Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ALERT: Mexico Shutting Down Non-Essention Economic Activity May 1-5

MEXICO CITY, April 29 (Reuters) - The Mexican government called on Wednesday for non-essential parts of the economy to shut down between May 1-5 to help combat the swine flu outbreak.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova urged "the suspension of non-essential work and services," to avoid people gathering and spreading swine flu which has killed up to 159 people in Mexico.

Government ministers said food, medical, financial and transportation sectors would be among those not affected but did not make clear which parts of the economy should close down.

Although the shutdown will last for five days, the period includes a weekend and the May 1 public holiday.

(Reporting by Alistair Bell, Editing by Sandra Maler)
ALERT WHO raised level up to 5
WHOs call new strain of H1N1 "Mexican flu"

Published: Wednesday 29 April 2009 17:32 UTC
Last updated: Wednesday 29 April 2009 17:32 UTC

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that the official death toll from the current outbreak of swine flu is eight. Because the most recent research has shown that the virus is not caused by pigs, the disease is now being referred to as Mexican flu or "2009 H1N1 flu". The WHO has moved the pandemic alert from four to five, the second highest. The first case of what was called swine flu was reported in Mexico and its first fatality was confirmed there two weeks ago.

The 23-month-old infant who died in the US state of Texas, in the first fatal case from the swine flu outbreak in the United States, was also Mexican. The child came from Mexico to Houston for medical treatment, officials said.

In Europe, new cases of swine flu have been confirmed in five countries. Germany has officially reported three cases, Austria one and Croatia has confirmed some people are infected with the virus. Earlier, Great Britain and Spain had reported cases of swine flu but some new cases have since been officially diagnosed.

There are multiple cases in Mexico and the United States; diagnoses have also been made in Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Israel. All those found to be suffering from the virus have recently been to Mexico. After further testing, Mexico lowered the official number of those killed by the virus from 20 to seven.

France says it will ask the European Union to ban all flights to Mexico in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading. Brussels say that the European Commission does not have the authority to implement such a ban. Transport Commissioner Antonie Tajani said the EU should wait for the outcome of the health ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday before taking action that "would create panic…detrimental to the economy and tourism".
Economy shrinks at 6.1 percent pace in 1Q

Economy shrinks at worse-than-expected 6.1 percent pace in first quarter

  • Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer
  • On Wednesday April 29, 2009, 8:45 am EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy shrank at a worse-than-expected 6.1 percent pace at the start of this year as sharp cutbacks by businesses and the biggest drop in U.S. exports in 40 years overwhelmed a rebound in consumer spending.

The Commerce Department's report, released Wednesday, dashed hopes that the recession's grip on the country loosened in the first quarter. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 5 percent annualized decline.

Instead, the economy ended up performing nearly as bad as it had in the final three months of last year when it logged the worst slide in a quarter-century, contracting at a 6.3 percent pace. Nervous consumers played a prominent role in that dismal showing as they ratcheted back spending in the face of rising unemployment, falling home values and shrinking nest eggs.

In the January-March quarter, however, consumers came back to life.
They actually boosted their spending after two straight quarters of reductions. The 2.2 percent growth rate was the strongest in two years.
Still, the consumer rebound was swamped by heavy spending cuts in virtually every other area.

Businesses cut spending on home building, commercial construction, equipment and software, and inventories of goods. Sales of U.S. goods to foreign buyers plunged as they retrenched in the face of economic troubles in their own countries. Even the government trimmed spending. It was the first time that happened since the end of 2005.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DHS Sets Guidelines For Possible Swine Flu Quarantines

DHS Sets Guidelines For Possible Swine Flu Quarantines

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has sent a memo to some health care providers noting procedures to be followed if the swine flu outbreak eventually makes quarantines necessary.

DHS Assistant Secretary Bridger McGaw circulated the swine flu memo, which was obtained by, on Monday night. It says: "The Department of Justice has established legal federal authorities pertaining to the implementation of a quarantine and enforcement. Under approval from HHS, the Surgeon General has the authority to issue quarantines."

McGaw appears to have been referring to the section of federal law that allows the Surgeon General to detain and quarantine Americans "reasonably believed to be infected" with a communicable disease. A Centers for Disease Control official said on Tuesday that swine flu deaths in the U.S. are likely.

