Police: Men Took $65K In Frozen Wings

ATLANTA, (UPI) —  Georgia police said they arrested a pair of storage facility workers who allegedly stole $65,000 worth of frozen chicken wings.

Gwinnett County police said Renaldo Jackson and Dewayne Patterson, employees at Nordic Cold Storage in Atlanta, were arrested after the 26,000 pounds of frozen Tyson chicken wings were reported stolen from the facility, WGCL-TV, Atlanta, reported Tuesday.

WGCL said a woman who identified herself as Patterson’s mother told reporters she does not believe the allegations against her son.

“He’s a really law-abiding person,” the woman said. “That’s why I don’t understand that at all.”

Family Kicked Out Of Museum For Body Odor

PARIS, (UPI) —  Security guards told a poor family visiting a Paris museum they had to leave because people were complaining about their smell, a charity official said.

The couple and a young child were on a free trip to the Musee d’Orsay with a charity that supports struggling families, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

The family was browsing a room with paintings by Van Gogh when guards told them they had to leave.

“I argued with the security man, telling him the family were all decent and properly dressed,” said a worker with the charity Act for Dignity.

The director of the museum told French news sources he was saddened by the incident.

Claire Hedon, vice president of the charity, said she wrote to Aurelie Filippetti, the French culture minister, to complain about the incident.

Rare Silver Dollar Sold For $10 Million

NEWARK, N.J., (UPI) —  A New Jersey firm says it bought a rare silver dollar coin at auction for a record $10 million.

The coin, known as a Flowing Hair Silver Dollar because it shows Lady Liberty with long, flowing locks, was minted in Philadelphia in 1794.

“It’s one of the rarest coins in existence,” said Laura Sperber, co-partner of Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, which purchased the coin. “Who knows who could have held this coin? George Washington? Any of the Founding Fathers?”

The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Tuesday there are only believed to be about 150 of the coins still in existence of the 1,750 minted that year before the mold was destroyed.

The coin was previously owned by Martin Logies, a private collector who purchased it for a then-record $7.8 million in 2010, which had stood as the record for a coin purchase until Legend topped it last week. It was the last of 94 lots, conducted last week by auction house Stack’s Bowers in New York City.

Couple Face Charges For Deer Rescue

CONNERSVILLE, Ind., (UPI) —  An Indiana couple said authorities told them they could face jail time after they rescued an injured baby deer and nursed it back to health.

Jeff and Jennifer Counceller of Connersville said they found the fawn injured on their neighbor’s porch more than two years ago and brought the animal to their home where they treated her wounds and nursed her back to health, ABC News reported Tuesday.

The couple said a conservation officer from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources came by their home during the summer and told them the state wanted to euthanize the deer, which they had dubbed Little Orphan Dani. The officer said Dani could be dangerous and a threat to humans.

“I was devastated. I spent a year and several months nursing her into adulthood, getting to the point where she was able to go out on her own,” Counceller said.

The Councellers said Dani escaped from their home the day she was scheduled to be euthanized.

State officials are now attempting to press charges against the couple for unlawful possession of a deer, a misdemeanor bearing a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and $2,000 in fines.

“No matter what the law is, we did what was right for the animal,” Jennifer Counceller said.

Army Exercise Startles Neighbors

HOUSTON, (UPI) —  The U.S. Army said the presence of helicopters and armed soldiers in a Houston neighborhood were due to a training drill.

The commotion Monday afternoon at the old Carnegie Vanguard High School, which was closed in 2009, resulted in several calls from concerned residents to KTRK-TV, Houston, about military helicopters, armed soldiers and sounds of gunfire, KTRK-TV reported.

“When you see this, you think the worst. When you hear this, you think the worst,” resident Frances Jerrals said.

The Army said the incident was a multi-agency training exercise at the shuttered high school. No details about the nature of the training were released.

