Happy Friday everybody-please have a safe weekend and get that shopping done!
TIGER WOODS-Tiger Woods posted a statement on his website tonight announcing that he was taking an indefinite leave from the professional golf tour. The statement read in part “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try.”
The PGA Tour said it supported the decision by its biggest star. "His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement, the tour's first public comment since Woods mentioned his "personal failings" on Dec. 2. "We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him." At least two sponsors released statements indicating continued support, although AT&T says it continues to evaluate the situation.
WINTER WEATHER-One more night of misery. The storm that has battered a good 2/3 of the country this week with snow, flooding rain, howling winds and bitter temperatures has one more night of life left in it for the Buffalo area. And for those of you grumbling about your commute home, David Kerley tells us, it could be a lot worse…and was on I-90. Kerley: “In white-out conditions just after midnight the Interstate became a snowy parking lot. Plows couldn’t keep up. More than 100 cars and trucks ended up stuck.” For some it was 13 hours before plows and police carved an escape path. The Northeast got slammed for the third straight day-Kerley notes there’s been “more than a foot of snow in the Syracuse area…6 to 8 inches around Rochester.” Tonight, the Lake Erie-fed snow continues to fall in the border area and other regions south and east of Buffalo but Kerley notes it will be “moving on tomorrow morning.”
RETAIL SALES-Commerce Department said today that retail sales rose 1.3 percent-that’s more than double what economists were expecting. Good news for the nation’s retailers leading up to Christmas? Well………….Betsy Stark put today’s numbers into context for WORLD NEWS: “The good news is consumers are spending more freely. That suggests an economic recovery is taking hold, but may not translate into better news for retailers. If you look at what consumers are buying, more cars, spending more on gasoline, going out to eat, but compared to last year, they're spending less at department stores, less at electronic stores, and at the end of the day, it's things like flat screen TVs and computers and sweaters that really drive holiday retail sales which is why the national retail federation told us it is sticking to its forecast that this holiday season is going to be down from last year.”
If you’re like me, you haven’t bought everything yet because you just KNOW prices are going to go down before Christmas. Stark points out: “retailers and shoppers are in a bit of a game of chicken right now. shoppers have been conditioned if they wait long enough, those big sales will come…. retailers are loathe to do that, because their profits go down. but two weekends left until Christmas. if the shoppers aren't out in force this weekend, the big sales could come.”
DETAINED AMERICANS: We are learning more about those five Americans detained in Pakistan earlier this week. David Wright reported for World News that according to Pakistani police – the men were planning to travel to Afghanistan to wage jihad against U.S. forces. However, Pakistani authorities say they weren't too clandestine about their operations. Pakistani police say the men watched youtube videos showing attacks on the US army and when one of them posted messages praising the videos – a recruiter reached out to him. They then traded messages on a shared yahoo account. Also Pakistani police say two extremist groups rejected the young men – not convinced they were serious. David points out that the fact they had US passports could have made them attractive. Those who knew the men say that there was little in their background to suggest extremist views. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
PRIVATE CONTRACTORS: ABC News has learned that the CIA and military special forces have quietly expanded their use of private contractors. Chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross reported for World News that their role in raids and secret operations has raised serious legal questions. According to a US army reserve lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan – the use of private contractors is a way to keep certain activities off the books. A Pentagon spokesman said he could find no evidence that the military used mercenaries, and called the accusations nonsense. But the CIA took a different tack. A spokesman says the new CIA director Leon Panetta has cancelled one secret contract with contractor and ordered a review of all others. And as for the contractor Blackwater, its spokesman says it cannot comment on the top secret work it does for the government, or whether its operatives should be called mercenaries. (thanks to Jason Volack for this entry)
SENATE WORKS ANOTHER WEEKEND-I’m guessing the government doesn’t pay extra for golden time…at least for the 100 members of the U.S. Senate. Zach Wolf gives us the latest on the C-Span 2 gang: “By the time Monday rolls around Senators will have been in session for 14 straight days. To hit the WWI-era record of 26 straight days we’ll have to go thru Christmas day. While they will be in session this weekend, Senators have taken a break from the health reform debate to pass a $447 buffet of spending bills – cloture on Saturday and a final vote Sunday.
Doing the omnibus this weekend will clear the Senate floor for the parliamentary chess match on health reform starting Monday. We could see a CBO cost estimate of this latest Democratic proposal – which is still technically secret – as soon as Monday. And once he is confident he has 60 “aye” votes next week, look for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to start a series of cloture motions to wrap up the bill and pass it through the Senate before Christmas.
Throw into the health debate a possible vote on the debt ceiling next week when Senators again set aside health reform to consider the defense appropriations bill, which accounts for half the country’s discretionary spending.”
BANKS/MORE MONEY FOR TREASURY-Matt Jaffe: “The Treasury Department today announced that it has raked in $936 million from the sale of warrants it received from JP Morgan Chase as part of the $700 billion financial bailout plan. The Department sold the 88.4 million warrants for $10.75 each. Treasury received warrants from banks that took taxpayer money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. When banks repay the government, Treasury then has to work out deals with the banks to sell back them back the warrants. But if Treasury and the banks are unable to agree on a price for the warrants, the Department can then schedule auctions to sell the warrants. Last summer Geithner reportedly rejected JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s bid to buy back the warrants, instead opting to go to auction to get a higher bid. The auction, announced on Tuesday, took place all-day Thursday. This is the second time the Department has used the auction process. Last week Treasury raked in $146.5 million from the sale of Capital One warrants. Last Friday Treasury said they had sold the 12.6 million warrants for $11.75 each.
–NO PARDON FOR JACK JOHNSON….YET- The Justice Department is refusing to back a posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson, the black heavyweight boxing champion who was imprisoned nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman. In a letter to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who is part of the congressional effort to obtain a pardon for Johnson, the Justice Dept. says it is general policy not to process posthumous pardon requests. The letter did suggest that President Obama has the constitutional right to pardon or commute sentences. No comment from the WH on the matter yet. (Karen Travers)
–ANOTHER BANK CLOSURE- Regulators have shut down Republic Federal Bank in Florida, marking the 131st U.S. bank failure so far this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday took over Miami-based Republic Federal, with $433 million in assets and $352.7 million in deposits. A bank based in Boca Raton, Fla., 1st United Bank, agreed to assume all the deposits and $267.1 million of the assets of the failed bank. The FDIC will retain the rest for eventual sale. The FDIC estimates the failure of Republic Federal will cost the deposit insurance fund $122.6 million. (AP)