Federal quarantine authority is limited to diseases listed in presidential executive orders; President Bush added "novel" forms of influenza with the potential to create pandemics in Executive Order 13375. Anyone violating a quarantine order can be punished by a $250,000 fine and a one-year prison term.

A Homeland Security spokesman on Tuesday did not have an immediate response to followup questions about the memo, which said "DHS is consulting closely with the CDC to determine appropriate public health measures."

The memo from McGaw, who is DHS' acting assistant secretary for the private sector, also said: "U.S. Customs and Coast Guard Officers assist in the enforcement of quarantine orders. Other DOJ law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Marshals, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives may also enforce quarantines. Military personnel are not authorized to engage in enforcement."

Quarantines are hardly new: their history stretches at least as far back as the Bible, which describes a seven-day period of isolation that priests must impose when an infection is apparent. The word literally means a period of 40 days, which cities along the Mediterranean shipping routes imposed during the plague of the 15th century, a legal authority reflected in English law and echoed in U.S. law.

Congress enacted the first federal quarantine law in 1796, which handed federal officials the authority to assist states in combating the yellow fever epidemic. In response to the 1918 influenza epidemic, states levied quarantines and imposed mask laws – with the District of Columbia restricting residents to their homes and San Francisco adopting the slogan "Wear a Mask and Save Your Life! A Mask is 99% Proof Against Influenza." Public health authorities quarantined the entire campus of Syracuse University for two-and-a-half weeks in October of that year.

Until recently, the last involuntary quarantine in the United States was in 1963. Then, in 2007, Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta lawyer, was quarantined inside a hospital in Denver on suspicion of having extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. It turned out that the CDC was incorrect and Speaker had a milder form of the disease.

The CDC's error is one example of how quarantines can raise civil liberties issues. If a suspected swine flu patient is confined to a hospital isolation ward for a week or two, who pays for the bills? What if private businesses find their buildings requisitioned in an emergency? Or if hospital employees charged with enforcing the quarantine fail to show up for work?

McGaw's memo on Monday also said that the federal plan to respond to pandemic influenza was "in effect."

The Bush administration released the National Strategy For Pandemic Influenza in November 2005; it envisioned closer coordination among federal agencies, the stockpiling and distribution of vaccines and anti-viral drugs, and, if necessary, government-imposed "quarantines" and "limitations on gatherings."

A Defense Department planning document summarizing the military's contingency plan says the Pentagon is prepared to assist in "quarantining groups of people in order to minimize the spread of disease during an influenza pandemic" and aiding in "efforts to restore and maintain order."

The Los Angeles County coroner's office is investigating two recent deaths that officials say could be related to the recent global swine flu outbreak. However, no tests have come back positive for the swine flu, and medical examiners have not officially determined what caused the deaths.

[Updated at 9:30 a.m.: Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey said his office would collect specimens from the deceased and send them to the county public health department, which would determine whether either person died from the swine flu. If so, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be notified, Harvey said.]

Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey said Bellflower Medical Center reported the death of a 33-year Long Beach resident Monday afternoon from symptoms resembling swine flu.

"It's that diagnosis that needs to be confirmed," Harvey said. "An autopsy will be performed to establish the cause of death."

The man was taken to the hospital Saturday, complaining of shortness of breath and lymphoma. Doctors later diagnosed the patient with pneumonia, Harvey said.

The second case involves a 45-year-old man from La Mirada, whose death was reported Monday to the coroner's office. The man died April 22 at Coast Plaza Doctor's Hospital in Norwalk.

Doctors said the man died of pneumonia but the L.A. County Health Department refused to accept the death certificate signed by the private doctor, Harvey said. The case was then referred to the coroner's office, which will conduct further investigation.

If confirmed, the deaths would be the first reported in the United States from the swine flu.

-- Andrew Blankstein

"Hey...where's the love? How about some vittles here?"

Monday, April 27, 2009

Homeland chief says US preparing for full pandemic

Associated Press - April 27, 2009 3:53 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - The head of the Homeland Security Department says the United States is preparing as if the swine flu outbreak is a full pandemic.

Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters Monday that the World Health Organization is operating at level three, with level six a full pandemic. She said officials at the WHO were meeting Monday to consider whether to raise the level.

Napolitano said the U.S. is proceeding as if it were preparing for a full pandemic.