Gallup: Blue States Outnumber Red States

PRINCETON, N.J., (UPI) —  The number of blue states outnumbered the number of red states in the United States last year, 20 to 12, results of a Gallup poll released Wednesday indicated.

After the District of Columbia, the most Democratic-leaning states in 2012 were Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts, where Democrats held at least 20-percentage-point advantages in party identification, results indicated.

Republicans held a similarly lopsided advantage in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, the Princeton, N.J., polling agency said.

Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois and Delaware round out the top 10 most Democratic states, with eight of the top 10 blue states in the East.

The top Republican states were more spread out, with North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, Alaska and Oklahoma rounding out the top 10.

On average in Gallup Daily tracking last year, 45 percent of all U.S. adults identified themselves as Democrats or leaning Democratic while 41 percent identified themselves as Republican or leaning Republican.

Results are based on nationwide telephone interviews conducted with 321,233 adults as part of Gallup Daily tracking Jan. 1-Dec. 31. The margin of error is 1 percentage point.

U.S. Reviews Elite Women Warfighters

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  The top military official in charge of Special Operations said studies were under way on how to integrate women into elite U.S. combat forces.

U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven said female soldiers were already serving in support of Special Operations.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced last week he was lifting a ban on women serving in combat roles in the military.

His decision means women can serve in most combat roles provided they meet the stated requirements. Women already serve as pilots, medics and security guards to the military’s top officers.

“We have had women supporting direct special operations for quite some time,” McRaven was quoted by the Defense Department’s news service as stating. “So I am fully supportive of Secretary Panetta and the (Joint Chiefs of Staff) decision to do this — and frankly, so were all the service chiefs and combatant commanders.”

McRaven said Special Operations commanders were assessing what role women could serve in elite unites like the Army Rangers of Navy SEALs.

“I’m required to report back to the secretary, by the first quarter of (2016), a plan on how to integrate them,” he said.

Afghanistan Isn’t Safe, U.S. Warning Says

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  There are no parts of Afghanistan considered immune from violence and U.S. interests there are at risk at all times, a U.S. State Department warning read.

The State Department updated a travel warning for Afghanistan, setting the security threat at “critical.”

“No region in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other Western nationals at any time,” the warning read.

The State Department warning added that anti-government forces such as al-Qaida and the Taliban are active in the country.

“Afghan authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and ensure the security of Afghan citizens and foreign visitors,” the warning added.

U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan aim to leave the country next year after more than 10 years of engagement. Multinational forces are preparing for a departure as Afghan forces take the lead in military operations.

In December, Jan Kubis, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council on gains in Afghanistan. He said there was a general lack of political development in the country, however. Development gains are at risk “because of weak and inadequate” state systems.

Clinton: U.S. Shares Concerns On N. Korea

WASHINGTON,  (UPI) —  North Korea’s new leader, instead of improving the lives of his people, is engaged in “very provocative” behavior, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Speaking from Washington to a group of international students, the outgoing secretary answered a number of questions including one from a Japanese student about the nuclear threats from North Korea under its new leader Kim Jong Un, who completed one year at the helm in December.

Clinton said the United States shares the concerns of Japan and those of others in the entire region about “what the new regime in North Korea is doing and threatening.”

North Korea, growing increasingly belligerent, has threatened more nuclear tests after the 15-member U.N. Security Council last week unanimously approved a resolution tightening its existing sanctions against the isolated and impoverished Communist country for its December long-range rocket launch in violation of those sanctions. Those were put in place after the North conducted missile and two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

“And let me express my regret, because I think with a new young leader we all expected something different,” Clinton said. “We expected him to focus on improving the lives of the North Korean people, not just the elite, but everyone to have more education, more openness, more opportunity. And instead, he has engaged in very provocative rhetoric and behavior.”

Clinton said nations would need “to work closely together to try to change the behavior of the North Korean regime.”

The secretary said she has held extensive conversations with her Japanese, Korean, Russian and Chinese counterparts “because this is a threat to all of us.” However, she said it was still hoped “there is a way to convince the North Korean regime not to pursue this path.”

