ISM non-manufacturing index strike 57.6 in Feb vs guess of 56.5

Economic activity in a non-manufacturing zone grew in Feb for a 86th uninterrupted month, a Institute of Supply Management pronounced on Friday.

The institute’s non-manufacturing index strike 57.6 in February, adult from 56.5 in a prior month.

Economist approaching a ISM’s non-manufacturing index to strike 56.5 in February, according to a accord guess from Thomson Reuters.

A reading above 50 on this index indicates enlargement in a use sector, and a reading next 50 indicates contraction.

“Respondents’ comments continue to be mixed, with some uncertainty; however, a infancy prove a certain opinion on business conditions and a altogether economy,” Anthony Nieves, chair of a ISM, pronounced in Friday’s report.

The non-manufacturing business activity index increasing to 63.6 percent for a month, 3.3 commission points aloft than a Jan reading of 60.3 percent. This is a top reading given Feb 2011.

The new orders index purebred 61.2 percent, 2.6 commission points aloft than a reading of 58.6 percent in January. This is a top reading given Aug 2015.

Sixteen of a non-manufacturing industries surveyed reported expansion in February, a ISM’s news said. Two industries — genuine estate, let and leasing, and information — reported contraction.

A sell trade respondent surveyed told a ISM that business was “slow after a holiday,” though there’s a “positive year ahead.”

A food services respondent mentioned a complicated rains in California impacting “the peculiarity and accessibility of greens and lettuces” in a state. Prices have also increased, a respondent said.

Trump’s criticism of intelligence on Russia is dividing Hill GOP

President-elect Donald Trump’s broadside against the intelligence community is dividing Capitol Hill Republicans, with some ready to pounce on Trump’s skepticism that Russia interfered with the U.S. elections and others urging a more cautious approach.

The resulting schism could widen as Congress begins probing the CIA’s charges that Russia intervened in the November elections to help Trump, potentially becoming one of the first significant intraparty breaches of the Trump presidency.

U.S. critics of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), want to go full-bore on holding Russia to account for its suspected election interference. But they may be slowed by GOP senators who prefer to wait to hear the intelligence community’s evidence and for Trump to be installed in the White House.

When asked whether he would be influenced by Trump’s Tuesday tweet about a supposedly delayed “Intelligence” briefing on “so-called” Russian hacking, McCain said flatly, “No.”

McCain will hold a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday on “foreign cyber threats” that is expected to center on Russia. Intelligence officials — including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Marcel J. Lettre II and U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers — will testify, and some Republicans are hoping they will present evidence that Russia meddled in the elections.

“The point of this hearing is to have the intelligence community reinforce, from their point of view, that the Russians did this,” Graham said. “You seem to have two choices now — some guy living in an embassy, on the run from the law for rape, who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us. I’m going with them.”

Graham was referring to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder accused of helping Russia leak emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee. He has few fans in Congress — on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called Assange a “sycophant for Russia.”

Assange has denied he received leaked emails from the Russians. Trump echoed Assange in a tweet Tuesday in which he said “a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta,” referring to Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta. Trump also tweeted support for Assange’s comment that the media is “dishonest.”

Assange’s first claim may be narrowly accurate — Russia’s intelligence services used middlemen to deliver the purloined files, said senior U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. But U.S. spy agencies are in full agreement that Russia directed the hacking and orchestrated email dumps to WikiLeaks to help Trump win — a finding at the heart of a classified assessment completed this week.

Trump’s online endorsement of Assange is his latest insult to the U.S. intelligence community and is likely to intensify the antagonism between the president-elect and U.S. spy agencies. He has repeatedly disparaged their work and skipped most of the daily briefings prepared for a future White House occupant.

CIA veterans said the level of open hostility is extraordinary. “I can’t think of any transition during my career as seemingly fraught as this one,” said John Rizzo, the CIA’s former acting general counsel.

Trump is slated to meet with U.S. spy-masters this week when Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James B. Comey brief him in New York on the intelligence surrounding Russia’s involvement in the election hacks. Trump’s pick to head the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, will probably be present, adding to the tension — he was fired by Clapper as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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In Washington, the Armed Services Committee hearing will give intelligence chiefs an early chance to publicly contradict Trump’s position. But some committee Republicans said it was appropriate at this point for Trump to be openly challenging the assertions of intelligence officials.

