Review Category : Top Stories

Fed Says It Will Keep Interest Rates Low For Now

Cameron Whitman/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that they would be “patient” and keep interest rates where they are for now.

In the statement, the Fed said that “labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate.”

The Fed also said that underutilization of labor resources is diminishing, household spending is up and business investment is advancing. On the flip side, the recovery in the housing sector remains slow. The Federal Open Market Committee said that based on its assessment it can “be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy.”

Some experts anticipate the interest rate hikes could begin in September, though the Fed did not say for how much longer they would keep rates low.

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Fed Says It Will Keep Interest Rates Low For Now

Cameron Whitman/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that they would be “patient” and keep interest rates where they are for now.

In the statement, the Fed said that “labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate.”

The Fed also said that underutilization of labor resources is diminishing, household spending is up and business investment is advancing. On the flip side, the recovery in the housing sector remains slow. The Federal Open Market Committee said that based on its assessment it can “be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy.”

Some experts anticipate the interest rate hikes could begin in September, though the Fed did not say for how much longer they would keep rates low.

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Why Mitt Romney May Have A Mansion Problem (Again)

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney’s lavish homes, especially his one in La Jolla, California, were steady targets of Democratic criticism during the 2012 presidential campaign.

And as Romney now appears to be edging towards a third presidential bid, he’s reportedly considering selling the beachfront mansion, which he’s currently in the process of renovating.

An aide would not comment on Romney’s real estate plans, but did send a statement dinging potential Democratic candidate and, if she runs, likely front-runner Hillary Clinton: “It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million-dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

On a recent weekend, ABC News caught Romney and his wife Ann inspecting the house’s construction site, walking through the framework of the second floor before descending a ladder to get down to the first.

Romney had been in town giving a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, held on nearby Coronado Island.

The 2012 Romney camp also had to answer Democratic attacks on the trappings of the former Massachusetts governor’s personal fortune, which they painted as an indication that he couldn’t relate to average Americans — especially one particular element of the La Jolla renovation, a “car elevator” that would be used to store multiple vehicles in tight spaces.

“While Governor Romney has been quite specific about putting the finishing touches on his car elevator in La Jolla, he has hid many of his domestic and foreign policy plans under lock and key,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters at the time.

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Chicago White Sox Sign INF Gordon Beckham

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — The Chicago White Sox and infielder Gordon Beckham agreed to a one-year contract worth $2 million, the team announced on Wednesday.

To make room for Beckham on the 40-man roster, the White Sox designated outfielder Dayan Viciedo for assignment.

Beckham began last season with the White Sox before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 21. In 127 games, he batted .226 with 27 doubles, nine home runs, 44 RBIs, and 53 runs.

“Adding Gordon improves the depth and flexibility of our roster,“ said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. “We are thrilled to have him back.”

The 25-year-old Viciedo hit .231 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs in 145 games with the White Sox last year.

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Despite Confusion, Gene Hackman Is ‘Alive and Well,’ Says Rep

Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage(NEW YORK) — After a Grantland article ran Tuesday with the headline “The Greatest Living American Actor at 85: Gene Hackman Is Gone But Still in Charge,” there was concern that the 84-year-old had died.

If you are confused about the age in the title and his real age, Hackman turns 85 on Friday.

The title has since changed from “Gone” to “Retired,” but not before several tweets went out with “RIP” and “condolences” for the acting legend’s family.

If that wasn’t enough, a Facebook page with “RIP Gene Hackman” also went up that claimed he died on Monday.

It read, “He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page,” according to ET Canada.

People were confused, but have since been relieved to find out the actor’s fine. On Wednesday, Hackman’s rep told ABC News that the Hoosiers star is “alive and well.”

Other actors like Dylan McDermott were not all that happy that people took the headline and ran with it. He had originally tweeted “Rest in Peace” about the icon, then took it down when he found out it was all just a hoax.