John Kerry Confirmed As Secretary Of State

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  The U.S. Senate Tuesday confirmed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to be the next secretary of state, succeeding Hillary Clinton.

The Senate action followed approval earlier in the day by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry formerly led.

The Senate voted 94-3 in favor of Kerry, who was his party’s failed presidential nominee in 2004. Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas voted against the nomination.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., cited Kerry’s extensive experience with foreign leaders in supporting the nomination, Roll Call reported.

“I can think of no one better prepared to take on the challenges of this position,” Menendez said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Kerry had been preparing for the job since his father was a diplomat.

“I’m honored beyond words,” Kerry said following the vote.

Kerry, who has been in the Senate for three decades, told reporters after the vote he was “wistful” about leaving the Senate.

During his confirmation hearing last week, Kerry testified the United States must be smart about how it handles the world’s hot spots.

“We cannot afford a diplomacy that is defined by troops or drones or confrontation. We have to find a diplomacy that achieves … understanding, rapprochement, whatever you want to call it,” he said.

The Hill said the approval never was in doubt, given that Republicans had urged President Barack Obama to nominate Kerry instead of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who ran into opposition for voicing what turned out to be a false analysis of the events at a State Department mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.

The White House released a statement in which Obama said he was “pleased that the Senate has confirmed John Kerry as our next secretary of state with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

“John has earned the respect of leaders around the world and the confidence of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and I am confident he will make an extraordinary secretary of state,” Obama said. “I look forward to his counsel and partnership in the years ahead as we ensure American leadership in the world and advance the interests and values that keep our nation strong.”

Clinton’s last day as secretary is Friday.

Wednesday Morning News Roundup 1-30-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Debt levels of 200 percent of gross domestic product are on the horizon for the United States, despite all of the political grandstanding over the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has an idea: Give excess tax money back to the taxpayers.
  • Even though Federal spending has increased 39 percent over the past two decades, 70 percent of Americans say it hasn’t had any positive impact on quality of life.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s childhood home in Chicago could be destroyed to make way for a parking lot for Barack Obama’s Presidential library.
  • A sting operation in Milwaukee that was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offers a troubling look at just how incompetent and irresponsible government law enforcement agencies can be. It resulted in a military-style machine gun landing on the streets and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from a store it set up as a front for the operation.
  • News networks are using tactics similar to those in the 1997 film “Wag the Dog” to continue to exploit the dead children of Sandy Hook Elementary as a means for drumming up support for more gun control.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Playing 20 Questions With The Commander In Chief

Anyone who has ever sat through one of President Barack Hussein Obama’s heavy-petting sessions the corporate media call “interviews” or one of his extremely infrequent press conferences knows that wresting a straight answer from Barry is one tall order. As a conservative, I have about the same chance of scoring a sit-down with his Imperial Highness as Media Matters high priest David Brock does of silencing the voices in his head.

But what if I could interrupt one of Obama’s secret skeet-shooting sessions for a little verbal one-on-one? What questions would I pose to the most deliberately opaque President in American history? Since CBS News’ Steve Kroft has already handled the light lifting, I suppose there’s not much point in repeating the same softballs “60 Minutes” substituted for substantive sound bites.

I compiled a list of 20 questions I’d love to hear Obama answer. Of course, given his dim view of media outlets that don’t toe his statist line, I’m aware that I’m more likely to play Q&A with Obama’s auditory hallucinations and/or his little friend who totes the unregistered, semi-automatic handgun with a capacity of well more than seven rounds. But, hey: If liberals can dream of a day without liberty, then I can certainly dream of a day with a forthright President.

Thus, I would pose these interrogatives to The One, and I fully intend to do so (right about the same time Secretary of State — and Obama heir apparent — Hillary Clinton learns how to make those crocodile tears believable):

      1. Since your plan to reduce so-called “gun violence” centers on the elimination of so-called “assault weapons” instead of something that hasn’t already been proven ineffective in places like Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Newtown, Conn., will you consider yourself responsible when so-called “gun crime” rises after you disarm the people? Or will you just stick with blaming President George W. Bush, conservatives and/or law-abiding citizens for your own ineffectiveness?
      2.  

