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Author: Diane Alter

Prepare for Years of “QE Forever’ with Ben Bernanke at the Helm – Money Morning

When Ben Bernanke testified before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday, he staunchly defended his easy- money policies like quantitative easing, or “QE Forever.”

“We do not see the potential costs of the increased risk-taking in some financial markets as outweighing the benefits of promoting a stronger economic recovery,” the Federal Reserve chairman said.

Bernanke added the central bank takes “very seriously” the excessive risk-taking its dovish policies could provoke and is watching markets carefully.

He maintained that the bank’s accommodative monetary policy has “supported real growth in employment and kept inflation close to our target [2%].”

But some Fed officials are growing concerned about quantitative easing – the Fed’s purchases of $85 billion in securities a month – and believe it would be prudent to slow or stop the buying well before the end of 2013. Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, is one of the biggest hawks in the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) this year, citing unease about economic stability and inflation.

“While I share the objectives [of the FOMC],” George said in a Feb. 12 speech at the University of Nebraska Omaha, “I dissented because of possible risks and the possible costs of these policies exceeding their benefits…While I have agreed with keeping rates low to support this recovery, I know keeping interest rates near zero has its own consequences.”

Despite the increasingly anxious sentiment, as long as Bernanke remains at the helm, QE Forever will be the policy. Here’s why.

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How Automatic Spending Cuts Will Affect You- Money Morning

If you think the automatic spending cuts won’t affect your everyday routine, you’re wrong.

With less than two weeks before the across-the-board spending cuts kick in, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a grim assessment today (Wednesday) of what Americans could expect come March 1.

The planned spending cuts would slash some $85 billion out of the White House budget this year alone, resulting in the furlough of F.B.I. agents, delayed flights, layoffs of police officers and teachers, the release of criminals and shuttered day care centers.

“Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids,” President Obama said.

It may take a while for the ultimate impacts to be felt as agencies adjust, but the cuts would slowly and steadily ripple through the government and the economy as myriad agencies grapple with the changes.

The Congressional Budget Office warned in a recent blog post, “Discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year as a direct result of those procedures; additional reductions in outlays attributed to the cuts in 2013 funding will occur in later years.”

Here’s a rundown of some of the immediate changes that could affect you.

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China’s Cyber Attacks on the United States Will Only Get Worse – Money Morning

Sometimes the truth is scarier than fiction, like in the case of China’s cyber attacks on the United States.

In what reads more like a crime novel than a true story, a report released today (Tuesday) from Virginia-based cybersecurity firm Mandiant, a specific Chinese military unit is likely behind one of the largest cyber attacks aimed at American corporations and infrastructure.

China’s Unit 61398, housed in a 12-story building in Shanghai with a headcount in the hundreds, is being accused of stealing “hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations” since 2006. Some 115 targets in 20 different industrial sectors from energy and aerospace to transportation to financial institutions are said to have been violated.

The investigation tracked, for the first time, individual members of the savviest Chinese hacking group, dubbed “Comment Crew” and “Shanghai Group,” directly to the military unit’s headquarters. While Mandiant couldn’t pinpoint the hackers’ exact whereabouts inside the high-rise, the firm very convincingly makes the case that the building is where the attacks originated.

“Once [Unit 61398] has established access [to a target network], they periodically revisit the victim’s network over several months or years and steal broad categories of intellectual property, including technology blueprints, proprietary manufacturing processes, test results, business plans, pricing documents, partnership agreements, and emails and contacts lists from victim organizations’ leadership,” the detailed 74-page report reads.

American officials also confirmed that digital forensic evidence presented by Mandiant leads to the Shanghai building as the prime source of the attacks, according to The New York Times, which first reported on Mandiant’s findings Monday. Mandiant is the same firm The Times secured to investigate the cyber attacks that infiltrated their own systems in China last month.

The Chinese government adamantly denies the allegations. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a press conference the claims in the Mandiant report were unsupported.

“To make groundless accusations based on some rough material is neither responsible nor professional. Cyberattacks are anonymous and transnational, and it is hard to trace the origin of attacks, so I don’t know how the findings of the report are credible,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

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