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March 18, 2009

Chinese Made Dry Walls Making Houses Sick

My sister just called to tell me that she heard about this story on CNN.  This is another instance of how lack of regulation by the Bush administration has caused harm to the American public at large.  If these Chinese made dry-walls can decay and eat away air conditioning systems, what can they do to our lungs?  This is an outrage.  If your home is emitting any of these odors or you see any of these conditions in your home call one of these attorneys.  Read the story below:

Officials are looking into claims that Chinese-made drywall installed in some Florida homes is emitting smelly, corrosive gases and ruining household systems such as air conditioners, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

The Florida Health Department, which is investigating whether the drywall poses any health risks, said it has received more than 140 homeowner complaints. And class-action lawsuits allege defective drywall has caused problems in at least three states — Florida, Louisiana and Alabama — while some attorneys involved claim such drywall may have been used in tens of thousands of U.S. homes.

Homeowners’ lawsuits contend the drywall has caused them to suffer health problems such as headaches and sore throats and face huge repair expenses.

The drywall is alleged to have high levels of sulfur and, according to homeowners’ complaints, the sulfur-based gases smell like rotten eggs and corrode piping and wiring, causing electronics and appliances to fail.

“It’s economically devastating, and it’s emotionally devastating,” said Florida attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez, who filed one of the lawsuits. It would cost a third of an affected home’s value to fix the dwelling, Gonzalez said.

“The interior has to be gutted, the homeowners have to continue paying mortgages, and they have to pay for a [temporary] place to live,” Gonzalez said.

The CPSC has been investigating claims in Florida for more than a month, according to commission spokesman Joe Martyak. He would not confirm whether CPSC is checking other states or reveal how many cases it is probing.

The Florida complaints generally involve homes built or renovated in 2005 and 2006, when a building boom and post-hurricane reconstruction caused a U.S. drywall shortage that spurred builders to turn to imports, Martyak said.

The allegations come after a number of recent safety problems with other Chinese exports, ranging from toys to pet food.

Dick and Nancy Nelson, who say the Florida retirement home they bought new in 2006 has Chinese-manufactured drywall, contend all their appliances with copper are failing, according to CNN affiliate WFTS-TV.

“The washing machine, the dryer, the microwave, and a refrigerator — these are all brand new appliances, and they’re breaking down,” Nancy Nelson of Palmetto told the Tampa station. The Nelsons are among those who have complained to the state health department.

In a neighborhood in Homestead, Florida, owners of homes with Chinese-manufactured drywall say the dwellings smell like rotten eggs especially on humid days, according to CNN affiliate WPLG-TV.

Electronics and appliances with copper components stopped working in short order, and copper pipes and wiring turned black, homeowners told the Miami station.

“My dream has turned into a nightmare,” one of the homeowners, Felix Martinez, told WPLG-TV. He said he closed on the home in August 2006.

Michael Foreman, head of construction consulting firm Foreman & Associates in Sarasota, Florida, said he’s been investigating drywall complaints in that state since last year and is sharing information with at least one group of lawyers preparing lawsuits on the matter. Based on shipping records, Foreman estimates the United States in 2006 and the first two months of 2007 imported enough drywall from Chinese manufacturers named in lawsuits to produce at least 50,000 homes at a size of 2,000 square feet each.

Florida ports alone took in enough of that drywall during those 14 months to build 30,000 homes of that size, he estimated, citing records he obtained from the Port Import Export Reporting Service, a company that collects information on cargoes entering and leaving U.S. ports. Foreman said he has yet to see import records from 2004 and 2005, years covering what he said was a building boom with a high demand for drywall.

Two Florida attorneys involved in separate class-action lawsuits, Gonzalez and Jordan Chaikin, said they, too, believe shipping records indicate tens of thousands of residences in the United States, with a good chunk of them in Florida, may have drywall from the manufacturers.

“The breadth of this thing is a lot bigger than people think,” said Chaikin of the Parker Waichman Alonso law firm in Bonita Springs. Chaikin said the problem is perhaps more easily recognizable in Florida because humidity exacerbates it.

An Alabama-based homebuilder alleges that Chinese-manufactured drywall in 40 houses it built in 2005 and 2006 — 32 in Alabama and eight in Florida — caused corrosion or odor problems. The builder, Mitchell Co., has filed a class-action lawsuit in Florida against certain manufacturers, attorney Steve Nicholas said.

“We filed on behalf of builders because we believe … they’re going to be the ones with the initial loss” to fix the problems, said Nicholas, of Alabama law firm Cunningham Bounds.

The Miami suit seeks compensation and medical monitoring of the homeowners.

To read this story in full go to:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/03/18/chinese.drywall/index.html

 

March 17, 2009

Economy: New Home Construction Up!

During February new home construction surged in the Northeast, jumping nearly 89%! New home construction also increased in the Midwest and in the South.