“You live by the sword, then be prepared to fight by the sword,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), referring to the intelligence community. “You release information before you’re prepared to put out the facts, then be prepared for people to react to that.”

“The intelligence community some time ago back said they had compelling evidence that there was an issue,” Tillis said. “Well, maybe they should have waited and leaked that when they could produce the evidence, and then they could have eliminated this whole discourse.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also hear from State Department officials Thursday in a closed-door briefing to kick off its investigation into Russian hacking.

Clapper’s office on Thursday will brief President Obama on a promised classified report into the allegations of Russian hacking; Trump will then be briefed on it Friday.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) suggested it was natural for Trump to be skeptical until that briefing, given he is not yet president. She also implied that some transition politics between Obama and Trump’s teams may be at work. “Mr. Trump hasn’t been briefed by the intelligence community is my understanding,” Fischer said. “There is a report that’s coming out, and the president has frozen all briefings. I’ve tried to have a classified briefing before the hearing and I was told that was not possible, that it’s been frozen.”

“Hopefully, [the Obama] administration will give access to the Congress as well,” Fischer said. “This is the first time I’ve been turned down for a classified briefing, and I’ve been on the committee four years.”

Congressional Republicans, with a few exceptions, are far more skeptical of Russia than Trump has been during and since the campaign, when he praised Putin and touted the benefits of friendlier relations. Even those willing to give Trump some room on the issue say Russia is a bad actor, citing Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, its bombing campaign in Syria and continued aggression against border states in Europe.

Republicans are staking their hopes on the idea that once Trump takes office, he will come around to their point of view on the Kremlin. “It’s good to question our intelligence community. I have no problem with him being skeptical. But just listen with an open mind,” Graham said, offering Trump unsolicited advice for his Friday briefing. “When General Mattis said ‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a cold beer, I can get more information than waterboarding,’ that impressed the president-elect,” he added, referencing Trump’s pick for defense secretary, James Mattis. “I’m hoping after Friday he will be more convinced.”

Senior Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have stressed the need for investigations into Russia’s activities, expressing support for existing sanctions as well as the pursuit of additional punitive measures.

McCain, Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all said Wednesday that they were in discussions with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Democrat, to join forces behind a bill, expected this week, to impose sanctions against Russia. The sanctions in Cardin’s bill address Russia’s alleged election-related hacks, its interference in Ukraine and its conduct in the Syrian war, which Secretary of State John F. Kerry said last year warrants a war-crimes investigation.

The bipartisan heads of the Senate’s Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees met Wednesday to coordinate how to conduct the Russian-hacking investigation over the next weeks and months. Following the meeting, Democrats expressed hope that Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community would not complicate their efforts.

“The most important role of the intelligence community is to speak truth to power,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), lead Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, noting that Trump’s “rather dismissive attitude of the intelligence community” concerns him. “There is broad-based bipartisan concern that we’ve got to do this investigation in an appropriate manner as quickly as possible,” Warner added.

Amazon’s rumored bid for American Apparel could solve its Trump problem in one master stroke

Amazon CEO Jeff BezosAmazon CEO Jeff BezosAP Photo/Susan Walsh

Amazon is reported to be in the run to acquire American Apparel’s bankrupt business.

The rumored deal immediately raised speculation about Amazon’s growing ambitions in the fashion business. 

But an acquisition of the struggling clothing retailer could also help Amazon by solving one of the biggest problems it currently faces: tension with president-elect Donald Trump.

Trump, who frequently criticized Amazon during his campaign, won his way to the White House in large part by promising to keep US manufacturing jobs in the country. He claims some of his recent deals with Carrier and Ford helped save thousands of jobs from moving overseas.

American Apparel, best known for its “Made in the U.S.A” slogan, says it’s the largest clothing manufacturer in North America. With 4,500 workers employed, it also calls itself the “largest sewing facility in North America.” 

That means by acquiring American Apparel, Amazon would get to save thousands of US manufacturing jobs, while helping Trump continue to play up the “keep jobs in the US” rhetoric — and also win Trump’s support in one master stroke.

