More than 700 infants exposed to TB at Texas hospital

From CNN News:

More than 700 infants and 40 health care workers have been exposed to tuberculosis, commonly called TB, at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. Health officials are not yet saying if any of the people exposed have tested positive for the disease.

An employee at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso came to work with an active case of TB some time between September 2013 and August 2014. He or she worked with infants in the nursery and in the post-partum unit at the hospital, the health department says. The hospital has identified 706 infants and 43 workers who were exposed to the disease during that time period. The family of each patient was sent a certified letter and is being contacted via telephone with instructions on how to get tested for TB. Any necessary follow-up care will be provided free of charge by the health department and the hospital.

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In US, huge grain crops spell headache for farmers

From Yahoo News:

US corn and soybean crops could break records this year, but for farmers the bounty has a dark side: falling prices and a logistics nightmare getting crops to market. “It is not an exact science but when we look at the fields, it looks like it is going to be a big crop,” said John Reifsteck, a corn and soybean farmer in Champaign, Illinois, a Midwest farm belt state.

Reifsteck estimated his corn crop could be as much as 15 percent higher than last year’s. The US Department of Agriculture is forecasting record crops this year for corn and soybeans, the two largest US crops in terms of production. Unless there is a devastating freeze or torrential rains before the harvest ends, corn production is projected at 366 million tonnes and soybeans at 106.5 million tonnes.

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Secret Service Launches Probe Into White House Security Breach

From NBS News:

The intruder who sprinted across the White House lawn and was able to enter the North Portico doors had a knife, officials said Saturday as the Secret Service pledged a review of Friday night’s security breach and increased patrols.

Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, an Iraq war veteran, was arrested after he hopped over a fence at 7:20 p.m. and sprinted across the lawn before entering the North Portico doors. Officials initially said Gonzalez was unarmed, but a law enforcement official told NBC News Saturday that Gonzales had a four-inch folding knife on him when he was arrested. Army records show Gonzalez is an Iraq war veteran who served as a cavalry scout, and he served in Iraq from 2006 to 2008.

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Obama Charges ISIS

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The Return Of King Dollar

Maybe the U.S. economy, a weakling for the last six years, is finally starting to flex some muscle. We’re referring to the return of King Dollar.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the greenback is in the midst of a rally not seen since the 1990s. It’s racing past the euro, the yen, and other currencies. Investors worldwide are buying the equivalent of stock in America, Inc.zimbabwe_chinese_yuan_us_dollar

If the rise in the dollar’s valuation is sustainable, it’s welcome news for the stock market, for fighting inflation, and for U.S. growth prospects. Ronald Reagan said it best: A strong dollar is a sign of a strong America.

This has been a long time in coming. And it’s still too early to tell whether the trend will continue. But the dollar has rallied significantly in recent months. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the resurgent dollar has logged its longest winning streak in 17 years, rising against a broad basket of currencies for nine straight weeks.”

One immediate impact of dollar strength is that it increases the demand for U.S. stocks and bonds. But the dollar rally is also a restraint against inflation, as well as a market signal of U.S. competitiveness relative to rival nations. It’s a hopeful sign that Janet Yellen and the Fed may be more effective inflation hawks in deeds — though not in rhetoric — than commonly expected.

QE ends next month. And the Fed is expected to raise its target interest rate in 2015 and beyond. In any case, most of the Fed’s balance-sheet expansion went into excess bank reserves instead of circulating throughout the economy. In other words, Fed policy was never as loose as people feared.

Naturally, some will write off the bull market for dollars as merely a sign that the greenback is the least rotten apple in the barrel. But that’s not giving the dollar its due. It has been gaining strength against gold, which is the best measure of dollar value. At just above $1,200, gold has fallen back to early-January levels. And remember, gold peaked around $1,900 in mid-2011.

We think one key explanation for dollar strength is the amazing efficiency revolution in American business that’s taken place over the last five years. U.S. companies have become the best run in the world as they’ve ruthlessly cut costs.

Credit also the drilling bonanza in oil and gas, which is driving down energy costs for American producers of everything from steel to auto parts to microchips to chemicals to corn.

King Dollar also is a capital magnet. We’re already seeing this as foreigners flock to U.S. assets. The historical relationship is unmistakable. Periods of sustained economic growth and rising living standards are associated with a strong dollar. That was clearly true in the prosperous 1960s, 1980s, and 1990s.

And while the strong dollar restrains commodity prices, it acts as a tax cut for American consumers and businesses. Gasoline, for example, is down to $3.35 from nearly $4. The CPI is up only 1.7 percent over the past 12 months.

A strong dollar increases the purchasing power of the greenback. So the money in your wallets and purses buys more goods and services.