Initial construction of U.S. homes unexpectedly surged in February, after an eight month decline, according to a report released today.

New housing construction rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 last month, up 22% from a revised 477,000 in January, according to the Commerce Department. It was the first time new housing construction increased in eight month, since June 2008 when they rose 11%.

Starts are down more than 47% from February 2008, when over 1.1 million new homes broke ground.

New construction of single-family homes, considered the core of the housing market, increased 1.1% to an annual rate of 357,000 versus 353,000 in January.

February’s increase was driven by a nearly 80% increase in construction of multi-family homes — new construction of buildings with 5 or more units.  Construction of multi-family homes increased 80% to 212,000 from 118,000 in January 2009.

Applications for building permits, considered a reliable sign of future construction activity, rose 3% to 547,000 last month. Economists were expecting permits to fall to 500,000.

Even though the flood of new construction is a welcome sign, market analysts caution that the increase could be short lived and believes that this is a temporary rebound, not a recovery.

“The housing market may be thawing, but this month’s gain only brings the pace of total starts back up to that of December 2008,” said Celia Chen of Moody’s Economy.com.

“We see no specific factor that might explain this jump; multifamily starts are always noisy but this is exceptional,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.

However, all this new construction likely means that the post Lehman crash is over – which is a really GOOD thing.

happy-st-pattys-day1

Happy St. Patty’s Day!  May the luck of the Irish be with you!!!

March 16, 2009

Economy: President Obama Shows Small Businesses The Money – $15B Worth!

Obama If you are the owner of a small business President Obama wants to help you. The President knows that many small businesses are struggling during the recession so he has requested that the US Treasury do something to help small businesses get loans so they can meet their expenses.  President Barack Obama and Secretary Geithner unveiled a $15 billion package that will help small businesses. The plan will help reduce lending fees, ease the tax burden and boost bank liquidity to get credit rolling.

President Obama called small businesses the heart of the American economy and said that small businesses have created almost 70 percent of all new jobs in the last decade.

The U.S. Treasury Department said that going forward it will require the top 21 banks receiving government assistance to report their lending to small businesses on a monthly basis.  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will ask bank regulators to make changes so that they report on small business loans quarterly instead of annually so that progress can be gauged.

“We need every bank in the country to do everything in their power to provide the credit that small businesses need to operate, expand and add jobs,” Geithner said.

“You need to make the extra effort to make sure that good loans are getting to credit-worthy small business in order to serve the larger public good of moving this nation toward recovery.”

I have to reiterate, the Obama administration is working very hard for all Americans – yeah!

March 15, 2009

US Food Safety — Currently ONLY 5% Of Food Processing Plants & Warehouses Inspected!

fda-eat-safely1The Republican Party is full of prophets. 

During his administration President George W. Bush thought that our financial institutions and corporations could and would adequately police themselves so he squashed or crippled agencies created to enforce governmental standards. Then Bush let the corporations redefine and rewrite the standards they should uphold and now it is almost impossible to prosecute these same corporations for breaking the laws because they wrote the laws and know how to get around the laws.  Now we find America in the midst of a preventable economic meltdown. 

When our country started to crumble because of lack of regulation and poor government management by the Republicans, the Republicans couldn’t see the forest from the trees and quickly and gleefully started chirping, tweeting and twittering that government does not work and government cannot do anything right – becoming self-fulfilling prophets.

By proclaiming that government does not work the Republicans were admitting loudly and publically that they believed themselves to be an across-the-board colossal failure, flop and a fiasco.

The United States is suppose to have one of the world’s safest food supplies, thanks in large part to an interlocking monitoring system that watches over our food production and distribution at every level — locally, statewide and nationally.

Continual monitoring is to be provided by food inspectors, microbiologists, epidemiologists, and other food scientists working for city and county health departments, state public health agencies, and various federal departments and agencies. Their precise duties are dictated by local, state and national laws, guidelines and other directives. Some monitor only one kind of food, such as milk or seafood. Others work strictly within a specified geographic area. Others are responsible for only one type of food establishment, such as restaurants or meat-packing plants. Together they make up the U.S. food safety team. The Clinton administration’s Food Safety Initiative which began in 1997 strengthened the efforts of all the members of the United State’s food safety team in the fight against food-borne illness, which badly affects between 6.5 million and 33 million Americans every year.

In 1988 a major initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services which includes FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency signed a memorandum of understanding to create a Food Outbreak Response Coordinating Group, or FORC-G. This great initiative was taken apart piece by piece under the mismanagement and negligence of the George W. Bush administration and Americans found our self in the midst of crisis after crisis with new and emerging threats to the U.S. from China — from toys to pet food to baby formula.  We also learned that it wasn’t just Chinese food and drug imports that could kill us — many of those bargain priced products (baby furniture, baby clothes, toothpaste, etc.) you and I picked up at WalMart, Target or Sam’s Club could hurt us or cause serious accidents. It seems to me that George W. Bush was criminally negligent because he gave his unqualified buddies these very important government jobs.  He gave his cronies jobs to govern these life altering agencies that are vital to the well-being of every American and his incompetent friends screwed up royally.

