to $596.4 million. Shares fall 2%.

US FACTORY ORDERS RISE MORE THAN EXPECTED

Factory-goods orders increase 2.4% in December, with November’s reading revised upward to 1.2% higher, from 0.9%. Wall Street had been looking for a 2.0% increase. For all of 2006, factory orders rose 5.3%.

CHEVRON NET SLIPS 9% ON LOWER GAS PRICE

Oil and gas producer earns $3.77 billion, or $1.74 a share, as a sharp decline in natural gas prices offsets improved operating performance from its oil and gas fields and refineries. Revenue and other income falls 11% to $47.75 billion.

BRITISH HEDGE FUND CUTTING STAFF, FEES

SemperMacro, a hedge fund set up by a former star Goldman Sachs trader and the former chairman of the BBC, is cutting staff and fees after investors took cash out following a near 16% loss last year, people familiar with the matter say.

BUSH SEEKS $100B MORE FOR IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN

Bush administration will ask for another $100 billion for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seeks $145 billion for 2008, a senior administration official says.

TEXAS ORDERS HPV VACCINES FOR GIRLS

Gov. Rick Perry orders that schoolgirls in Texas must be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, making Texas the first state to require the shots.

YOUTUBE TO REMOVE VIACOM VIDEOS

Google’s free video-sharing Web site says it will comply with Viacom’s request to remove more than 100,000 videos from its site. The clips in question have accounted for about 1.2 billion video streams. Viacom shares rise 1%.

DELTA, AMERICAN, ALASKA AIR RAISE FARES $5

Delta Air Lines raises domestic air fares by $5 each way, a move that is followed by American Airlines and Alaska Air Group. Other airlines considering whether to join the fare hike.

SULZBERGERS MOVES ASSETS FROM MORGAN STANLEY

Ochs-Sulzberger family, which controls the New York Times, is moving most of its personal assets from Morgan Stanley after a prolonged campaign by a Morgan Stanley money manager for changes to publishers’ corporate governance.

MICHIGAN SENTIMENT INDEX AT 96.9

Reuters/University of Michigan’s full-month report on consumer sentiment rises to 96.9 in January from December’s 91.7. Preliminary January reading was 98.0, and economists expected it to hold at 98.0.

NYSE GROUP SWINGS TO 4Q PROFIT

Big Board operator earns $45.5 million, or 29c a share, compared with a year-ago loss of $20.3 million. Results boosted by Archipelago acquisition. Excluding items, it earns 45c a share, a penny shy of expectations. Shares fall 1%.

AMAZON NET SLIDES ON HIGHER TAX BITE

Amazon.com profit is cut in half to $98 million, or 23c a share, despite a 34% rise in sales to $3.99 billion, as the company’s margins are crimped once again by rising costs. The year earlier quarter included a one-time tax windfall. Shares fall 3%.

US BEGINS WTO COMPLAINT AGAINST CHINESE SUBSIDIES

U.S. starts the process of filing a complaint against China at the World Trade Organizaion, alleging the emerging economic power is subsidizing a range of exports such as steel and wood products while discriminating against U.S. imports.

NISSAN CUTS FULL YEAR OUTLOOK

Shares plunge 8% after Japanese car maker posts a 23% drop in fiscal 3Q profit, hit by weak vehicle sales in Japan and Europe, and cuts full year earnings outlook. CEO Ghosn calls 2006 performance ‘a failure.’

EQUITY OFFICE HOLDERS MAY VOTE DOWN BLACKSTONE

A number of major shareholders in Equity Office Properties say they may vote against a plan to sell the company to Blackstone Group for $54 a share in cash in light of a higher cash and stock bid from Vornado Realty Trust.

EX COCA-COLA SECRETARY FOUND GUILTY

Federal jury convicts a former Coca-Cola secretary of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the beverage maker in effort to sell them to Pepsi. Joya Williams, facing up to 10 years in prison, was fired after allegations came to light.

GANNETT 4Q NET UP 3% ON AD SALES

Media company earns $353.5 million, or $1.51 a share, beating views by 2c. Revenue climbs 7.5% to $2.21 billion. Newspaper-ad revenue gains 3.7%, with broadcasting up 30%, helped by stronger local and political ads. Shares rise 2%.