Conversely, when the dollar crashed in the 1970s — especially relative to gold — the economy collapsed into a crippling stagflation. From 1999 to 2009, the dollar index dropped by almost 40 percent, with only a brief surge between 2004 and 2006. The economy and wages were sluggish at best.

The relationship between a strong currency and prosperity is lost on the many nations that adhere to the mercantilist model whereby a devalued currency supposedly gives a country a competitive edge by making exports cheaper. Japan is the classic example of this failed paradigm. Its economy has crashed in recent months thanks to higher taxes and a yen intentionally weakened to boost exports. The Japanese seem to think that the way to grow the economy is to make their citizens poorer.

Of course, numerous policy blunders — Obamacare, high corporate taxes, carbon regulations, Dodd-Frank — are restraining U.S. growth and could derail the dollar comeback. But the rising dollar may be sniffing out new pro-growth policies in a Republican sweep come November.

In fact, the best growth combination would be slashing corporate tax rates to 20 percent, letting S-corp small businesses pay the lower C-corp rate, and ending the double tax on profits earned overseas. Then the Fed could start normalizing interest rates.

This approach would get the economy cooking again, without inflation. American workers would finally get real pay raises, while business investment and the stock market boom.

King Dollar is the ticket.

Larry Kudlow is CNBC’s Senior ContributorStephen Moore is chief economist at the Heritage Foundation.​ This piece was originally posted on Dailycaller.com.

Sierra Leone Begins 3-Day Lockdown to Fight Ebola Outbreak

From The New York Times:

One of the most stringent anti-Ebola measures to date began here Friday morning as Sierra Leone imposed a three-day national lockdown, ordering people off the streets and into their homes in an effort to stamp out the deadly disease.

Police officers patrolled the streets of the densely populated capital, telling stragglers to go home and stay indoors. Volunteers in bright jerseys prepared to go house-to-house throughout the country to warn people about Ebola’s dangers and to root out those who might be infected but were staying in hiding.

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Dem Rep: 40 American ISIL Fighters Have Already Returned to the United States

From The Washington Free Beacon:

Rep. Tim Bishop (D., N.Y.) warned during a recent speech that up to 40 radicalized U.S. citizens who have fought alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have already returned to the United States, where they could pose a terrorist threat. Bishop claims that of the 100 or so Americans who have traveled to the Middle East to join ISIL’s ranks, some 40 have returned and are currently being surveilled by the FBI, according to his remarks, which were filmed and uploaded to YouTube last week.

“One of the concerns is the number of U.S. citizens who have left our country to go join up with ISIS,” Bishop said during the speech. “It is believed there have been some number up to 100 that have done that.”

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Scotland votes on independence, drawing activists from other nations

From the L.A. Times:

Voting in Scotland’s independence referendum was in full swing at more than 2,600 polling stations late Thursday morning as voters turned out to determine whether Scotland will leave Britain, a union that began more than 300 years ago.

The referendum, which will be decided by a simple majority, has sparked intense interest. More than 4 million people — including for the first time 16- and 17-year-olds — are registered to vote out of a population of 5.3 million, and turnout is expected to exceed 95%. Officials reported lines forming at some polling stations before the doors opened at 7 a.m.

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Obama Insists U.S. Will Not Get Drawn Into Ground War in Iraq

From The New York Times:

 President Obama on Wednesday repeated his vow to destroy Islamist terrorists in Syria and Iraq, but he insisted that the United States would not go it alone and promised a military audience that he would not send them back into direct combat.

“Whether in Iraq or in Syria, these terrorists will learn the same thing that the leaders of Al Qaeda already know: We mean what we say,” Mr. Obama said at MacDill Air Force Base. “We’ve always known that the end of the war in Afghanistan didn’t mean the end of threats or challenges to America.”

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U.S. President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One as he departs from Ngurah Rai international airport in Denpasar, Bali

Benghazi Select Committee Holding First Open Hearing

From Huff Post Politics:

The House Select Committee on Benghazi gets its public debut Wednesday, two years after militants in the eastern Libyan city killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and four months after Republicans launched their special investigation. The panel is using its first open hearing to focus on what the Obama administration has done since the Sept. 11, 2012, attack to improve security at U.S. embassies and other diplomatic missions around the world. The State Department’s chief of diplomatic security was to be the committee’s first witness.

It was unclear whether the big allegations that prompted the probe will be examined — that U.S. forces were directed not to respond and that administration officials lied about the nature of the attack. “This is truly an effort to do fact-finding,” Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, one of seven Republicans on the 12-member committee, said in a telephone interview, stressing the thoroughness of the investigation, not its urgency. “Much of the work we’re going to do won’t be in hearings like we’re having this week.”

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