Wednesday, February 29, 2012
or hear some idiot Liberal democrat say how things are improving jobs are getting better why we created 200,000 jobs last month that's almost enouyght to keep up with the number of people entering the job market for the first time each month and the unemployment rate has plunged to a mere 8.3% (adjusted) why that's just fantastic news
and find yourself inclined to believe or agree with either one
think about Zach and the thousands like him
2,600 in his county alone
how many more across this great nation of ours
and make sure you speak out about it
set the record straight
one wonders, sometimes, if the sight of a guillotine being erected on Wall Street or a gallows rising in Washington while peasants with pitch forks tar and feathers march toward them might not scare some sense into our self serving public servants
every last one of them
remember that when you finally hit the ballot box
remember Zach and his family
and remember that Midnight Rider has warned you about this again and again and again over the last few years
she'll tell you
you are witnessing the death of our Republic as it strangles and chokes on it's children eating Beefaroni heated over a Boy Scout fuel stove in the back of the minivan before they roll out the mattresses to sleep there for the night
Rise in homeless students stifles Fla. town
By CHRISTINE ARMARIO
AP Education Writer
CLERMONT, Fla. (AP) -- Zach Montgomery's dad plugs in the electric skillet and opens the cardboard box containing tonight's dinner.
The liquid from the canned chicken sizzles as it hits the skillet.
Zach, a 17-year-old high school student in Clermont, Florida, a bucolic town of rolling hills and palm trees outside Orlando, is used to dinners like this now. It's been six months since his family moved into The Palace motel. Six months since he had a freezer large enough to hold ice cream or a quiet place to do homework.
Zach says he worries, about everything. Getting to school is tough. When his dad's paycheck dries up a few days early, there isn't money for gas. Sometimes, his mom says, he just doesn't want to go. Zach worries about their safety. Police arrested four people running a mobile meth lab near the motel the week before. There are sights and smells Zach had never come across before he lived here. At night, when the television is off, they hear things that scare them.
His father, Ronald Montgomery, tall and spirited, sneaks in a chuckle, in spite or disbelief, as he talks about the last year. The lost house. His wife's job. The illnesses. He pours in the rice and sprinkles the cheese powder on the chicken in the skillet as Zach looks on.
"It does make you feel like less of a person, or you're a failure, because you're not providing everything that you've been providing in the past," he says.
"You've only got that door," Zach says, looking at the chain lock and deadbolt separating their room and two beds from the outside world. "I'm thinking someone's going to come in, just come in and do whatever they think they can do."
Homeless. Zach isn't sure that's the word he'd used to describe their situation.
"I do but don't," the stocky, soft-spoken boy says. "If we were in a car I'd say we were more homeless.
"I'd like to have a house," he continues. "But at least I have a roof."
Here in Lake County the number of homeless students has skyrocketed, from 122 in 2005 to more than 2,600 this school year. It's the largest increase in hard hit Florida and echoes the rising numbers seen nationwide as well. Some of those children are living with their parents in a friend's or relative's house. Others are in shelters or motels like Zach. Some with nowhere else to turn take refuge in the woods.
While the nation's unemployment rate has declined to 8.3 percent, in rural Lake County it's still a bruising 9.9 percent. Clermont, the county's largest town, was once predominantly an agricultural community, but in recent years, farms were sold and land cleared for new developments. Then came the recession.
Roads paved in anticipation of new homes and families lead to empty lots. Restaurants that dotted the sparse suburban landscape like Perkins and Dairy Queen have shuttered their doors. Jobs here are scarce.
"We had a lot of people in the construction field, and that has pretty much come to a standstill," says Kristin McCall, the Lake County School District's homeless liaison. "I'm not sure if they've all been able to get back to work. And if they are, I don't think financially it's what they were at before."
Teachers like Sheri Hevener started seeing signs of the distress, and in some cases, homelessness, in her students. They seemed lethargic. More started falling behind on their homework.
"There are some students where it is easily identifiable," she says. "They wear the same thing. It's visibly easy to tell.
"And then there are others that you can't tell because they hide it, for fear."
