Off the Wires

Gun Stocks Way Up After Attack in Orlando

June 13th, 2016  |  Source:

In the early hours of yesterday morning, a shooter killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The reactions were swift, plentiful, and varied. For instance, editors at some newspapers focused on the threat of radical Islamic terrorism while others focused on gun control. Still, others have reacted by buying shares of gun companies.

According to Fox Business, “Smith & Wesson rallied 6.9% to $22.88, and Ruger jumped 7.9% to $61.93. Vista Outdoor (VSTO), which owns Savage Arms and Federal Premium ammunition, rose 2.3% to $48.11.”

Both of those companies manufacture a type of AR-15, which is the model of weapon used by the gunman on Saturday morning.

Obama administration not pursuing executive order to shut Guantanamo

June 13th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

The Obama administration is not pursuing the use of an executive order to shutter the Guantanamo Bay military prison after officials concluded that it would not be a viable strategy, sources familiar with the deliberations said.

The conclusion, reached by administration officials, narrows the already slim chances that President Barack Obama can fulfill his pledge to close the notorious offshore prison before leaving office in January.

The White House has said repeatedly that Obama has not ruled out any options on the Guantanamo center, which has been used to house terrorism suspects since it was set up in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Obama is eager to fulfill his 2008 campaign pledge to close the prison and could still choose to use his commander-in-chief powers, but the option is not being actively pursued, the sources said.

Without executive action, the chances of closing the prison would hinge on convincing a resistant Congress to overturn a long-standing ban on bringing possibly dozens of remaining prisoners to maximum-security prisons in the United States.

White House lawyers and other officials studied the option of overriding the ban but did not develop a strong legal position or an effective political sales pitch in an election year, a source familiar with the discussions said.

"It was just deemed too difficult to get through all of the hurdles that they would need to get through, and the level of support they were likely to receive on it was thought to be too low to generate such controversy, particularly at a sensitive (time) in an election cycle," the source said.

Republicans in Congress are opposed to bringing Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons and have expressed opposition to transfers to other countries over concern that released prisoners will return to militant activities. They have vowed to challenge any potential Obama executive action in court.

At its peak, the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba housed nearly 800 prisoners, becoming a symbol of the excesses of the "war on terror” and synonymous with criticism of detention without trial and accusations of torture. Obama has called it a recruitment tool for terrorists.


The number of Guantanamo detainees has fallen to 80 now, the lowest since it was opened.

The administration is focusing on getting the number of detainees at the prison down to such a low number, perhaps 20, that the cost of keeping it open could prove unpalatable to Congress. Republican lawmakers remain unswayed.

The Guantanamo prison and associated military commissions cost $445 million in fiscal year 2015. That works out to more than $5.5 million a year for each of the 80 remaining prisoners.

Thirty of the remaining detainees at Guantanamo have been approved for transfer to foreign countries and the State Department says it will move all of them out this summer. Those who would be left include 10 being prosecuted in military commissions, and other detainees deemed too dangerous to release or transfer.

“The administration's goal is to work with Congress to find a solution to close Guantanamo," said Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

He said the government had made "substantial progress" moving prisoners to foreign countries and was working to identify more countries for additional transfers. Reviews to determine whether certain prisoners need to remain detained to prevent a threat to U.S. security had been accelerated and would be completed in the coming months, he said.

Obama, who issued an order to shut the prison within a year on his first day in office, released his latest plan to close it to Congress in February, but it has not gained traction.

The White House has not publicly ruled out the executive order option in part to keep pressure on the Pentagon to move prisoners who have been cleared for release to other countries, one of the sources said.

"If Congress ... would finally say no to the president's plan and the executive order option wasn't on the table, there was a concern that the wheels could grind to a halt," said the source familiar with discussions at the White House.

Gregory Craig, who served as Obama's first White House counsel, said that without an executive order, Obama would likely need the cooperation of Congress to shut down the prison.

"I think the odds are probably challenging," Craig said.

Studies find 'super bacteria' in Rio's Olympic venues, top beaches

June 11th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant "super bacteria" off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.

The findings from two unpublished academic studies seen by Reuters concern Rio's most popular spots for tourists and greatly increase the areas known to be infected by the microbes normally found only in hospitals.

They also heighten concerns that Rio's sewage-infested waterways are unsafe.

A study published in late 2014 had shown the presence of the super bacteria - classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an urgent public health threat - off one of the beaches in Guanabara Bay, where sailing and wind-surfing events will be held during the Games.

The first of the two new studies, reviewed in September by scientists at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego, showed the presence of the microbes at five of Rio's showcase beaches, including the ocean-front Copacabana, where open-water and triathlon swimming will take place.

The other four were Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo.

The super bacteria can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, along with meningitis. The CDC says studies show that these bacteria contribute to death in up to half of patients infected.

