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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- March 3, 2013

U.S. incomes see largest drop in 20 years - Reuters through the Chicago Tribune - March 1, 2013 - U.S. consumer spending rose in January as Americans spent more on services, with savings providing a cushion after income recorded its biggest drop in 20 years.                       Income tumbled 3.6 percent, the largest drop since January 1993. Part of the decline was payback for a 2.6 percent surge in December as businesses, anxious about higher taxes, rushed to pay dividends and bonuses before the new year.                 A portion of the drop in January also reflected the tax hikes. The income at the disposal of households after inflation and taxes plunged a 4.0 percent in January after advancing 2.7 percent in December...                           With income dropping sharply and spending rising, the saving rate - the percentage of disposable income households are socking away - fell to 2.4 percent, the lowest level since November 2007. The rate had jumped to 6.4 percent in December. -

Consumer Spending in U.S. Climbs Even as Taxes Hurt Incomes - Bloomberg - Michelle Jamrisko - Mar 1, 2013 - Consumer spending in the U.S. rose in January even as incomes dropped by the most in 20 years, showing households were weathering the payroll-tax increase by socking away less money in the bank.                Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, climbed 0.2 percent after a 0.1 percent gain the prior month, a Commerce Department report showed today in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 76 economists called for a 0.2 percent advance. Incomes slumped 3.6 percent, sending the saving rate down to the lowest level since November 2007...                     Disposable income, or the money left over after taxes, dropped 4 percent after adjusting for inflation, the biggest plunge since monthly records began in 1959. The drop also reflected the lapse of the payroll tax holiday. Excluding the effect of the tax and other special factors such as the timing of bonuses and dividends, disposable personal income would have increased 0.3 percent in January, the same as in December, the report said.                  Adjusting consumer spending for inflation, which renders the figures used to calculate gross domestic product, purchases rose 0.1 percent in January for a second month, today’s report showed.

Consumer Spending Drought: 16 Signs That The Middle Class Is Running Out Of Money - The Economic Collapse Blog -  Is "discretionary income" rapidly becoming a thing of the past for most American families? Right now, there are a lot of signs that we are on the verge of a nightmarish consumer spending drought. Incomes are down, taxes are up, many large retail chains are deeply struggling because of the lack of customers, and at this point nearly a quarter of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank. Considering the fact that consumer spending is such a large percentage of the U.S. economy, that is very bad news. How will we ever have a sustained economic recovery if consumers don't have much money to spend? Well, the truth is that we aren't ever going to have a sustained economic recovery. In fact, this debt-fueled bubble of false hope that we are experiencing right now is as good as things are going to get. Things are going to go downhill from here, and if you think that consumer spending is bad now, just wait until you see what happens over the next several years. - See more at:

The Missing Recovery — Paul Craig Roberts - Paul Craig Roberts - March 1, 2013 - Officially, since June 2009 the US economy has been undergoing an economic recovery from the December 2007 recession. But where is this recovery? I cannot find it, and neither can millions of unemployed Americans.                            The recovery exists only in the official measure of real GDP, which is deflated by an understated measure of inflation, and in the U.3 measure of the unemployment rate, which is declining because it does not count discouraged job seekers who have given up looking for a job.                               No other data series indicates an economic recovery. Neither real retail sales nor housing starts, consumer confidence, payroll employment, or average weekly earnings indicate economic recovery.                          Neither does the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. The Fed’s expansive monetary policy of bond purchases to maintain negative real interest rates continues 3.5 years into the recovery. Of course, the reason for the Fed’s negative interest rates is not to boost the economy but to boost asset values on the books of “banks too big to fail.”                       The low interest rates raise the prices of the mortgage-backed derivatives and other debt-related assets on the banks’ balance sheets at the expense of interest income for retirees on their savings accounts, money market funds, and Treasury bonds.                           Despite recovery’s absence and the lack of job opportunities for Americans, Republicans in Congress are sponsoring bills to enlarge the number of foreigners that corporations can bring in on work visas. The large corporations claim that they cannot find enough skilled Americans. This is one of the most transparent of the constant stream of lies that we are told.                       Foreign hires are not additions to the work force, but replacements. The corporations force their American employees to train the foreigners, and then the American employees are discharged. Obviously, if skilled employees were in short supply, they would not be laid off. Moreover, if the skills were in short supply, salaries would be bid up, not down, and the 36% of those who graduated in 2011 with a doctorate degree in engineering would not have been left unemployed. The National Science Foundation’s report, “Doctorate Recipients From U.S. Universities,” says that only 64% of the Ph.D. engineering graduates found a pay check.                    As I have reported on numerous occasions for many years, neither the payroll jobs statistics nor the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job projections show job opportunities for university graduates. But this doesn’t stop Congress from helping US corporations get rid of their American employees in exchange for campaign donations...

