Passport

U.S. economy contracting at 6.1 percent rate

Again, very, very bad news for the U.S. economy: after contracting at a 6.3 percent annual rate in the final quarter of 2008, it contracted at a 6.1 percent rate in the first quarter of 2009.

That means the economy shrank 2.6 percent compared with last year's first quarter. It's a point-and-a-half higher annualized rate than economists predicted. 

What's most worrisome is that the recession isn't easing at all, yet -- there's no real bottom there. We aren't close to talking about the economy growing again. We're still waiting for it to shrink less quickly. 

The only green shoots: economists believe that inventory and production are so anemic that any rise in demand will force businesses to grow -- that would be a good thing. And consumer spending rose 2.2 percent. 

One question. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Federal government spending decreased 4.0%, after rising in the fourth quarter by 7.0%. State and local government outlays fell 3.9%, after going down by 2.0% in the fourth quarter."

Even with cuts in military spending, shouldn't that number go up? 

Passport

One fifth of Indian candidates facing criminal charges?

Reuters reports the fairly incredible stat the one fifth of the 5,500 candidates in India's national election are facing criminal charges. That's quite a bit higher than the previously published estimate of 70, but not entirely unbelieveable given that 128 of India's 543 Members of Parliament are already facing charges.