The second new study, by the Brazilian federal government's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation lab, which will be published next month by the American Society for Microbiology, found the genes of super bacteria in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the heart of Rio and in a river that empties into Guanabara Bay.

Waste from countless hospitals, in addition to hundreds of thousands of households, pours into storm drains, rivers and streams crisscrossing Rio, allowing the super bacteria to spread outside the city's hospitals in recent years.

Renata Picao, a professor at Rio's federal university and lead researcher of the first study, said the contamination of Rio's famous beaches was the result of a lack of basic sanitation in the metropolitan area of 12 million people.

"These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea," said Picao from her lab in northern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Guanabara Bay.

Cleaning the city's waterways was meant to be one of the Games' greatest legacies and a high-profile promise in the official 2009 bid document Rio used to win the right to host South America's first Olympics.

That goal has instead transformed into an embarrassing failure, with athletes lamenting the stench of sewage and complaining about debris that bangs into and clings to boats in Guanabara Bay, potential hazards for a fair competition.


Picao's study, which has undergone internal reviews at Rio's federal university, analyzed water samples taken between September 2013 and September 2014. Using 10 samples taken at five beach locations, the study found super bacteria were most present at Botafogo beach, where all samples were positive.

Flamengo beach, where spectators will gather to watch Olympic sailors vie for medals, had the super bacteria in 90 percent of samples. Ten percent of Copacabana's samples had the microbes.

Ipanema and Leblon beaches, the most popular with tourists, had samples that tested positive for super bacteria 50 and 60 percent of the time, respectively.

The Oswaldo Cruz study of the Olympic lagoon, which was peer reviewed, is based on water samples taken in 2013. It found that the lake is a potential breeding ground for super bacteria and their spread through the city.

While the studies both use water samples that are from 2013 and 2014, Picao and other experts said they had seen no advances in sewerage infrastructure in Rio to improve the situation.

Valerie Harwood, an expert in recreational water contamination and antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the University of South Florida who was not involved in the studies, said that if anything, things were getting worse, as the super bacteria naturally spread by infecting other microbes.

The contamination has prompted federal police and prosecutors to investigate whether Rio's water utility Cedae is committing environmental crimes by lying about how much sewage it treats. Investigators are also looking into where billions of dollars in funds went since the early 1990s, money earmarked to improve sewage services and clean Guanabara Bay.

Cedae has denied any wrongdoing. It said in an emailed statement that any super bacteria found at the beaches or the Olympic lagoon must be the result of illegal dumping into storm drains. Cedae said it carries out sewage treatment and collection in the entire "south zone" of Rio, where the bodies of water are located and where the water samples were taken.


Five scientists consulted by Reuters said the immediate risk to people's health when faced with super bacteria infection depends on the state of their immune systems.

These bacteria are opportunistic microbes that can enter the body, lie dormant, then attack at a later date when a healthy person may fall ill for another reason.

Super bacteria infect not only humans but also otherwise-harmless bacteria present in the waters, turning them into antibiotic-resistant germs.

Harwood said the super bacteria genes discovered in the Olympic lagoon were probably not harmful if swallowed by themselves: they need to be cocooned inside of a bacterium.

"Those genes are like candy. They are organic molecules and they'll be eaten up by other bacteria, other organisms," Harwood said. "That's where the danger is - if a person then ingests that infected organism - because it will make it through their gastrointestinal tract and potentially make someone ill."

The presence of the super bacteria genes in the lagoon indicates the bacteria themselves had recently died or simply were not detected by testing, Harwood said.

Health experts say Rio's poor wastewater management has already created endemic illnesses associated with sewage that disproportionately impact the city's poor, including gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, Hepatitis A and severe heart and brain conditions.

Rio's Olympic organizing committee referred questions on water quality to state authorities.

Rio state's Inea environmental agency said in an emailed statement it follows the World Health Organization's recommendations for testing recreational water safety, and that searching for super bacteria is not included in that. It also said there was a lack of studies about the bacteria in water and health outcomes.  

Wall St. falls sharply on oil drop, global growth worries

June 10th, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

Global growth worries and a sharp drop in oil prices sent jitters through Wall Street, leading the three major U.S. indexes lower for the second straight day on Friday.

Despite higher demand, oil eased as traders booked profits after a three-day winning streak that started Monday and pushed prices to 2016 highs, and as the dollar moved higher.

Financial stocks came under pressure again as global issues, including uncertainty over interest rate hikes and the impending vote on Britain's membership in the European Union, sent investors scurrying to safe haven assets.

The yield on government bonds fell globally, while gold prices held near a three-week high.

"I think its the fear factor (on global issues) that is pushing stocks a little bit," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

"The British exit is beginning to become more of a factor now and that's due to the fact that we have crumbling yields throughout the globe."

