Obama finally has some good economic news to deliver
President Obama has talked about the economy for so long you can be forgiven if you think he was first elected during the Panic of 1907. Many voters, no doubt, have learned to tune him out. But after six years in office, Obama finally has an upbeat story on the economy to tell, which could give Democrats at risk of losing the Senate a desperately needed edge in the upcoming midterm elections.
Despite infinitesimal odds of Congress passing any of his big economic ideas, Obama continues to barnstorm the nation calling for more infrastructure spending, a higher minimum wage and other kinds of stimulus. His economic speeches also include a lengthy list of bullet points touting his accomplishments on the economy — something that was in very short supply until recently.
Here are seven of Obama’s major claims on the economy, with a bit of fact-checking and analysis:
“Our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.” That’s true, but why the 52-month cutoff? Because that starts the count at the low point for employment in early 2010, making the gain since the bottom as large as possible. If you start the count from the first month Obama took office, businesses have created only 4.8 million jobs. And if you count from the high point prior to the recession, the economy has only added 415,000 jobs, on net, during the past six-and-a-half years. Still, Obama obviously started his presidency in a huge hole, and, so far this year, employers have added an average of 231,000 new jobs each month, a healthy pace of growth.
“Manufacturing is adding more jobs than any time since the 1990s.” This uptick in hiring Obama likes to talk about conceals a broader trendline that’s much more discouraging. Manufacturing employment was steady in the 1990s but began to fall like a stone starting around 2000. The number of manufacturing jobs remains about 1.9 million less than the tally right before the recession, and 5.5. million jobs below the peak level in 1998. Manufacturing is in the middle of a long transition toward more automated and tech-driven production, which has completely changed the job requirements and nature of work in this important industry.
“Housing is rebounding.” True, but housing still has a long way to go. Home prices, on average, have regained less than half the value lost during the housing bust. Many first-time home buyers remain shut out of the market, and the wealth of the typical family is still about 40% lower than it was before the recession. The housing recovery needs to pick up or it could threaten the whole economy.
“Our auto industry is booming.” Auto sales have been stronger than many analysts expected and are now close to peak levels from before the recession. Part of that improvement comes from car buyers needing to replace aging, unreliable vehicles, but the sales gain also stems from generous credit and low interest rates available to many buyers — something that’s not yet common in the market for homes.
“There are families with health insurance who didn’t have it before.” Indeed there are, and early surveys seem to show the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is fulfilling its goal of expanding health insurance to several million additional people. What remains to be seen is whether Obamacare will do anything to reduce medical costs and help the nation deal with an expected explosion in healthcare spending as the baby boomers retire. And many Americans deeply opposed to Obamacare may never like it, no matter what.
“For the first time in nearly 20 years, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from abroad.” Obama likes to take credit for the U.S. energy boom, but new drilling technology such as hydrofracking is really responsible. Obama has done virtually nothing in terms of policy to help boost oil production.
“By almost every measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.” Almost is the key word here. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, is still about 5% lower than it was at the start of 2009. Since there are more jobs now, that means a lot of people are earning less money than they did before the recession, which clearly puts a strain on household finances. That could still be the case when Obama leaves Washington in 2017.
Obama critics, of course, argue that the pace of recovery during the past six years has been far too slow and we ought to be much better off than we are now. If Obama’s approval ratings are any indication, voters agree, since the president’s popularity is near the low point hit during the disastrous rollout of Obamacare last year. Job gains don’t seem to be helping Obama’s ratings as much as job losses and other problems hurt it.
Still, Obama now has some facts he can point to as evidence of a recovery, which is much better than merely promising it will arrive soon. That may be the best economic news Obama has delivered yet, and it can’t come a moment too soon for his struggling Democratic party.
By Rick Newman
AT&T Suffers Data Breach
AT&T confirmed Friday that attackers compromised the personal information of an undisclosed number of AT&T Mobility members.
AT&T just revealed that outside attackers — allegedly employees of one of AT&T’s service providers — stole a trove of personal information on AT&T Mobility customers. AT&T says the stolen information includes Social Security numbers and call records, i.e. details about the date, time, duration and other phone number for every phone call customers make. AT&T would not disclose the number of affected users.
AT&T believes that the attackers were seeking to sell stolen AT&T phones on second-hand markets and hacked the AT&T database in order to get “unlock codes” for the phones, which would let the thieves disconnect the stolen phones from the AT&T network, thus letting the phones reconnect to other mobile networks. This makes the phone far more valuable in secondhand markets.
The AT&T Mobility breach apparently occurred on April 9 through 21, two months ago, but AT&T only just revealed it now, as a California state law requires all companies with 500 or more Californian customers to self-report if they have suffered a data breach.