And given that the starting price to buy part of American Apparel is currently $66 million, according to Reuters, Amazon could score a big win by spending a relative pittance (Amazon had roughly $12 billion in cash on its balance sheet at the end of the last quarter).

Of course, there are a lot of unknowns in Amazon’s reported bid and it’s not clear if Amazon even wants to buy American Apparel’s manufacturing facilities. The only official bid, from Canadian clothing brand Gildan, just includes the rights to American Apparel’s brand, with an option to buy its manufacturing operations and inventory. Gildan’s bid doesn’t include American Apparel’s 110 retail stores, according to Reuters.

Also, Amazon may have to convince shareholders the logic behind acquiring a failing apparel business that has hundreds of million dollars in debt. With Amazon reportedly accelerating its investments in other areas, like logistics and grocery stores, investors may not welcome the idea of taking on American Apparel’s mounting losses.

Screen Shot 2017 01 04 at 4.36.01 PMAmazon has been making a stronger push into the fashion retail business.Amazon

But if Amazon could somehow pull off a deal for all of American Apparel’s factories and retail stores, there are a lot of other potential business benefits to go along with the political and PR benefits, especially given the company is forecast to take over Macy’s as the top US apparel seller in 2017. Some of them include:

- Increased brick-and-mortar presence: Amazon has been quietly launching its own private-label brands over the past year. Having a physical space to showcase its product will significantly increase its sales and brand awareness.

- More channels to promote Prime: Amazon has already made its bookstores pretty much Prime-exclusive, making it another channel to promote Prime’s many benefits. Also, one of its private-label brands, Buttoned Down, is only available to Prime members. American Apparel’s retail network could help Amazon promote Prime in other parts of the country.

- Solves the biggest structural flaws of online apparel sales: Most people still want to try on clothes before buying them online. They also like to return to a physical store. Ownership of American Apparel stores would solve both problems.

This certainly makes for a very interesting play in Amazon’s growing ambition in the fashion retail space. But it could also very well just be one of the many speculations Amazon gets thrown into: in 2015, Amazon was reported to be in the run for Radio Shack, which turned out to be just a rumor.

Amazon’s representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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WIPP accepts first nuclear waste deposits in 3 years

Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 7:00 pm

WIPP accepts first nuclear waste deposits in 3 years

Staff and wire report

The Santa Fe New Mexican

CARLSBAD — Workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant have resumed placing nuclear waste below ground for the first time since a shutdown of the repository nearly three years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Wednesday.

WIPP ceased operations in February 2014 following a truck fire in the underground storage area and a radiation leak from a waste drum that burst after being improperly packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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      Wednesday, January 4, 2017 7:00 pm.

      EU expert: Sir Ivan Rogers wasn’t a pessimist about Brexit — ‘he was just doing his job’

      Anand Menon.Anand Menon.IIEA1/YouTube

      LONDON — Sir Ivan Rogers was a realist, not a pessimist, and was simply doing his job by warning that the Brexit process could take up to a decade.

      That is according to Anand Menon, director at independent research organisation UK In A Changing Europe, who spoke to Business Insider after the shock resignation of Rogers as British ambassador to the EU on Tuesday.

      In his resignation letter, Rogers appeared to suggest that his growing frustration with the government’s approach to Brexit negotiation played at least some part in his decision to leave the position before exit talks get underway at the end of March.

      He encouraged fellow civil servants to “speak truth to those in power” by challenging “ill-founded arguments” and “muddled thinking,” in what appeared to be a thinly-veiled swipe at Theresa May and the Brexit ministers.

      Rogers, who was appointed the UK Permanent Representative to the European Union by David Cameron in 2013, became a target for the right-wing press and pro-Leave Tory MPs for claiming a UK-EU free trade deal could take 10 years to negotiate and put into effect.

      Menon, who is also a Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College, told Business Insider on Wednesday morning that Rogers was right in his warning, despite the protestations of Brexiteers in the Commons.

      “It’s the job of a civil servant to point out what the potential risks are in any course of action,” he said.

      “He was just doing his job. He was reported as saying the process could take 10 years. Well, I think that’s probably quite accurate. Signing a trade deal with the European Union is going to take a lot of time, simply due to the nature of politics. There will be vested interests involved, everybody will be trying to get the best deal for their own narrow set of interests, and that tends to take time.”