      3. I suppose you can’t really deport Piers Morgan just for being an imperious British twinkie, but can’t you sign an executive order forcing him to do his show from the Camp Lejeune rifle range? I would DVR the heck out of that show.
      4.  

      5. How do members of your Secret Service detail manage to stifle their laughter when (if) you shoot skeet at Camp David?
      6.  

      7. How do you Democrats reconcile being pro-abortion but anti-capital punishment? Is it just that the unborn are easier targets, or are you concerned about the death penalty’s detrimental effect on the ability of ACORN (or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves these days) to “get out the vote”?
      8.  

      9. Is Eric Holder’s Spanish good enough to order lunch in Mexico, or do his narcoterrorist clients speak English?
      10.  

      11. Did you let the “Benghazi Four” die because you really didn’t give a crap, or did you think you were watching “Blackhawk Down” on Air Force One’s big screen before grubbing for cash in Las Vegas?
      12.  

      13. Does Hillary Clinton make little stabby gestures every time your back is turned?
      14.  

      15. Since you’ve broken your promise to close Gitmo, have you considered putting in a golf course? I hear it’s lovely this time of year, and you could hit the links with some of your friends?
      16.  

      17. When the Democrat Channel (aka MSNBC) minions come for a visit, how do you get those unsightly Rachel Maddow stains out of the rug in the Oval Office? Furthermore, does Al Sharpton have to fight the urge to pick up Maddow and hurl her at every teenage intern who walks by?
      18.  

      19. What did fake Congressional witness Sandra Fluke have to do in exchange for the Democrats making her famous (for a little while, anyway)? Did it involve the sort of behavior Bill Clinton might enjoy? Did she charge the whole thing to Georgetown University?
      20.  

      21. Is it possible to dial some of those 1-900 numbers from an Obamaphone?
      22.  

      23. How come I’ve never seen your wife and Oprah Winfrey in the same room? Hang on; they’ve been in the same room. Which one was which?
      24.  

      25. As or at which is Joe Biden most effective:
        a.Throw rug
        b.Doorstop
        c.Paperweight
        d.Guessing the number of jelly beans in the jar on your desk
      26.  

      27. Do you actually enjoy hanging out with union thugs like Richard Trumka, or is that just part of the job? (Cough twice if you’re afraid to answer because they’re in the room.)
      28.  

      29. According to your party and its corporate media, high gas prices were the fault of President George W. Bush during his term, but you are powerless to affect them. Does it hurt your feelings to hear your own minions say you’re impotent by comparison?
      30.  

      31. Where is the “Choom gang” now, and can you hook a brother up?
      32.  

      33. Have you told Malia and Sasha about the crippling national debt with which you’re saddling their generation, or will they be running for office as well?
      34.  

      35. Since you lied about not hiking taxes on the middle class, can we at least get a better spot in line for the Obamacare death panels?
      36.  

      37. If the Democrats successfully pass Representative Jose Serrano’s bill to eliminate the 22nd Amendment, will you personally visit the Texas Legislature to convince lawmakers to ratify it, or will you send Serrano? (If I were you, I’d send Serrano.) Also, will you still be known as “President Obama” or will you go with something cooler, like “His Most Royal and Serene Highness, Lord of All He Surveys and Ruler of the Known Universe, the Sultan Barack I?”
      38.  

      39. Before he goes to bed at night, does the boogeyman check under his bed for Rahm Emanuel?
      40.  

      I’m willing to acknowledge that not all of these questions are worthy of a dignified interview with the commander in chief, but neither is the current commander in chief. At the very least, I’d obviously hit the real issues a great deal harder than Kroft. Fortunately for me, I work for Personal Liberty Digest™, not some bush-league liberal hack farm like “60 Minutes.”

