More TSA employees skipping work as shutdown stretches on – live

Unscheduled absences double as unpaid workers report ‘they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations’.

The US Department of Agriculture will call furloughed employees back to work on Thursday, reopening 980 agency offices that are responsible for processing farm loans and tax documents, Reuters reports.

In a statement released today, the agency announced that roughly 2,500 FSA employees are being asked to work without pay for the next three workdays.

Representative Andy Harris, who was seen walking through the halls with far-right troll Chuck C. Johnson, has now released a statement saying the congressman was “unaware of [Johnson’s] previous associations”and was meeting to discuss genetic sequencing. “Of course I disavow and condemn white supremacy and anti-semitism”.

That is definitely Chuck Johnson. And that means a day after allegedly condemning white supremacy & Steve King on the House floor, some Republicans are walking into the House with…. a Holocaust-denying white supremacist. Fucking amazing.

Continue reading…

UK inflation falls to lowest level in two years | Business

UK inflation fell to its lowest level in nearly two years in December after a drop in petrol prices offered some respite to consumers who are reining in spending as Brexit looms.

The annual rate dipped to 2.1% from 2.3% in November, the weakest since January 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. Economists said the drop reduced the likelihood that the Bank of England would raise interest rates in the near future.

Petrol prices fell to an eight-month low in December after a drop in the price of crude oil. The cost of a litre of petrol fell by 6.4p between November and December, compared with a rise of 0.8p a litre in the same period a year earlier.

Inflation is when prices rise. Deflation is the opposite – price decreases over time – but inflation is far more common.

If inflation is 10%, then a £50 pair of shoes will cost £55 in a year’s time and £60.50 a year after that.

Inflation eats away at the value of wages and savings – if you earn 10% on your savings but inflation is 10%, the real rate of interest on your pot is actually 0%.

A relatively new phenomenon, inflation has become a real worry for governments since the 1960s.

As a rule of thumb, times of high inflation are good for borrowers and bad for investors.

Mortgages are a good example of how borrowing can be advantageous – annual inflation of 10% over seven years halves the real value of a mortgage.

On the other hand, pensioners, who depend on a fixed income, watch the value of their assets erode.

The government’s preferred measure of inflation, and the one the Bank of England takes into account when setting interest rates, is the consumer price index (CPI).

The retail prices index (RPI) is often used in wage negotiations.

The cost of air and sea travel rose less than it did a year earlier, which also contributed to the fall in inflation. Clothing and footwear prices fell 0.9% in the year to December as retailers slashed prices in a bid to win customers over the crucial festive trading season.

Mike Hardie, head of inflation at the ONS, said: “Inflation eased mainly due to a big fall in petrol, with oil prices tumbling in recent months. Air fares also helped push down the rate, with seasonal prices rising less than they did last year. These were partially offset by small rises in hotel prices and mobile phone charges.”

CPI rate of inflation

The easing of consumer price rises in December took the inflation rate to just a touch above the Bank of England’s official target of 2%, giving policymakers breathing space to consider Brexit developments before making a move on interest rates.

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said: “With inflation within a whisker of its 2% target, the [Bank’s rate-setting] monetary policy committee will probably feel comfortable in waiting until Brexit uncertainty is resolved before moving again.”

The Bank of England has raised interest rates just twice since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, once in November 2017 and again in August 2018, taking the benchmark cost of borrowing to 0.75%.

The drop in inflation – in line with economists’ forecasts – provides welcome relief for consumers, hit by higher prices in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit vote as the sharp fall in the value of the pound pushed up the cost of goods imported from abroad. Inflation peaked at 3.1% in November 2017, well above average wage increases of 2.3% at the time.


  • Olive oil, butter and margarine: +6.1% in December, compared with previous month.
  • Bread and cereals: +2.5%
  • Furniture and furnishings: +2.3%
  • Newspapers and magazines: +1.6%
  • CDs, DVDs and downloads: +1.3%


  • Petrol, diesel and motor oil: –4.4%
  • Spirits: -3.6%
  • Beer: -3.3%
  • Computer software: -3.1%
  • Cosmetics, toiletries and personal care: -1.2%
  • Tobacco: -0.1%

Pay growth is now back above inflation, at 3%, but surveys have indicated that consumers are taking a more cautious approach to spending as they are uncertain about what impact Brexit will have on household finances.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the forecasting group EY Item Club, said inflation was likely to fall further as a result of lower oil prices and Ofgem’s price cap, which is expected to put some downward pressure on domestic energy prices from January.

