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PODCAST: Meet Mitnik, Jobless claims kick it

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The head of the International Monetary Fund today sent a conflicting message: She wants countries to stop cutting and start spending. At the IMF meeting in Tokyo, chief Christine Lagarde said austerity in the near term will only make the global economy worse.

Safeway earnings got a boost from selling off another brand of stores, but profits from continuing operations were lower. Safeway shares are down more than three percent in early trading. There is also new data this morning on the U.S. trade deficit: exports fell in August to the lowest point in six months. In particular, demand was down for U.S.-made cars and agricultural products.

New weekly claims for unemployment fell last week to the lowest level in four and a half years. Combined with last week’s employment report, the claims data provides evidence of a slowly improving job market.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has released a report on alleged doping by retired cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, but support for Armstrong’s charitable organization Livestrong may be immune.

This week Mexican marines took out the leader of one of Mexico’s most powerful — and certainly its most violent — drug gang. The Zetas are dominant along much of the U.S. border, and there’s some hope this might disrupt their reign of terror there. Mexico is one of our primary trading partners, close behind Canada and China, but having the Zetas turn the border into a war zone hasn’t done any favors for that cross-border trade. Ray Grawunder, who owns one of the largest and oldest retailers of Mexican imports in the U.S., shares how the violence is affecting his business.

Mitt Romney’s likability ratings have improved in recent days — about half of registered voters now take a positive view of him, but there’s another Mit in the news whose likability ratings are through the roof. “Mitik” the orphaned baby walrus, who goes by Mit, arrives today at his new home at Brooklyn’s New York Aquarium. Four months ago baby Mit was picked up in bad shape off the coast of Alaska. Today he’s 250 pounds — which on a Walrus scale is still adorable. He reportedly likes to rest his head on people’s laps and lick their fingers. Now, politicians will do a lot of things to improve their likeability ratings, but probably they won’t do that.

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