During the George W administration we also learned that arsenic, a poison and a carcinogen (a substance that produces cancer) commonly found in groundwater, is strongly linked with the onset of diabetes in adults.  Arsenic increases the risk of bladder cancer, lung, kidney, skin, and possibly prostate cancer.

Dr. Navas-Acien and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found a “relatively strong” association between levels of arsenic commonly found in the urine of patients with type-2 diabetes in a study of adult Americans.

Navas said that there can be no safe level of arsenic.  20% of the nearly 800 participants in the John Hopkins study who had more arsenic in their bodies are 3.6 times more at risk of developing diabetes later in life than those in the 20% with the less amount of arsenic in their bodies.

Arsenic levels are 26% higher in people with diabetes or late development of type-2 diabetes than people without the disease the study found.

The U.S. government sets a limit of 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter (about the size of an individual bottle of spring water) in water Americans consume but that level is exceeded by about 13 million Americans plus arsenic accumulates in our bodies.  The accumulation of arsenic in our body ruins the body’s ability to use insulin and perform the vital task of converting blood sugar into energy.

President Obama is a thinking President who believes in social, economic and political reform that will make United States live up to its promises to the American people that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and made legal in The Constitution of America.  The first sentence of our constitution states:

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

President Obama is striving to fulfill the promises of our constitution and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon and Republicans obviously can’t keep up with him.  If Republicans are unable to keep up with President Barack Obama then we as Americans who love our country should help Republicans find another line of work by voting them out of office in 2010. 

I am so pleased that Barack Obama is our President. For eight years we were paying taxes without any representation. Once again we have a President who is working for the people of America.

 

March 9, 2009

Warren Buffett: Congress Should Unite Behind President Obama

warren-buffett-tips-for-getting-rich Billionaire Warren Buffett whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. posted its worst results ever in 2008, said the economy “has fallen off a cliff” and that efforts to stimulate recovery may lead to inflation higher than the 1970s.

During an appearance on the CNBC television network Buffett said that the American public is fearful, confused and changing their buying habits which is showing up at Berkshire’s operating units. While the recession will end and future generations will live better than their parents, the economy “can’t turn around on a dime,” Buffett said, adding that some inflation is appropriate right now.

“We are doing things now that are potentially very inflationary,” he said. Buffett called on Congress to unite behind President Barack Obama, comparing the economic crisis to a military conflict that needs a commander-in-chief. “Patriotic Americans will realize this is a war,” he said.

Berkshire’s shares have lost almost half their value in the past year as the bear market dragged down financial assets and the recession put pressure on profit from the company’s more than 70 operating businesses. The Geico insurance unit and Dairy Queen ice cream business have gained ground while the jewelry units are “just getting killed,” he said.

Bailouts of the banking system and “quasi-banks” such as American International Group (AIG) were necessary, even if everyone dislikes what’s been done to salvage the New York-based insurer, Buffett said. He favored insuring all bank deposits, and in response to a question about nationalizing lenders, Buffett said he doesn’t see any moral hazard in the U.S. seizing an institution when shareholders are already almost wiped out.

Buffett believes that companies used too much leverage and “played games” such as creating special investment vehicles to keep producing earnings growth. “Corporate America has a lot of room to behave better,” Buffett said.

The nation’s richest people don’t need a tax cut, he said, although chief executive officers shouldn’t be “demonized” for using corporate jets that help them be more efficient. Berkshire owns NetJets which leases private aircraft to corporate customers.

Buffett was ranked the richest man in America by Forbes magazine in October. He transformed Berkshire — based in Omaha, Nebraska, from a failing textile maker into an enterprise with businesses ranging from ice cream and underwear to insurance and utilities.

March 7, 2009

March 7, 2009: President Obama’s Weekly Address – Reforms Will Save Americans $40 Billion Each Year

President Barack Obama used his March 7, 2009 weekly address to detail his plans to fix our ailing economy, noting that reforming healthcare is necessary to ensure our long term fiscal health.  While ending this crisis will not be quick or easy, the President’s plans will take the swift, bold, and responsible actions needed for the United States to emerge stronger and more prosperous than before. And that is why reforming healthcare, jumpstarting job creation, restoring lending, relieving responsible homeowners, and making hard choices are all so critically important right now.

Transcript of President Obama’s remarks:

Yesterday, we learned that the economy lost another 651,000 jobs in the month of February, which brings the total number of jobs lost in this recession to 4.4 million.  The unemployment rate has now surpassed 8 percent, the highest rate in a quarter century.