The disease started in Mexico and has spread to the United States and beyond, with 40 reported cases in the U.S.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WHO raises its pandemic alert level on swine flu

WHO raises global alert level, signaling swine flu was spreading, but stops short of pandemic

  • On Monday April 27, 2009, 4:40 pm EDT

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- The World Health Organization raised its global alert level Monday, signaling the swine flu virus was spreading from human to human in community outbreaks, but it stopped short of declaring a full-blown pandemic.

The WHO announcement in Geneva followed a decision by the top EU health official urging Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico because of the virus.

Mexico health department spokesman Carlos Olmos confirmed the move by the WHO to raise the alert level from Phase 3 to Phase 4.

Putting an alert at Phases 4 or 5 signals that the swine flu virus is becoming increasingly adept at spreading among humans. That move could lead governments to set trade, travel and other restrictions aimed at limiting the disease's spread.

The WHO's Phase 6 is the pandemic phase, characterized by outbreaks in at least two regions of the world.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the United States is preparing as if the swine flu outbreak already is a full pandemic.

The virus was suspected in up to 149 deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 1,600 cases suspected, while 40 cases -- none fatal -- were confirmed in the United States and six in Canada, the WHO said, adding that the number of confirmed cases worldwide was 73.

A young man in Spain and two people in Scotland have come down with swine flu following trips to Mexico, health officials said, in what were the first cases reported outside North America. The World Health Organization said it was still awaiting official reports from the U.K. about the Scottish cases.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid global concern about a possible pandemic.

European and U.S. markets bounced back from early losses as pharmaceutical stocks were lifted by expectations that health authorities will increase stockpiles of anti-viral drugs. The stocks of airlines, hotels and other travel-related companies posted sharper losses.

"Today we've seen increased number of confirmed cases in several countries," WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told The Associated Press. "WHO is very concerned about the number of cases that are appearing, and the fact that more and more cases are appearing in different countries."

President Barack Obama said the threat of spreading infections is cause for concern but "not a cause for alarm."

In Luxembourg, European Union Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou urged Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico affected by swine flu, toning down earlier comments referring to all of North America.

"I meant a travel advisory, not a travel ban, for travel to Mexico City and those states in the United States where we have outbreaks" of swine flu, he said.

The EU health commissioner only makes recommendations to the 27 member countries; they must make a final decision to set travel advisories through their foreign ministries.

Dr. Richard Besser, acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said the EU recommendation was not warranted. "At this point I would not put a travel restriction or recommendation against coming to the United States."

Spain's first swine flu case -- confirmed by the WHO -- was a young man in the town of Almansa who recently returned from Mexico for university studies and is responding well to treatment, said Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez. Neither the young man nor any of the 20 other people under observation for the virus were in serious condition.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said tests "conclusively" confirmed swine flu in two people also recently returned from Mexico. A government spokeswoman said the two were recovering in Monklands Hospital in the Scottish town of Airdrie with flu-like symptoms. The virus matched the strain of flu that has affected Mexico, said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Scottish government policy.

She said tests were conducted at a Glasgow laboratory before being sent to the Health Protection Agency's Colindale Center for Infections in London, which confirmed the outbreak.

WHO spokesman Peter Cordingley singled out air travel as an easy way the virus could spread, noting that the WHO estimates that up to 500,000 people are on planes at any time.

New Zealand was testing 13 students, their parents and teachers who were showing flu-like symptoms after returning from Mexico, said Health Minister Tony Ryall. Israel, France, Brazil and Switzerland were also conducting tests.

At Germany's bustling Frankfurt Airport, people suspected of having the disease were examined before getting off planes, said the health minister for Hesse state, Juergen Banzer. The policy was in effect since Saturday at continental Europe's second-busiest airport, after Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Governments in Asia -- with potent memories of SARS and avian flu outbreaks -- heeded the warning amid global fears of a pandemic.

Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines dusted off thermal scanners used in the 2003 SARS crisis and were checking for signs of fever among passengers from North America. South Korea and Indonesia introduced similar screening.

In Malaysia, health workers in face masks took the temperatures of passengers as they arrived on a flight from Los Angeles.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said visitors returning from flu-affected areas with fevers would be quarantined.

Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon said pilots on international flights would be required to file a report noting any flu-like symptoms among passengers before being allowed to land in Australia.