I guess Gene Hackman’s death was a celebrity hoax. People have too much damn time on their hands…

— Dylan McDermott (@DylanMcDermott) January 28, 2015

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Fed to Keep Interest Rates Low for Now, Wall Street Posts Losses Again

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A second straight day of losses on Wall Street, despite word from the Federal Reserve that it would not increase interest rates for the time being.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 17191.76, down 195.45 from its open.

The Nasdaq dropped 43.51 to a finish of 4637.99, while the S&P 500 dipped 27.33 to 2002.22.

The Fed wrote in a statement that “labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate.” While acknowledging that the recovery in the housing sector is still slow and some economic markers could be stronger, the Fed continues to believe it can be “patient” in waiting to increase interest rates.

Also on Wednesday, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche recalled more than 27,000 vehicles in the U.S. over a fuel leak issue. The recall includes a number of makes from the model years 2011 to 2013.

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Videos Capture US Nuclear Physicist Offering ‘Venezuelan Spy’ Nuke Info

Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) — New videos released by the Department of Justice Wednesday show a former American nuclear physicist covertly meeting with a man who he believed to be a Venezuelan intelligence officer in order to sell his expertise, as well as classified information, to the South American nation.

“This is very dangerous and I am doing it for money…I am, I told you, I’m not an American anymore,” Pedro Mascheroni says in one of the videos, which was actually recorded as part of a government sting.

Mascheroni, who once worked in the X-Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1980s, was arrested in 2010 and accused of conspiracy to transmit restricted and classified data and attempting to “participate in the development of an atomic weapon.”

In 2013, he pleaded guilty to several of the counts involving transmitting restricted information and making false statements to federal agents. Mascheroni attempted to withdraw his guilty plea last summer, but the court denied the motion.

“[The] defendant’s aims were never noble, or part of some selfless journey that he had undertaken for the greater good of his fellow citizens,” the U.S. government wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Rather, his actions were criminal to their core.”

The Department of Justice on Wednesday released several video clips of Mascheroni’s meetings with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan intelligence officer. In one from 2008, Mascheroni says Venezuela could test a nuclear bomb in the Pacific.

“Everybody sees it. You don’t kill anybody. Now you tell the United States, ‘Not only do we have this, but we have [these] other designs…You have to come up and say to the other nations, ‘We are going to be, we’re going to have an umbrella for everybody. If any nation outside Latin America attacks any nation inside Latin America, we are going to retaliate with a nuclear bomb,” he says, according to court documents.

Mascherino is a naturalized American citizen from Argentina, according to court documents.

In response to the government’s stinging sentencing memorandum, Mascheroni’s defense argued that he was something of a mad scientist “entrapped” by the government.

“Anyone who has spent time with Dr. Mascheroni knows that he is completely and hopelessly obsessed with correcting the errors he perceives in the National Laboratories’ pursuit of nuclear fusion energy. This obsession has controlled his life since he lost his security clearance in 1988. Providing Dr. Mascheroni with a willing, receptive, well-funded, and non-critical audience for his scientific theories was the functional equivalent of providing crack to a cocaine addict,” the defense said in a motion last week.

Mascheroni’s wife, who also worked at LANL, pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy and false statements.

Neither the Venezuelan government, nor any Venezuelan officials, were accused of any wrongdoing in the case.

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Romney Will Portray Hillary Clinton as ‘Clueless’ on Jobs, Foreign Policy

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney will speak about poverty in a speech in the nation’s poorest state Wednesday evening — while directly taking aim at Hillary Clinton, saying she “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia.”

Romney will address students at Mississippi State University, and in excerpts provided to ABC News by an aide, Romney outlines an early line of attack he may employ if he again runs for president.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney will say. “The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos. China grows more assertive and builds a navy that will be larger than ours in five years. We shrink our nuclear capabilities as Russia upgrades theirs.”

Romney also described three issues the nation needs to improve — likely topics he would build his campaign on — including the “need to help make the world a safer place,” the “need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class,” and the “need to lift people out of poverty.”

In what looks like an early attack against Clinton, trying to align her with President Obama, Romney will say, “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?”