      “I have no criticisms of him in that score. He just showed the type of perspective civil servants should be showing.”

      He added that the experienced diplomat was clearly becoming more unhappy in his role as Article 50 talks between Britain and European leaders approached. “It seems to me that he was just feeling increasingly uncomfortable in his role. The role he was given when appointed by David Cameron is a very different role to the one he was being asked to do now [under Theresa May]. He was clearly growing impatient.”

      Menon was keen to stress, however, that although Rogers’ departure came at a bad time for Theresa May, what it could mean for the government’s negotiating team and Brexit process as a whole is being blown out of proportion.

      “Rogers is someone with a lot of contacts in Brussels, but we’ve got quite a big diplomatic service and he’s not irreplaceable. If he was getting genuinely frustrated with what the government was doing and how it was doing it then it might be better for all that he steps down.”

      He added: “I think there’s been a slightly hysterical reaction to him going, to be honest.”

      On whether the rush to find a successor will delay the prime minister in invoking Article 50, Menon said: “No, I don’t think so. May has set herself a deadline and I don’t think she has any intention of missing it. I think the signal that would send out would be very negative. She is trying to present herself as being an organised, controlled prime minister and missing your own deadline would undermine that significantly.”

      Menon and his colleagues at UK In A Changing Europe spend time observing the organs of government, particularly Whitehall, where May could choose to find Rogers’ replacement. The civil service has suffered from continual downsizing over recent years, and according to recent studies is struggling to manage the sheer workload of Brexit.

      Menon acknowledges that Whitehall has a “serious issue when it comes to resources” but predicted that the prime minister shouldn’t encounter many problems in finding a replacement before Article 50 talks begin.

      “A few names are being banded about at the moment. Some people are saying a traditional appointment like a senior civil servant. Alex Ellis is being touted as a possibility. It might be that Theresa May goes completely leftfield and decides not to take on a career civil servant or career diplomat. Ultimately, It’s up to her. There are senior civil servants working on the Brexit process at home, so I don’t think she’ll struggle to find somebody to work on it in Brussels.”

      VW diesel car owners file compensation lawsuit

      BERLIN — Lawyers representing owners of tainted Volkswagen diesel-powered cars in Germany filed the first lawsuit seeking consumer compensation for damages from the car maker’s diesel scandal in a test case that could turn up pressure on it to compensate millions of European customers.

      Volkswagen has agreed to pay around 535,000 U.S. consumers and car dealers compensation valued at nearly $20 billion, but has refused to make any similar offer to its nearly nine million customers in Europe affected by the emissions-cheating scandal.

      If the German lawsuit succeeds, it could snowball into additional claims and Volkswagen’s costs to resolve the diesel scandal could rise significantly.

      German consumer-advocacy firm MyRight filed the lawsuit on Tuesday against Volkswagen AG, demanding damages on behalf of a single VW buyer affected by its cheating scandal, the Braunschweig district court confirmed.

      Germany doesn’t have U.S.-style class-action rules. Instead, a court will hear the case of a single plaintiff, which is then used as a model for litigation affecting other damaged parties. MyRight said it had also collected demands from about 100,000 other customers.

      MyRight commissioned Hausfeld Rechtsanwälte LLP to handle the claims. Hausfeld is a subsidiary of the U.S. law firm that was part of the Joint Plaintiffs Committee that represented U.S. consumers in the Volkswagen class-action litigation.

      The Hausfeld attorneys in the filing are demanding Volkswagen compensate their client for the full purchase price of EUR41,000 plus interest and legal fees, according to the court filing that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

      Volkswagen said it was aware of MyRight’s announcement but couldn’t comment because it hadn’t been served with the lawsuit.

      Volkswagen, which has admitted to having installed illegal emissions-cheating software in more 11 million vehicles, faces lawsuits from authorities and consumers in many countries, but only a limited number of plaintiffs have brought individual lawsuits in Germany.

      Volkswagen has rejected European car buyers’ demands for compensation and denied they suffered damages because of different regulations than those in the U.S. The company offered European customers only technical remedies for cars with the cheating software.

      Write to Christian Grimm at [email protected] and Friedrich Geiger at [email protected]