U.S. troops found nearly 5,000 abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq from 2004 to 2011

American troops found nearly 5,000 abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq from 2004 to 2011, but their discoveries were kept secret by the U.S. government, the New York Times reports.

According to the 10,000-word, eight-part interactive report (“The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons“) by C.J. Chivers published on the paper’s website late Tuesday, at least 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers were exposed to nerve or mustard agents in Iraq after 2003.

On at least six occasions, American troops and American-trained Iraqi troops were wounded by the abandoned munitions, but news of the encounters was neither shared publicly nor widely circulated among the troops, the victims told the Times. Others said they were told to be vague or deceptive about what they found.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://news.yahoo.com/chemical-weapons-found-in-iraq-nyt-report-135347507.html

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Nearly Half of Student Loans “in Distress”

Student loan debt has grown to over $1.5 trillion.

And that just accounts for loans held by Federal Student Aid. It doesn’t include private loans. Meanwhile, the Department of Education says 43% of those government-backed loans are considered “in distress.”

In a speech last month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put the current level of student debt in perspective.

“One-point-five trillion dollars is almost impossible to fathom. So, let me put it this way: $1.5 trillion is more than $10,000 of someone else’s student loan debt for each and every American taxpayer—145 million of them.”

Most people saddled with this debt aren’t paying it off. According to DeVos, fewer than a quarter of student loan borrowers are paying down their principal. Most are simply making interest payment — if they are paying anything at all. Nearly 20% of all loans are delinquent or in default. That’s seven times the rate of delinquency on credit card debt, according to DeVos. Nearly 43% of all loans are currently considered “in distress.”

For many borrowers, their debt is actually increasing over time. CNBC provides this anecdotal case.

“Law school graduate Rick Tallini borrowed around $55,000 in the 1990s. He’s since struggled to find employment and pay the bills, and today his student loan balance has ballooned to well over $300,000.”

According to data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, the average debt load at graduation for the 2015-2016 school year came in at $30,301.

That means millions of American are struggling under the crushing weight of student loan debt. Defaults are on the rise and student loan debt is one of the biggest factors driving a growing trend of millennials struggling to transition into adulthood. The average student loan borrower pays $351 per month to service those loans.

This creates a tremendous drag on the economy. Every dollar spent paying off loans is a dollar not available to buy houses, cars or put into savings.

Parents are even beginning to feel the squeeze.

A Department of Education program called Parent Plus allows parents to take out loans to help pay for their kids’ schooling. The program has loans outstanding to more than 3 million Americans. The number of families enrolled in Parent Plus has increased by more than 60% since 2005. Borrowers in the program owe roughly $77.5 billion – an average $22,000 per borrower, according to Education Department figures.

By the way, you and I are on the hook for all of these loans. They are backed by the federal government. That ultimately means the taxpayer.

DeVos reveals just how significant the level of student debt has become, noting that it comes with “significant risk.”

“At 1.5 trillion dollars, FSA’s loan portfolio is now one-third of the Federal government’s balance sheet. Last year, uncollateralized student loans—which are all of them, by the way—accounted for over 30 percent of all federal assets. One-third of the balance sheet. Only through government accounting is this student loan portfolio counted as anything but an asset embedded with significant risk. In the commercial world, no bank regulator would allow this portfolio to be valued at full, face value. Federal Student Aid has a consumer loan portfolio larger than any private bank. Behemoths like Bank of America or J.P. Morgan pale in comparison. FSA also is the largest direct loan portfolio in the whole Federal government—by far—surpassing all other federal direct loans combined by 1.1 trillion dollars.”

DeVos admitted that the spiraling level of student debt has “very real implications for our economy and our future.”

“The student loan program is not only burying students in debt, it is also burying taxpayers and it’s stealing from future generations.”

This is yet another bubble created by government. DeVos seems to be pushing for reforms, but it seems highly unlikely Congress will do what is necessary to address the growing student loan bubble. And like all bubbles, it will eventually pop.