STANDARD PACIFIC OUTLOOK LIFTS HOME BUILDERS

Shares of home-building companies rise after one builder, Standard Pacific, issues a modestly optimistic outlook for housing market, amid slightly higher market sentiment. Standard Pacific rises 6%.

======= DOW JONES NEWSWIRES ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARIES =======

ANALYSIS
Wireless Firms’ Web-Access Control Irks Users
Wireless carriers talk about the growth opportunities from surfing the mobile Web and downloading content such as music or games, but they haven’t made doing so easy for the consumer, Roger Cheng writes.

NOTICE TO READERS
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Tomorrow’s News Today is a Dow Jones Newswires end-of-day market newsletter emailed shortly after market close. It is complimentary to all Dow Jones News Service subscribers. To sign up, send email to tomorrowtoday@dowjones.com or call (800) 223-2274.

============ U.S. MARKETS ACTION ===========
DJIA down 16.74 points to 12656.78
NASDAQ up 7.27 points to 2475.65
S&P 500 up 7.70 points to 1445.94
10-year T-note up 4/32 at 98 14/32 yield 4.837
NYMEX Spot Crude up $1.72 at $59.02/bbl at close
Dollar/Euro down 0.0056 at 1.2964

Sen Obama Files Papers For Pres Exploratory Committee January 16, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Main, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said Tuesday he is taking the first step in a presidential bid, filing paperwork that will allow the newcomer who has rocketed to the top of national politics to raise money for a White House campaign.

Obama announced his intentions to file a presidential exploratory committee on his Web site, http://www.barackobama.com.

Obama said he would announce more about his plans in his hometown of Chicago on Feb. 10.

“I didn’t expect to find myself in this position a year ago,” Obama said in a video posting. “I’ve been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics. So I spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress we so desperately need.

“The decisions that have been made in the past six years have put our country in a precarious place,” he said.

US Stocks Gain, With Alcoa, Apple Strong Advancers January 10, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Economic News, Main.
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NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–Stocks finished higher after another choppy session, with Alcoa and Apple posting strong advances while Chevron and Tiffany lost some luster.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 25.56, or 0.21%, to 12442.16, after being off close to 61 points. The Nasdaq Composite rose 15.50, or 0.63%, to 2459.33. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 2.74, or 0.19%, to 1414.85.

Oil’s continued slide has raised some concerns about slower economic growth, and a Federal Reserve president echoed his colleagues’ recent concerns about inflation. But, “we’re also consolidating what’s been a phenomenal move in the stock market,” said Christopher Zook, chief investment officer at CAZ Investments. “Part of the reason it’s occurring now is because people are a bit nervous about what the fourth-quarter earnings season will hold.”

Dow industrial Alcoa got things off in fine fashion, gaining 1.71, or 6%, to 30.23. The world’s largest aluminum producer posted robust results late Tuesday, suggesting that in some areas, at least, commodity prices and demand are not severely eroding.

Apple (Nasdaq) continued its advance, rising 4.43, or 4.8%, to 97, another record close. The gain came after an 8.3% leap on Tuesday, when the company announced its new iPhone, a cellphone that will allow users to make calls, surf the Web, receive email or listen to music. The news reverberated, with, among cellphone makers, Nokia’s American depositary shares losing 30 cents, or 1.5%, to 19.08. There was also plenty of speculation about which component companies will play a role in the iPhone’s production. Among the names mentioned, Marvell Technology Group gained 1.15, or 5.8%, to 20.88, and Nvidia rose 1.64, or 4.9%, to 34.89, both on the Nasdaq.

Chevron lost 1.22, or 1.7%, to 69.41. The energy giant expects fourth-quarter results to be adversely affected by lower commodity prices and lower downstream margins relative to third-quarter earnings.

Tiffany dropped 82 cents, or 2.1%, to 38.80. The high-end jeweler reported strong holiday sales, but some analysts noted that margins continue to be pressured.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange was about 1.6 billion shares. Up volume beat down by 867 million to 676 million, and stocks that rose in value exceeded those that fell, 1,684 to 1,647.

The final Dow Jones Industrial Average close was 12442.16, up 25.56. On the New York Stock Exchange, there were 1,684 issues advancing, 1,647 declining and 128 unchanged.

