Rare Party Conference in N. Korea Raises Succession Questions

A big meeting of North Korea’s only political party could herald the beginning of the succession to a third generation of the Kim family in the reclusive Communist state.

Tokyo-Beijing Forum held to boost ties, strengthen feelings

TOKYO, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) — The 6th annual Tokyo-Beijing Forum, under the theme of “Asia’s future: Japan, China’s contribution”, was held Monday in Tokyo to promote understanding and strengthen ties between the two nations.

Present at the forum include Wang Chen, director of China’s State Council Information Office, Li Zhaoxing, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s National People’s Congress and Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuoda.

South Africa’s Zuma’s push leads to strike talks

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 30 (Reuters) – The South African government and unions representing 1.3 million striking state workers plan talks on Monday night following President Jacob Zuma’s order to ministers to negotiate immediately to end the walkout.

Union officials hoped the negotiations will lead to an improved offer to end the labour dispute that has closed schools, prevented treatment at hospitals and harmed investor sentiment towards Africa’s largest economy.

Bernanke Signals Fed Is Ready to Prop Up Economy

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said Friday that the central bank was determined to prevent the economy from slipping into a cycle of falling prices, even as he emphasized that he believed growth would continue in the second half of the year, “albeit at a relatively modest pace.”

Carter Leaving North Korea With Freed American Prisoner

Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) — Former President Jimmy Carter said he is leaving North Korea today with a freed American prisoner who was granted amnesty for the crime of illegal entry into the communist state.

The freed prisoner, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, will likely be returned to Boston today to join his family, according to an announcement of the Carter Center posted on its website.

Human trafficking second only to drugs in Mexico

(CNN) — Mario Santos likely never made it to the United States.

The 18-year-old set out 10 years ago from his native El Salvador in search of opportunity and a better way of life. But he had to travel north through Mexico first.

A short while after leaving, he called his parents to tell them he had been beaten and robbed in Mexico, left penniless and without shoes or clothes. It was the last they heard from him.

U.S. Stocks Rebound From Two-Week Loss on Merger Speculation

U.S. stocks rose on speculation takeovers will continue to accelerate and after two straight weekly losses left the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index trading at its cheapest compared with earnings prospects in six weeks.

Oil futures up on declining dollar, higher stocks

Crude oil for October delivery added 15 cents, or 0.2%, to $73.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

A losing dollar was also doing its part to support oil prices, which have closed lower for eight of the past nine sessions. The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 82.97, -0.09, -0.11%) , which compares the U.S. unit to a basket of six currencies, traded 0.1% lower at 82.99.

Copper Fluctuates in New York on Dollar Movement and U.S. Rebound Concern

Copper fluctuated in New York and London as the dollar swung between gains and losses and investors looked ahead to figures due this week that may signal a weakening U.S. economic rebound.

The U.S. Dollar Index, a six-currency gauge of the greenback’s strength, erased a drop of as much as 0.3 percent before slipping again. Reports this week may show that sales dropped for existing homes in the U.S. and were unchanged for new dwellings. The country is the world’s second-largest consumer of copper after China.

In today’s news updates we cover links about Gulf pollution, unemployment and the stock market.

Most BP Oil Still Pollutes the Gulf

Two new analyses report that huge plumes of oil generated by the BP spill continue to roam deep within the Gulf of Mexico and appear disturbingly stable. Although some natural breakdown of hydrocarbons in the oil is underway, both new analyses report evidence that this biodegradation is very slow.

N.C. loses jobs, but unemployment drops to 9.8%

North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell for the fifth straight month in July, moving into single digits for the first time in more than a year, but the state lost nearly 30,000 jobs.

Stocks slide as investors continue sell-off

NEW YORK — Stocks are falling as investors continue a sell-off that began a day earlier over worries about the pace of the economic recovery.

Investors are finding little reason to buy Friday. There are no reports due out that could negate Thursday’s disappointing news that growth in the domestic economy continues to slow.

Overseas markets also are falling, reacting to reports Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. rose last week and manufacturing in the Mid-Atlantic region shrank.

Matt Simmons, energy investment banker, founder and chairman of Simmons & Company International, passed away recently. He was well known and respected for his study of the energy field and will be missed.  Matt Simmons, Chairman of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA (ASPO-USA) Advisory Board was well known for his controversial work, Twilight in The Desert, and his views on peak oil production.

I interviewed Matt Simmons for the TV program we produced in July of 2006 about his work and his concerns with the lack of availability of transparent data with respect to oil and gas reserves. On the program, a 2008 Telly Award Winner, our guests included:

Part One

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Matt Simmons expressed his concerns about peak oil production and about how few experts truly understand what this means. He said,

“Peak oil is not about running out of oil. It’s about the supply peaking. And the problem with oil peaking is that once it does, you’ll start down the other side, we may still have a lot of oil, but there will be quite a gap.”

Peak Oil: Are We There Yet? Part One and Two, are well worth watching. Matt Simmons shares some of the views from Twilight in the Desert, in which he summarized what he learned about Saudi Arabian oil production by reading 200 academic papers; visiting Saudi Arabia and asking questions which concerned Saudi oil production. He concluded that the oil extraction techniques being used in Saudi were techniques that one might use if the fields were depleted. Based on his findings, he questioned Saudi claims that their oil production can be greatly expanded. According to Matt Simmons, the very real possibility existed that in the not too distant future, Saudi oil production will suddenly decline. His concern as well was that knowing what oil reserves actually are is difficult when oil reserves and oil production rates are not audited.

