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Girl power?

Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013
Girl power? story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Our Congress avoided economic calamity on Wednesday by passing a last-minute, Senate-led bill to restore government funding.

The trouble is that it's only good for 90 days--through January 15th--and then we get round 2.

The same problems, the same acrimony, and the same people.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says he has a solution, and it's been right under our noses all the while.

=====================

That's right. It's time to turns the reins of our government over to women. The men in suits have failed us.

In recent days, weeks and months, the only people in Washington who seem to understand what's going on are women.

Just two weeks ago, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine took the podium on the Senate floor and told her colleagues to "stop fighting and start legislating."

The suits didn't hear her. But two of her colleagues did. And suddenly there was a group of three: Collins, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Democratic Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

"As just one person," Murkowski said, "you don't get anywhere. We cannot work individually and expect to accomplish the work that is needed. We've got to be working together."

Three women—two Republicans and a Democrat, standing firm in the face of obstructionists who were perfectly willing to let the world slide into economic chaos by allowing this nation go into default; perfectly willing to ignore their own  constitutional obligation to pay the nation's  bills. On time.

After a few days, the group of three became the group of six, then eight, now ten, and growing.

Compare the words of Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington with those of Congressman John C. Fleming of Louisiana, one of the 144 house members to vote "no" on yesterday's bill to end the government shutdown.

Here what Murray said:

"My hope is that in the weeks and months ahead, we can heal many of the partisan divides that keep us from addressing the big challenges we face, including returning our focus to creating jobs and improving our economy."

And from Fleming? "See," he said with a grin. "We're going to start this all over again."

It makes me cringe.

Are there problems in our government? Yes. All over the place. Are there problems with the Affordable Care Act?

Are you kidding?  For starters, they had 3 1/2 years to develop a multi-billion dollar computer system to help people make choices and sign up for healthcare.

And they did a terrible job of it.

Did anyone of them think of getting advice from the people at, say,  Facebook? But Obamacare is the law, so let's fix it!

But to shut down our country instead? The shutdown that ended last night cost our government an estimated $24 billion.

Imagine that. How many band-aids, runny noses, and broken arms would that have paid for?

But these sneering, idealistically-driven men in suits don't care.

But the women in Washington do.

Freshman Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren:

"In our democracy, government is just how we describe all of the things that 'we the people' have already decided to do together. We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is 'I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own.'”

Take a look around. The head of the International Monetary Fund is Christine Lagard, of France.

"I hope," she said yesterday, "that in a few weeks time we will look back and say 'what a waste of time that was.'"

I doubt the angry men in suits heard her.

The most successful country in Europe is run by a woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She's admired and respected all over the continent.

Hourly pay in Germany has gone up 30 percent since 1985. In the United States, it's up only six percent.

Iceland collapsed in the wake of Lehman Brothers. Now it's a country whose banks, funds, and government are run largely by women and is doing quite nicely.

In this country there's a quiet but dramatically exciting movement afoot.

And it's a movement led by women who are weary of our political system being run by frightened men who seem to have no concept anymore of  what's right for their country.

As Elizabeth Warren put it: "We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation."

More power to her. More power to them. It's time.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on January 29, 2015 08:36 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. In last Thursday's report, the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell for the first time in a month, a sign that layoffs remain low and hiring is probably still healthy.

Also today, Freddie Mac will release its report on average mortgage rates. Last week, the benchmark 30-year rate fell to 3.63 percent, the lowest level since May 2013.

The National Association of Realtors will also issue its December report on pending home sales, which are seen as a barometer of future purchases. In November, the number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose modestly as a strengthening economy helped nudge some would-be homebuyers

A number of companies will release their quarterly financial results today. Ford and Alibaba Group will release earnings before the market opens and Amazon, Google and Visa report after the closing bell.

FEDERAL RESERVE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve's outlook for the U.S. economy is steadily brightening. Yet the Fed will be "patient" in raising interest rates from record lows.

That was the dual message the central bank sent Wednesday in a statement it issued after its latest policy meeting.

Why is no rate hike likely soon? The main reason, the Fed suggested in its statement, is that inflation remains well below the central bank's target rate.

And it said the pressures holding down inflation -- mainly plunging oil prices -- have intensified. The Fed said it thinks inflation will decline further before eventually reaching the central bank's 2 percent target rate.

SKOREA-EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung lost the battle of the big phones last quarter as Apple's copycat large iPhone lured buyers in the crucial Chinese market.

The South Korean company said Thursday its profit sank last quarter, with an improvement in its semiconductor business insufficient to mask its mobile problems.

It was in China, the world's largest market for smartphones, where Samsung's dramatic decline was most evident.

Samsung accounted for nearly one third of global smartphone sales in 2013, twice as much as Apple. This year, it has dropped to about one quarter.

