Food stamps and priorities

Updated: Thursday, November 28, 2013
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Food banks across the country are struggling to help millions of Americans put holiday meals on their tables for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Thanksgiving eve, Tom Van Howe has a few thoughts about priorities and the growing gap between the rich and just about everybody else.

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It’s probably not the best time to have slashed food stamps by five billion dollars.

Most of us, at one time or another, see – or think we see – people taking advantage of the system, but for the most part people use those stamps to put food on their tables, simple as that.

The U.S. Agriculture Department says 15 percent of Americans, roughly 50 million people are considered “food insecure.”

Food banks are astonished at the demand, they’ve fallen behind, they’re scrambling like never before to catch up, and we’ve reduced food stamps by five billion dollars.

Just for the sake of perspective, this is coming from a government that lost nearly seven billion dollars in the early years of the Iraq war. Not misspent, although there was a lot of that too, but lost. Gone. Lining someone’s pockets. The Pentagon said, given enough time, they’d find it, but they never did.

The cash had been flown into Iraq in 20 C-130s in shrink-wrapped bricks. There was no accounting for it, presumably a lot of people got very rich.

Did anyone’s head roll? No. Did anybody go to prison? No.

We brought $55 billion in cash to Afghanistan, $55 billion to win the hearts and minds of the people. Nobody is certain where it all went. We just don’t know.

Over the past decade, tens of millions of dollars of cash has been regularly delivered to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It arrives in suitcases, backpacks, and shopping bags. We don’t know how much in all, certainly enough to keep him in fancy hats and robes and we don’t know how it’s been spent. Mind you, these were regular deliveries.

Ostensibly the money was meant to buy influence for the CIA, but some of it instead fueled corruption and empowered warlords, many of whom have ties to the drug trade or the Taliban.

Anybody called to the carpet? Not as far as anyone knows.

JP Morgan-Chase just agreed to pay a fine of $13 billion for the fraudulent way it bundled and sold bad mortgages and securities leading up to the great recession six years ago. The company lied repeatedly in an effort to cover its losses and JP Morgan wasn’t alone; all of Wall Street was lying, cheating, stealing and paying themselves bonuses.

Remember AIG and Lehman Brothers? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, all of them, they were embroiled in an obscene scandal that left millions impoverished, that destroyed trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth.

Anybody pay for this? Anybody go to jail? Nope.

For the record, in the case of JP Morgan-Chase, the longtime chairman and CEO is still the chairman and CEO. JP Morgan’s stock is up 23 percent for the year and the $13 billion fine will most likely be paid by stockholders, but what gets everyone into a dither is food stamps.

None of this is to suggest that law enforcement in general doesn’t still have a grip on things. Last week a 24-year-old trouble making McDonald’s worker up in Iron Mountain was convicted of spitting into a snack wrap and serving it to a cop.

He got two-and-a-half years.

Business News

Last Update on October 24, 2014 17:58 GMT

NEW HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. sales of new homes were essentially flat in September, after the government sharply revised downward what was initially an August surge in buying.

The Commerce Department says new-home sales edged up 0.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000. The report also revised down the August sales rate to 466,000 from 504,000.

The pace of sales for newly built homes has improved a mere 1.7 percent so far this year compared to 2013. Only the South has experienced gains in buying year-to-date.

Housing has struggled to fully rebound since the recession ended more than five years ago. Many potential buyers lack the savings and strong credit history needed to afford a home, causing them to rent or remain in their existing houses instead of upgrading.

EARNS-FORD

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford's net income dropped 34 percent to $835 million in the third quarter, dragged down by the cost of launching its new F-150 pickup.

The company closed its Dearborn truck plant for five weeks during the quarter and cut back on truck sales in order to preserve inventories while it readies the new aluminum-sided truck. That hurt pretax profits in North America, which fell 39 percent to $1.4 billion.

Ford earned 21 cents per share, down from 31 cents in the July-September period a year ago. Without one-time items, including separation costs in Europe, Ford earned 24 cents. That beat Wall Street's expectation of 19 cents, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue fell 2.5 percent to $34.9 billion, better than the forecast of $33.7 billion.

UPS-HOLIDAYS

ATLANTA (AP) -- UPS is expecting an 11 percent jump in December shipments as the holiday shopping season heats up.

UPS recently announced that it would hire up to 95,000 people to handle the tremendous volume. That's up from last year when the Atlanta company initially planned to hire 55,000 seasonal workers. Major U.S. shipping companies were overwhelmed by a shift in American shopping habits, namely the success of Amazon.com. with its free shipping, and UPS was forced to hire an additional 30,000 people.

