In The News Today

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Bill Holter’s Commentary

Weekend comedy from the Boston Globe.  Our fiscal situation mathematically will blow up yet we are told all is well!

With Interest Rates Low, Facts Don’t Justify Panic Over National Debt
December 15, 2017

You’ve heard the fearmongering. America is broke. Government debt already is measured in tens of trillions of dollars and will soon be as big as our entire economy. To top it off, Republicans are poised to pass a tax bill that will add at least another trillion in red ink.

In lieu of panic, though, maybe the more appropriate response is just to shrug. Sure, someday the government’s oversized debt load may get us into trouble. But right now, the situation seems manageable.

Month by month, and year by year, the debt doesn’t actually cost that much. We have interest payments to make — just like the interest you pay on your mortgage or student loans — but those bills are relatively small, and stable.

Which is not to say we should adopt a breezy attitude toward government spending, where Republicans pass giant tax cuts, Democrats pursue Medicare for all, and we pay for it with bottomless borrowing. At some point, there would be a reckoning.

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Bill Holter’s Commentary

If you recall, this is exactly what our pal Dave (in the witness protection program) told us was going to happen during one of our weekly calls after the hurricanes hit.  “No income equals foreclosure” is what he told us.

The Next Crisis for Puerto Rico: A Crush of Foreclosures
December 16, 2017

Puerto Rico has had an awful decade — and it’s about to get worse.

First came a brutal 10-year recession and financial crisis that drove businesses from this island and left 44 percent of the population impoverished. Then, in September, Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 storm, shredded buildings, wrecked the electrical power grid and possibly led to more than 1,000 deaths.

Now Puerto Rico is bracing for another blow: a housing meltdown that could far surpass the worst of the foreclosure crisis that devastated Phoenix, Las Vegas, Southern California and South Florida in the past decade. If the current numbers hold, Puerto Rico is headed for a foreclosure epidemic that could rival what happened in Detroit, where abandoned homes became almost as plentiful as occupied ones.

About one-third of the island’s 425,000 homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments to banks and Wall Street firms that previously bought up distressed mortgages. Tens of thousands have not made payments for months. Some 90,000 borrowers became delinquent as a consequence of Hurricane Maria, according to Black Knight Inc., a data firm formerly known as Black Knight Financial Services.

Puerto Rico’s 35 percent foreclosure and delinquency rate is more than double the 14.4 percent national rate during the depths of the housing implosion in January 2010. And there is no prospect of the problem’s solving itself or quickly.

“If there is no income, the people cannot make payments,” said Ricardo Ramos-González, coordinator of a consumer legal aid clinic at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. “Thousands have lost their jobs, thousands of small business have closed, and thousands more have left the country.”

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Bill Holter’s Commentary

Yet “all is well”?

Metlife Says It Failed To Pay Some Pensions, Flags Hit To Reserves
December 16, 2017

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Metlife Inc (MET.N) failed to pay pensions to potentially tens of thousands of people and will have to strengthen its reserves because of the costs of finding and repaying them, the New York insurer said. Metlife said in a filing on Friday that it believed the group missing out on the payments represented less than 5 percent of about 600,000 people who receive benefits from the company via its retirement business. Those affected generally have average benefits of less than $150 a month, it said.

A MetLife Inc building is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

When taken, however, the increase to reserves could be material to Metlife’s financial results. The insurer said it would provide further disclosure on its fourth-quarter earnings call and in its annual report for 2017.

MetLife did not say how many years of missing income was owed.

The people who missed out on the payments have changed jobs, relocated or are otherwise unreachable based on currently available information, the company said, adding that it was widening its search efforts and making better use of technology.

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Bill Holter’s Commentary

Please note, the second listed donor is the late Mr. Sherman’s company…And another one bites the dust?

Canadian Billionaire, Wife, Found Dead In “Suspicious” Suicide
December 16, 2017

The billionaire founder of Canadian generic drug Apotex Inc, Barry Sherman, and his wife Honey, were found dead in their Toronto home on Friday under what police described as “suspicious” circumstances.
Honey and Barry Sherman

Police said they were investigating the mysterious deaths after responding to a midday medical call at the Sherman’s home in an affluent section of northeast Toronto. Two bodies covered in blankets were removed from the home and loaded into an unmarked van on Friday evening.

“The circumstances of their death appear suspicious and we are treating it that way,” said Constable David Hopkinson. Homicide detectives later told reporters gathered outside the home that there were no signs of forced entry, and no suspects were being sought as of this moment.

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Dispensing Hope: Transforming US Medicine Surplus

In 2014, Mindset Social Innovation Foundation, and its partners, committed to expand access to affordable prescription medications in the U.S. Mindset has developed a five-year plan with the Dispensary of Hope that will enable the organization to receive over $100 million of donated medicine per year and distribute this medicine through hospital-based and community-charitable pharmacies that will deliver impact to more than 1.2 million people over the next 5 years.

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