      –Ben Crystal

Virtual Currencies Threaten Central Banks

If the shaky state of the current central banking systems throughout the world wasn’t already obvious, the fact that virtual currencies are worrying central bankers is further highlighting the weakness of most modern financial systems.

Bitcoin, a virtual currency issued by a decentralized network of computers, has more than doubled in value to $16.37. As the currency keeps gaining in popularity, government officials and economists throughout the world worry that the online currency could undermine the ability of central banks to manipulate the economy.

Bitcoin, unlike central banking systems, relies solely on supply and demand. The decentralized and unregulated currency exchange operates solely on the principles of the free market, unlike government banking schemes which rely on the force of the state to manipulate money supply.

In Europe, where the economy continues to falter, the central bank has rallied against Bitcoin.

Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told Bloomberg: “I think the ECB obviously is concerned, and it’s not reputational. I think it’s a competitive threat. Maybe virtual currencies will be so convenient that they will pose a threat because of their ease of use.”

Bitcoin has also gained popularity in some unexpected parts of the world. It has been reported that some people in Iran have begun using the currency exchange because of economic troubles brought on by U.N. sanctions.

Government Expanding To Counter Phony Cyberthreat

As government officials continue to drum up fears about the possibility of a looming “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” the Pentagon is working on plans to expand its cyber security force from 900 personnel to 4,900 troops and civilians.

The Cyber Command Unit is under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the government’s foreign and domestic spy force, the National Security Agency. Because the Cyber Command Unit operates side by side with the NSA, serious threats to Americans’ privacy are expected to result from the massive expansion of force.

Though officials continuously say that the United States faces threats of cyber attacks that could potentially cripple infrastructure, the reality is that the Nation is actually one of the world’s biggest perpetrator of cyber attacks against other countries and groups.

Columbia professor Misha Glenny explained in The New York Times last summer:

The United States has long been a commendable leader in combating the spread of malicious computer code, known as malware, that pranksters, criminals, intelligence services and terrorist organizations have been using to further their own ends. But by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility.

Cyber security experts say that the government is actually more interested in gaining the ability to spy on Americans’ online activities and expand a lucrative new leg of the military-industrial complex. In reality, “cyberthreat” is simply the new Red scare, Latin American tyrant, weapon of mass destruction or terrorist.

Obama Shuts Down Southern Defense Mechanism, Opens South To Attack

As the Federal government spends billions of dollars to expand the surveillance and monitoring of U.S. citizens with electronic eavesdropping devices and drone aircraft, it has decided to shut down a surveillance system that protects the southern border and coastline against low-flying aircraft and missiles and assists U.S. Customs and Border Protection in interdicting illegal border crossings and smuggling.

The Administration of President Barack Obama is shutting down the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) that uses moored balloons hovering at about 15,000 feet to watch for incoming aircraft and missiles that may penetrate U.S. air space. NORAD, the U.S. Air Force and customs all rely on the system.

According to an email to employees of Exelis Systems Corp., the company that built and maintains the system, the government has requested the program be shut down on March 15. Following is the text of the email:

Subject: TARS Contract Update

Tuesday, 15 January 2013, we received a government request for a proposal (RfP) to de-scope and close the TARS program by the end of the fiscal year. The government indicated that it does not intend to exercise the final two option years for the TARS contract. In the RfP, the government also indicated its intent that aerostat flight operations will cease on March 15, 2013, and that the remainder of the fiscal year will be used to deflate aerostats, disposition equipment, and prepare sites for permanent closure. We are currently reviewing all the details of the RfP and evaluating the possible impacts on the program and our workforce. We continue to communicate with the government on this matter, and we will have more information in the coming days and weeks.

The TARS program provides a critical capability to the U.S. government and we should remain focused on providing that service in an uninterrupted and robust manner.