United Parcel Service Inc. also maintained its guidance Friday for 2014 adjusted earnings between $4.90 and $5 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predict $4.95 per share.

PROCTER & GAMBLE-DURACELL

Procter & Gamble removes the batteries

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Procter & Gamble is removing the batteries and making Duracell a stand-alone company.

P&G, which acquired Duracell in 2005, announced earlier this year that it would shed more than half its brands around the globe over the next year or two.

If a split off occurs, P&G said that its shareholders would have the option of exchanging some, none or all of their P&G shares for shares of the newly formed Duracell company.

The Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati, said Friday that it is also considering a spinoff, sale or other options for Duracell.

CHIQUITA-FYFFES

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Chiquita shareholders have rejected plans to merge with Irish fruit importer Fyffes that would have made the world's largest banana supplier.

Chiquita Brands International Inc. said Friday that the shareholders didn't approve a revised transaction agreement between the two companies during a special shareholders meeting.

Chiquita said it now expects to enter talks with investment firm Safra Group and juice company Cutrale Group on their competing offer of $14.50 per share. Chiquita previously rejected buyout bids from the two Brazilian companies.

CHILD SEAT RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Evenflo is recalling more than 202,000 rear-facing infant seats because the buckles can become difficult to unlatch.

The recall affects Embrace 35/9999 models with an AmSafe QT1 buckle. Documents posted by U.S. safety regulators say that if the buckles don't release easily, it may be difficult to get a child out of the seat in an emergency.

The affected seats were made at various times from December 2011 through May of 2013.

Not all Embrace 35 models are covered by the recall. For others, the company will provide replacement buckles if requested by customers.

The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Owners with questions can call Evenflo at (800) 490-7591.

HALAL FOODS-INVESTIGATION

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- The founder of a popular brand of food for observant Muslims has been indicted on charges that he shipped beef to Malaysia and Indonesia that didn't meet those countries' import requirements.

A federal grand jury returned the indictment Thursday against Bill Aossey Jr., who founded the Midamar Corp. in 1974. The Cedar Rapids company grew into the leading U.S. halal brand, selling more than 200 products in the U.S. and abroad.

A 19-count indictment charges Aossey with directing employees to change labels and fabricate documents to make beef products appear that they originated from a slaughterhouse that met Malaysia and Indonesia's strict requirements. Halal meat is supposed to be killed in ritual slaughter.

Aossey's attorney called the indictment unfair Friday, saying the allegations were "a minor regulatory violation" at most.

NBC INTERNS-SETTLEMENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- NBCUniversal will pay $6.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by unpaid interns who worked on "Saturday Night Live" and other shows who claim they are owed wages, according to court documents.

The interns claim NBCUniversal wrongly classified them as non-employees in an effort to avoid labor laws. NBCUniversal said in court documents that even though it is settling the suit, it denies the allegations and doesn't admit any wrongdoing.

The average amount that class-action members of the suit will receive is $505, although the main plaintiffs will receive more. The number of class members is capped at 8,975.

The interns had been seeking recovery of unpaid wages, attorneys' fees, interest and liquidated damages. The settlement still has to be approved by a judge. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York.

NBCUniversal is owned by Philadelphia-based cable provider Comcast Corp.

CYPRUS-ECONOMY

S&P upgrades Cyprus on commitment to bailout deal

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Rating agency Standard & Poor's has given Cyprus a one-notch upgrade to its credit grade, raising it to B+.

The agency cited the country's commitment to the terms of its bailout program and better-than-expected economic growth. It also said the outlook for Cyprus is stable, with good economic progress offset by lingering challenges to its banking system, which is still burdened with a huge amount of bad loans.

BRITAIN-ECONOMY

LONDON (AP) -- Official figures show Britain's economic recovery is continuing, despite a gloomy global environment.

The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product grew 0.7 percent in the three months through September compared with the previous three months. That is down slightly from a 0.9 percent quarterly rate in the April-June period but remains among the strongest growth rates among developed economies.

Compared with a year earlier, the economy was 3.0 percent larger.

Treasury Chief George Osborne says the figures show Britain "continues to lead the pack in an increasingly uncertain global economy."

Samuel Tombs, the senior U.K. economist for Capital Economics, says growth in Europe's third largest economy has become broader-based, though recent falls in stock markets, manufacturing surveys and eurozone growth have intensified concerns over the recovery.

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