U.S. household net worth climbs $1.5 trillion in 1st quarter

By Steve Goldstein

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Thanks to rising house prices and a growing stock market, U.S. households and nonprofits added $1.5 trillion in net worth in the first quarter, according to Federal Reserve data released Thursday.

The data was part of a voluminous report called the “financial accounts of the United States,” which contains details on an array of assets and liabilities. The gain in net worth to $81.76 trillion was driven by a $758 billion increase in the value of residential real estate and a $361 billion rise in corporate equities.

Though housing activity has remained muted, prices have grown, allowing many homeowners to escape a situation where their mortgage was greater than what their house was worth. Separate data released by CoreLogic show the number of properties that are underwater has dropped by about half since 2009.
Collectively, households now have 53.6% of the equity in residential real estate — way up from a low of 38.4% in 2009.
Debt outside the financial sector rose at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5% in the first quarter, a slight deceleration from the 5.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Household debt grew 2%, as the 6.6% gain in consumer credit like car and student loans offset the 0.9% drop in mortgage debt. Mortgage debt has dropped 15 of the last 17 quarters, a drop of 13% from six years ago.
The part of the economy that can take advantage of low interest rates, the corporate sector, continued to borrow, with nonfinancial business debt climbing at an annual rate of 7.3%. The Fed said most of that borrowing came through the bond market.
After four quarters of increases, companies began to deploy the cash on their balance sheet, which fell to $1.85 trillion from $1.94 trillion in the fourth quarter.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWgoldstein.


Okay Tom Cruise, you "invented" what again?

CC Videorama

Fani-Kayode again goes on another rant..... "leaves APC" and goes back to his vomit..... PDP

Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has reportedly "dumped" the All Progressives Congress for the Peoples Democratic Party, accusing the party of having an Islamic agenda and being intolerant.

Fani-Kayode, in a statement earlier this week referred to the spokesperson for the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as a "liar." One would expect more refinement from someone who has served at the highest levels of government, but then again, we are talking about FFK here.

The statement by Fani-Kayode read in part, "I have stated these facts and set the record straight - due to the fact that Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the spokesman of the APC, had the effrontery to say in an interview with a magazine earlier today, that I was never a member of the APC and that I never joined them formally. The truth is that Mohammed is not only a liar but he is also a coward. 

He stated further:
"I cannot remain in a party where a handful of people that have sympathies for Boko Haram and that have a clear Islamic agenda are playing a leading role.
"This is made all the more untenable when some of those people are working hard silently and behind the scenes to impose a Muslim/Muslim ticket on the party for the Presidential elections next year. 
"I cannot be in a party where a few of its leaders are more interested in playing politics with the whole Chibok issue and hurling bricks at our military for not doing a better job. I cannot be in a party in which the role of one of its governors is not clear on the Chibok issue."
Fani-Kayode has always had a reputation for being rather bombastic and lacking in requisite discretion. To say he typifies the Nigerian political class would not necessarily be out of place, although he has shown time and again, that he is very much in a class, or an asylum of his own.

I am not exactly sure what would be wrong with a Muslim/Muslim ticket as long as the candidates are competent and care for the well-being of all Nigerians. Is Fani-Kayode saying a Christian/Christian ticket would be more appealing to him? We currently have a so-called Christian president at Aso Rock and I must say, I would take an Animist or even a Buddhist right now that can demonstrate even the most salient sense of purpose and direction, needed to lead a country of Nigeria's magnitude.

Someone needs to ensure that FFK takes his medication on a more consistent basis, as his actions are beginning to wear thin on just about anyone with even the slightest ounce of common sense.

One wonders whatever happened to his willingness to "carry an AK 47 and die for Oduduwa land." Guess, he changed his mind on that as well.

Nigeria deserves better than the likes of FFK, but unfortunately, a nation gets the leaders it deserves.

Charity begins away from home: London's most expensive homes are owned by Nigerians.....

Edgerton Crescent - Credits: Google Earth
By Chukwudi Oladimeji Akasike

A philanthropist and Chairman of New Nation, an empowerment-oriented group, Mr. Charles Dukwe, has said that 70 percent of the most expensive buildings in London are owned by Nigerians.

Dukwe explained on Saturday that owners of the houses might have corruptly enriched themselves, adding that people from the United Kingdom avoid buying houses in the area due to their (houses) expensive prices.

The philanthropist spoke with newsmen in Port Harcourt shortly after unveiling the ‘Queen of Compassion and Kill the Killers Initiative;’ a grassroots campaign against diabetes and high blood pressure.