The best thing we can do right now is to continue to provide the outstanding TARS support that has become the Exelis hallmark, while allowing the company and the government time to continue discussions on how to best support the customer, the program, and our workforce. We will provide regular updates as we know more. Should you have a specific question, please address them to Tim Green, Program Manager.

Tim Green, PMP
Program Manager
Tethered Aerostat Radar System
Exelis Systems Corporation

The Air Force’s website states: “(T)he system is capable of detecting low altitude aircraft at the radar’s maximum range by mitigating curvature of the earth and terrain masking limitations. TARS provides a detection and monitoring capability along the United States-Mexico border, the Florida Straits, and a portion of the Caribbean in support of the Department of Defense Counterdrug Program… In addition to its counterdrug mission, TARS surveillance data also supports North American Aerospace Defense Command’s air sovereignty mission for the continental United States.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one Exelis employee told Texas GOP Vote this about the announced closure of the TARS sites:

“Not only will this closure mean hundreds of people will be out of jobs, but it also means our borders will not be safe, especially along the remote U.S. Mexico Border like in Texas. These defense radars detect low flying aircraft infiltrating our borders. Without these defense radars, low flying aircraft will go undetected. It will be open season for any drug/gun/slave smugglers, terrorists flying in with nukes, low altitude missiles, or even a full scale low elevation invasion/attack against America.”

Since he’s been in office, Obama has seemingly done all he can to make the southern border as unsafe as possible. He’s allowed guns to flow unimpeded across the border with Mexico through Operation Fast and Furious, he’s tied the hands of border patrol agents and now he’s abandoning the whole of the Southern United States to airborne attack. And he’s violating Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution in the process.

The grounds for charges of treason continue to mount.

Hearing Loss Accelerates Brain Decline

BALTIMORE (UPI) — Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than those whose hearing is normal, a U.S. researcher said.

Senior study investigator and Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., said all study participants had normal brain function when the study began in 2001. They were initially tested for hearing loss, defined as recognizing only those sounds louder than 25 decibels.

The data on a subset of 1,984 men and women ages 75 to 84 came from a larger, ongoing study monitoring the health of older blacks and whites in Memphis and Pittsburgh.

The volunteers with hearing loss had repeated cognition tests over six years.

The study found those who had hearing loss also had cognitive abilities that declined some 30 percent to 40 percent faster than those whose hearing was normal.

Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss, the researchers said.

The findings, published in the journal Internal Medicine, found that on average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

Buy Guns On The Cheap At Gun Buybacks

The gun buybacks that are routinely held at police departments, churches and public venues throughout the Nation are laughable schemes designed to disarm law-abiding citizens, opportunists and the naïve. But, as demonstrated at a recent buyback event in Seattle, buybacks can also be beneficial to people with an appreciation for guns.

Fear about government plans to categorically ban certain classes of firearms is driving up prices on guns, accessories and ammunition throughout the Nation. Meanwhile, cities are hosting gun buybacks where a modest $100 is paid routinely for handguns, shotguns and rifles and $200 for so-called assault rifles.

Seattle gun enthusiasts, realizing that Americans willing to hand over their firearms for such little money often don’t know what they have, were also drawn to the gun buyback. There, gun collectors set up miniature gun shows with signs offering cash for collectible firearms, good hunting weapons and assault rifles.

Though the happenings upset some of the police officers working the gun buyback, there is nothing illegal about the private gun sales taking place at the event. In States that allow unfettered private party gun sales between law-abiding citizens, nothing can stop collectors from attending the buyback events in hopes of scoring good deals on quality firearms.

Below are some pictures from the Seattle event, via SLOG:

buy1

buy

gun2

gun4

gun5

Consumer Confidence Slides

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. consumer confidence dropped in January for the third consecutive month, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

Despite a recent spate of positive economic data and improvements in the housing market, the Conference Board said the Consumer Confidence Index deteriorated further in January, dropping from 66.7 in December to 58.6.

Economists had expected a much milder decline,calling for a drop to 64..