NYSE volume totaled 1,615,612,010 shares, compared with 1,765,976,450 Tuesday.

The NYSE Composite Index was 9003.12, down 20.78. The average price per share fell by 37 cents.

Las Vegas Sands leapt 10.43, or 11%, to 102.81, and Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq) rose 3.35, or 3.4%, to 102.45, both all-time closing highs. The casino operators advanced on analysts’ reports showing healthy gambling revenue and strong market share in Macau, China. Las Vegas Sands was also said to have received official government permission to build a resort on a neighboring Chinese island.

Ceradyne (Nasdaq) lost 3.79, or 6.1%, to 57.96. Friedman Billings Ramsey lowered its rating on the shares to underperform from market perform, saying as pressure builds to reduce troop levels in Iraq, delivery rates for the defense product maker’s body armor could gradually begin to slow.

Sears Holdings (Nasdaq) rose 5.86, or 3.5%, to 172.09. The retailer predicted fourth-quarter earnings in a range that, on average, exceeds Wall Street’s expectations, despite sluggish holiday sales at its Sears and Kmart stores and recent losses from trading in risky financial derivatives.

J. Crew Group lost 1.53, or 4.1%, to 36.24. The retailer, which offers its clothing through catalogs and stores, reaffirmed that it expects to report earnings per share for 2006 in the range of 95 cents to 97 cents. Analysts were looking for 98 cents. J. Crew also said it filed a registration statement for the proposed offering of 7.5 million shares of common stock.

US Airways rose 1.03, or 1.8%, to 58.93. The air carrier sweetened its hostile takeover bid for Delta Air Lines by 20% to $10.2 billion from $8.5 billion. Delta has also been having recurring talks with Northwest Airlines about a potential link-up between the two, possibly after they both emerge from bankruptcy-court protection later this year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

International Business Machines dropped 1.18, or 1.2%, to 98.89 after closing over 100 on Tuesday, the first time since the beginning of 2004. A.G. Edwards on Wednesday downgraded the shares to hold from buy, citing the stock’s price and concerns that the computer giant’s long-term sales growth potential is relatively low.

XM Satellite Radio Holdings (Nasdaq) jumped 1.53, or 10%, to 16.65. Citigroup lifted its 12-month price target for shares to $21 from $16, saying that more customers who buy cars and trucks with XM radios are likely to sign up for the service. The investment firm added that the possibility of a merger with rival Sirius Satellite Radio should provide “downside support” for XM stock. Sirius rose 27 cents, or 7.3%, to 3.98 on the Nasdaq.

EBay (Nasdaq) lost 45 cents, or 1.5%, to 29.30. The Internet auctioneer on Wednesday was near a deal to purchase ticket reselling Web site StubHub for potentially more than $300 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.

IntercontinentalExchange rose 10.60, or 8.5%, to 135.25, among the Big Board’s top 10 percentage gainers, and Nymex Holdings advanced 5.81, or 4.9%, to 123.45. Both exchanges posted record crude oil futures volumes Tuesday as prices swung wildly during intraday trading.

ImClone Systems (Nasdaq) gained 1.56, or 5.3%, to 30.78. The biotechnology company said its Erbitux drug, in combination with chemotherapy, improved a measure of survival in a study of people with advanced colorectal cancer.

Eastman Kodak lost 35 cents, or 1.4%, to 25.28. The photo-imaging company, which has been struggling to keep up with changing tastes to digital imaging from film, plans to sell its health group to Onex Corp. in a deal that may be worth as much as $2.55 billion.

NYSE Group gained 3.63, or 3.5%, to 108.21. The parent of the New York Stock Exchange, which reached across the Atlantic in a planned acquisition of exchange operator Euronext, has also set its sights on Asia by taking a 5% stake in the National Stock Exchange of India for about $115 million.

E.W. Scripps gained 1.92, or 3.8%, to 51.92. Goldman Sachs said management indicated the media company may be willing to reduce its exposure to newspapers, and double down its efforts in cable TV and Internet, a development investors would likely respond positively to.

Western Union rose 21 cents, or close to 1%, to 22.46. The state of Arizona has no authority to seize thousands of the company’s money transfers to Mexico that originated outside of Arizona, a state court has ruled.