The bottom line is that the student debt bubble will ultimately impact US markets and average Americans. You can learn more, and how to prepare yourself, in Peter’s white paper The Student Loan Bubble: Gambling with America’s Future. Get the free download here.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/nearly-half-of-student-loans-in-distress/

Dow plunges nearly 800 points on rising fears of an economic slowdown

Stocks fell sharply on Tuesday in the biggest decline since the October rout as investors worried about a bond-market phenomenon signaling a possible economic slowdown. Lingering worries around U.S.-China trade also added to jitters on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 799.36 points, or 3.1 percent, to close at 25,027.07 and posted its worst day since Oct. 10. At its low of the day, the Dow had fallen more than 800 points.

The S&P 500 declined 3.2 percent to close at 2,700.06. The benchmark fell below its 200-day moving average, which triggered more selling from algorithmic funds. Financials were the worst performers in the S&P 500, plunging 4.4 percent. Utilities was the only positive sector in the S&P 500, rising 0.16 percent.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.8 percent to close back in correction territory at 7,158.43. The Russell 2000, which tracks small-cap stocks, dropped 4.4 percent to 1,480.75, marking its worst day since 2011. Trading volume in U.S. stocks was also higher than usual on Wall Street.

The yield on the three-year Treasury note surpassed its five-year counterpart on Monday. When a so-called yield curve inversion happens — short-term yields trading above longer-term rates — a recession could follow, though it is often years away after the signal triggers. Still, many traders believe the inversion won’t be official until the 2-year yield rises above the 10-year yield, which has not happened yet.

Stocks began falling to their lows of the day after Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of Doubleline Capital, told Reuters this inversion signals that the economy “is poised to weaken.”

Flattening yield curve spooks markets — Here's what three experts say that means for investors

The flattening yield curve caused investors to bail on bank stocks on concern the phenomenon may hurt their lending margins. The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) dropped 5.3 percent. Shares of J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America all declined more than 4 percent. Citigroup and Morgan Stanley both reached 52-week lows along with Regionals Financial, Citizens Financial and Capital One.

The SPDR Regional Banking ETF dropped 5.5 percent and closed 20 percent below its 52-week high. It also notched its worst day since June 2016.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. “As we get headwinds from trade worries fading, you get an inverted yield curve and another brick added to the market’s wall of worry.”

Trading volume rose on Tuesday. More than 159 million shares of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF trust (SPY) exchanged hands. The SPY’s 30-day volume average is 110.5 million. These moves come as the U.S. stock market will be closed on Wednesday out of respect for former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/04/stock-market-dow-futures-fall-amid-us-china-trade-deal-skepticism.html

Senate votes to ban nearly all abortions in South Carolina

The S.C. Senate voted Wednesday night to outlaw virtually all abortions in South Carolina.

The Legislature’s upper chamber voted 28-10 to allow exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or medical emergencies that could seriously harm the pregnant woman or threaten her life. The bill still faces long odds to passage, up against a Democratic filibuster that could put off a final Senate vote until after lawmakers adjourn for the year.

If passed, the new law almost certainly would spark a court challenge. But that is the goal, according to Senate Republicans who want to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming abortion rights.

“It’s designed to give the court an opportunity to revisit Roe v. Wade,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article210284549.html

New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

Aerial photographs obtained by Inquirer.net from a source show that China is almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago into island fortresses, in a bid to dominate the heavily disputed South China Sea.

Most of the photos, taken between June and December 2017, were snapped from an altitude of 1,500 meters and they showed the reefs that had been transformed into artificial islands in the final stages of development as air and naval bases.

Shown the photographs, Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., the former mayor of Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island, the largest Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys and internationally known as Thitu Island, recognized new facilities on the man-made isles.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

Read more: http://www.inquirer.net/specials/exclusive-china-militarization-south-china-sea#ixzz56NdH5EyI
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http://www.inquirer.net/specials/exclusive-china-militarization-south-china-sea

Government set to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year, an 84 percent jump from last year

Here are the exact figures: The U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $955 billion this fiscal year, according to a documents released Wednesday. It’s the highest amount of borrowing in six years, and a big jump from the $519 billion the federal government borrowed last year.

Treasury mainly attributed the increase to the “fiscal outlook.” The Congressional Budget Office was more blunt. In a report this week, the CBO said tax receipts are going to be lower because of the new tax law.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-spending-debt-analysis-20180203-story.html