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 20, 2014 17:25 GMT

IBM-SALE

ARMONK, N.Y. (AP) -- IBM is paying $1.5 billion to Globalfoundries in order to shed its costly chip division.

IBM will make payments to the chipmaker over three years, but it's taking a $4.7 billion charge in its third quarter results.

IBM reports adjusted earnings of $3.68 per share, while revenue totaled $22.4 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet had predicted earnings of $4.32 per share and revenue about a billion dollars higher.

Globalfoundries will get IBM's global commercial semiconductor technology business, including intellectual property and technologies related to IBM Microelectronics. It also gets IBM's existing semiconductor manufacturing operations and plants in East Fishkill, New York and Essex Junction, Vermont, as well as its commercial microelectronics business.

Under the agreement, Globalfoundries will become IBM's exclusive server processor semiconductor technology provider for 22 nanometer (nm), 14nm and 10nm semiconductors for the next 10 years.

CHINA'S SLOWDOWN

NEW YORK (AP) -- A research group says it expects China's economy to slow over the next decade.

The Conference Board on Monday forecast that growth in the world's No. 2 economy will slow to 4 percent per year between 2020 and 2025.

Chinese officials have rolled out stimulus measures as economic growth slows. The government is aiming for growth of 7.5 percent this year.

China's boom in the past decade, with growth peaking at about 14 percent in 2007, was driven by exports and spending on assets such as factories and apartment buildings. China's leaders now want more growth based on Chinese consumers.

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The European Central Bank has started buying securities called covered bonds as it launches its latest stimulus effort aimed at preventing the 18-country eurozone economy from sinking back into recession.

An ECB spokeswoman confirmed the purchases began Monday.

Covered bonds are investments backed by loans such as mortgages. They carry extra protections for investors, which sets them apart from other such asset-backed bonds made from bundled loans.

The ECB is buying them to encourage banks to make the underlying loans. The idea is to get more credit moving to businesses in a eurozone economy that didn't grow at all in the second quarter.

The ECB stimulus efforts also include offers of extra-cheap loans to banks, based on how much they are lending to companies.

PLATFORM SPECIALTY-ARYSTA-ACQUISITION

NEW YORK (AP) -- Platform Specialty Products Corp. said Monday that it will spend about $3.51 billion to buy rival chemical maker Arysta LifeScience Ltd. to diversify its product offerings.

Miami-based Platform makes specialty chemicals used in computers, cars and oil rigs. Arysta, which is owned by a fund backed by private equity firm Permira, makes fungicides and herbicides for crops.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.

Arysta, which sells its products all around the world, had revenue of $1.5 billion in 2013. Platform has been growing its agricultural chemical business. Earlier this month, it bought agrochemical company Agriphar for about $380 million.

Shares of Platform are up 3 percent.

SEARS-RAISING MONEY

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) -- Sears is looking to raise more cash, announcing that it is planning a rights offering that may raise up to $625 million.

The company, which runs Kmart and its namesake stores, also said Monday that it struck a leasing deal with European fashion retailer Primark.

Sears Holdings Corp. said the rights offering will allow its stockholders to buy up to $625 million senior unsecured notes due 2019 and warrants to buy shares of its common stock. It anticipates up to $625 million in proceeds if the offering is fully subscribed and closes as planned. The proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes.

Earlier this month Sears said it would sell most of its stake in its Canadian unit to raise as much as $380 million.

CSX-DEAL TALKS

Canadian Pacific ends CSX deal talks

Canadian Pacific Railway says it has ended talks with U.S. counterpart CSX about a possible combination and plans no more discussions about a deal.

The railway operator did not say why it ended talks, but it did note in a brief statement that regulatory concerns appear to be a major deterrent for railroads considering combinations.

Several reports surfaced recently that CSX had rejected a merger offer from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. Both railroads declined to comment on those reports, but CSX CEO Michael Ward said last week that regulators would likely take a cautious approach to any railroad consolidation deals.

Besides Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Corp., the other large railroads are Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF and Canadian National.

CSX shares are down more than 3 percent to $32.74 in premarket trading.

AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. safety regulators are warning owners of more than 4.7 million vehicles that have been recalled for air bag problems to get them repaired immediately.

The warning issued Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers vehicles from multiple manufacturers that date to 2002.

Inflators can rupture in air bags made by Takata Corp., causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are inflated in crashes. So far, automakers have recalled about 12 million vehicles worldwide because of the problem.

Safety advocates estimate that more than 20 million cars have the faulty inflators in the U.S. alone. They say at least four people have died from the problem.

The inflators have led to multiple recalls from Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Mitsubishi.

TOYOTA-AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Toyota is recalling 247,000 vehicles in high-humidity areas as an air bag problem that has plagued most of the auto industry continues to widen.

The recall posed Monday by U.S. safety regulators covers the 2003 to 2005 Corolla and Matrix, the 2002 to 2005 Sequoia and the 2003 to 2005 Tundra. Also included is the 2003 to 2005 Pontiac Vibe made by Toyota.

Inflators can rupture in air bags manufactured by parts supplier Takata, causing metal fragments to fly out when bags are inflated in crashes. The problem has caused serious injuries. So far, automakers have recalled about 12 million vehicles worldwide because of the problem.

The recall covers vehicles in South Florida, along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa.

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