The Conference Board uses 1985 as a base year, assigning the average confidence of 1985 a value of 100, giving the index a reference point.

In January, 16.7 percent of respondents to a survey that involves more than 5,000 households indicated they believed business conditions were “good,” a drop from December, when 17.2 percent indicated economic conditions were favorable for business.

Respondents who indicated they believed business conditions were “bad” in January rose from 26.3 percent to 27.4 percent.

The percentage of respondents indicating jobs were “plentiful,” fell from 10.8 percent to 8.6 percent while those indicating jobs were “hard to get” rose from 36.1 percent to 37.7 percent, the Conference Board said.

“Consumers are more pessimistic about the economic outlook and, in particular, their financial situation. The increase in the payroll tax has undoubtedly dampened consumers’ spirits and it may take a while for confidence to rebound and consumers to recover from their initial paycheck shock,” said Lynn Franco, director of the board’s Consumer Research Center.

Service Industries Show Revenue Gain

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Ten of 11 service sector industries showed revenue growth from 2010 to 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The exception for revenue growth noted in the 2011 Service Annual Survey was in the finance and insurance sector where revenue declined by $35 billion to $3.3 trillion year-to-year, the report said.

Within the finance sector, the report said investment banking and securities posted $135 billion in revenue for 2011, down 13.1 percent from the $155.9 billion in revenue for 2010.

Despite the slow economic recovery, even real estate and rental and leasing as a group experienced a 5 percent year-to-year revenue increase from $406.4 billion to $426.8 billion.

The sharpest revenue jump came in the information sector. Within that group, revenue for Internet publishing and broadcasting and Web search portals rose 20.8 percent from $41.7 billion in 2010 to 50.4 billion in 2011, the bureau said.

Among the highlights, utilities experienced a revenue climb of 3.4 percent to $550.2 billion, transportation and warehousing experienced a bump of 11.1 percent to $736.3 billion, wireless telecommunication carriers saw their revenue climb 6.9 percent to $208.9 billion, and educational services experienced a 5.9 percent revenue gain to $59.2 billion.

Home Prices Off Slightly Month To Month

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. home prices slipped October to November, but showed strong gains from 12 months earlier, a closely watched price index said.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller report said prices dropped 0.2 percent from October in a 10-city composite sample of U.S. cities. Prices slid 0.1 percent month-to-month in the report’s 20-city sampler.

Prices in the 10-city grouping rose 4.5 percent from November 2011, however, while prices among the larger sampling group rose 5.5 percent.

Nineteen of 20 cities had annual price gains in November. Prices rose 22.8 percent in Phoenix, 12.7 percent in San Francisco, 11.9 percent in Detroit, 1.8 percent in Cleveland, and 0.8 percent in Chicago.

The price index fell 1.2 percent from November 2011 in New York, the only city where prices fell over 12 months.

On a month-to-month basis, prices were down in half the cities monitored in the report.

Prices dropped from October in Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, New York, Portland, Ore., Tampa, Fla., and Washington.

Prices rose from October in Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

“Winter is usually a weak period for housing which explains why we now see about half the cities with falling month-to-month prices compared to 20 out of 20 seeing rising prices last summer,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “The better annual price changes also point to seasonal weakness rather than a reversal in the housing market. Further evidence that the weakness is seasonal is seen in the seasonally adjusted figures: only New York saw prices fall on a seasonally adjusted basis while Cleveland was flat.”

U.S. Home Ownership Rate Remains Low

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. home ownership rate dropped in the fourth quarter of 2012, matching the lowest percentage since early 1997, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The home ownership rate fell from 65.5 percent in the third quarter to 65.4 percent in the fourth, which matches the first-quarter rates in 2012 and 1997. It has remained higher in every quarter in between.

Home ownership peaked in the first quarter of 2005 at 69.1 percent.

The Census Bureau said 86.3 percent of housing units were occupied in the third quarter of 2012.

The home ownership rate is the percentage of households that are owner occupied.