Archer said: “Consumer price inflation could dip below 2% in January and stay below that level for much if not all of 2019. We see inflation averaging 1.8% over 2019, and it could get as low as 1.6%.”

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Sears staves off liquidation, stores to remain open

NEW YORK — Sears will live on — at least for now.

The company’s chairman and largest shareholder, Eddie Lampert, won a bankruptcy auction for Sears, averting liquidation of the iconic chain, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The person agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiation publicly.

Lampert, who steered the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, is aiming to keep open roughly 400 stores and preserve tens of thousands of jobs.

But how long Sears can survive under the 56-year-old billionaire, who has tried and failed to turn around the company many times before, remains an open question. Cutthroat competitors like Amazon, Target and Walmart also pose challenges that the struggling retailer has so far been unable to overcome.

“While there’s no doubt that a shrunken Sears will be more viable than the larger entity, which struggled to turn a profit, we remain extremely pessimistic about the chain’s future,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “In our view, Sears exits this process with almost as many problems as it had when it entered bankruptcy protection. In essence, its hand has not changed, and the cards it holds are not winning ones.”

The operator of Sears and Kmart had 687 stores and 68,000 workers at the time of its bankruptcy filing. Nearly 30 of those stores are in Colorado. At its peak in 2012, its stores numbered 4,000.

Lampert, the only one to put out a bid for the whole company, had sweetened his offer to more than $5 billion over the last few days through an affiliate of his hedge fund ESL after his original bid had been rejected by the Sears board. That included assuming certain liabilities like covering bills to vendors of up to $166 million. Details of the final terms couldn’t be learned.

The plan is not a done deal and must be approved at a hearing on February 1 by a bankruptcy judge in White Plains, New York.

Lampert, who gave up the CEO title when the Sears filed for Chapter 11, has maintained there’s still potential for the company. But he has yet to spell out details on how he plans to turn it around.
Lampert combined Sears with Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. He pledged to return Sears to greatness, but that never happened.

The company, hammered during the recession and outmatched in its aftermath by shifting consumer trends and strong rivals, hasn’t had a profitable year since 2010 and has suffered 11 straight years of annual sales declines. Lampert has been criticized for not investing in the stores, which remain shabby.

Under Lampert, Sears has survived by spinning off stores and selling brands that had grown synonymous with the company, like Craftsman. Lampert has loaned out his own money and cobbled together deals to keep the company afloat, though critics said he has done so with the aim of benefiting his hedge fund. ESL has maintained that the moves put much needed cash into the business.

Four years ago the company created a real estate investment trust to extract revenue from the enormous number of properties owned by Sears. It sold and leased back more than 200 properties to the REIT, in which Lampert is a significant stake holder.

IAC sues Tinder co-founder over business documents, escalating court fight

FILE PHOTO: Sean Rad, CEO of Tinder, is seen during celebrations for Match Group’s IPO at the NASDAQ stock exchange, New York November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) – Online dating company Match Group Inc (MTCH.O) and its owner IAC/InterActiveCorp (IAC.O) has filed a lawsuit accusing Sean Rad, a former employee known for co-founding the popular dating service Tinder, of secretly copying company files and other proprietary information.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Manhattan on Tuesday evening, came six months after Rad and other Tinder co-founders sued IAC, accusing it of undervaluing Tinder to avoid paying them billions of dollars.

Tinder is one of several dating services under the umbrella of Match Group, which is mostly owned by IAC.

The lawsuit claims at least $250 million in damages.

IAC and Match’s complaint alleged that, in violation of an employment agreement, over several years Rad created backups of internal emails, forwarded company emails to a personal email address, and directly copied company files that included “highly sensitive, non-public information concerning his employers’ business strategies and plans.”

Orin Snyder, a lawyer for Los Angeles-based Rad, said in a statement that the lawsuit was “ridiculous” because Rad’s employment contract allowed him back up his email.

“Do IAC and Match really think the jury won’t see right through this desperate act of retaliation?,” Snyder said.

Rad’s lawsuit against IAC and Match, filed in August in state court in Manhattan, alleged the companies deliberately undervalued the Tinder dating app to limit how much money he and other employees could make from exercising stock options. IAC and Match denied the allegations.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry

A CNN analyst called out a black Fox News contributor for white privilege

CNN legal analyst Areva Martin thought she was talking to a white man Tuesday while appearing as a guest on David Webb’s SiriusXM radio show.

When Webb, a Fox Nation host and frequent Fox News contributor, said he considered his qualifications more important than his skin color when applying to media jobs, Martin accused him of exercising white privilege.