Present at the event as brand ambassadors are Nollywood stars like Ini Edo, Uche Jombo, Monalisa Chinda and Desmond Elliot.

Dukwe lamented that some Nigerians were investing funds from Nigeria in Europe and other Western countries.

Calling on Nigerians to embrace compassion and show love to each other, Dukwe observed that Nigeria was going through a lot of challenges as a result of corruption that had brought rot to the system.

"There is a street in London; it is called Edgerton Crescent. Edgerton Crescent is the most expensive street in the world. Houses there are worth three million pounds, four million pounds.

"British celebrities that have money don't buy houses on that street. They will tell you it is too expensive. But 70 percent of the houses there are owned by Nigerians."

"The most missing thing in Nigeria is compassion. We want to use compassion as a value and drive it through people so that people can help each other in the society. Our aim is to make compassion a core-value in the society."

He noted that the Kill the Killers Initiative was established to attack the major diseases that cut short the lives of the people in Nigeria and Africa in general.

According to him, diabetes and high blood pressure form over 60 percent of the cause of deaths among adults in Nigeria, just as malaria form 70 percent of the deaths among children in the country.

"Kill the Killers Initiative is designed to attack the principal diseases that cut short the lives of our people unnecessarily in Nigeria and across Africa.

"The programme begins with an organised effort against diabetes and high blood pressure, which form over 60 percent of the cause of deaths among adults in the country and malaria, which forms 70 percent of the cause of death among children.

"In Nigeria and across Africa, we have failed immeasurably by paying little or no attention to principal diseases that cut the lives of our people short and thus leaving our life expectancy to numbers way below all the advanced nations," he said.


Seattle votes in favor of $15/hr minimum wage

CC Newsreel

The U.S. city of Seattle has voted unanimously to raise the city's minimum wage to the highest level of any major U.S. city - $15 per hour, twice the national minimum. 

Wages would begin to rise next year, ultimately reaching $15 from Washington state's minimum of $9.32 over three to seven years, depending on the business. 

A councilor who supported the push said the vote "sends a message heard around the world". 

U.S. minimum wage is $7.25, although 38 states have set higher levels.

The states of California, Connecticut and Maryland have recently passed laws increasing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years.
Nationally, U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a $10.10 federally-mandated minimum wage, which would require action by the divided U.S. Congress.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had run for election to the city's top office on the issue, and the election of a socialist councilor also provided pressure.
The proposal came out of an advisory group of labor, business and non-profit representatives organised by Mr Murray.
Under the plan, firms with more than 500 employees nationally will be given at least three years to phase in the increase, those who provide health insurance subsidies would get four years and smaller businesses would be given seven years.
Some local businesses have come out in support of the measure, but a group of restaurant owners oppose it, saying it would force them to cut back on new recruits and service hours.
A lobbying group said shortly after the measure passed it would sue because the varied phase-in time was unfair.
"The suit will seek to overturn the unfair and discriminatory minimum wage plan that was approved by the City Council," the International Franchise Association (IFA) said in a statement.
Last year, the nearby tiny town of Sea-Tac, which holds Seattle's airport, passed a $15 minimum wage. As a result, some 6,300 workers at Sea-Tac's airport, would be paid the highest minimum wage in the nation.
San Francisco previously had the highest hourly wage for a large U.S. city at $10.74.


Hacker who helped the FBI to be freed from prison

Hector Xavier Monsegur
By Larry Neumeister 

NEW YORK (AP) — A computer hacker who helped the government disrupt hundreds of cyber-attacks on Congress, NASA and other sensitive targets and cripple the hacktivist crew known as Anonymous will be freed from prison after being sentenced Tuesday to time served.
Prosecutors had detailed Hector Xavier Monsegur's cooperation in court papers while asking a judge to reward him with leniency. He had spent seven months behind bars.
Working around the clock with FBI agents at his side, Monsegur "provided, in real time, information about then-ongoing computer hacks and vulnerabilities in significant computer systems," prosecutors wrote. The FBI estimates he helped detect at least 300 separate hacks, preventing millions of dollars in losses.
He was arrested and pleaded guilty in 2011.
Monsegur first began hacking in a Manhattan apartment in the early 2000s, according to court papers. His aim then was to steal credit card information, then sell it or use it to pay his own bills.
In a 2011 interview with an online magazine, Monsegur said he decided to join forces with Anonymous because he was upset over the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Starting in early 2011 and using the alias Sabu, Monsegur led an Anonymous splinter group called Lulz Security, or LulzSec, which hacked the computer systems of Fox television, Nintendo, PayPal and other businesses, stole private information and bragged about its exploits online.
The group was loosely affiliated with Jeremy Hammond, the FBI's most wanted cyber-criminal, whose stated objective was to cause mayhem with the attacks, prosecutors said.
When FBI agents showed up at Monsegur's home in the summer of 2011, he immediately agreed to cooperate, giving the FBI a tutorial on the inner workings and participants of LulzSec and Anonymous, prosecutors said.
Under their direction, he "convinced LulzSec members to provide him digital evidence of the hacking activities" and "asked seemingly innocuous questions that ... could be used to pinpoint their exact locations and identities," court papers said.
Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.


