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Fed officials expect economic boost from tax cuts

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 2:09 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 2:08 PM

            FILE - This Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, file photo shows the Federal Reserve Building on Constitution Avenue in Washington. The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its December meeting, on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
FILE - This Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, file photo shows the Federal Reserve Building on Constitution Avenue in Washington. The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its December meeting, on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Federal Reserve policymakers largely agreed last month that the U.S. tax overhaul would likely benefit the economy, but they were split on whether the resulting growth would warrant a faster pace of rate hikes this year.

Minutes of the Fed's Dec. 12-13 meeting released Wednesday show that officials believed the tax cuts would drive consumer spending and increased business investment, though they expressed uncertainty over the magnitude of the boost.

The minutes indicate disagreement among Fed officials over how many times the Fed should raise its benchmark interest rate in 2018. Some felt that the projection of three rate hikes might prove too aggressive and prevent inflation from returning to the Fed's 2 percent target.

Others felt more hikes might be needed if any one of a number of risks materialized, including the possibility that inflation might suddenly begin rising at a much faster pace amid cuts in personal and business taxes.

Private economists viewed the minutes as evidence that the pace of inflation will be a key factor determining the number of rate hikes in 2018.

"Inflation has become the most important economic variable steering the Fed's policy right now and market investors would be well-advised to watch the inflation statistics like a hawk," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

The Fed officials who felt that the three hikes reflected in the Fed's median economic forecast might be too much were concerned that it could make it harder to achieve the Fed's inflation target.

A "few other participants" were worried that three rate hikes this year might not be enough because "continued low interest rates risked financial instability in the future" or the possibility that the economy could start to overheat given that unemployment is already at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent and expected to decline further.

The minutes covered last month's discussion, which led to the central bank boosting its key policy rate for a third time in 2017, to a new but still-low range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent.

The minutes showed that the central bank is still committed to a "gradual" pace for future rate hikes, even though there is a dispute over whether that means another three hikes in 2018 or a "somewhat faster" pace.

Some analysts have begun to boost their forecast for this year to show four rate hikes, up from three. They expect the economy to grow faster now that Congress has approved the biggest overhaul to the tax code in three decades.

While the Trump administration believes its economic program of tax cuts and deregulation will boost economic growth in coming years to a sustained rate of 3 percent, the Fed's revised economic projections released last month are far less optimistic.

The Fed is projecting growth of 2.5 percent this year, up from a previous forecast of 2.1 percent. But it then foresees growth slowing to 2.1 percent in 2019 and 2 percent in 2020.

The Fed's next meeting on Jan. 30-31 will be the last meeting for Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Trump has nominated Fed board member Jerome Powell to take her place when her term as chairman ends on Feb. 3.

Baby found abandoned on airport bathroom changing table

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 3:13 PM

FILE PHOTO (Lanz-Andy/Pixabay license
FILE PHOTO (Lanz-Andy/Pixabay license

Authorities are trying to find the person who abandoned a baby in an airport bathroom. 

Police at Tucson International Airport are now combing through surveillance footage, trying to find out who left the a newborn baby boy on a woman’s bathroom changing table Sunday, AZCentral reported.

Not only are they trying to find the mother of the baby to find out what happened, but also to find out if she needs help.

>> Read more trending news 

The newborn was only hours old and was in good health, Tucson Police spokeswoman Jessie Butler told AZCentral.

The baby was clean and swaddled, KMSB reported.

Arizona is a state that offers Safe Haven for babies, meaning they can be dropped off at specific locations like staffed fire stations, hospitals and churches. Parents can be anonymous but they have to answer questions about the baby and its health, KMSB reported. According to the Safe Haven law, babies can be up to three days old.

Since the program started in 2001, 40 babies have been taken in by Safe Haven, KMSB reported.

An airport is not listed among the legal locations, but there was a fire station nearby, AZCentral reported.

If found, the mother could face charges after police investigate why she left the baby.

Doctor arrested for showing up for surgery inebriated, police say

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 2:49 PM

File photo.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A plastic surgeon showed up for surgery Monday while intoxicated and was arrested, according to police. 

>> Read more trending news

Dr. Theodore Gerstle was confronted by the chief medical officer at Baptist Health Lexington and then left the hospital on foot, according to WKYT

Police were then called and took Gerstle into custody. Gerstle was charged with public intoxication.

“Patient safety is always our number one concern,” Ruth Ann Childers, hopsital spokeswoman, told WKYT. “This will be thoroughly investigated.”