Part 2

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He believed we have to trust but also verify; that we hear about the supposedly huge reported reserves of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, and assume that this oil is readily available for extraction. Since these reports are not audited, we cannot depend on them. He pointed out that we do not have detailed data with respect to historical oil extraction from individual fields in the Middle East, consequently we can’t know how close to decline Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries may or may not be.

We salute Matt Simmons for the work he did and his contribution to the field. He raised questions and concerns about our complacency on this critical issue and stimulated much needed discussion and further exploration.

As always thank you for joining us, as we talk about things that matter with people who care.

Niki McCuistion

Gerald O’Driscoll, Jr., Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former Vice President at the Federal Reserve of Dallas, joined us last year for a McCuistion TV program: What Is the True State of the Economy?

He and our other guests addressed the Fed’s role in the current economic situation and whether or not the present and anticipated government policies have a possibility of working.

Gerald O’Driscoll, featured in an August 16, 2010 Wall Street Journal article entitled: The Fed Can’t Solve Our Government Woes,  addresses the policy of low interest rates, why this policy is sometimes justified, and he comments, “While these effects are theoretically plausible, this textbook policy does not apply to our present situation.”

He states, “Markets are resilient, but their recovery can be impeded by bad policies. At present, both monetary and fiscal policies are on the wrong track.” The article is thought provoking and well worth a full read. And you may want to click on the program link, to see what he had to say on the McCuistion Program.

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Joining him on the program were:

  • Stan Liebowitz, PhD – Author: Anatomy of a Train Wreck, Director for the Analysis of Property Rights and Settlement, University of Texas School of Management
  • Richard Bitner – Author: Confessions of a Subprime Lender, Associate Publisher: Housing Wire Magazine
  • Ira Silver PhD – Texas Christian University, Neeley School of Business

As always thanks for joining us as we talk about things that matter with people who care…

Niki Nicastro McCuistion
Executive Producer

China Tops Japan as World’s No. 2 Economy

China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy last quarter, capping the nation’s three- decade rise from Communist isolation to emerging superpower.

Japan’s nominal gross domestic product for the second quarter totaled $1.288 trillion, less than China’s $1.337 trillion, the Japanese Cabinet Office said today. Japan remained bigger in the first half of 2010, the government agency said. Japan’s annual GDP is $5.07 trillion, while China’s is more than $4.9 trillion.

Fed plans mortgage payment disclosure rule

The provision, which is an interim rule that would take effect on Jan. 30, 2011, seeks to make sure borrowers are alerted to the risks of payment increases before they take out mortgage loans with variable rates or payments, such as adjustable rate mortgages.

Gates to Leave Pentagon by End of 2011

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday he will retire by the end of 2011, Fox News confirmed.

Gates, the only Bush holdover in President Obama’s Cabinet, made the announcement in an interview conducted at the Pentagon with Foreign Policy magazine on July 12 that was published Monday.

Gates has been expected to leave the administration before the 2012 election.


Iran Nuclear Plant Plans a Start Date

Russia’s state atomic corporation, which is building the plant, said engineers will begin loading the Bushehr reactor with fuel.

However, it could be six months before the reactor is fully operational.

Russia has been helping build the plant since the mid-1990s, amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme.


Consumer Prices Rise in US, Easing Deflation Risk

The cost of living in the U.S. climbed in July for the first time in four months, pointing to a stabilization that may ease concern a slowdown in growth will spur deflation.

The consumer-price index increased 0.3 percent, the most in a year and exceeding the 0.2 percent gain projected by the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. A gauge excluding volatile food and fuel costs, the so-called core rate, increased 0.1 percent, as projected.


Immigration Impasse: Frustration as Comprehensive Reform Legislation Stalled

The Senate passed a $600 million measure Thursday to beef up U.S. border security in a rare bipartisan effort on immigration reform. It came during an equally rare special August session, held after most lawmakers have left Washington for the summer recess.

This Sunday, August 15th, at 12 noon on KERA, Channel 13, critically acclaimed investigative journalist and CNBC TV personality, Charles Gasparino, joins McCuistion.  In Part Two of  the conversation he illuminates his controversial best seller: The Sellout.

Charles Gasparino discusses today’s economic crisis, the financial and political debacle that led to it, and the role and responsibilities Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and others had in contributing to the global meltdown in our economy. He argues that the present day situation had its roots in irresponsible actions taken 30 years ago and the same may happen again if the systemic problem is not resolved.  He states that if we want answers, we need to look back at the players then and the key figures today… which are still built on yesterday’s greed and risk taking.

All McCuistion TV episodes can be found in the program directory, where you can both watch the videos and interact with the McCuistion team and other viewers. You can also follow McCuistion TV on Twitter.

North Korea fires artillery into waters near border with South Korea

More than 100 rounds were fired in an incident that is expected to escalate tensions between the two countries. It comes a day after the North seized a South Korean fishing boat.

Will Colombia’s Santos slay fiscal deficit dragon?

BOGOTA, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Wall Street has greeted Colombia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos as a champion of the markets who promises to improve the country’s finances by reining in the central government’s chronically high deficit.

But investors will watch closely for proof that Santos, who was sworn in on Saturday [ID:nN07219451], is serious about clamping down on the structurally high spending that has mired Colombia’s credit rating in junk bond territory for more than a decade.

BP and U.S. Agree on Oil Spill Compensation Fund

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. completed negotiations with BP Plc over the company’s agreement to establish a $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Justice Department.

The negotiations followed an agreement made between the London-based company and President Barack Obama on June 16.