In keeping with his mastery of the art of double-talk, Jonathan declares "total war" on Boko Haram while also granting amnesty to the murderous sect

G.E. Jonathan: A confused man?
CC Global News

President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the armed forces to launch a full-scale military operation against Boko Haram and other violent organisations to put an end to their impunity in the country.

"I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability by waging a total war against terrorism," he said in his nationwide Democracy Day broadcast in Abuja on Thursday.

It was not immediately known what such an offensive could entail given that the North-East where most of the activities of terrorists take place has been under emergency rule and a full-scale military operation for a year now.

But a top Defense Headquarters official reiterated after the broadcast that the Special Forces and other security operatives involved in the prosecution of the anti-terrorism campaign would have a near unlimited space to operate.

The phrase "total war", however, was used by Chad's President Idriss Deby following a meeting of Nigeria's neighbors in Paris in mid-May, in which they sought a common strategy to fight the militants.

"I assure you … that these thugs will be driven away. It will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal," Jonathan said.

The President explained that the full-scale operation against the terrorists had become imperative because they had unleashed war on Nigeria.

But he still did not rule out "dialogue, reconciliation" with the insurgents if they renounced terrorism and embraced peace.

Jonathan said that Nigeria's unity, stability and the protection of lives and property were non-negotiable.

He restated the determination of his administration to protect the nation's democracy, national unity and political stability.

The President said the activities of terror groups in the country had caused debilitating pains and horror for the nation particularly the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno, on April 14.

"It is now 45 days since the horrifying abduction of the college girls of Chibok. I share the deep pain and anxiety of their parents and guardians.

"I assure them once again that government will continue to do everything possible to bring our daughters home.

"I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country, and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable. I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil.

"I have also authorized the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done.

"I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs will be driven away.

Amnesty for Boko Haram members

At another event organised to mark the Democracy Day for youths, the Minister of Youth Development, Mr. Boni Haruna, announced that Jonathan had offered amnesty for Boko Haram members ready to lay down their arms and embrace peace.

Haruna, who gave an overview of youths' position in the present administration's transformation agenda at an event attended by Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo, said the offer was part of youths-friendly programs and policies of the government.

The event was almost marred by power failure that happened when the President mounted the podium to present a compendium of his administration's achievements in the last one year and answer questions from youths.

Haruna said, "President Jonathan has also declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect. A series of integration programs have been lined up for members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace."

He therefore called on the sect members to embrace the government's gesture by keying into the amnesty program.

The minister recalled that in the wake of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta, the government came up with a development program which provided an opportunity for the youth to express themselves and have a meaningful life.

Haruna said although the amnesty program was a fallout of a bitter national security challenge , its effect on the youth had been profound.

He disclosed that 30,000 youths that benefited from the program transformed from militants to wealth creators, employers of labor and skilled citizens.

Jonathan while answering questions from youths who attended the program tagged "A day with young leaders of Nigeria," said the military alone was incapable of stopping terrorism or any kind of radicalism alone.

Pointing out that terrorism could not succeed in any community without local support, Jonathan stressed the need for people respected by insurgents to join hands with the government to persuade them to desist from violence.

He said, "Terror succeeds with local support. It will be difficult for terror to thrive where people reject it. It is a major challenge to all of us.

"Military alone cannot stop terror or any radicalism. Terrorists have people they respect, they have community, traditional and opinion leaders they respect. All of us can de-radicalize them.

"We will through persuasive activities encourage people to shun violence."

He said the Federal Government was already working out the modalities for reintroducing moral education into the school curriculum.

This, he said, would assist in re-orientating young people.

Jonathan promised that his administration would continue to encourage young people because they are no longer leaders of tomorrow but of today.

He said youths were already leading because they decide who rules at all levels of government by virtue of their population which he put at 60 per cent of the electorate.

The President also reiterated his position that the nation's income distribution was skewed.

While saying that government was working hard to redistribute wealth, he added that one of the priorities of his government was to encourage self-employment.

Responding to a question on the need to have a youth as the Minister of Youth Development, Jonathan said, "the best person to take care of a child may not necessarily be a child."