Zach wasn't one of Hevener's students. When he showed up at her classroom with a friend one day, she wasn't sure why the teenage boy in a T-shirt and shorts that hovered below his knees had come to see her. He carried himself with a sort of confidence that didn't indicate he needed help.
"There were no visual signs," Hevener says. "But I knew he was there for one of two reasons. Nobody comes here unless they're there for one of two reasons."
Hevener, a business teacher, runs a pantry at the school for homeless students and others in need.
"I just wanted to know about it," Zack said when he met her.
She told him about how he could participate in what functions like a secret backpack society. Hevener is the only one who knows the names of the kids involved. Each student is assigned a backpack, which students pack each week with canned vegetables and boxed meals. The pantry also has toiletries, notebooks, baby clothes and prom dresses.
Hevener didn't ask Zack why he needed the help or what his story was.
"I was just waiting for it to come out," she says. "And it did."
It was a July afternoon. Ronald Montgomery, a Disney bus driver, got home from work and found a foreclosure notice on the front door of their three-bedroom home. All of their belongings had to be out within 24 hours.
They'd been paying $950 in rent every month, but the landlord had not kept up with the mortgage. The rental management company told him it was the first they'd heard of any problems with the bank. She promised to look into it and get back to him.
He got the call at work the next morning. The sheriff was coming to collect the keys. Two movers were going over to help. In the matter of an hour and a half all of their furniture was on the front lawn.
And then it started to rain.
"Needless to say we didn't make it in time," Montgomery says.
Zach's bedroom furniture and two living room sets were ruined. In between trips in a U-Haul to the storage locker Montgomery had rented, neighbors came and plucked items from the yard. When they went through the house one last time, the Montgomerys found the movers had hidden some of their items under sinks and in closets.
"They went through all my drawers," Zach says.
That night the Montgomerys stayed at a Days Inn. The little savings they had was gone. A friend's family took in Zach and brought him along on a vacation to St. Augustine.
"He had a wonderful time," Zach's mom, Dawn Montgomery says sadly, as though she were recalling a last good memory.
Situated on top of a hill on Interstate 27, The Palace is made of brick and has about a hundred rooms on two floors. The lobby reeks of cigarettes. An unfinished puzzle lies scattered on a table.
The motel offers a weekly rate of $155. For the Montgomery family it was just about the only option.
Their room has two full size beds, a table with a television, and a wall stacked with all of their belongings. There's one bathroom and one sink, which they use to brush their teeth, shave - and wash the dishes. A plastic bag holds all their utensils. The beds double as a dining room table.
For a while, things seemed to be getting better. But then, in October, Dawn Montgomery lost her job as a bus driver at Disney, where she had worked for 13 years. Two months later, her husband got sick. An untreated cavity turned into a painful abscess that caused his entire jaw to swell. Fortunately, they still had health insurance from his job.
The services they thought would help pull them out have come up short. They were denied food stamps because Ronald Montgomery made $160 a month too much. Food banks weren't much of a help.
"You go to the food bank and its like, `You can go here once a month,'" Dawn Montgomery says. "That bag is not going to last me once a month."
The Montgomerys also are now caring for their 5-year-old granddaughter. Their daughter lives in California.
They don't have debt but just can't get back ahead.
"You just worry," Ronald Montgomery says. "What's going to happen today?"
Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, districts are required to let homeless students attend their original school, even if they move outside the boundaries, and help provide transportation.
"Home life is not that great," McCall says. "But if we can keep them at the same school they've been attending, same friends, same teacher, and at least keep that consistent and stable, that's our goal."
There's another benefit.
"And if we get them there, we can feed them," McCall says.
At about $600 a month, the cost of living in a motel is about the same as many apartment rentals. Yet living in a motel quickly becomes its own kind of trap: While families can afford the monthly payment, they can't save up enough to put down a deposit for a more permanent place.
"We're going to stay here a few weeks and then somewhere else," McCall says families tell her. "And then in two weeks you don't hear from them. They're still there."
Some of the kids at East Ridge High School know about Zach's situation. But he doesn't volunteer much and he doesn't bring friends home after school.
"I'm not really embarrassed," Zach says. "It's just such a small room. You can't really do anything except sit."