China said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms within two weeks of arrival had to report to authorities.

India will start screening people arriving from Mexico, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Britain and France for flu-like symptoms, said Vineet Chawdhry, a top Health Ministry official. It also will contact people who have arrived from Mexico and other affected countries in the past 10 days to check for the symptoms, he said.

Some officials cautioned that the checks might not be enough.

The virus could move between people before any symptoms show up, said John Simon, a scientific adviser to Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection.

China, Russia and Ukraine banned imports of pork and pork products from Mexico and three U.S. states that have reported cases of swine flu, and other governments were increasing their screening of pork imports. Azerbaijan banned all livestock products from all of North America.

Indonesia, which was hit hardest by bird flu, said it was banning all pork imports. Lebanon said all pork products, except for some canned varieties, were banned.

The CDC says people cannot get the flu by eating pork or pork products.

Germany's leading vacation tour operators were skipping stops in Mexico City as a precaution. The Hannover-based TUI said trips through May 4 to Mexico City were being suspended, including those operated by TUI itself and also through companies 1-2 Fly, Airtours, Berge & Meer, Grebeco and L'tur.

TUI said other holiday trips to Mexico would continue to operate but would not make stops in Mexico City "for the next few weeks." Japan's largest tour agency, JTB Corp., suspended tours to Mexico at least through June 30.

Russian travel agencies said 30 percent of those planning to travel to Mexico in early May had already canceled.

At Madrid's Barajas International Airport, passengers arriving from Mexico were asked to declare where they had been and whether they had felt any cold symptoms. They were told to leave a contact address and phone number.

"Where we were, there was no real alarm but we followed what was happening on the news and we're a little bit worried," said Spaniard Filomeno Ruiz, back from vacation in Cancun.

Passengers were also urged to contact health authorities if they notice any symptoms in the 10 days following arrival.

In the airport's baggage claim area, ground crews and police wore surgical face masks. Some travelers took precautions even though they had not been in Mexico.

"Nobody has recommended it, but I've put the mask on out of precaution," said Roger Holmes of Britain, who was traveling to Tunisia from Madrid. "I'm not afraid, but it costs nothing to be careful."

WHO swine flu page:


Well of course they are...what took 'em so long???

U.S. set to issue travel warning to Mexico

Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:53am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department plans to issue a travel warning later on Monday urging Americans to avoid all "nonessential" travel to Mexico because of an outbreak of swine flu, a U.S. official said.

Swine flu has killed 103 people in Mexico and has spread to the United States. Spain has reported one case of the virus, the first to be confirmed in Europe.

"There will be a travel warning urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico because of the swine flu," said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition he not be named as the warning has not yet been announced.

(Reporting by Sue Pleming; Editing by Will Dunham)

NEW YORK – Esti Lamonaca's illness started with a high fever, a cough and achy bones, just a couple of days after she returned from a spring break trip on the beach in Cancun with friends. By the weekend, her voice was hoarse and she was wearing a surgical mask.

The 18-year-old senior was one of a dozen students from several New York City high schools who traveled to Mexico earlier this month, and she thinks she has swine flu. Health officials have confirmed that eight students from her school have been infected with the strain, which has caused a deadly outbreak in Mexico. And they predict the number will grow once additional students, including Lamonaca, are tested.

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States has doubled to 40, the World Health Organization announced Monday, saying it was "very concerned" about the disease's spread.

However, all of those sickened in the U.S. have recovered or are recovering. That's a stark difference from the outbreak in Mexico that authorities can't yet explain.

Officials at Lamonaca's school, St. Francis Preparatory in Queens, learned that something was wrong there on Thursday when students started lining up at the nurse's office complaining of fever, nausea, sore throats and achy bones. It wasn't long before the line was out the door.

The nurse notified the city Health Department that day. On Friday, more students were getting sick, and the department dispatched a team to the school at about 1:30 p.m. But they got caught in traffic and didn't arrive until 3:30 p.m, just as classes were letting out for the weekend, said Brother Leonard Conway, the school's principal.

By then, there were only a few students left, and health officials quickly tested them for swine flu. While only eight cases are confirmed, more than 100 students are suspected to have been infected. Officials think they started getting sick after some students returned from the spring break trip to Cancun.