Romney then goes after the president, asking how he expects to “make America the best place on earth for businesses, as he promised in his State of the Union address” if there are high business taxes, regulations that “favor the biggest banks and crush the small ones,” as well as a “complex and burdensome health care plan” — an attack he tried to employ in his last campaign unsuccessfully.

The president’s health care plan was repeatedly compared to Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, something he denied, but an issue that will likely come up again by GOP opponents in a future campaign.

Romney will add that the country needs a president who will “do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses.”

He will also call the president’s foreign policy “timid” because he walked “away from his red line in Syria, of paring back our military budget, and of insulting friends like Israel and Poland? Strong American leadership is desperately needed for the world, and for America.”

If Romney does run again in 2016, he will of course have a competitive GOP primary first before being able to take on Clinton if she is the nominee, or any Democrat. In his first run for the White House in 2008, he also went after Clinton during the GOP primary. That year, he lost the primary to Sen. John McCain.

Romney’s 2012 campaign did not focus on poverty, although his running mate Paul Ryan did address the issue at times during his part of the campaign, but it’s clear this will be a central issue to Romney if he does move forward.

In the speech, he will say during that last campaign he “met folks…almost every week during my campaign” who had “fallen into poverty as result of an unfortunate event, like losing a job.”

“These folks were almost uniformly optimistic about finding their way back into the middle class,” the former Massachusetts governor will say. “But I also met folks who had been in poverty from generation to generation. These we have to help escape the tragedy and the trap of chronic generational poverty.”

Romney will say “for fifty years and with trillions of dollars,” Washington has tried to fight the “war on poverty with failed liberal policies,” but it hasn’t worked.

“It’s finally time to apply conservative policies that improve America’s education system, promote family formation and create good-paying jobs,” he will say.

In the 2012 campaign, Romney was ridiculed and called unrelatable for his “47 percent” comments or when he said following his win in the Florida primary that he is “not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

In national exit polls after the 2012 loss, Obama won 81 percent to Romney’s 18 percent of voters who said the candidate quality that was most important to them was he “cares about people like me.”

With Romney’s early pivot to focus on poverty, he is likely trying to avoid those issues that derailed him last time.

On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported extensively about Romney’s four luxurious homes including an 11,000 square foot one in La Jolla, California he may be trying to sell, possibly before another presidential bid. The home has a spa and a car elevator, a luxury that Democrats jumped on during the last campaign and will likely once again if he runs again.

Romney aides believe Clinton’s own wealth will make his no longer a political liability with an aide telling ABC News in the same statement given to the Globe: “It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

A spokesman for Clinton did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Romney Will Portray Hillary Clinton as ‘Clueless’ on Jobs, Foreign Policy

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney will speak about poverty in a speech in the nation’s poorest state Wednesday evening — while directly taking aim at Hillary Clinton, saying she “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia.”

Romney will address students at Mississippi State University, and in excerpts provided to ABC News by an aide, Romney outlines an early line of attack he may employ if he again runs for president.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney will say. “The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos. China grows more assertive and builds a navy that will be larger than ours in five years. We shrink our nuclear capabilities as Russia upgrades theirs.”

Romney also described three issues the nation needs to improve — likely topics he would build his campaign on — including the “need to help make the world a safer place,” the “need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class,” and the “need to lift people out of poverty.”

In what looks like an early attack against Clinton, trying to align her with President Obama, Romney will say, “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?”

Romney then goes after the president, asking how he expects to “make America the best place on earth for businesses, as he promised in his State of the Union address” if there are high business taxes, regulations that “favor the biggest banks and crush the small ones,” as well as a “complex and burdensome health care plan” — an attack he tried to employ in his last campaign unsuccessfully.

The president’s health care plan was repeatedly compared to Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, something he denied, but an issue that will likely come up again by GOP opponents in a future campaign.

Romney will add that the country needs a president who will “do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses.”

He will also call the president’s foreign policy “timid” because he walked “away from his red line in Syria, of paring back our military budget, and of insulting friends like Israel and Poland? Strong American leadership is desperately needed for the world, and for America.”