At 9:43 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 130.36 points, or 0.72 percent, at 17,854.83.

The S&P 500 .SPX was down 18.04 points, or 0.85 percent, at 2,097.44 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 53.38 points, or 1.08 percent, at 4,905.24.

The S&P and the Dow are, however, on track to finish the week higher, while the Nasdaq is off 0.7 percent.

All 10 S&P sectors were lower, led by the a 1.2 percent drop in the financials index .SPSY. Goldman Sachs (GS.N) fell 1.3 percent and was the biggest drag on the Dow.

Urban Outfitters (URBN.O) fell 7 percent to $26.02 after the apparel retailer's disappointing sales report.

Mattress Firm (MFRM.O) dropped 17 percent to $27.85 after posting a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,399 to 381. On the Nasdaq, 2,007 issues fell and 340 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 23 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 6 new highs and 17 new lows.

Migrant smuggling 'general' extradited to Italy

June 8th, 2016  |  Source: AFP

An Eritrean dubbed "the general", suspected of controlling a migrant trafficking network responsible for shipping thousands of people to Europe and sending some to a watery grave, has been extradited to Italy.Medhanie Yehdego Mered, 35, who had been on a wanted list since 2015 for international people smuggling, was arrested in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and flown to Italy late Monday.

He is "the accused ringleader of one of the four largest criminal migrant trafficking organisations", the Sudanese interior ministry said in a joint statement with the country's British and Italian embassies.

Referred to in wiretapped conversations between his subordinate traffickers as "the general" for his control over a large area and number of "troops", Mered is accused of organising the smuggling of up to 8,000 people a year on migrant boats.

Investigators believe his organisation was responsible for packing migrants onto a boat that sank in 2013 off the Italian island of Lampedusa, claiming at least 360 lives in one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean.

His arrest is "a key turning point in the fight against people trafficking," prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi told a press conference, while Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano dubbed it "an extraordinary result" in a bid to stop "merchants of death".

- 'Disregard for lives' -

It is the first time a suspected top smuggler has been arrested in Africa and brought to face justice in Italy, which has been overwhelmed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people since the migrant crisis began in 2008.

Mered allegedly directed operations in Africa but also kept fellow operators in Italy up to date on the arrival of boats, so migrants could be picked up and squeezed for more money to continue to their final destinations in Europe.




June 5th, 2016  |  Source: Drudge Report

Posted directly outside President Clinton's Oval Office, Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne reveals what he observed of Hillary Clinton's character and the culture inside the White House while protecting the First Family. 

Coming in 3 weeks his tell-all book: 'CRISIS OF CHARACTER!'

Specific details of the agent's confessional are being held under tight embargo.

"What I saw in the 1990s sickend me," Byrne explains. "I want you to hear my story."

'CHARACTER' is set for release June 28. [It ranked #60,436 on AMAZON's bestsellers list late Saturday.] 

Payday loans face new limits under proposal from U.S. consumer bureau

June 2nd, 2016  |  Source: Reuters

The U.S. agency charged with protecting consumers from financial abuse unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would limit short-term borrowings known as “payday” loans, which can carry interest rates as high as 390 percent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposal includes having lenders determine if some borrowers can afford to take out debt. It also calls for restrictions on loan rollovers.

Payday lenders typically cater to low-income borrowers who need cash in a pinch but cannot access financing from mainstream banks. The name comes from the idea that a borrower would take out an emergency loan and repay it with the next paycheck. Since the loans often are not collateralized, lenders take the risk of not being repaid and charge higher rates.

"Too many borrowers seeking a short-term cash fix are saddled with loans they cannot afford and sink into long-term debt," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement, calling the proposal "mainstream" and "common-sense."

"It’s much like getting into a taxi just to ride across town and finding yourself stuck in a ruinously expensive cross-country journey."

The industry has braced for new regulation from the CFPB since the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law gave it authority over the payday loan market, and anticipation of new federal rules has already created political fractures on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service have cracked down on alleged fraud and racketeering in the industry. Payday lenders are one of the targets of "Operation Chokepoint," an FBI investigation into business relationships between banks and potential law-breaking companies.

The CFPB's proposal includes a "full-payment" test for people borrowing up to $500 over a short period. Lenders would have to determine whether a borrower could afford each loan payment and still meet basic living expenses, according to a summary.

It would bar lenders from taking auto titles as collateral and would make it difficult for them to "push distressed borrowers into reborrowing." It would also cap the number of short-term loans made in quick succession. At the same time, it would limit the number of times a lender could try to debit a borrower's bank account for an outstanding payment, with the CFPB saying failed withdrawal attempts rack up bank fees for borrowers.

The proposal presents two alternatives for longer-term loans. One caps interest rates at 28 percent and the application fee at $20. The other is an installment loan of equal payment amounts, with the loan's total cost capped at 36 percent.