The good news is, if the criminals are truly most interested in unlocking stolen phones, then only stolen phones are at risk. But because social security numbers were included as well, users should take steps to protect their identity, such as placing an alert on their credit report to watch for fraud.
By Jill Scharr
NWA Biopic ’Straight Outta Compton’ Casts Dr. Dre, Eazy-E
After more than five years, four writers and a tough-to-please trio that holds cast and script veto power, Universal’s N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton is finally getting the green light.
Sources say the studio has assembled its leading threesome to tackle the roles of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the late Eazy-E. The three parties with approval—Cube, Dre and Eazy-E’s widow Tomica Wright—have signed off on the actors who will play the core members of the seminal rap group.
It’s no secret that Cube has been lobbying for his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., 24, to be cast as the teen version of his father, and it appears he got his wish.
Less known is the classically-trained actor who is said to have won the role of Dre, Marcus Callender. Although the alum of New York’s Shakespeare Lab at the Public Theater might be more familiar with Chekhov than Compton’s gang-plagued streets, he beat out a phalanx of would-be rappers (the Beats co-founder originally wanted Michael B. Jordan to play him, but the actor is about to take on a Fantastic Four reboot at Fox). Still, Callender has some screen credits, including the pilot for Steve Zaillian’s Criminal Justice on HBO, as well as bit parts in the CBS series Blue Bloods and Elementary.
Even more obscure is Jason Mitchell, who insiders say landed the role of Eazy-E after an out-of-the-park screen test. If his casting sticks, it will make for a great backstory, given that he is said to have no acting background and works in a kitchen. (Ironically, IMDB.com already lists two actors that are not correct: Donat Sean Abiff as Dre and Brian Gilbert as Cube.)
The casting of the film has been followed breathlessly for some time, ever since the studio first announced plans to bring the gangsta rap pioneers to the big screen. Despite scripts by Alan Wenkus, S. Leigh Savidge and Andrea Berloff, the project languished for years. But in 2012, F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) became attached to the project, reviving its prospects. And in late 2013, Jonathan Herman did a major script overhaul, which got the studio excited. Then, in the spring, Universal shot a sequence in Los Angeles in order to qualify for California’s film tax credit, which is set to expire. With the film technically underway, Universal had to find its cast. Sources say Wright was the final holdout, but she has finally given her stamp of approval, paving the way for principal photography to begin in less than two months.
1 dead and 16 critical after tornadoes
A hospital spokeswoman says at least one person is dead and 16 others are in critical condition after two massive tornadoes swept through northeast Nebraska.
Jodi Richey of Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk says the victims were brought into the hospital after at least one of the twisters devastated Pilger. The town of about 350 people is about 100 miles northwest of Omaha.
Stanton County Commissioner Jerry Weatherholt says at least one of the tornadoes destroyed more than half of Pilger.
The National Weather Service says the tornadoes were about a mile apart. Meteorologists have also been tracking a massive tornado near the town of Burwell, in central Nebraska.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the Fathers out there
Google is Planning a Health-Tracking Service
Set to be called Google Fit, it is expected to make its official debut at the upcoming I/O Developer conference later in June, and, like Apple’s new HealthKit, will be able to pool data from a host of fitness and activity trackers.
According to Forbes, which has spoken to “multiple sources,” Google has already inked deals with a number of device manufacturers so that data gathered from their gadgets will flow freely into Google’s service for analysis and aggregation.
What Forbes can’t yet confirm is whether Google Fit will be an app or whether it will be built into the next version of Android, the operating system that currently runs on over 1 billion smartphones and tablets globally.
Apple’s HealthKit, which it debuted at its own developers conference on June 2, will be baked into the next version of its iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS8, and, as well as synching with devices like Nike’s Fuel Band, also draws information from the dedicated motion-sensing chip inside the iPhone 5S.
There’s a very good chance that Google will take a different route and push out its service as an app instead. The company is obsessed with gathering and analyzing data and the more it can gather, the better it can make its products. However, very few smartphones (less than 11% worldwide) run the latest version of Android due to the unique nature in which it is released to different consumers with different handsets on different contracts with different network operators in different parts of the world. There is neither rhyme not reason so the best way to get Google Fit into the lives of as many people as possible is to launch it as an app.
However, as the Forbes piece points out, unless consumers can see the benefit in using the service, there is no guarantee that the app will be installed. Google already tried to launch a health platform back in 2008. Called Google Health it failed to catch on because it was focused on aggregating data rather than providing users with useful information and by 2012 had been shuttered again.
Maybe with Google Fit the company has learned its lesson and as the I/O Developer Conference is due to start on June 25, we won’t have to wait long to find out.
LeVar Burton Hits $1 Million ‘Reading Rainbow’ Kickstarter Goal in Less Than 24 Hours
Take a look, it’s booked: LeVar Burton has hit his “Reading Rainbow” Kickstarter goal of $1 million dollars in less than 24 hours.