To escape, Zach immerses himself in video games he was able to save from the house.
Zach's favorite subject is math and he's thinking about becoming an auto mechanic. But what he really likes is architecture.
"I want to make buildings," he says. "Probably houses."
But Zach hasn't made it to class lately. He says he often wakes up feeling sick. Some days there just isn't money for gas. His dad says he tried to arrange transportation to the school, about 10 miles away, but his messages were not returned.
"That seemed to fall on deaf ears," he says.
The backpack from the school's food pantry is empty.
The next day at school, Zach is not there.
"What can I do?" Hevener says after hearing the news. "There's something more. There's got to be more."
If gas is the issue, maybe there's someone in the community who can help, she wonders aloud.
"He has dreams and hopes of doing something and when you're in a situation like this that looks very bleak," she says.
Others at the school district also struggle for an explanation of Zach's absences. There is a bus less than a quarter mile away from the motel. Did he know about it?
"If we have a bus that's going there and he's not getting to school it's not because we don't have a bus," McCall says.
Hevener said she hadn't seen Zach come to pick up a bag of food since Christmas. She'd inquired with his teachers and they hadn't seen him either.
The district can't say whether anyone tried to contact Zach's family to make arrangements after he didn't show up repeatedly for class. After being asked, calls are made and transportation arranged.
Hevener worries about him dropping out.
"I think it's created a type of anger because of the system, because of what he had to experience," Hevener says. "And a lot of confusion. Like, `Why?' Why did you treat me like that? Why did you treat me like I was less than human?'"
Zach was home, still feeling ill after running a fever the night before, when his father walked in. The elder Montgomery had just been fired by Disney.
The teenager seemed nonchalant when he heard his father had losthis job. It was as though the news hadn't set in. Or as if one more blow was no longer capable of hurting him.
"I'm just waiting for whatever happens next," he says.
janet says the pilots will just have to hope the cockpit door holds…..
leftards like janet hate guns so much they would rather see planes plummet out of the sky because muzlim killers were able to take over the plane rather than anyone on the plane have a gun, and a fighting chance to save a hundred lives.
a program that only costs 15 dollars per plane and is so small in budget that gutting its funding is virtually a political statement as apposed to a budget saving device.
To the Citizens of the United States and the United States Government.
We are Anonymous.
In the past few months, our collective has been organizing the operation known as Operation Blackout. Part of the operation's purpose was to alert the people of the coming bill that was to be called the Stop Online Piracy Act.
This Act would give Congress the power to censor any internet website they wish without consent from the Citizens of the United States. This act would've also had the power to jail any person who infringed on its new copyright law for an equivalence of five years. This copyright law would've had the power to destroy social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Video gameplay and free movies would cease to exist.
However, Operation Blackout was a success. As a collective, we've managed to spread the word and alert the masses. Internet giants such as Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit became hand-in-hand with us as we all managed to make an impact on the decisions of our, "free government". But as we've seen with Megaupload, the government may not need a bill to be passed to get their way. Other operations we've conducted over this time period have awaken the people to the nightmare that is the United States Government. Sections 1031 and 1032 of the National Defense Authorization Act have been ratified. Yet we face new threats.
The United States Government is seeking to pass the Cyber Security Act of 2012. This act is as Orwellian as it sounds; it will endanger our collective and we will not stand by and watch while this government of lies prepares to take away our freedoms. The National Security Agency insists on labeling us as a leaderless, terrorist organization. The question is, "who do we terrorize?". Can it possibly be that the United States government is truly scared of us? Nevertheless, The time for action is now.
Our collective has realized, along with many United States citizens, that the current government is no longer functional. Our economy is unstable, our representatives uncooperative, and our system, destroyed.
We are not calling upon the collective to deface or use a distributed denial of service attack on a United States government agency website or affiliate. We are not calling upon the people to occupy a city or protest in front of a local building. This has not brought on us any legislative change or alternate law. It has only brought us bloodshed and false criticism. For the last 12 years, voting was useless. Corporations and lobbyists are the true leaders of this country and are the ones with the power to control our lives. To rebuild our government, we must first destroy it.