Dr. Richard Besser, acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday U.S. officials were questioning border visitors about their health.

The U.S. government declared a public health emergency Sunday to respond to the outbreak, which also has sickened people in Kansas, California, Texas and Ohio. Health officials in Michigan said they have one suspected case. Many of them had recently visited Mexico. Roughly 12 million doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu will be moved from a federal stockpile to places where states can quickly get their share if they decide they need it, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

Besser said Monday people can best protect themselves against the swine flu threat by taking precautions they were taught as kids, like frequently washing their hands and covering their mouths when coughing.

Cleaning crews spent Sunday scrubbing down St. Francis, which will be closed for days.

"I haven't been out of my house since Wednesday and am just hoping to make a full recovery soon," Lamonaca said. "I am glad school is closed because it supposedly is very contagious, and I don't want this to spread like it has in Mexico."

Some schools in Texas, California, New York, Ohio and South Carolina also were closing after students were found or suspected to have the flu.

The outbreak has people on edge across the country.

Officials along the U.S.-Mexico border asked health care providers to take respiratory samples from patients who appear to have the flu. Travelers were being asked if they visited flu-stricken areas.

In San Diego, signs posted at border crossings, airports and other transportation hubs advised people to "cover your cough." At Los Angeles International Airport, Alba Velez, 43, and her husband Enrique, 46, were wearing blue face masks — purely as a precaution — when they returned from a trip to Mexico.

The Los Angeles couple hadn't seen anyone sick while in Guadalajara but were nervous because of the stream of information about new cases. The two were wearing the masks because they're "just cautious," Enrique Velez said.

It was a different story for travelers heading south of the border.

"I'm worried," said Sergio Ruiz, 42, who checked in for a flight to Mexico City after a business trip to Los Angeles and planned to stay inside when he got home. "I'm going to stay there and not do anything."

In Ohio, a 9-year-old boy was infected with the same strain suspected of killing dozens in Mexico, authorities said. The third-grader had visited several Mexican cities on a family vacation, said Clifton Barnes, spokesman for the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency.

"He went to a fair, he went to a farm, he went to visit family around Mexico," Barnes said.

The boy has a mild case and is recovering at home in northern Ohio, authorities said.

His elementary school in Elyria was closed for the week.

In New York, Jackie Casola — whose son Robert Arifo is a sophomore at St. Francis — said her son told her a number of students had been sent home sick Thursday and hardly anyone was in school Friday.

Arifo hasn't shown any symptoms, but some of his friends have, his mother said. And she has been extra vigilant about his health.

"I must have drove him crazy — I kept taking his temperature in the middle of the night," she said.


Associated Press writers Josh Hoffner, Jennifer Peltz and Deepti Hajela in New York, Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles, Michelle Roberts in San Antonio and Meghan Barr in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

This story is far to rapidly developing for me:

EU warning: Don't travel to U.S., Mexico
EU warning: Don't travel to U.S., Mexico

Warning comes as Spain reports first confirmed case of swine flu in Europe
The Associated Press
updated 8:08 a.m. CT, Mon., April 27, 2009

LUXEMBOURG - The European Union's health commissioner urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to the United States or Mexico due to swine flu.

EU Health Commissioner Andorra Vassiliou met with the EU foreign ministers on the subject as Spain reported the first confirmed case of swine flu in Europe. That was also the first swine flu case outside North America.

On arriving in Luxembourg, Vassiliou advised Europeans to reassess their travel plans.

She told reporters "they should avoid traveling to Mexico or the United States of America unless it is very urgent for them."

EU foreign ministers discussed the outbreak of swine flu on Monday and the EU health ministers were holding an emergency meeting on the subject Thursday.

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Monday that the threat of spreading swine flu infections is a cause for concern but "not a cause for alarm" as the United States undertook close border monitoring to contain it.

"The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a Public Health Emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively," Obama told a gathering of scientists, amid increasing worries worldwide about a possible pandemic.

The acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier Monday had said that people should be prepared for the problem to become more severe, and that it could involve "possibly deaths." Dr. Richard Besser said U.S. officials were questioning border visitors about how their health.

The quickening pace of developments in the United States in response to some 1,600 swine flu infections in neighboring Mexico was accompanied by a host of varying responses around the world. The European Union advised against nonessential travel to the United States and Mexico, China, Taiwan and Russia considered quarantines and several Asian countries scrutinized visitors arriving at their airports.