Ipsco gained 2.37, or 2.7%, to 90.47, and United States Steel rose 64 cents, or nearly 1%, to 70.84. Banc of America Securities said a survey it took showed demand in the steel area is down compared with last year, but expectations over the coming six months are positive, with 62% of respondents seeing increased order activity.

Phillips-Van Heusen lost 27 cents to 52.99. The drop came despite the apparel and neckwear maker saying its fourth-quarter earnings will at least meet its estimate of 43 cents a share.

Choice Hotels gained 1.71, or 4.1%, to 43.41. Bear Stearns raised its rating on the shares to peer perform from underperform, saying at current levels, the stock offers a fair risk-reward, especially given little risk to earnings estimates.

By Karen Talley, Dow Jones Newswires

FDA Poised To Approve Food From Cloned Animals Thursday December 27, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Main, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Federal scientists have concluded there is no difference between food from cloned animals and food from conventional livestock, setting the stage for the government to declare Thursday that cloned animals are safe for the human food supply.

The Food and Drug Administration planned to brief industry groups in advance of an announcement. The agency indicated it would approve cloned livestock in a scientific journal article published online earlier this month.

The agency “concludes that meat and milk from clones and their progeny is as safe to eat as corresponding products derived from animals produced using contemporary agricultural practices,” FDA scientists Larisa Rudenko and John C. Matheson wrote in the Jan. 1 issue of Theriogenology.

Also, the FDA believes that no special labels are needed for food from clones or their offspring, the scientists wrote. Consumer groups say labels are a must, because surveys have shown people to be uncomfortable with the idea of cloned livestock.

“Consumers are going to be having a product that has potential safety issues and has a whole load of ethical issues tied to it, without any labeling,” said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety.

Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America, said the FDA is ignoring research that shows cloning results in more deaths and deformed animals than other reproductive technologies.

The consumer federation will ask food companies and supermarkets to refuse to sell food from clones, she said.

“Meat and milk from cloned animals have no benefit for consumers, and consumers don’t want them in their foods,” Foreman said.

The FDA scientists wrote that by the time clones reached 6 to 18 months of age, they were “virtually indistinguishable” from conventionally bred animals.

Final approval of cloned animals for food is months away; the FDA will accept comments from the public after issuing a risk assessment on Thursday.

Those in favor of the technology say it would be used primarily for breeding and not for steak or pork tenderloin.

Cloning lets farmers and ranchers make copies of exceptional animals, such as pigs that fatten rapidly or cows that are superior milk producers.

“We clone an animal because we want a genetic twin of that animal,” said Barb Glenn of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

“It’s not a genetically engineered animal; no genes have been changed or moved or deleted,” she said. “It’s simply a genetic twin that we can then use for future matings to improve the overall health and well-being of the herd.”

Thus, consumers would mostly get food from their offspring and not the clones themselves, Glenn said.

Still, some clones would end up in the food supply. As with conventional livestock, a cloned bull or cow that outlived its usefulness would probably wind up at a hamburger plant, and a cloned dairy cow would be milked during her breeding years.

That’s unlikely to happen soon, because FDA officials have asked farmers and cloning companies since 2001 to voluntarily keep clones and their offspring out of the food supply.

The informal ban would remain in place for several months while the FDA accepts comments from the public.

Approval of cloned livestock has taken five years because of pressure from big food companies nervous that consumers might reject milk and meat from cloned animals.

To clone, scientists replace all the genetic material in an egg with a mature cell containing the complete genetic code from the donor. Cloners argue that the resulting animal is simply the donor’s twin, containing an identical makeup. Yet there can be differences between the two because of chance and environmental influences.

Some surveys have shown people to be uncomfortable with food from cloned animals; 64% said they were uncomfortable in a September poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a nonpartisan research group.

A dairy industry spokeswoman said last week it would be reassuring if the FDA concluded there were no safety issues.

“It remains to be seen whether dairy farmers will even choose to use it,” said Susan Ruland, spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association, which represents such brands as Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) and Dannon, owned by Groupe Danone (DA).

“There are very few cloned dairy cows in this country – only about 150 out of the 9 million total U.S. dairy cows, and many of these are show animals,” Ruland said.