'Potentially hazardous' monster asteroid will fly close to Earth

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 1:39 PM

A monster space rock will pass relatively closely to Earth. NASA classifies it as "potentially hazardous," flying at 67,000 miles per hour. The asteroid will almost certainly not collide with Earth. NASA is working on technology to help mitigate the impact of such a direct hit.

monster space rock classified by NASA as "potentially hazardous" is headed towards Earth.

Asteroid 2002 AJ129 – which at 0.7 miles is wider than the tallest building in the U.S. (New York's One World Trade Center) stacked on top itself – is predicted to miss our planet, according to Metro. However, it will pass relatively close when thinking in terms of Outer Space.

»RELATED: NASA: Asteroid could destroy Earth in 22nd century

NASA classifies any space object surpassing 459 feet wide and passing within 4,660,000 miles of Earth as "hazardous," according to a 2013 report on the space agency's website. There are about 1,000 such known space objects monitored by NASA.

Asteroid rendering(NASA/For the AJC)

This asteroid is more than eight times wider than the minimum (3,696 feet) and will pass within just over half the minimum distance (2,615,128 miles) to our planet.

For a reference point, the moon orbits Earth at a distance of about 238,855 miles.

The giant asteroid is expected to "narrowly" miss our planet on Feb. 4, whizzing passed us at a whopping 67,000 miles per hour. It will be the biggest and fastest space object to fly near Earth this year, according to The Daily Star.

Although the rock will almost certainly not collide with us, as long as it remains within its current trajectory, scientists have previously warned that such an impact could have a dire impact on our planet.

"These would not be pleasant times," Charles Bardeen, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said during a presentation at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) said, according to The Daily Mail.

A 2016 study found that the impact of a slightly smaller space object would bring about a mini Ice Age. Temperatures would fall across the planet as much as 8 degrees Celsius. The effects would last for several years, leading to potentially severe devastation around the globe, not to mention the havoc caused by the initial impact.

»RELATED: Asteroid passes inside Earth’s satellite ring, ’20 times closer than moon’

However, such an impact would not likely lead to a global extinction event. The space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs is estimated to have been between 6.2 and 9.3 miles wide.

Fortunately, NASA scientists don't foresee any such incident occurring in  the near future. Nonetheless, the space agency is planning for the worst.

Current technology wouldn't be able to stop such a massive object from hitting our planet, but NASA has plans in place to mitigate the impact of such a direct hit. Additionally, the space agency is developing a refrigerator-sized spacecraft that would be able to prevent such collisions. The technology is slated for testing in 2024.

"NASA established its Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) in 2016, which is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting plans and coordination of U.S. government response to an actual impact threat," a press release on the agency's website explains.

The deflection technology under development would change "the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity." If this is done long enough before a predicted impact, the relatively small nudge will "add up over time to a big shift of the asteroid's path away from Earth."

NASA and FEMA have even teamed up for emergency planning exercises, in case of a future collision scenario.

"It is critical to exercise these kinds of low- probability but high-consequence disaster scenarios," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said after one such planning session in 2016. "By working through our emergency response plans now, we will be better prepared if and when we need to respond to such an event."


Florida man brutally murders ex-wife after fight over infidelity, sheriff says 

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 9:44 AM

Fight About Infidelity Leads Man To Brutally Murder Ex-Wife, Sheriff Says

46-year-old Florida man is being charged with second-degree murder after he brutally beat and stomped his ex-wife to death, a sheriff said.

Michael Cummings and his ex-wife, Faith L. Cummings, 44, began arguing over infidelity on Thursday in the garage of their Palm Coast home, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said.

>> Read more trending news

The fight escalated with Faith L. Cummings fleeing to a bathroom. Her ex-husband — they divorced in 2015, but moved back in together to rekindle the relationship — followed her and attacked her, according to a news release

Faith suffered multiple broken bones, including every rib with multiple fractures, as well as kicking and stomping injuries, according to the county medical examiner. Blood splatter indicated that she was hit with a weapon, investigators reported.

Her cause of death was ruled “blunt force trauma to the head with asphyxiation.” 

When deputies first arrived at the home, Staly said, Michael Cummings refused to leave, and as a result he was charged with obstruction of justice. He told authorities that Faith slipped and fell in the bathtub, but by the time deputies arrived she had been dead for hours. 

After realizing what he had done, he had tried to hide his crime, Staly said during a news conference. 

On Monday afternoon, Cummings was charged with second-degree murder with a weapon and booked into the Flagler County Detention Facility with no bond. 

“This case again proves that you never know what is going on behind closed doors,” Staly said. “Often, domestic violence is hidden from others and the victim is living with their attacker. This case shows just how fast a domestic argument can spiral out of control and into a murder.”

Michael Cummings. (Photo: