Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why China is buying up the US by Michael Brush

Real risks and rewards

In the 1980s, a string of purchases of iconic U.S. assets by the Japanese – from Rockefeller Center to the Pebble Beach golf course -- stirred up national anxiety about losing our status as world leader, and at least a little xenophobia.

A recession killed off the trend. But a similar wave is now under way.

This one has Chinese buyers aggressively picking off U.S. icons -- most recently, the Sunday ham, pork sausages and many of our beloved movie theaters. Chinese direct investment in U.S. companies – as opposed to debt or stock purchases -- shot up 42.5% in 2012, to $6.7 billion, according to Rhodium Group, a New York-based research firm. It's on track to jump again this year, with $2.2 billion worth of deals announced in the first quarter and an additional $10 billion in the pipeline, Rhodium says.

Should you worry? It's complicated. Yes, a Chinese company with a spotty health record just announced a bid for hog producer Smithfield Foods (SFD). And last year another one took over AMC, the movie theater chain. There are legitimate worries, including food safety, espionage and increased access to sensitive U.S. technology.

But before you start eating more chicken, subscribing to Netflix (NFLX) and waving the flag in response, consider these three big benefits:

1.  The Chinese can inject a lot of money into the U.S. businesses they buy, creating growth and jobs.

2.  Shareholders benefit, as stock prices usually jump when a company is taken over.

3.  These investments give the China a greater interest in U.S. success, reducing the chances that its leaders might do things to hurt us, says Edward Alden, an international trade expert with the Council on Foreign Relations. These deals should set the tone for better relations overall.

The risks and rewards will only grow as record Chinese investment here keeps rolling higher. Click ahead for a look at what Chinese interests are buying, and some deals gone sour.

To read more, click on the following link:

How Obamacare shortchanges low-wage workers by BY RICHARD KIRSCH

One of the biggest issues that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is meant to tackle is the lack of health coverage among low-wage workers. While there is good news for many low-wage workers in the new law, many others will still find themselves locked out of access to affordable coverage. Solving their concerns will be one more part of the huge challenge of confronting the power of mammoth low-wage employers in the new economy.

There has been a lot of coverage about the potential for fast food chains and other employers to cut the hours of some of their employees to under 30 a week in order to avoid having to offer them health coverage. To the extent that employers do cut back hours, it will accelerate a long-trend toward part-time low wage work; part-timers increased from 17 percent to 22 percent of the workforce just from 2007 to 2011.

The surge in part-time work is one aspect of the broader increase in low-wage work. Most of the jobs coming out of the recession are low-wage, which has hastened a trend going back 30 years of a growing number of low-wage jobs with no health benefits. The powerful eroding of good jobs is the greatest threat to broadly-shared economic prosperity. It destroys any promise of people living a middle-class life style, creates a two-tiered society, and undercuts the consumer buying power needed to move the economy forward.

The low-wage economy means more than just low wages. Post-World War II jobs, which came with employer-provided health coverage and a pension, are fast disappearing. Now more than four-in-ten workers do not get health coverage on the job. This includes many employees of small businesses, which do not offer any health coverage. It also includes millions of employees of large businesses, who either are not offered health coverage or can’t afford the premiums.

10 ways the middle class is still getting squeezed by Kim Peterson

Despite an economic recovery that has lifted stocks to new highs, middle-income Americans are still feeling the pressure from all sides.

Feeling pinched

A thriving middle class is the sign of a healthy national economy. But in the U.S., the middle class is getting hit on all sides. Prices are going up and middle-income jobs are disappearing. The housing market is still tough to get into, particularly for those who lost homes to foreclosure. And while the economy may finally be turning around, and the richest Americans gained wealth throughout the recovery, the middle class is still struggling.

The nation's economic midsection is shrinking, too. In fact, only about 51% of U.S. adults lived in middle-income households in the U.S. in 2010, down from 61% in 1970, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization and the International Institute for Labour Studies. What's more, middle-class earners saw their median income fall by 5% in that time.

Will it get better anytime soon? Don't bet on it. In fact, just when families were starting to get back on their feet, their paychecks took a hit in January when a Social Security payroll tax cut expired. Most U.S. households are now seeing their highest tax burdens since 2008, according to The Wall Street Journal.
To read more, click on the following link:

White House Guidelines: Don't Arm Teachers by JACKIE ZUBRZYCKI

Yesterday, the Obama administration released the comprehensive emergency guidelines for school districts it had first promised after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. this winter.

The guidelines were written jointly by the U.S. departments of Education, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and contain lessons and suggestions from each. They deal with prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery from technological, human-caused, natural, and biological threats. The document is quite thorough, touching on everything from school design and storm shelters to planning emergency drills to balancing privacy and safety.

It's important to note that this is explicitly a guide, not a new set of federal requirements. It reads as a compilation of the lessons and best practices that have been gleaned from agencies and schools that have had to cope with various types of emergencies in the past.

Though the report's recommendations about storm cellars and buildings will seem particularly timely after the tornadoes in Oklahoma this spring, the active shooter section that was developed in response to Newtown is particularly resonant and in-depth.

That section addresses head on the debate that raged this spring about whether school employees should be armed, as the National Rifle Association suggested this winter: This guide says that, though it may be frightening, staff should be asked to consider confronting active shooters as a last resort, noting that in a study, 16 out of 41 active-shooter events were stopped by potential victims. But, the guide specifies, "the possibility of an active shooter situation is not justification for the presence of firearms on campus in the hands of any personnel other ­­than law enforcement officers."

A Detailed Look at Emergency Planning

The guidance starts more broadly. It details a six-part process for schools looking to develop emergency plans: Forming a collaborative team, understanding threats, determining goals and objectives, developing specific courses of actions, reviewing plans, and implementing and maintaining the plan. Schools are encouraged to reach out to other local agencies as they assess the threats they face and their capacity to respond to them.

To read more, click on the following link:

Rookie teachers woefully unprepared by Stephanie Simon

But the methodology of the National Council on Teacher Quality report has been criticized by some professional bodies.
The U.S. teacher training system is badly broken, turning out rookie educators who have little hands-on experience running classrooms and are quickly overwhelmed by the job, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The review found "an industry of mediocrity," with the vast majority of programs earning fewer than three stars on a four-star rating scale — and many earning no stars at all.
The council, a bipartisan research and advocacy group, spent eight years developing the methodology, fighting in court to gain access to data and analyzing the information before issuing the report. It contains detailed analysis of 608 colleges and universities with teacher training programs and partial data on 522 others.
Those 1,130 institutions collectively turn out more than 170,000 novice teachers annually, about 80 percent of the new teachers entering classrooms each year. Most of the rest come from non-traditional training programs that are not necessarily affiliated with colleges, such as Teach for America.
Freshly minted teachers "don't know how to teach reading, don't know how to master a classroom, don't know how to use data," said Kate Walsh, the council's president. "The results were dismal."
Attempts to improve teacher training have been underway.
The two big teachers unions have both called for aspiring educators to get better mentoring and more practical experience before they graduate. They have also urged tougher certification standards that would require candidates to prove their skills in a classroom — not just pass a paper-and-pencil test — before earning a license.
Related: Senate introduces No Child Left Behind successor
Yet the study is the first to attempt a comprehensive rating of teacher preparation programs.
The methodology drew immediate fire from some professors of education.
The council ratings lean heavily on a few factors: whether a program is selective in its admissions, whether its students must take extensive courses in the subject areas they will be teaching and how much hands-on experience students get in classroom management.

To Read more, click on the following link:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

33 Trigger Foods for Bloating: Control Your Tummy Bulge!


By: Angela Ayles on Thursday, March 7th, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

Are you having trouble controlling your tummy bulge? You’re definitely not alone. Most of us struggle with bloating on a regular basis. Sure, those extra few pieces of cheese with your glass of wine may seem like a good idea at the time but is it really worth hours of feeling full and tired afterwards? Not really.

The single largest contributing factor when it comes to bloating is your diet. You may not even know it (especially considering so many of the foods listed below are incredibly healthy) but the foods you’re eating are likely causing you to feel full and overinflated. The good news is eliminating these foods from your diet (or at least limiting your intake) will eliminate bloating almost immediately.

Avoid these 33 foods and you’ll be on your way to a flatter tummy in no time:

Fast Food
Ice Cream
Spicy Foods


White Bread
Brussel Sprouts



Could humans some day become immortal?

The Global Future conference examined if we could become immortal one day, or if we'd even want to.

NEW YORK — Can the City That Never Sleeps become the City That Never Dies? A Russian multimillionaire thinks so.

Dmitry Itskov gathered some of humanity's best brains — and a few robots — in New York City on Saturday to discuss how humans can get their minds to outlive their bodies. Itskov, who looks younger than his 32 years, has an aggressive timetable in which he'd like to see milestones toward that goal met:

— By 2020, robots we can control remotely with our brains.

— By 2025, a scenario familiar to watchers of sci-fi cartoon show "Futurama": the capability to transplant the brain into a life-support system, which could be a robot body. Essentially, a robot prosthesis that can replace an ailing, perhaps dying body.

— By 2035, the ability to move the mind into a computer, eliminating the need for the robot bodies to carry around wet, messy brains.

— By 2045, technology nirvana in the form of artificial brains controlling insubstantial, hologram bodies.

The testimony of the neuroscience experts invited to Itskov's Global Future 2045 conference at Lincoln Center in Manhattan indicate that Itskov's timetable is ambitious to the point of being unrealistic. But the gathering was a rare public airing of questions that will face us as technology progresses.

AP Photo: Mary Altaffer. Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro showed off his Geminoid, a lifelike robot imitation of a human.

Is immortality desirable, and if so, what's the best way to get there? Do we leave behind something essentially human if we leave our bodies behind? If you send your robot copy to work, do you get paid?

Japanese robotics researcher Hiroshi Ishiguro's presentation started out with a life-size, lifelike robot representation of himself on stage.

The robot moved its lips, nodded and moved it eyes while a hidden loudspeaker played up Ishiguro's voice. Apart from a stiff posture and a curious splay of the hands, the robot could be mistaken for a human, at least 10 rows from the stage.

Ishiguro uses this android, or "Geminoid" (after the Latin word for "twin"), to meet with students at a research institute two hours away from the laboratory where he also has an appointment. He controls it through the Internet and sees his students through a webcam.

"The problem is, if I use this android, the research institute says it cannot pay for me," Ishiguro said, to laughter from the audience of hundreds of journalists, academics, Buddhist monks and futurism enthusiasts.

Ishiguro flew to the United States with his robotic twin's head, the most valuable part, in the carry-on luggage. The body rode below, in the luggage compartment.

To Itskov, who made his money in the Russian Internet media business, the isolated achievements of inventors such as Ishiguro are not enough. He wants to create a movement, involving governments and the United Nations, to work toward a common goal.

"We shouldn't just observe the wonderful entrepreneurs — we need to move ahead systematically," Itskov said in an interview. "We are really at the time when technology can affect human evolution. I want us to shape the future, bring it up for public discussion, and avoid any scenario that could damage humanity."

Itskov says he tries to eliminate his "selfishness" day by day and has spent about $3 million promoting his vision. He organized the first conference on the theme in Russia last year.

But in bringing the idea to the United States, a cultural difference is apparent: Itskov's desire for a shared, guiding vision for humanity does not mesh well with the spirit of the American high-tech industry, which despises government involvement and prizes its freedom to pursue whatever projects it wants.

Space entrepreneur and X-Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis articulated that spirit at the conference; the freewheeling capitalist system, he said, is one of the strongest engines for effecting change.

"The rate of change is going so fast. I do not believe any of our existing government systems can handle it," he said.

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Orthodox Church in America, who has a background in neurobiology and physics, offered another critique at the conference.

"A lot of this stuff can't be done," he said.

If it can be done, that's not necessarily a good thing, either, the robed and bearded patriarch believes.

"I'm not too fond of the idea of immortality, because I think it will be deathly boring," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. Giving up our bodies could also be problematic, he said.

"There's a lot of stuff in them that makes us human. I'm not sure they can be built into machines," Puhalo said.

Itskov acknowledges that his vision would leave part of the human experience behind. But he believes it would be worth it.

"We're always losing something for what we're doing. We're always paying," Itskov said. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rumor: US stockpiling ammunition for use in civil unrest

The bullet-stockpiling rumor has made its way to Washington. Meanwhile, heavy demand has resulted in an ongoing shortage of ammunition in the United States.
FALSE: While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has asked to buy a large amount of ammunition, there is no evidence it is unusual or intended for anything other than law enforcement and training.
A rumor that began as a chain email and grew through news stories on conservative websites has now graduated into the halls of Congress. New legislation has been voted on aimed at thwarting an alleged plot by the U.S. government to stockpile bullets that will either be used to combat "civil unrest" or be hoarded, so as to deprive civilians of their own ammunition.
This shocking conspiracy theory has no factual evidence to support it, of course, but that hasn't stopped its perpetuation.
The rumor centers on the notion that the Department of Homeland Security or the Social Security Administration — depending on which version of the conspiracy theory is being told — is making larger-than-normal purchases of ammunition for seemingly unexplained reasons.
According to one version of the rumor, a purchase quote request for 21.6 million bullets was recently made by the DHS. This bullet "stockpiling" was recently referred to by Sarah Palin in February, who tweeted that the DHS was "stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest" (MSN News Rumors addressed Palin's claim at the time). Before that, the rumor was published on such right-wing websites as InfoWars and Glenn Beck's The Blaze, with headlines such as "Federal agency has now acquired enough bullets to wage 30-year war."
What these stories fail to mention is that the purchase order in question (seen here in a downloadable Excel spreadsheet) represents supplies for "duty carry" agents who work as armed law-enforcement officers. The DHS reportedly has more than 100,000 peace officers across 90 agencies, most of whom are armed and use bullets in training, and occasionally in the line of duty. DHS officials have cited cost savings and frequent threats of sequestration as reasons for buying supplies in bulk.
Snopes thoroughly debunked the rumor in March, and the conservative Daily Caller also debunked a version that quoted the 21.6-million-bullet figure, which appears to be a simple miscalculation by chain-email authors and bloggers that resulted in a vast overstatement of the order.
TRUE: A bill was recently passed by a congressional committee that would temporarily halt DHS ammo purchases.
Regardless of its basis in reality, the bullet-stockpiling rumor was addressed last week by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which voted to approve an amendment to halt funds for DHS ammunition purchases until the department submits a detailed report about why it needs the bullets and how it has used them in the past. The bill must still be passed by the full House and the Senate and survive a presidential veto to become law.
Supporters of the bill say it's aimed at giving Americans assurance that ammunition bought by the government won't be used nefariously. Detractors say the bill is based on disproven conspiracy theories and will needlessly hamstring the DHS.
TRUE: Due to strong demand, there is an ongoing shortage of ammunition available for civilians.
Whether or not it is connected to the DHS' ammo purchases, there is no doubt that bullets are a hot commodity at gun shops these days. As reported by CBS, the Tampa Bay Times and CNN, ammunition shortages have been reported across the country for more than a year, as worries of stricter gun laws have inspired gun owners to purchase arms and ammo in record-breaking numbers.
Most recently the ammo-buying frenzy in the United States jumped the Pacific Ocean to Australia, where gun sellers there reportedly say they are expecting a huge shortage in arms and ammunition, thanks to Americans who are buying up all they can get their hands on.
MSN News seeks to give up-to-date information on rumors related to current events, people or even topics/issues of interest. We’ll tell you what we can confirm from the rumor mill — and what we can’t. If we can’t confirm a rumor, we’ll share what we do know about it. If you have a rumor you’d like to submit for review, email:

The Burning Question: Why are Schools Targets of Violence?

An analysis of those who commit acts of violence in schools found they tend to be students who feel bullied and isolated.

Santa Monica College was attacked by a shooter. Sandy Hook Elementary was the scene of a massacre. The list of attacks on schools in the United States continues to grow.
Why are schools so often the target?
As far back as 2002, the Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education analyzed school shootings and uncovered disturbing trends.
That report said 95 percent of attackers were current students. The remaining 5 percent were former students.
"Most attackers had a grievance against at least one of their targets prior to the attack," the report said.
Related: 6 months after Newtown shooting, what's changed?
David Sack, CEP of Promises Treatment Centers, said attackers who survive often report specifically targeting bullies.
"Many perpetrators felt bullied or wronged by others and, more importantly, didn't feel heard when they tried to get help," Sack said. "Enraged, they returned to the scene of the crime — their schools — and sought their revenge."
The Secret Service report said most attackers are part of fringe groups disliked by mainstream students and have few or no close friends.
"Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack," the report found. And this bullying was often "long-standing and severe."
But bullying doesn't tell the entire story.
Related: Town to fight bullies by hitting their parents with 3-figure fines
A 2013 report by the Suffolk Public School district cited some early warning signs that a student may be contemplating violence, including social withdrawal, uncontrolled anger, discipline problems, being a victim of violence or bullying, written and verbal expressions of violence, obsessions with weapons and exposure to violence at home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds a few more risk factors, such as drug abuse, poverty and poor family functioning.
Sack said family problems, frustration with the education system or mental illness, potentially undiagnosed, can also play a part.
"For anyone between 5 and 21 years of age, school is the place where a majority of their young lives unfold," Sack wrote. "In this sense, school is a logical place for issues at home or with teachers or others students to be acted out."
The Suffolk Public School district report found that depression and isolation correlate with acts of violence.
Additionally, "there is almost always a catastrophic loss — the loss of a job, relationship, money," the report says.
The CDC recommends preventing school violence by identifying the risk and developing and testing prevention strategies. It also suggested mentoring programs and parent- and family-based programs.

Town To Fight Bullies By Hitting their Parents With Three Figure Fines

Town to fight bullies by hitting their parents with three-figure fines

A Wisconsin community is fighting bullies by hitting them right in the bank account. Or, more specifically, in their parents' bank accounts. The city of Monona's new anti-bullying ordinance will fine the parents of would-be Biff Tannens $114 for their child's first violation and $177 for each additional one. (But the bullies get one freebie: a written warning the first time they're caught.) "I think it's fantastic," said Jason Burns, the director of a bullying prevention organization. "It forces parents to be more involved in their child's life, if they're not already." Police officers say the ordinance will be used on parents who are "uncooperative" and not on those who make an effort to change their kids' ways. [Source]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NSA Director: Data Mining Follows Law, Thwarts Terror by Tom Cohen

Washington (CNN) -- Phone records obtained by the government through a secret surveillance program disclosed last week helped to prevent "dozens" of terrorist acts, the director of the National Security Agency told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
Army Gen. Keith Alexander provided the most detailed account so far from a government official of the program in which the agency collects phone records that then can be accessed under federal court permission to investigate suspected terrorists.
The scope of the secret program -- potentially involving phone records of every American -- set off a political firestorm when details emerged with publication of a leaked document.
Further leaks revealed other secret programs that collect computer activity and other information.

Critics on the right and left accused the government of going well beyond the intended reach of the Patriot Act enacted after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Questioned by senators from both parties at a hearing on broader cybersecurity issues, Alexander provided a spirited defense for the programs he described as critical to counter-terrorism efforts.

"I think what we're doing to protect American citizens here is the right thing," he said. "Our agency takes great pride in protecting this nation and our civil liberties and privacy, and doing it in partnership with this committee, with this Congress, and with the courts."
Alexander added that he welcomed a public debate over protecting America while preserving civil liberties.

 "To date, we've not been able to explain it because it's classified, so that issue is something that we're wrestling with," he said. "... This isn't something that's just NSA or the administration doing that and so on. This is what ... our nation expects our government to do for us. So, we ought to have that debate. We ought to put it out there."

 In the end, he said, some aspects of the giant surveillance apparatus created after 9/11 would have to remain classified. "And they should be, because if we tell the terrorists every way that we are going to track them, they will get through and Americans will die," he said.

60% Chance of Global Recession by Alanna Petroff

Brace yourself for another recession and more economic volatility.
Bond giant Pimco believes there is a 60% chance of another global recession in the next few years.

"Given that the last global recession was four years ago, and also given that the global economy is significantly more indebted today than it was four years ago, we believe there is now a greater than 60% probability that we will experience another global recession in the next three to five years," wrote Saumil Parikh, a portfolio manager and member of Pimco's investment committee, in a research note.

While inflation should remain "well behaved" in the medium-term, Parikh painted a grim picture for the global economy. He forecast slowing growth rates around the world, continued stagnation in Europe and growing trade and currency tensions between developed markets.

The latest data on gross domestic product shows the U.S. economy grew at a 2.4% annual pace in the first three months of the year as it continues to recover from recession.

Meanwhile, the 17 eurozone nations continue to struggle. The eurozone economy contracted for a record sixth consecutive quarter at the start of 2013.

China, the global growth engine, has also been experiencing decelerating growth rates over the last few years, and the IMF recently downgraded its forecast for the country's economic prospects.