These aren’t just statistics, but hardships experienced personally by millions of Americans who no longer know how they’ll pay their bills, or make their mortgage, or raise their families. 

From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight.  And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead.  But I also believe that we will get through this — that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before. 

That’s why my administration is committed to doing all that’s necessary to address this crisis and lead us to a better day.  That’s why we’re moving forward with an economic agenda that will jumpstart job creation, restart lending, relieve responsible homeowners, and address the long-term economic challenges of our time:  the cost of health care, our dependence on oil, and the state of our schools.

To prevent foreclosures for as many as 4 million homeowners — and lower interest rates and lift home values for millions more — we are implementing a plan to allow lenders to work with borrowers to refinance or restructure their mortgages.  On Wednesday, the Department of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development released the guidelines that lenders will use for lowering mortgage payments.  This plan is now at work.

To restore the availability of affordable loans for families and businesses — not just banks — we are taking steps to restart the flow of credit and stabilize the financial markets.   On Thursday, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve launched the Consumer and Business Lending Initiative — a plan that will generate up to a trillion dollars of new lending so that families can finance a car or college education — and small businesses can raise the capital that will create jobs.

And we’ve already begun to implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — a plan that will save and create over 3.5 million jobs over the next two years — jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, expanding broadband and mass transit.  And because of this plan, those who have lost their job in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage, while 95 percent of working Americans will receive a tax break beginning April 1st.

Of course, like every family going through hard times, our country must make tough choices.  In order to pay for the things we need — we cannot waste money on the things we don’t. 

My administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history.  And we’ve inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable.  For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too.

These kinds of irresponsible budgets — and inexcusable practices — are now in the past.  For the first time in many years, my administration has produced a budget that represents an honest reckoning of where we are and where we need to go.

It’s also a budget that begins to make the hard choices that we’ve avoided for far too long — a strategy that cuts where we must and invests where we need.  That’s why it includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction, while making historic investments in America’s future.  That’s why it reduces discretionary spending for non-defense programs as a share of the economy by more than 10 percent over the next decade — to the lowest level since they began keeping these records nearly half a century ago.  And that’s why on Wednesday, I signed a presidential memorandum to end unnecessary no-bid contracts and dramatically reform the way contracts are awarded — reforms that will save the American people up to $40 billion each year.

Finally, because we cannot bring our deficit down or grow our economy without tackling the skyrocketing cost of health care, I held a health care summit on Thursday to begin the long-overdue process of reform.  Our ideas and opinions about how to achieve this reform will vary, but our goal must be the same:  quality, affordable health care for every American that no longer overwhelms the budgets of families, businesses, and our government.

Yes, this is a moment of challenge for our country.  But we’ve experienced great trials before.  And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper — to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis.  That is what we can and must do today.  And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do.  I’m confident that at this defining moment, we will prove ourselves worthy of the sacrifice of those who came before us, and the promise of those who will come after. 

Thank you.

March 6, 2009

Economy: 651,000 Jobs Lost In February. Unemployment Rate Reaches 8.1%

unemployment-cartoon-get-a-job The U.S. economy lost 651,000 jobs in February, the fourth month in a row where job losses were near or above 600,000 and the unemployment rate climbed to 8.1%, the highest rate in over 25 years.

Of the 4.4 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007, more than half vanished in the last four months. Experts believe that our unemployment rate will get close to 9% in 2010 while some say it might be closer to 10%.  The Federal Reserve doesn’t expect the unemployment rate to fall below 7% until 2011.

Job losses are prevalent across most businesses with only education and health services reporting job growth.

According to a survey of businesses 660,000 jobs were lost in the private-sector in February. Goods-producing industries (i.e. car dealerships, department stores, coffee shops — businesses that provide tangible things that you can see, feel, touch or walk out of the store with) lost 276,000 jobs, while services (i.e. CPAs, Electricians, Nail Salons/Hair stylists/Spas, Dog Groomers — businesses that provide services) lost 375,000 jobs. Construction employment fell by 104,000 in February making it a total of 904,000 jobs lost in the construction industry since the recession began.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans rose to 13.4% in February, which is the highest rate it’s been since December 1993. Unemployment of young people and students rose to 21.6% because young people and students are now competing with unemployed adults for the same jobs.

Many Americans who still have jobs are under employed working an average workweek of 33.3 hours for the third straight month instead of 40 hours which is considered full-time.

The number of workers experiencing long spells of joblessness — defined by the government as 27 weeks (almost 7 months) without work — has risen to 2.9 million in February, up 1.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007.

The number of persons working part-time who would rather be working full time jumped by 787,000 in February to reach 8.6 million. This group of workers has risen by nearly 4 million since the recession began and these workers are most likely not to have health insurance.

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