Tyson, Cargill among others now drugging your meat with Merck's new Zilmax - - Lance Johnson - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - As a journalist for Chronicle of Higher Education, Melody Peterson described her visit to the meat locker at West Texas A&M University. Escorted by Ty E. Lawrence, associate professor of animal science, Peterson reported,                      "Bloody sides of beef, still covered with a slick layer of ivory-colored fat, hung from steel hooks. Dressed in a white lab coat, a hard hat on his head, Lawrence pointed to the carcass of a Holstein that had been fed a new drug called Zilmax. He noted its larger size compared with the nearby body of a steer never given the drug."                    "'This is thicker, and it's plumper,' said Lawrence, pointing at the beast's rib-eye. 'This animal right here,' waving his hand at the pharmaceutically enhanced meat, 'doesn't look like a Holstein anymore.'"                   Not a Holstein anymore: is that really something to be proud about? If a Holstein doesn't look like a Holstein anymore, what are we eating and what are we becoming?... - (Zilmax: New Growth Promotant For Cattle - Food Renegade) -
Written by KristenM)

Why beef is losing its flavor - Feedlots have begun giving cattle a drug that causes the animal to bulk up on muscle, losing fat in the process. - MSN Money - Kim Peterson - February 14, 2013 - If you think steaks don't taste as flavorful as they used to, you might be on to something.              Feedlots have begun giving cattle a new drug with a curious side effect: It makes steaks less flavorful and juicy, Slate reports. But the drug, Zilmax, helps cattle bulk up on muscle in the last few weeks of their lives -- which brings in more money for feedlot owners.                           Merck Animal Health says that Zilmax doesn't cause the quality of steaks to suffer, and that people can't tell the difference between beef that has and has not been treated with the drug.                       Zilmax usage has really taken off since 2011. If Merck is right, you may have not noticed a thing. But if you've wondered recently why steak suddenly seems more muscular, less fatty and a bit more bland, now you have your answer.

As Beef Cattle Become Behemoths, Who Are Animal Scientists Serving? - The Chronicle of Higher Education - Melody Petersen - April 15, 2012 - ...Convincing ranchers that Zilmax will transform their cattle into bovine Schwarzeneggers has been part of Lawrence's work ever since the drug was introduced by Intervet, a subsidiary of Merck, the global pharmaceutical company. The tour he led of the carcasses in his lab was just one of many events where he has helped Intervet sell Zilmax. He's given speeches to ranchers and written an article for a beef-industry magazine to promote the drug. He's repeatedly let Intervet include his comments in news releases, including one in which he said the drug could "revolutionize the beef production system."                       Lawrence is hardly alone. Scores of animal scientists employed by public universities have helped pharmaceutical companies persuade farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics, hormones, and drugs like Zilmax to make their cattle grow bigger ever faster. With the use of these products, the average weight of a fattened steer sold to a packing plant is now roughly 1,300 pounds—up from 1,000 pounds in 1975.                    It's been a profitable venture for the drug companies, as well as for the professors and their universities. Agriculture schools increasingly depend on the industry for research grants, a sizable portion of which cover overhead and administrative costs. And many professors now add to their personal bank accounts by working for the companies as consultants and speakers. More than two-thirds of animal scientists reported in a 2005 survey that they had received money from industry in the previous five years.                     Yet unlike a growing number of medical schools around the country, where administrators have recently tightened rules to better police their faculty's ties to pharmaceutical companies, the schools of agriculture have largely rejected critics' concerns about industry cash. Administrators have set few limits on how much corporate money agricultural professors can accept. Faculty work with industry is governed by confidentiality rules that veil it from public view.                 In certain ways, the close relationship between animal scientists and pharmaceutical companies has never served the public well. Few animal scientists have been interested in looking at what harm the livestock drugs may be causing to the cattle, the environment, or the people eating the meat. They've left most of that work to scientists outside of agriculture, consumer groups, and others who take interest.                   But with the introduction of Zilmax, the situation may have reached a tipping point. Critics say some academic animal scientists have become so closely tied to the drug companies that they may be working more in the companies' interests than in those of farmers and ranchers—the very groups that land-grant universities were created to serve.