Our time for democracy is here.
Our time for real change is here.
This is America's time, to have its own revolution.
Therefore, Anonymous has decided to openly declare war on the United States government. This is a call to arms. We call upon the Citizens of the United States to stand beside us in overthrowing this corrupted body and call upon a new era. Our allegiance is to the American people, because they are us, and we are them.
Operation V, engaged.
We are Anonymous.
We are Americans.
We never Forgive.
We never Forget.
To the United States government, it's too late to expect us.
REVOLUTION is here.
Afghanistan: "NATO officials promised to meet Afghan nation’s demand of bringing to justice, through an open trial"
Afghanistan takes a breather from its self-immolation in rage to issue a statement. Who in the U.S. military establishment will be the fall guys? The people who followed orders? The people who gave them? And who will conduct the trial, and what range of punishments are possible?
NATO must know full well that it is validating a process that, for many of its backers, can only rightly end through retribution in blood, and even that will not be the end; it will never be enough, because the response is not rational in the first place, and therefore has no rational end point. "Joint Statement by the Delegations Assigned to Probe Bagram Incident," from the Government Media & Information Center of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, February 25 (thanks to Ray):
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
Following the insulting and shameful act of burning Quran in Bagram airbase that injured the religious sentiments of the Islamic world and particularly of the Afghan Muslim nation, two delegations comprising of representatives from government, the National Council of Ulemma and the National Assembly were assigned and dispatched to investigate the circumstances and causes that have led to the inhumane incident.
The delegations, while deeply touched by the religious sentiments shown by the Afghan Muslim and Mujahid nation, inform our citizens of the following:
1. In view of the particular security situation in the country, we call on all our Muslim citizens of Afghanistan to exercise self-restraint and extra vigilance in dealing with the issue and avoid resorting to protests and demonstrations that may provide ground for the enemy to take advantage of the situation.
2. After the shameful incident by the US soldiers stationed in Bagram, senior NATO and American officials expressed their deep apologies to the Muslim nation of Afghanistan and assured that such incidents will not happen again.
3. NATO officials promised to meet Afghan nation’s demand of bringing to justice, through an open trial, those responsible for the incident and it was agreed that the perpetrators of the crime be brought to justice as soon as possible.
4. The assigned delegations demand from the government of Afghanistan to take over from the Americans the authority of the Bagram prison so no such incidents can recur and calls on the US government to fully and comprehensively cooperate to this end.5. The delegations also want from the Afghan government to formally praise those brave Afghan army soldiers and all others who showed feelings against the disrespectful act by preventing more religious books and Quran copies from burning, so that the pure Muslim sentiments of our honored Mujahid nation can remain alive.
This is some serious preening and pandering by the Karzai government to shore up its credentials as a pious regime.
Yep, that'll work for me.
Egyptian MP Urges Arab States to Protest at Quran Burning by Cutting Ties with US
TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Egyptian legislator called on the Arab countries to voice their protest at the desecration of the Holy Quran at a US base in Afghanistan by cutting relations with Washington.
"The US militaries' burning of Quran is an insult to Islam and Muslims and a new position should be adopted against the US administration which has done nothing but apologizing," Ahmad Abdul-Al told FNA on Tuesday.
He called on all parliaments of the Arab states to cut relations with Washington until the culprits of this action are tried and Muslims' rights are restored.
In relevant remarks, a prominent Iranian Islamist organization had earlier lashed out at the Muslim world's silence on the burning of the Muslims' Holy Book by American soldiers in Afghanistan, and urged the Muslim Ummah to show a strong and extensive reaction to the sacrilege of Islamic values.
"The Muslim world's silence on the US soldiers (provocative) act in Afghanistan is not justifiable," the International Union of Unified Ummah (Community) said in a statement on Monday, and condemned the desecration of the Muslims' holy Book.
The IUUU called on Muslim scholars and elites to show proper reaction to such insults, specially at a time when Islamic awakening movements are sweeping the region.
At least 25 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in Afghan protests against the desecration of the Holy Quran since it first emerged that copies of Quran and religious materials had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field.