Apple Inc. was behind Samsung's latest reversal in fortune, launching iPhones with bigger screens that robbed Samsung's Galaxy phones of a key selling point. The company was already battling competition in low-end phones from upstart manufacturers such as China's Xiaomi.

OBAMA-GREECE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the U.S. will work closely with Greece's new government and help Greece pursue long-term prosperity.

Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to congratulate him on his party's victory in Greece's recent elections.

Tsipras' new radical left government has vowed to scrap austerity budget cuts, tax hikes and reforms that Greece had promised in exchange for rescue loans from Europe. That's prompted a renewed clash with other eurozone countries about whether to cut Greece off.

The White House says Obama told Tsipras he looks forward to working closely with the new Greek government. Obama and Tsipras also discussed cooperation on security in Europe and counterterrorism.

S&P-Mortgage Rate Settlement

S&P close to $1.37B deal over risky mortgage bond ratings

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Standard & Poor's is close to a $1.37 billion settlement with the Obama administration and U.S. states over allegations it knowingly inflated its ratings of risky mortgage investments that helped trigger the financial crisis.

A person familiar with the matter says the credit rating agency is expected to sign an agreement to settle with the Justice Department and about 20 state attorneys general. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the settlement isn't finalized and hasn't been announced. It may be completed next week, the person said.

John Piecuch, a spokesman for New York-based S&P, a division of McGraw Hill Financial Inc., says the company is declining to comment.

The settlement would resolve civil charges filed nearly two years ago accusing S&P of failing to warn investors that the housing market was collapsing in 2006 because doing so would hurt its ratings business.

PHILIPPINES-ECONOMY

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine economic growth slowed to 6.1 percent last year, hampered by natural disasters, but still good enough to outpace most other countries in Asia.

Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said Thursday that the 2014 performance ranks the Philippines as the second fastest growing Asian country behind China, which posted 7.3 percent growth, and ahead of Vietnam's 6.0 percent growth.

The Philippine economy grew 7.2 percent in 2013.

National Statistician Lisa Bersales says the "robust performance" of industry, particularly manufacturing and construction, lifted growth in the fourth quarter to 6.9 percent from 6.3 percent a year earlier.

She says services contributed 3.4 percentage points, industry 2.5 percentage points and agriculture 0.2 percentage points to the 2014 GDP growth of 6.1 percent.

FTC-TRACFONE SETTLEMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's largest prepaid mobile provider, TracFone Wireless, will pay $40 million to settle government claims that it misled millions of smartphone customers with promises of unlimited data service.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that TracFone's advertising promised unlimited data, but the company then drastically slowed down consumers' data speeds -- a practice known as throttling -- when they had used a certain amount of data within a 30-day period. In some cases, the FTC said, the company cut off customers' data service when they ran over the limit.

TracFone's prepaid wireless service is sold under various brands, including Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile and Telcel America.

Throttling will slow down the ability to open Web pages or stream video. According to the commission, TracFone generally throttled the data flow when a customer used about 1 gigabyte to 3 gigabytes. Data service was sometimes suspended at 4 gigabytes to 5 gigabytes, the FTC said.

MCDONALD'S-CEO

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's CEO Don Thompson is stepping down as the world's biggest hamburger chain fights to hold onto customers and transform its image.

The company says that Thompson, who's been CEO for two-and-a-half years, will be replaced by Steve Easterbrook. He's a company veteran who rejoined McDonald's as its chief brand officer in 2013.

McDonald's Corp. has more than 36,000 locations around the world. But it's struggling amid intensifying competition and changing attitudes about food. Customer traffic at established locations in the U.S. fell 4.1 percent last year, following a 1.6 percent decline in 2013. It's also trying to recover after a supplier scandal in China that damaged its reputation.

On Wednesday, McDonald's said Thompson will retire March 1 after nearly 25 years with the company. The 51-year-old Thompson was the first African-American to head the company since it was founded in 1955.

WHITE CASTLE-VEGAS

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A 24-hour White Castle location on the Las Vegas Strip that opened to long lines of the burger chain's fans had to close for more than two hours to restock after its grand opening.

The Las Vegas Sun reports the restaurant reopened at about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The burger slider chain's first location in Las Vegas opened to much fanfare Tuesday afternoon. The nearest location had been more than 1,500 miles away in Missouri.

White Castle is in the Best Western Plus Casino Royale on the Las Vegas Strip between The Venetian and Harrah's Las Vegas.

NORTH DAKOTA SALTWATER SPILL

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A pipeline that ruptured recently in North Dakota and spilled nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater produced during oil drilling wasn't inspected by the state before being installed, according to state regulators.

Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, says it's common for officials not to inspect such small gathering pipelines before they become operational.

Ritter says the state has struggled to find qualified installation inspectors because candidates are often drawn to lucrative jobs in the oil industry. Instead, the state has to rely on the word of companies, which are required to file an affidavit stating that they've followed state-mandated procedures when implementing the smaller pipelines, which typically run from one well pad to another.

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