In the United States, a private school in South Carolina was closed Monday because of fears that young people returning from Mexico might have been infected.

"We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States," Obama said. "I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies, and the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take."

"But one thing is clear: Our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community," the president said. "And this is one more example of why we cannot allow our nation to fall behind."

GDP Probably Shrank as Companies Cut Back: U.S. Economy Preview

By Bob Willis

April 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy probably plunged again in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in inventories that may set the stage for a return to growth later this year.

Gross domestic product shrank at a 4.7 percent annual pace after contracting at a 6.3 percent rate in the last three months of 2008, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of a Commerce Department report April 29. Figures from the Institute for Supply Management on May 1 may show manufacturing shrank at a slower pace this month.

The Commerce report, coming on the second day of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, may show consumer spending climbed, halting its biggest slide in almost two decades. Since their March meeting, Fed policy makers have started buying long- term government bonds and launched a program to revive lending in a bid to keep consumers from retrenching again.

“The more forward-looking you are, the better the world looks,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of U.S. economic research at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York. “Almost half of the drop in GDP is due to a collapse in inventories, and once they fall far enough, production has to rise back up to meet sales.”

Data in recent weeks, including signs of stability in home sales, residential construction and demand for business equipment, signal the world’s largest economy may contract at a slower pace this quarter. Finance chiefs from the Group of Seven nations last week predicted a “weak” economic recovery will start to take hold in coming months as evidence mounts that the worst of the recession is over.


Manufacturing, as well as housing, may be descending at a slower pace. The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index may rise to 38.3 for April from 36.3 the prior month, according to economists surveyed. While a reading less than 50 still signals contraction, the improvement would be the fourth in a row.

Factory orders, due from Commerce on May 1, probably fell 0.6 percent in March, after a 1.8 percent gain the prior month, according to the survey median.

Companies including General Motors Corp. have been slashing output to curb inventory as demand at home and abroad dropped. The International Monetary Fund last week said the world economy would shrink 1.3 percent this year, its worst performance World War II.

General Motors and Chrysler LLC are threatened with bankruptcy as sales have plummeted since credit markets seized up last year. GM will idle 15 North American assembly plants for at least a week from mid-May through July, a person familiar with the plans said last week.

Ford Outlook

Ford Motor Co., working to avoid a federal bailout, last week posted a first-quarter loss that beat analysts’ estimates.

“We’re not quite sure where the bottom is,” Ford’s Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said in an April 24 Bloomberg Television interview. “But we believe with the stabilization of the banks, freeing up the credit, and the stimulus packages we have, both monetary and fiscal, that we’re going to see an uptick in the third and fourth quarter.”

Declines in business investment joined falling inventories in dragging down the GDP last quarter, economists said. The drop in stockpiles may be the biggest since quarterly records began in 1990, according to a forecast by economists at Barclays Capital.

The gain in consumer spending and a smaller trade deficit as imports plunged prevented the economy from shrinking even more, according to Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado.

A report from Commerce on April 30 may show personal spending fell 0.1 percent in March after a 0.2 percent gain the prior month, according to the survey median. Personal income probably fell 0.2 percent for a second month, reflecting the weakening job market.

Economists projected measures of consumer confidence, from Reuters/University of Michigan on May 1 and from the New York- based Conference Board on April 28, probably improved in April.

Finally, the S&P/Case Shiller index of home prices in the 20 metropolitan areas, also due April 28, may show property values are also dropping at a slower pace.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

White House to hold special briefing on swine flu
26 Apr 2009 13:01:48 GMT
Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON, April 26 (Reuters) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other administration officials will address a special White House briefing on the swine flu outbreak on Sunday, the White House said in a statement. The White House said Napolitano would be joined at the 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) briefing by Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and John Brenna, assistant to the president for Homeland Security. The officials will give an update on the flu outbreak in the United States and the government's response, the statement said. (Reporting by Ross Colvin, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

Street shooting with Hammer and Ashley

Saturday, April 18, 2009

We went out and field tested the improved Lumedyne unit last night...its a powerful little beast compared to speedlights!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gov. Perry Backs Resolution Affirming Texas’ Sovereignty Under 10th Amendment
HCR 50 Reiterates Texas’ Rights Over Powers Not Otherwise Granted to Federal Government
April 09, 2009

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

A number of recent federal proposals are not within the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally designated powers and impede the states’ right to govern themselves. HCR 50 affirms that Texas claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.