Burton first tweeted out the news of the upcoming crowd-funded effort at 6:50 a.m. PT on Wednesday. By 5 p.m. PT, his campaign was a million dollars richer and fully funded.
At the time of this writing, Burton had more than 23,000 backers with 34 days to go. At 5:17 p.m. PT he thanked everyone who donated by tweeting “grateful.”
The actor’s latest “Reading Rainbow” effort will create a new version of the show for the web. Burton also plans on offering a “classroom version” of the program for teachers and is spearheading a not-for-profit that will give copies of “Reading Rainbow” away to low-income schools for free.
The campaign raised money with rewards ranging from a special thanks on the website with a $5 pledge. While a $10,000 pledge would get you an extravagant private dinner with Burton in Los Angeles, plus the opportunity to wear the actor’s original “Star Trek: The Next Generation” visor.
“Reading Rainbow” ran from 1983 to 2006 and continued in reruns until 2009.
By Tony Maglio
FBI: New Yorker from Yemen plotted to kill troops
A New York business owner from Yemen plotted vengeance attacks against members of the U.S. military for American actions overseas and Shiite Muslims over the civil war in Syria, according to federal authorities.
Federal authorities said in court papers that Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, bought two handguns and two silencers as part of a plan to kill members of the U.S. armed forces returning from war, as well as Shiites in the Rochester area.
Elfgeeh was arrested Saturday and faces two counts of receiving and possessing an unregistered firearm silencer. No plea was entered during a court appearance Monday. Public defender Mark Hosken, who was appointed to handle the case, was not available for comment.
The investigation included linking Elfgeeh’s home computer to tweets from alias Twitter accounts expressing support for al-Qaida, violent holy war and Sunni insurgent groups in Syria, according to court papers.
The FBI gave an informant a Walther PPK .32-caliber handgun and a Glock 26, 9 mm handgun, both with functional silencers affixed to the barrels, two boxes of .32-caliber ammunition, and two boxes of 9-millimeter ammunition, according to the affidavit.
Elfgeeh, a naturalized U.S. citizen who operates Halal Mojo and Food Mart in Rochester, paid the informant $1,050 in the transaction completed Saturday afternoon and was immediately arrested for possession of the silencers not registered in his name.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul said Monday that Elfgeeh faces 10 years in prison for each silencer and the possibility of a $250,000 fine.
Elfgeeh frequently used Twitter to tweet and retweet messages expressing support for various terrorist groups and holy war, seeking donations to assist fighters in Syria, and praising al-Qaida as ”our only savior,” authorities said.
According to an FBI affidavit, a government informant taped a December conversation with Elfgeeh in which he stated: ”I’m thinking about doing something here to be honest with you. I’m thinking about just go buy a big automatic gun from off the street or something and a lot of bullets and just put on a vest or whatever and just go around and start shooting.”
Authorities said Elfgeeh changed his plans in March to killing returning soldiers, and he said in a taped conversation with an informant that he planned to act alone: ”It could be right now in the daytime, and I could be … like this guy here or something … I could just go back and wait for him to when he leave to go to his garage, and just walk up slowly, boom, boom, boom, inside his garage.”
When an informant asked him whether he was going to release a video message of his attacks, Elfgeeh responded, ”Once we do five or ten already, 15, something like that … then we gonna say something,” according to the affidavit.
Even though Elfgeeh used the word ”we,” most of his comments indicated he intended to act alone and not immediately.
The FBI said it had been investigating Elfgeeh since early last year.
In an appearance Monday before a federal magistrate, Elfgeeh was appointed a lawyer from the Federal Public Defender’s Office and was sent to Monroe County Jail.
A bail hearing has been scheduled for June 16.
Southwest fined $200,000 fine for deceptive TV ads
Southwest Airlines is being fined $200,000 for advertising a fare sale too good to be true.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that in TV ads last October the airline promised flights from Atlanta to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for just $59 — but didn’t make any seats available at that price.
The government said that Southwest’s ads were deceptive and violated rules on advertising of airline fares.
Southwest was also required to pay an extra $100,000 that had been suspended after a similar offense last year.
The Transportation Department said airlines have long known that as part of rules governing fare advertising they must have a ”reasonable number” of seats available at the advertised price. In October, Southwest ran ads on eight Atlanta stations in which the narrator told viewers, ”Discover amazing low sale fares” of $59 ”to places like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.”
The department said it checked and found that Southwest had no seats for $59 to those three cities on any of the travel dates listed in the ad.
Southwest said that it was all a mistake — that those three cities were never intended to be part of the Atlanta fare sale but wound up in the advertisement after a flawed review of the ad copy.