U.S.D.A. May Approve Horse Slaughtering - New York Times - STEPHANIE STROM - February 28, 2013 - The United States Department of Agriculture is likely to approve a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico in the next two months, which would allow equine meat suitable for human consumption to be produced in the United States for the first time since 2007.                      The plant, in Roswell, N.M., is owned by Valley Meat Company, which sued the U.S.D.A. and its Food Safety and Inspection Service last fall over the lack of inspection services for horses going to slaughter. Horse meat cannot be processed for human consumption in the United States without inspection by the U.S.D.A., so horses destined for that purpose have been shipped to places like Mexico and Canada for slaughter.                       Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the agriculture department, said that “several” companies had asked the agency to re-establish inspection of horses for slaughter. “These companies must still complete necessary technical requirements and the F.S.I.S. must complete its inspector training,” he wrote in an e-mail referring to the food inspection service, “but at that point, the department will legally have no choice but to go forward with the inspections.”
He said the Obama administration was urging Congress to reinstate an effective ban on the production of horse meat for human consumption that lapsed in 2011.                 The impending approval comes amid growing concern among American consumers that horse meat will somehow make its way into ground beef products in the United States as it has done in Europe. Major companies, including Tesco, NestlĂ© and Ikea, have had to pull food from shelves in 14 countries after tests showed that products labeled 100 percent beef actually contained small amounts of horse meat. Horse meat is not necessarily unsafe, and in some countries, it is popular. But some opponents of horse slaughtering say consumption of horse meat is ill-advised because of the use of various kinds of drugs in horses...

First Horse(meat) Trading, Now 59% Of "Tuna" Sold In The U.S. Isn’t Tuna - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - March 2, 2013 -  This is just the latest revelation in the stealth inflation and food fraud theme I have written about frequently in recent months.  The non-profit group Oceana took samples of 1,215 fish sold in the U.S. and genetic tests found that that 59% of those labeled tuna were mislabeled.

Escolar: The World's Most Dangerous Fish - Medellitin - Escolar is the most controversial fish that you are likely to find in your fish market. This firm, white fleshed fish has an incredibly rich flavor, often described as 'succulent', or a fattier version of swordfish. Why so rich? It turns out that Escolar's diet contains food high in wax esters. Wax esters that are really difficult for Escolar to digest. As a result, these esters build up in the fish.                 Where is the controversy in a buttery, delicious fish? I would say it is in the laxative like effect it has on a certain percentage of the population. Well, a 'laxative like effect' is how my fish monger described it. Others would describe it as closer to diahhrea. An expert would call it 'keriorrhoea'. Literally translated, it means 'flow of wax'. Oily orange droplets pouring out your pooper. Keriorrhoea occurs because the wax esters in the flesh of the fish pool up in your intestine.                Some reports of Escolar related illness include cramping, nausea, diarrhea, the itis, and other abdominal pains. This could be the result of severe Keriorrhea or could also be Scrombroid poisoning. Escolar related Scromboid (or histimine poisoning) is the result of high levels of histidine being converted to histimine usually as a result of poor storage.

Shocking Statistics: America's Income Gap

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