But there was a problem with that sentiment, as Webb quickly pointed out:

“Areva, I hate to break it to you, but you should’ve been better prepped,” he responded. “I’m black.”

The exchange was posted to Twitter by Webb on Tuesday afternoon. He is heard in the interview saying, “I’ve chosen to cross different parts of the media world, done the work so that I’m qualified to be in each one; I never considered my color the issue; I considered my qualifications the issue.”

Martin responds: “Well, David, that’s a whole other long conversation about white privilege, the things that you have the privilege of doing, that people of color don’t have the privilege of.”

“How do I have the privilege of white privilege?” Webb asks.

“David, by virtue of being a white male you have white privilege. This whole long conversation, I don’t have time to get into -”

Webb then interrupts her to let her know he’s a black man, causing Martin to take a pause.

“You see, you went to white privilege; this is the falsehood in this,” Webb replies. “You went immediately with an assumption. Your people, obviously, or you didn’t look.

Martin apologizes repeatedly for her false accusation, adding that “her people” gave her the wrong information.

“You’re talking to a black man … who started out in rock radio in Boston, who crossed the paths into hip-hop, rebuilding one of the greatest black stations in America and went on to work at Fox News where I’m told apparently blacks aren’t supposed to work, but yet, you come with this assumption and you go to white privilege,” Webb says. “That’s actually insulting.”

Martin has not publicly acknowledged the incident. A spokeswoman for Martin declined to comment.

After the interview, Webb made light of Martin’s gaffe by posting photos of himself with white men, writing on Twitter: “Just two guys showing their #WhitePrivelege.”

The exchange became a popular topic on Fox News, where Tucker Carlson discussed it Tuesday night, shortly before Webb appeared on’The Ingraham Angle.” The next morning, he was back on Fox to discuss the incident with “Fox and Friends,” telling the hosts that white privilege is a “false narrative.”

“There is no such thing as white privilege,” Webb said. “There’s earned privilege in life, that you work for. There are those who may have a form of privilege that they exert … in the form of influence.”

If a conservative analyst had made the same mistake as Martin, there would be calls for that person to be fired, Webb said.He said he has invited Martin back to his show to “have a longer conversation about white privilege.”

“Our skin’s an organ – it doesn’t think or formulate ideas, it just says: This is a result of your parentage,” he said.

“She got caught,” he said of Martin, but added: “I have no reason to diss her.”

In addition to his roles with SiriusXM and Fox Nation, Webb is also a contributor to Fox News, the Hill and Breitbart News, according to his website.

Spouse struggles to share husband’s losses – The Denver Post

Dear Amy: My husband is 56 and I am 31. During the five years we’ve been together, he has lost countless friends, family and acquaintances.

He’s a union rep, so he knows many people, including retirees, and goes to several funerals a month. The hardest ones are obviously for his close friends or their children whom he watched grow up. Some have been truly tragic.

He has an extremely difficult time expressing his emotions — happy or sad.

I have to listen very closely for cues to understand how affected he is. For instance, today he insulted his favorite football team after hearing about another friend’s death.

I don’t know any of these people and I have not been invited to their services. They are people my husband knew for decades but doesn’t necessarily hang around with anymore. He’s more comfortable going to these services by himself and I respect that.

During this same time, I have been blessed to not lose anyone close to me. Naturally, my friends have been getting married and having children.

We are aware of the differences in our stages of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier to relate in the moment.

My question is, what more can I say other than, “I’m sorry you lost your friend.”

He responds well to gestures. I try to cook a special dinner or at least try to be less annoying than usual.

Is it overstepping to send flowers to the services? What else could I do?

— Spouse in the Dark

Ford forecasts weaker-than-expected fourth quarter profit

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co (F.N) gave a fourth-quarter earnings forecast on Wednesday that was below analysts’ expectations, sending shares down slightly in U.S. premarket trading.

FILE PHOTO: Workers prepare for the Ford Motor Company 2019 reveal at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The No. 2 U.S. automaker said it could see improvement in 2019 earnings and revenue as global industry sales remained flat, but did not provide any figures.

“For 2019, we see the potential for year-over-year improvement in company revenue, EBIT and adjusted operating cash flow,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said in a statement.

“For 2019, we expect to be able to fully fund our business needs, while maintaining cash and liquidity levels at or above our target levels,” he said.