”As soon as we became aware of our mistake, we pulled all incorrect advertisements off the air,” said spokesman Brad Hawkins.
The airline said that it honored the $59 fare to the three cities for consumers who called its reservations center and asked for that price.
’Shield’ Actor Michael Jace Charged With Murder
The Shield star Michael Jace has been formally charged with murdering his wife.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney on Thursday filed one count of murder with a gun against Jace, 51. The count stems from the Monday incident in which the actor allegedly shot his wife of 10 years, April Jace, who was 40.
Prosecutors will ask that his bail be set at $2 million. If convicted, Jace faces 50 years to life in state prison. Jace was expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon, but his lawyers asked for a continuance and his arraignment is now set for June 18
olice responded to several 911 calls about gunshots on Monday evening at around 8:30 p.m. in Los Angeles’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Upon arrival, they found Michael at home with his two sons and April lying dead in the front hallway from multiple gunshot wounds. The children were unharmed.
April, a teacher, reportedly had just returned to the house with their sons following a baseball practice. The couple reportedly had an argument about money, a subject that has been a source of strife for the couple in the past (they filed for bankruptcy in 2011).
Michael reportedly confessed to the shooting to LAPD. There are no additional suspects.
Michael played Detective Julien Lowe on FX’s The Shield for 89 episodes before the show went off the air in 2008. More recently, he appeared in a recurring role on the cop drama Southland. He’s also appeared on CSI, NYPD Blue, and played Michael Jordan in the 1999 TV movie Michael Jordan: An American Hero. He played a Black Panther member in 1994’s Forrest Gump.
By Jeremy Blacklow
Lol. Sometimes you gotta back up th threats. Um pretty sure he told her more than once I will shoot thep shit out of you if you keep blowing my money. And he did. He is a noble man.
and they finna put his ass under the jail. lol nigga called him noble lol u shotout dog lol
Why can’t ppl just live within their means… Money should never be the reason for such behavior…. SMH
Use This DJ App to Stream, Skip, and Scratch Spotify’s 20 Million Song Catalog
That DJ you hired for your wedding? He may have just become obsolete.
On Thursday morning, the revered Mac and iOS app djay released an update that allows you to simultaneously stream and mix any two tracks at the same time, using Spotify’s streaming service, without any lag.
The feature will be available to premium Spotify subscribers, a service that costs $10 per month. Anyone who is both a premium Spotify subscriber and an owner of the app (made by Algoriddim) will have a large library of material to choose from when creating, scratching, rewinding, fast-forwarding, and mixing sets.
Previously, djay owners were limited to the songs in their iTunes libraries, which could be both costly and storage-intensive.
“Having access to over 20 million songs is like the Holy Grail for someone who wants to mix music,” Algoriddim CEO Karim Morsy — who has been a DJ himself for 15 years — told Yahoo Tech. “This is the future of DJing. We think it’s a whole new era.”
Djay’s overhaul will also contain a learning algorithm that uses technology from The Echo Nest, a company Spotify recently acquired, to match songs with similar beats. So each time a DJ goes to find a new track to mix with the song that’s playing, he’ll be offered a list of potential matches, based on the beats and genre of the song, and his past listening habits.
You can also hook the app up to an automatic match-and-fade setting and let your iPad or iPhone DJ the party itself.
This bodes well for anyone who’s ever been in charge of the tunes at an event and has found herself in unfamiliar genre territory. Even Morsy reminisces about how he could’ve used the tool back in the day.
By Alyssa Bereznak
Casino mogul Steve Wynn pays $28 million for Popeye statue
Ask the average person what he or she would do with $28 million, and we’re guessing that buying a 2,000-pound statue of Popeye the Sailor Man would be near the bottom of the list.
Not so for casino mogul and billionaire Steve Wynn. The Las Vegas tycoon recently dropped $28 million for a larger-than-life statue designed by legendary artist Jeff Koons, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The piece had been expected to draw around $25 million during the Sotheby’s auction in New York, according to Art Daily. When will people learn to stop underestimating Popeye?
The idea of spending so much on a statue of the spinach-chomping, Bluto-stomping cartoon character may sound ridiculous, but the piece of art may prove to be a wise investment on Wynn’s part.
Koons only created three of the Popeye statues. Another of his works, Balloon Dog, was auctioned for a staggering $58 million last year, making it the most expensive piece of art sold by a living artist, CNBC reports.
In a 2012 interview with Stephen Colbert, Koons said he likes the way art makes him feel. Colbert joked back that it makes Koons feel rich. Clearly, he’s not a starving artist.
Wynn reportedly plans to display the glossy statue — complete with spinach, bulging muscles, and pipe — in his Las Vegas casino-hotel. Assuming, that is, that he doesn’t put an elbow through it first.
By Mike Krumboltz
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