The agency said current practices ensnare borrowers in "debt traps" with accumulating fees and interest, and that they encourage people to take out new loans to pay off old debts, all of which can leave them broke, without bank accounts, or carless.

Lenders say they fill a critical hole in the economy, allowing people living paycheck to paycheck to cover basic costs and those in need, who may have poor credit records, to quickly take out loans.


The fight over the proposal will span months. The agency will evaluate comments on the proposal, due Sept. 14, before issuing final regulations. It is also beginning a review of "other potentially high-risk loan products and practices" such as open-end credit.

Cordray was scheduled to discuss the proposal later on Thursday at a hearing in Kansas City, Missouri. A coalition of advocacy groups supporting reforms planned a rally in the city, while detractors have already begun voicing concerns.

On the political front, Republicans, who are widely critical of the bureau, say restricting small dollar, short-term loans will cut off struggling consumers' access to a legal financial lifeline during emergencies.

Democrats generally support reform, but are divided on how it should be carried out.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and other proponents for stronger financial regulation have lined up behind the CFPB.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the other hand, has promoted the approach used in her home state of Florida which is considered more permissive. She has sponsored a bill with other members of the House of Representatives from the state to delay the CFPB rules for two years and exempt states with laws similar to Florida's.

Gotthard tunnel: World's longest and deepest rail tunnel opens in Switzerland

June 1st, 2016  |  Source: BBC

The world's longest and deepest rail tunnel has officially opened in Switzerland, after almost two decades of construction work.

The 57km (35-mile) twin-bore Gotthard base tunnel will provide a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps between northern and southern Europe.

Switzerland says it will revolutionise European freight transport.

Goods currently carried on the route by a million lorries a year will go by train instead.

The tunnel has overtaken Japan's 53.9km Seikan rail tunnel as the longest in the world and pushed the 50.5km Channel Tunnel linking the UK and France into third place.

§Switzerland's engineering triumph

Time's Myspace Data Breach

May 31st, 2016  |  Source: The

The latest hacking outbreak is yet another reminder that cybercrime is a global epidemic. 

Another day, another hacking incident in the headlines, with embarrassed corporate executives scrambling to figure out what happened (and to cover their posteriors).

Time (TIME) on Tuesday morning confirmed reports that Myspace, a Time Inc. social networking site, has been the victim of a major data breach. As many as 360 million Myspace user records were reportedly stolen.

Shortly before the Memorial Day weekend, Myspace's IT security personnel learned that stolen Myspace usernames, passwords and email addresses were being posted by an online hacker forum. The hacking incident is still under investigation and the full scope of the breach remains unclear.

If you're looking for profitable but relatively safe ways to put your hard-earned cash to work, you should pinpoint "mega-trends" with momentum. One such investment opportunity is cyber security, which is one of the surest growth opportunities you'll ever find.

The best play on cyber security is networking giant Cisco Systems(CSCO) . The stock has enjoyed a recent post-earnings rally, but it still has plenty of upside left. Cisco exemplifies the strong underlying fundamentals that you should look for in a stock. The company sits on a huge cash hoard and controls proprietary technology that's increasingly coveted by consumers and businesses around the world.

Cisco offers considerable capital appreciation potential, but it's also a defensive growth play for investors worried about the market's current volatility. Cisco holds cash and short-term investments (quarterly) of $63.51 billion, which provides the company with a cushion for any market downturn. This war chest also allows the company to make the consistently strong research and development spending that's necessary to maintain its edge in a fiercely competitive industry.

Meanwhile, corporate America has compiled a record amount of cash that it intends to tap for long-deferred IT investments, another multi-year boon for Cisco.

Companies are increasingly defined by the right combination of 1s and 0s, not by bricks and mortar. This digital transformation has given rise to the "extended enterprise," and with it a breeding ground for attacks on IT systems. As we've just witnessed with Time, hackers are relentless around the world.

Cisco is dominant in the technologies that make the extended enterprise possible; it's also a pioneer in creating computer defenses along the extended outreaches of these virtual empires.

Read more here:

Barack Obama Under Fire From Brexit Campaigners

May 31st, 2016  |  Source: HuffPo

Backlash time after his ‘back of the queue’ threat

Brexit campaigners have ridiculed Barack Obama for threatening the UK with a backlash if it quits the EU.

A new attack ad by the Grassroots Out campaign hits back at the US President’s warning that Britain would go to ‘the back of the queue’ in trade talks outside the European Union.

With just over three weeks to go to the EU referendum, the campaign placed full-page adverts in 21 regional newspapers on Tuesday.

The ad, which plays on the original ‘Hope’ poster that helped get Obama first elected in 2008, is designed to seize on Britons’ anger at being told how to vote by a politician from overseas.

Its final pay-off line is: “Don’t Be Bullied By Barack”.

Read on here:

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