Still, Ford saw headwinds for the year ahead, citing tariffs and high commodity costs, both of which also impacted its 2018 earnings. The details on the outlook were contained in slides just ahead of a presentation by Ford early on Wednesday at a Deutsche Bank conference in conjunction with the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Helping the company will be new product rollouts, including the Ford Ranger pickup truck and Explorer sport utility vehicle, its restructuring initiatives, a recovery in China and the redesign of its money-losing European operations.

Last week, Ford’s larger U.S. rival, General Motors Co (GM.N) said it expected higher profits in 2019, offering an estimated range that was far stronger than Wall Street analysts had forecast.

Ford said it expects 2018 adjusted earnings of $1.30 a share on revenue of $160.3 billion. In October, the Detroit area automaker said it expected to earn in the range of $1.30 to $1.50 per share while analysts were expecting $1.33 per share, Refinitiv IBES data showed.

For the fourth quarter, Ford expects adjusted earnings of 30 cents a share, below the 32 cents analysts were expecting.

On Tuesday, Ford and Germany’s Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) said they would join forces on commercial vans and pickups and were exploring joint development of electric and self-driving technology in a bid to save the automakers billions of dollars.

Shares of Ford fell 0.6 percent to $8.79 in light premarket trading.

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely and Bernadette Baum

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  • Flybe’s sale is right for staff and passengers | Nils Pratley | Business

    What a day for democratic debate! Well, not at Flybe. Shareholders, still reeling from the board’s decision last Friday to accept a takeover offer at 1p a share, or just £2.2m, have now learned they won’t get a meaningful vote on the deal. The directors have instead agreed to flog the regional airline’s assets almost immediately at the same price to the same bidder, a consortium comprising Virgin Atlantic, Stobart and investment firm Cyrus.

    Is that even legal at a public company? It seems it is, or rather it will be on Thursday, which is when Flybe switches its stock market listing from “premium” to “standard” status. The latter does not require shareholders to approve major asset sales.

    Flybe dropped its bombshell in a clunky statement that barely bothered to explain what has changed since last Friday to require a revised rescue plan to be forced through in a hurry. Simon Laffin, chairman for the past five years – so in the cockpit for most of Flybe’s descent to 1p – should have treated his investors more courteously. Some were praying that, against the odds, a rival bidder might show up.

    Yet Laffin and the board’s decision is correct. Last week’s proposal required cash-strapped Flybe to make peace with its banks and credit card processors and secure a credit facility of £20m. Instead, the banks and card firms are still playing tough, which was perhaps predictable since a proposed rescue is not the same as an actual rescue, especially when ex-Stobart chief executive Andrew Tinkler suddenly snapped up 12% of Flybe’s stock.

    Thus there was a need to get cash in the door quickly to keep flying. A sum of £10m was duly injected by the buying consortium as it got a deal to secure the assets by mid-February at the latest.

    From the point of view of Flybe’s shareholders, it feels outrageous: their voting rights have been trampled upon. Yet what was the alternative? If collapse was an imminent threat – and it seems to have been – the important thing was to protect the interests of 2,400 staff, pensioners and booked passengers. It had to be done.

    But praise for Laffin stops there. He still has to explain to investors why Flybe left it so late to put itself up for sale. The process started in November. Why not earlier?

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    Boohoo sheds no tears for Asos

    Who’s the UK’s top online-only fashion retailer? In sales terms, it’s Asos – and always has been. The firm started earlier than everybody else and has been in rapid expansion mode since 2005. It will shift about £2.7bn worth of garments this year.

    In terms of stock market capitalisation, though, it is tight. Little ol’ Boohoo, with annual revenues of just over £800m, is suddenly worth roughly the same – about £2.2bn.

    One can understand why. It’s not just that Boohoo, which also controls the PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal brands, is growing more quickly, with revenues up 44% in the last four months of 2018. It’s also that Boohoo achieves a respectable operating profit margin – about 9.5%, according to Tuesday’s update. By contrast, Asos stunned its shareholders with a pre-Christmas warning that margins will go as low as 2% this year.

    What explains the apparent gulf in profit efficiency? Is it because Asos is bearing the costs of building more warehouses overseas, a task Boohoo may one day have to face as it follows a similar expansion plan? Or is it because Boohoo only sells its own brands and doesn’t have to deal with third parties? Hard to say, but 2% versus 9.5% is very wide gap, and Asos has yet to explain how it will close it.

    The January naysayer has spoken (again)

    Albert Edwards is the City’s best-known bear and his annual January prophecy of doom is always worth hearing. This year’s highlights included a hard landing in China, a eurozone crisis born in Italy and a US Fed tightening too fast.