It also designates that all compulsory federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties, or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited or repealed.

HCR 50 is authored by Representatives Brandon Creighton, Leo Berman, Bryan Hughes, Dan Gattis and Ryan Guillen.

To view the full text of the resolution, please visit:
Biggest drop in industrial output since VE Day
Production falls 1.5% in March, despite bounce in autos, utilities
By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
Last update: 9:16 a.m. EDT April 15, 2009

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - The output of the nation's factories, mines and utilities fell 1.5% in March despite higher production of motor vehicles and boost from utilities, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.

Industrial production is down 13.3% since the recession began in December 2007, the largest percentage decline since the end of World War II, when production of military equipment ground to a halt. In the past year, industrial production has fallen 12.8%.

Output fell at a 20% annual rate in the first quarter, and is now at the same level as December 1998.
Factory production fell 1.7% in March. Factory output has fallen 15.7% during the recession, also the largest decline since 1945-1946. Factory output has dropped 15% in the past 12 months and has fallen for five consecutive quarters.

Capacity utilization fell by a full percentage point to 69.3%, the lowest since the data series begins in 1967. In manufacturing, capacity utilization fell to 65.8%, which means a third of the nation's manufacturing capacity is idle. Output was much lower than expected by economists surveyed by

MarketWatch, who were looking for a smaller 0.8% decline. In March, mining output fell 3.2%. Utility output increased 1.8%.

In the factory sector, output of business equipment fell 2.8% and is down 14% in the past year. Output of consumer goods fell 0.3% in March and is down 8% in the past year. Output of motor vehicles increased 1.5% in March after a 9.4% gain in February. Vehicle assemblies rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.84 million from 4.65 million in February and 3.72 million in January. In 2008, 8.45 million cars and light trucks were produced.

Vehicle output is down 34.5% in the past year.

Excluding vehicles, industrial production fell 1.9% in March. Factory output fell 2.8% excluding vehicles. Production of high-tech equipment fell 3.1% for the second month in a row and is down 22.6% in the past year. Excluding high-tech, industrial production fell 1.4%.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Normally I am the world's biggest "news junkie"...but lately do not seem to care much about trackin, however, was a strange day...for wildfires! The sky at sunset was a strange orangish brown color from both fires and dust that blew thru...

April 9, 2009--COLLEGE STATION, Texas--Multiple homes and hundreds of acres have been lost to wildfires across the state today as extreme weather conditions that were forecast for Thursday, April 9, 2009, materialized.
Reports of wildfires, evacuations and requests for assistance have been coming in to Texas Forest Service all day.
Due to the massive number of requests for assistance and wildfire reports, a clear number of acres burned or homes lost in today’s wildfire events is not yet available. Weather conditions at many of the wildfires have made fighting these blazes exceptionally dangerous. Attack on the fires with planes and helicopters was impossible for most of the day due to the high winds.
Texas Forest Service has received multiple reports of evacuations, structures lost, acreage burned and additional wildfire starts.
Weather conditions are predicted to moderate throughout the night. The Texas Forest Service web site will be updated as information is confirmed.

Also this:

WARNING Tornado(s) - Mena Arkansas

Mena Hit By Tornado
A spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Department says a tornado has touched down in downtown Mena. Renee Preslar says the Polk County Courthouse took "a direct hit" from the storm that struck just after 8 p.m. Thursday night. Say It On 7:
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Preslar says the county requested National Guard troops to secure downtown Mena. Officials also have asked utility companies to shut off all gas lines to Mena and surrounding areas. Preslar says emergency management officials have heard of no injuries from the storm, but they were still gathering information about what happened.


NWS SKYWARN chase teams reporting large tornado on the ground in Shreveport LA doing heavy damage at this time.

One fire station "obliterated" - nothing left. In the city limits now doing catastrophic damage.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Pushrod was in the house @ Cadillac last night, and the birthday boy was in fine form!

Friday, April 03, 2009

It was standin room only at the Cadillac tonight to see Maylee Thomas and George Fuller...