Why the outcry over ‘Citizens United’ and Retail sales get a boost online

The U.S. Supreme Court’s stunning campaign-finance ruling last month — finding that the "government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity" — triggered passionate reactions from critics, extending even to an unprecedented, point-counterpoint exchange during the State of the Union address between President Barack Obama and one of the five justices who signed it. In this article we’ll aim to depressurize the debate and explain what all the fuss is about.

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The decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has repercussions of at least two types. First, it sets precedents in constitutional law regarding when unelected judges in our democracy can strike down the laws passed by elected legislatures, and when it’s appropriate for the court to overrule the decisions of earlier courts. [Read the full article]

Retail sales rose in January, driven by strength in discount retailers and online merchants, according to a government report Friday.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales edged up 0.5% to $355.8 billion last month, compared with December’s revised decline of 0.1%. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had anticipated that January sales would grow 0.3%.

The year-to-year increase was more impressive. January retail sales jumped 4.7%, compared to the same month in 2009.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and related reports such as retail sales are used to gauge whether a recovery is underway.

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Sales excluding autos and auto parts rose 0.6% last month. A consensus of economists had projected ex-auto sales to rise 0.5% in January.
This is decent news considering just how bad the labor market is," said Adam York, an economist at Wells Fargo. [Read the full article]
The rivalry between two particularly litigious billionaires has turned the 33rd Americas Cup yacht race into a personal grudge match — and driven millions of dollars in sponsorship money away from one of the world’s premier sporting events.

Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle Corp (ORCL, Fortune 500)., and his maritime arch-rival Ernesto Bertarelli, the Swiss-Italian heir to a pharmaceutical fortune, launched two of the most expensive boats in the history of sport sailing when the America’s Cup got underway Friday in Valencia, Spain.

The race, which had been delayed for several days because of bad weather, pits the Ellison-backed BMW Oracle team, sailing under the flag of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, against Bertarelli’s Alinghi team, the defending champion.

But the rivalry between Ellison and Bertarelli has its roots in a protracted court battle over the terms of the race. [Read the full article]

We’re still waiting for that to happen. Sure, the year is only about a month and a half old. But so far, this year is looking a lot like 2009. Companies with questionable fundamentals are on fire while many solid blue chips lag.

Eastman Kodak is up nearly 42% this year, making it the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 so far in 2010. To be fair, Kodak (EK, Fortune 500) does look like an appealing turnaround story. The company reported a fourth-quarter profit last month — the first time the photo giant did so in more than a year.

Still, Kodak’s best days are clearly behind it as the company never truly cashed in on the shift from traditional film to digital photos. Analysts are predicting a full-year profit for 2010, but only flat sales growth. What’s more, Wall Street is currently predicting that Kodak will lose money in 2011 and that sales will fall.

Kodak isn’t the only stock of questionable quality having a strong year. [Read the full article]

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