    But attendance at the Société Générale analyst’s show is also a rough indicator of the City’s mood. When investors are rattled, as they were in 2017, after the UK referendum and Trump’s election, it can be standing-room-only in a Mayfair hotel conference room that holds 950. Monday’s event, however, was about two-thirds full. Reassuring? Actually, no. Edwards reports the market always goes up in years when the place is packed. Be warned.

    In era of news deserts, no easy fix for local news struggles

    NEW YORK — The local news industry hasn’t been the subject of much good news itself, lately.

    Newspaper circulation is down sharply, and so is employment in the newspaper industry. Financial cutbacks have led to the shutdown of nearly 1,800 daily and weekly newspapers since 2004.

    Two developments this week brought the issue into further focus. Facebook, whose success has contributed to the news business’ decline, announced Tuesday it would invest $300 million over three years in news initiatives with an emphasis in local coverage. More ominously, the hedge fund-backed Digital First Media, which owns the Denver Post and is known for sharp cost-cutting strategies, bid to buy Gannett Co., the publisher of USA Today and several daily newspapers across the country.

    “It’s a struggle every day,” said Charles Sennott, a former newspaper beat reporter who co-founded The GroundTruth Project, a foundation that funds the work of journalists. “Every day we are facing the fact that American journalism is in crisis.”

    Sennott was buoyed this week to meet with Obed Manuel, a young reporter at the Dallas Morning News whose coverage of Hispanic immigration is paid for in part by The GroundTruth Project.

    Yet there was a pall over the newsroom they toured. The Dallas Morning News announced 43 layoffs last week, 20 of them newsroom employees, to cope with persistent declines in readership and advertising revenue.

    That’s a familiar dynamic in the local news industry, where a positive development like Manuel’s hiring can feel like a tender shoot of green struggling to rise in a barren late-winter landscape.

    The statistics are numbing: U.S. weekday newspaper circulation is down from 122 million to 73 million in 15 years. The number of working newspaper journalists has been cut in half since 2004. Nearly 1,800 daily and weekly newspapers have been lost in the same period, down to a little more than 7,000.

    The tally is compiled by Penelope Muse Abernathy, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina, whose study of the topic has given rise to new terminology: news deserts, which refers to communities that are no longer covered by daily journalists; and ghost newspapers is a reference to publications that have become a shadow of their former selves in terms of circulation and ambition.

    Social media behemoths like Facebook have cut into news readership and revenue. But Abernathy said business decisions of newspaper owners are more to blame. Metropolitan and regional newspapers cut circulation in outlying suburban and rural areas, while many weekly newspapers simply shuttered, she said.

    “The country feels very divided and I think a lot of the divisiveness in the country is because people feel they are not being heard,” Sennott said. There are fewer local reporters around to listen to and report on their concerns, he said.

    The challenge for the news business is convincing the public — many of whom aren’t particularly enamored with journalists anyway — that this loss hurts them, too, in terms of how connected they are to their communities when there is less opportunity to know what’s going on.

    “We are really at a tipping point now,” Abernathy said. “Can we revitalize the news industry?”

    Facebook is donating $2 million to Report for America, an offshoot of Sennott’s GroundTruth Project that has helped pay for reporters at news organizations in Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Report for America pays part of their salaries, the news organization pays part, and donations are also solicited from the community. There are 13 reporters in place now, with a goal of 50 working by the end of the year.

    Facebook is giving a $5 million grant to the Pulitzer Center for “Bringing Stories Home,” which will fund at least 12 in-depth local reporting projects. Much of Pulitzer’s previous work has gone to helping pay for international journalism, particularly as it affected local communities.

    “This isn’t going to solve the challenges facing smaller news organizations and the communities they serve but at least it’s a step in the right direction,” said Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center.

    Noted Abernathy: “It’s a start.”

    There have been some 500 digital start-ups attempting to replace coverage offered at the 1,800 newspapers that have closed in the past decade and a half, Abernathy said. The problem is these sites mostly serve urban areas, since that’s where there is enough business to provide advertising, she said. She’s encouraged by foundations that support news, although much of that funding goes to international projects.

    Some large news outlets like The New York Times and Washington Post have provided models to succeed in the new environment, said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst at Harvard’s Nieman Lab. The formula includes a healthy investment in journalism, the creation of innovative digital and mobile products and asking readers to help pay for them.

    It helps that the Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. Few smaller newspapers have anywhere near the resources or determination, he said.

    Many companies that own newspapers are motivated by the typical business imperative — making money — and don’t necessarily recognize or care too deeply about the public service aspect of journalism, Abernathy said.