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February 27th, 2009
03:46 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: GDP tumbles in fourth quarter

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The nation's economic slide during the last three months of 2008 was even sharper than previously estimated, with the broadest measure of economic activity suffering its worst decline in 26 years.

Gross Domestic Product, which measures the output of goods and services produced in the United States, fell at an annual rate of 6.2% in the fourth quarter. That’s far worse than the 3.8% drop reported in the previous reading just last month.

Citigroup and the Treasury Dept. announced a deal early today that will give the government control over up to 36% of the bank's common stock.

The deal - which doesn’t involve any additional taxpayer dollars - will convert preferred shares that Treasury already holds in the bank for common shares, a shift that is designed to better protect shareholders against future losses and improve the embattled bank's capital base, which in turn will hopefully allow it increase lending.

The U.S. government has already given Citigroup $45 billion, for which it received preferred shares and warrants in the company.

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Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Wall St.
February 27th, 2009
03:01 PM ET

A suspicious man in the lobby

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

As all those giant trucks full of money roll out in Washington to dump their loads on Wall Street, car makers, banks and others, one persistent question has been raised by voters: Why not just give us the money?

Deal those hundreds of billions of dollars across the land to every man, woman and child like a coast-to-coast poker game, and watch how fast we’ll double-down our spending. New TVs, cars, phones, lawnmowers, coffee makers, computers, bicycles for our younger children, college educations for our older ones. Every sector of the economy will touched because, heck, we’re everywhere.

Economists have pretty good reasons why that would be a bad idea. Or at least their reasons sound good to me as I’m a non-economist. A one-time burst of cash like that, they say, would lead to some spending, but to a lot more debt reduction and saving. Good things in their own right, but that first one is what we need now. Spending. Money, they insist, is like your daughter’s goldfish: If it’s not moving, that’s bad.

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Filed under: Economy • Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
February 27th, 2009
02:15 PM ET

Expand health care safety net for jobless

Patrick Keeffe
Special to CNN

Last fall, during the presidential campaign, my wife and I watched then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joseph Biden talk passionately about the health-insurance crisis and how they would address it.

When they noted that the average replacement cost for an employer-provided health plan is $12,000 a year in premiums, my wife and I looked at each other and realized that we were poster children for the health-insurance crisis. And we are not alone.

When the federal stimulus plan was passed, we were excited to learn the good news that the government will assist millions of unemployed people with their health-insurance costs.

Under the COBRA law, laid-off workers can continue to purchase the coverage provided by their employers' health plans for up to 18 months. But that coverage is more costly than regular health insurance on the job, since companies pay the bulk of the cost only for active workers.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Health Care
February 27th, 2009
12:47 PM ET

Send us your questions!

Tonight we'll be answering your financial questions.

We'll have financial experts on to break down the ways the federal budget will affect you. What does this mean for your savings, your taxes and your future? Send us your questions – we want to hear from you!

Go here to send us your iReport questions - you could be featured tonight on AC360°. Tune in tonight for answers at 10 p.m. ET.


Filed under: Economy • T1
February 27th, 2009
12:27 PM ET

End of image ban respects war dead

Ralph J. Begleiter
Special to CNN

The reversal of two decades of policy on images of returning war casualties is an important and welcome milestone for the American people.

The Pentagon's decision announced Thursday allowing media coverage of coffins of war victims returning to Dover Air Force Base - if families agree - restores to its rightful, honorable place the immense value of the sacrifice American troops make on behalf of their nation. It allows the American people to honor the dignified and respectful return of war casualties to home soil for the last time.

Although no one should have a veto over the nation's ability to pay respects to its fallen troops, I believe most families will decide that their sons and daughters deserve to be recognized publicly for their sacrifice.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Pentagon • President George W. Bush
February 27th, 2009
11:59 AM ET

Morning Buzz: The Truth About Hanky Panky

Penny Manis
AC360° Senior Producer

Our President will make his first appearance as Commander-in-Chief when he speaks at Camp Lejeune, N.C. to make troop announcements.

He will say that troops are coming home from Iraq by August 2010, though up to 35,000-50,000 will stay behind to advise Iraqi forces.

President Obama has been promising to turn the military’s attention from Iraq to Afghanistan since his campaigning days, "to finish the fight and snuff out al Qaeda and Bin Laden, those who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11.”

We will feature the winners and losers of the President's budget which totals 3.6 trillion dollars, with billions being thrown at top issues. We've had more time to digest this huge document.

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Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
February 27th, 2009
11:53 AM ET

High on meth with five kids in the back

William James Duncan, 38, and his wife were arrested for unlawful possession of Methamphetamine and reckless endangering.

William James Duncan, 38, and his wife were arrested for unlawful possession of Methamphetamine and reckless endangering.
Tracy Duncan, 38, was arrested with her husband.

Tracy Duncan, 38, was arrested with her husband.

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

William and Tracy Duncan do not appear to be role models. They are, however, parents. Their five young children, ages 5 to 10, probably look up to their mom and dad. That may be the saddest part of this story.

The Duncan family was riding in their vehicle Wednesday morning when Officer Mike Larue of the McMinnville Police Department in Oregon noticed the children in the backseat were not wearing seat belts. Officer Larue ordered the driver to pull over. A colleague, Detective Sam Elliott, was called to the scene to assist in the investigation.

This was not a routine traffic stop. Detective Elliott and Officer Larue determined that William and Tracy Duncan were under the influence of a controlled substance, namely Methamphetamine. According to the department's news release, the drugs were in the vehicle, and at a nearby motel room that the family had rented.

FULL POST


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
February 27th, 2009
11:38 AM ET

What Mexico's drug war means for U.S.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

You may have heard the rumor that, as a result of a bloody drug war that has claimed more than 7,000 lives since January 2007, Mexico is on the verge of being declared a "failed state."

Drawing a lot of its oxygen from cable demagogues and talk radio, the chatter intensified several weeks ago when the Pentagon issued a report warning that our neighbor - along with Pakistan, no less - could face a "rapid and sudden" collapse because "the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels."

How's this for pressure? The police chief in Ciudad Juarez resigned last week after drug traffickers began to make good on their promise to kill police officers in that city until the chief stepped down.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Ruben Navarrette Jr.
February 27th, 2009
11:00 AM ET

Confessions of a Facebook social climber

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
Wall Street Journal

I recently became friends with Charlie Sheen - but not exactly. It's a little complicated. You see, I've spent the past three months moving up the Facebook social ladder, "friending" more and more important people every day.

My online social aspirations evolved shortly after publishing a piece in this newspaper supporting George W. Bush. My real-life friend Charlotte Wilcher told me that the president's nephew, Pierce Bush, had posted my article on his Facebook profile. Charlotte was a Georgetown alumnus who had a friend who knew Pierce, who was also a Georgetown alumnus.

I sent Pierce a Facebook message, and offered to take him out for a beer at a famous little Georgetown Irish Pub where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie in 1953, and where the CIA used to make sneaky little information exchanges. Pierce told me that he was now living in Texas, but he instantly sent me a friend request. I couldn't believe it - I was now friends with a member of the Bush family thanks to Facebook.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
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