February 1, 2018

Positivity: Who Was the Daring Defector Who Raised His Crutches High, Defying the Kim Regime During the State of the Union?

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:00 pm

From the Daily Signal:

February 01, 2018

One of the highlights of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was a North Korean defector brutalized by the regime who raised his crutches in defiance.

Describing him as a “witness to the ominous nature of this regime,” the president explained that Ji Seong-ho’s “great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all.”

Trump briefly covered some of the details of Ji’s life, highlighting some of the horrible tragedies that befell him and his family in North Korea, his arduous escape, and his efforts to help others now that he has found a new life outside the cruel world that is North Korea—a country the president previously described as “a hell no one deserves.”

“Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom,” Trump said Tuesday night as Ji, who was noticeably moved by the president’s words, stood before a cheering audience.

Indeed, Ji’s story is a fascinating one characterized by both tragedy and triumph.

The Great Famine struck hard in the mid-1990s, killing nearly a million North Koreans. People across the country struggled to find food, and Ji’s family was no exception. His grandmother starved to death.

When he was 13, an age when children ought to be in school, Ji would steal coal to exchange for scraps of food at the local markets around once a week, which was how often he was eating. On one trip, this malnourished young man passed out while riding the train, and he collapsed onto the tracks below. The unforgiving train tore large parts of his left hand and foot from his body.

“It hurt so much. I was screaming,” he wrote in a 2014 op-ed in The Guardian, adding, “My mother still remembers the screams—it was hard for her to process it.”

He was taken to a medical facility, where the doctors considered letting him die. “My mom was pleading and crying, so they decided to operate,” he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. Ji underwent a four and a half hour surgery without anesthetic because there simply was not any available.

“On the operating table I could feel everything that was being done to my body. I was screaming at the top of my lungs,” Ji recalled. “I felt the saw cutting into the bone of my leg, and the scalpel through my flesh. Every time I passed out from the pain the surgeon would slap my face to keep me awake. The whole hospital heard my screams.”

Both of the tattered limbs were amputated.

To help him recover, his brother and sister ate dirt and offered their food to Ji. It took him 10 months to recover, as there were no proper rehabilitation programs. He learned to move around again on a pair of wooden crutches his father made, and in time, he was back to foraging for scraps. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

December 2017 Construction Spending: Up 0.7 Percent, But November Revised Down Substantially

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:33 pm

From the Census Bureau:

Construction spending during December 2017 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,253.3 billion, 0.7 percent (±1.0 percent)* above the revised November estimate of $1,245.1 billion. The December figure is 2.6 percent (±1.3 percent) above the December 2016 estimate of $1,221.6 billion. The value of construction in 2017 was $1,230.6 billion, 3.8 percent (±1.0 percent) above the $1,185.7 billion spent in 2016.

This isn’t good news, because November was pulled down in revisions from $1,257.1 billion to the $1,245.1 billion seen above. Today’s result doesn’t even get us back to where we thought we were in November’s report.

Bigger-picture, the 3.8 percent increase for calendar year 2017 is acceptable, but quite a bit lower than the 6.5 percent increase seen from 2015 to 2016. I think we expected more from a real estate developer-President, but it’s still early.

January 2018 ISM Manufacturing: 59.1 Percent, Down From 59.3 Percent in December

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 7:18 pm

From the Institute for Supply Management (bolds are mine; most paragraph breaks added by me):

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in January, and the overall economy grew for the 105th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The January PMI® registered 59.1 percent, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 59.3 percent.

The New Orders Index registered 65.4 percent, a decrease of 2 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 67.4 percent. The Production Index registered 64.5 percent, a 0.7 percentage point decrease compared to the seasonally adjusted December reading of 65.2 percent.

The Employment Index registered 54.2 percent, a decrease of 3.9 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 58.1 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 59.1 percent, a 1.9 percentage point increase from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 57.2 percent. The Inventories Index registered 52.3 percent, an increase of 3.8 percentage points from the December reading of 48.5 percent.

The Prices Index registered 72.7 percent in January, a 4.4 percentage point increase from the December reading of 68.3 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 23rd consecutive month.

Comments from the panel reflect expanding business conditions, with new orders and production maintaining high levels of expansion; employment expanding at a slower rate; order backlogs expanding at a faster rate; and export orders and imports continuing to grow faster in January. Supplier deliveries continued to slow (improving) at a faster rate. Price increases occurred across all industry sectors. The Customers’ Inventories Index indicates levels are still too low. Capital expenditure lead times increased 8 percent during the month of January.”

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 14 reported growth in January in the following order: Textile Mills; Fabricated Metal Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Primary Metals; Machinery; Transportation Equipment; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Chemical Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Paper Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; and Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products. Four industries reported contraction during the period: Printing & Related Support Activities; Wood Products; Furniture & Related Products; and Nonmetallic Mineral Products.

New Orders and Production probably needed to drop a bit, as their December readings, if sustained, might indicate overheating.

The third GDP driver, Backlog of Orders, increased from 54.9 perceent to 56.2 percent.

So it looks like all is well with this index, though it would be nice to see the Prices Index come down.

The Non-Manufacturing Index, to be announced on Monday, may be a different matter. It needs to at least stay about 55.0 percent (December’s reading was 55.9 percent), but it would be much better if it started going up again.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (020118)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.