Pimco's founder and co-chief investment officer, Bill Gross, argued last month that central banks' ultra low interest rate policies and ongoing bond-buying programs have resulted in a financial system that is "beginning to resemble a leukemia patient with New Age chemotherapy, desperately attempting to cure an economy that requires structural as opposed to monetary solutions."

Can the 2013 Stock Market Rally Last?

Can the 2013 Stock Market Rally Last? Here we are in Spring, feeling optimistic and hoping against all hopes that this 2013 stock market rally will last! But can it? Is it sustainable or has this just been a pleasant dream?

We hit a high in March 2013– the first in four years. Can it last?
Can the 2013 Stock Market Rally Last?
Let’s take a look at what some of the experts have been saying.
Business Insider says that this is one of the longest rallies in recent history, but if there’s any truth in trends, we’re edging in on a new phase: “The market wants to go higher and higher it will go” we’re told. Maybe so but nothing lasts forever and after a rally of this duration, of this magnitude, recent history suggests digestion.”
Retirement Guys of the Toledo Press are saying now could be a great time: “The current bull market for the S&P 500 reached four years in length on March 9, 2013. Of the 10 other bull markets that have occurred since 1950, the shortest duration was 2.1 years. The average duration of all 11 bull markets since 1950 (i.e., the current bull market is the 11th) is 4.7 years. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the stock market.”

That’s a good point– the average length of a stock market rally since 1950 has been 4.7 years. The shortest rally has been 2.1 years. So there’s a chance that we are looking at great window in time for the near future. But then again– there’s a first time for everything…

8 Reasons the Stock Market Might Crash by Charlie Blaine

Is there a catalyst?

Whenever the stock market hits new highs, traders start buzzing about a new market crash. And so it is with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX), which hit new highs at the end of March and have continued to move higher since.
But is the market poised to crash?
While there's no denying that the dramatic rebound from the market lows of March 2009 suggests a correction at some point, to get a real crash -- say, 30% or more from the recent highs -- would require a real and specific catalyst.
A catalyst can be something like the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, or simply a stock run-up so fast and so far, like the Nasdaq ($COMPX) rally in 1999 and 2000, that the market falls apart just because.
It can also come entirely out of left field, like the Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974. Or the Russian debt crisis of 1998 that trimmed the S&P 500 by 12% in roughly three weeks.
The point is that the catalyst has to be sharp and real.

·         The Federal Reserve reverses course without warning

·         Odds of happening: Low

·         Since the 2008 market crash, the Federal Reserve Board under Chairman Ben Bernanke has engaged in a previously uncharted course of keeping interest rates at ultralow levels via massive purchases of Treasury and mortgage securities until a real recovery has proved it's self-sustaining. The result is that the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is under 3.7%. A 48-month loan on a new car is around 2.6%.

·         The policy has legions upon legions of critics who denounce the Fed as setting the stage for a property bubble, like the housing bubble that began to burst in the late summer of 2005. In fact, they say the Fed was largely responsible for that bubble.

·         An abrupt turn in policy would shock everyone, because the Fed has been so clear that it wants to see the nation's unemployment rate fall substantially (to 6.5%, maybe lower) before it even thinks about a change.

·         An unexpected policy change would almost certainly push interest rates immediately higher and slam stock prices. (Stock prices generally move in the opposite direction of interest rates.) Most important, a sudden and sharp change in Fed policy would derail the recovery.

·         There's history of markets reacting badly to a sudden tightening. On a Saturday night in October 1979, the Fed under then-Chairman Paul Volcker announced it would sharply raise interest rates to curb inflation; the S&P 500 fell more than 10% in the next three weeks.

·         The Fed under Bernanke doesn't like to surprise markets. So, its minutes and speeches by Fed officials are analyzed for signs of policy shifts. And it looks as if the Fed is discussing a possible scaling back of its bond purchases, now at a maximum of $85 billion a month, to answer the critics. An answer may come in August when the Fed holds its annual get-together at Jackson Hole, Wyo. It could signal the start of a gradual policy change.

·         This is not to say the Fed's policy since the fall of 2008 has been correct. But the Fed has a dual mandate: to keep inflation low and to promote full employment. So it has felt compelled to act to boost the economy, in large part because Congress has not.