Americans have set fire to the copies of the Holy Quran on several occasions thus far. Angry Afghans have staged increasing protests across the war-torn country since the US troops burnt the Holy Quran in their base in Afghanistan.
Arrogant condescending prick.
Obama to UAW: ‘Trying to Climb to the Very Top’ Is ‘Greed,’ Not What America’s ‘About’
(CNSNews.com) – President Obama – in a speech to the United Auto Workers union – said that “trying to climb to the very top” was not what America is “about,” saying that it was “greed” and that in reality “we’re all in it together.”
“America’s not just looking out for yourself, it’s not just about greed, it’s not just about trying to climb to the very top and keep everybody else down,” Obama said at the UAW’s annual National Community Action Program Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
Instead, Obama – who climbed to the very top of American politics just three years ago – said that instead America was about being “all in it together,” and giving people “a hand up.”
“When our assembly lines grind to a halt, we work together, and we get them going again,” he said. “When somebody else falters, we try to give them a hand up, because we know [that] we’re all in it together.”
Obama also attacked critics of his bailout policies who say that saving failed companies does not reflect traditional American values.
“I keep on hearing these same folks talk about values all the time. You want to talk about values? Hard work, that’s a value. Looking out for one another, that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together and [that] I’m my brother’s keeper and [my] sister’s keeper, that’s a value,” Obama declared.
Obama criticized what he called the “you-are-on-your-own philosophy” of his opponents, saying they were “anti-worker” and “wrong.”
“You know, this notion that we should have let the auto industry die, that we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that unions like yours will buckle and unravel, that’s part of that same old you-are-on-your-own philosophy that says we should just leave everybody to fend for themselves,” Obama said.
“Not to put too fine a point on it – they’re wrong,” he added.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
From the Washington Times:
Young American Muslims can become radicalized online very quickly and with few warning signs, becoming potential terrorists before federal agencies can identify them, a new congressional report warned Monday.
Zachary Chesser, a 22-year-old Virginia man now serving 25 years for terrorism crimes, took less than two years to transform “from an average American kid to a hardened supporter of terrorist organizations,” according to a study of his case by staff from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The bipartisan report analyzes his prolific online writing and correspondence with staff investigators after his guilty plea October 2010 to three terrorism-related felonies. The charges included attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization through his efforts to join al-Shabab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.
“Chesser represents a growing breed of young Americans who have such comfort and facility with social media that they can self-radicalize to violent Islamist extremism in an accelerated time period, compared to more traditional routes to radicalization,” the report said.
Chesser, who converted to Islam after graduating high school in 2008, is “a harbinger, not an outlier,” according to the report.
The report concluded that the federal government lacks a coordinated strategy to combat online radicalization, although it called a new State Department initiative aimed at countering terrorist chat on social media sites “encouraging but nascent.”
“The United States currently has a haphazard approach to dealing with global Internet radicalization and propaganda,” the report said.
Monday, February 27, 2012
A concept anathema to our commander in chief
Gertz/Washington Free Beacon:
Obama to cut healthcare benefits for active duty and retired US military
The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.
The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.
The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.
Many in Congress are opposing the proposed changes, which would require the passage of new legislation before being put in place.
“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”
Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.
Military personnel from several of the armed services voiced their opposition to a means-tested tier system for Tricare, prompting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to issue a statement Feb. 21.
Dempsey said the military is making tough choices in cutting defense spending. In addition to the $487 billion over 10 years, the Pentagon is facing automatic cuts that could push the total reductions to $1 trillion.
“I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for Tricare in retirement,” Dempsey said. “You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.”
Under the new plan, the Pentagon would get the bulk of its savings by targeting under-65 and Medicare-eligible military retirees through a tiered increase in annual Tricare premiums that will be based on yearly retirement pay.
Significantly, the plan calls for increases between 30 percent to 78 percent in Tricare annual premiums for the first year. After that, the plan will impose five-year increases ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.
According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.
The new plan hits active duty personnel by increasing co-payments for pharmaceuticals and eliminating incentives for using generic drugs.
The changes are worrying some in the Pentagon who fear it will severely impact efforts to recruit and maintain a high-quality all-volunteer military force. Such benefits have been a key tool for recruiting qualified people and keeping them in uniform.