If Romney does run again in 2016, he will of course have a competitive GOP primary first before being able to take on Clinton if she is the nominee, or any Democrat. In his first run for the White House in 2008, he also went after Clinton during the GOP primary. That year, he lost the primary to Sen. John McCain.

Romney’s 2012 campaign did not focus on poverty, although his running mate Paul Ryan did address the issue at times during his part of the campaign, but it’s clear this will be a central issue to Romney if he does move forward.

In the speech, he will say during that last campaign he “met folks…almost every week during my campaign” who had “fallen into poverty as result of an unfortunate event, like losing a job.”

“These folks were almost uniformly optimistic about finding their way back into the middle class,” the former Massachusetts governor will say. “But I also met folks who had been in poverty from generation to generation. These we have to help escape the tragedy and the trap of chronic generational poverty.”

Romney will say “for fifty years and with trillions of dollars,” Washington has tried to fight the “war on poverty with failed liberal policies,” but it hasn’t worked.

“It’s finally time to apply conservative policies that improve America’s education system, promote family formation and create good-paying jobs,” he will say.

In the 2012 campaign, Romney was ridiculed and called unrelatable for his “47 percent” comments or when he said following his win in the Florida primary that he is “not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

In national exit polls after the 2012 loss, Obama won 81 percent to Romney’s 18 percent of voters who said the candidate quality that was most important to them was he “cares about people like me.”

With Romney’s early pivot to focus on poverty, he is likely trying to avoid those issues that derailed him last time.

On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported extensively about Romney’s four luxurious homes including an 11,000 square foot one in La Jolla, California he may be trying to sell, possibly before another presidential bid. The home has a spa and a car elevator, a luxury that Democrats jumped on during the last campaign and will likely once again if he runs again.

Romney aides believe Clinton’s own wealth will make his no longer a political liability with an aide telling ABC News in the same statement given to the Globe: “It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

A spokesman for Clinton did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Adult ISIS Fighter in Child Executioner Video Killed, Official Says

Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A notorious ISIS fighter featured in the shocking video this month of a boy appearing to execute two prisoners with a handgun has been killed in battle, a counter-terrorism official said on Wednesday.

Abu Saad al-Dagestani was the nom de guerre of an ISIS terrorist shown in the gruesome Jan. 13 tape overseeing what ISIS claimed was the execution of two alleged “Russian spies” by a boy under 11. Al-Dagestani was first reported killed in jihadi tweets on Jan. 15, which claimed he was “martyred” near the embattled Kurdish town of Kobani on Syria’s border with Turkey.

“We do think he was killed,” a counter-terrorism official familiar with military operations around Kobani by the U.S.-led coalition told ABC News Wednesday.

The video, apparently produced by an ISIS media outlet and shared on Twitter, was seven minutes long and featured “confessions” by the two men. In a heavily-edited section, the boy, called a “lion’s cub,” was shown firing a pistol at the heads of the men, who each fall, apparently lifeless.

The boy appeared to have long hair and was dressed in black next to the adult overseeing him, al-Dagestani — whose true identity is not known but was believed to be among many foreign fighters from Dagestan or Chechnya — who wore a long beard, winter cap and carried both a pistol and a shoulder-slung rifle.

Officials declined to comment on the video’s authenticity, but military sources and others said they suspected the executions were staged, noting the absence of bullet impacts and blood splatter. Another former counter-terrorism official, however, previously told ABC News the murders look fairly real to him.

ISIS is well known for its sophisticated disinformation program, which is part of a highly-sophisticated media messaging committee that specializes in shocking western audiences with cinematic scenes of mass-decapitations and executions.

ISIS releases through its local affiliates in Syria and Iraq often multiple videos a day they produce depicting executions for a variety of alleged violations of religious Shariah law or their own rules. Most involve beheadings or amputating limbs in graphic bloodlettings.

Tweets announcing the death of al-Dagestani appeared on both ISIS-linked accounts as well as anti-ISIS Peshmerga accounts.

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