“Would you stay with a car insurance company that raised your premiums by 345 percent in five years? Probably not,” said the congressional aide. “Would anybody accept their taxes being raised 345 percent in five years? Probably not.”
A second congressional aide said the administration’s approach to the cuts shows a double standard that hurts the military.
“We all recognize that we are in a time of austerity,” this aide said. “But defense has made up to this point 50 percent of deficit reduction cuts that we agreed to, but is only 20 percent of the budget.”
The administration is asking troops to get by without the equipment and force levels needed for global missions. “And now they are going to them again and asking them to pay more for their health care when you’ve held the civilian workforce at DoD and across the federal government virtually harmless in all of these cuts. And it just doesn’t seem fair,” the second aide said.
Spokesmen for the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not respond to requests for comment on the Tricare increases.
The massive increases beginning next year appear timed to avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year, critics of the plan say.
Additionally, the critics said leaving civilian workers’ benefits unchanged while hitting the military reflect the administration’s effort to court labor unions, as government unions are the only segment of organized labor that has increased in recent years.
As part of the increased healthcare costs, the Pentagon also will impose an annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, a new program that all military retirees automatically must join at age 65. Currently, to enroll in Tricare for Life, retirees pay the equivalent of a monthly Medicare premium.
Under the proposed Pentagon plan, retirees will be hit with an additional annual enrollment fee on top of the monthly premium.
Congressional aides said that despite unanimous support among the military chiefs for the current healthcare changes, some senior officials in the Pentagon are opposing the reforms, in particular the tiered system of healthcare.
“It doesn’t matter what the benefit is, whether it’s commissary, PX, or healthcare, or whatever … under the rationale that if you raise your hand and sign up to serve, you earn a base set of benefits, and it should have nothing to do with your rank when you served, and how much you’re making when you retire,” the first aide said.
Military service organizations are opposing the healthcare changes and say the Pentagon is “means-testing” benefits for service personnel as if they were a social program, and not something earned with 20 or more years of military service.
Retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America, said the Military Coalition, 32 military service and veterans groups with an estimated 5 million members, is fighting the proposed healthcare increases, specifically the use of mean-testing for cost increases.
“We think it’s absolutely wrong,” Beasley told the Free Beacon. “This is a breach of faith” for both the active duty and retiree communities.
Congressional hearings are set for next month.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Feb. 23 called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the healthcare increases.
“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, head of the 2 million-member VFW. “Any proposal that negatively impacts any quality of life program must be defeated, and that’s why the VFW is asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to Congress.”
Senior Air Force leaders are expected to be asked about the health care cost increases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Congress must pass all the proposed changes into law, as last year’s defense authorization bill preemptively limited how much the Pentagon could increase some Tricare fees, while other fees already were limited in law.
Tricare for Life, Tricare Prime, and Tricare Standard increases must be approved, as well as some of the pharmacy fee increases, congressional aides said.
Current law limits Tricare fee increases to cost of living increases in retirement pay.
Buffett: Banks Victimized by Evicted Homeowners
Warren Buffett, who controls thebiggest shareholding of the No. 1 U.S. mortgage lender, said banks were victimized by some homeowners who refinanced their loans before getting evicted.
“Large numbers of people who have ‘lost’ their house through foreclosure have actually realized a profit because they carried out refinancings earlier that gave them cash in excess of their cost,” Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said Feb. 25 in his annual letter.“In these cases, the evicted homeowner was the winner, and the victim was the lender.”
Foreclosures have claimed about 5 million homes since theproperty market began its slide in 2006. That has saddled lenders like Bank of America Corp. with defaults, vacated properties and lawsuits. Berkshire, whose stake in Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the largest U.S. mortgage lender, is valued at more than $11 billion, invested $5 billion in Bank of America last year.
“It’s the mercenary side of Buffett,” said Jeff Matthews, a Berkshire shareholder and author of “Secrets in Plain Sight: Business & Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett.” “Rationally, it’s an interesting observation. But it ignores the huge human-cost side of the equation.”
Buffett, who publicly defended Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in 2010 against accusations it misled clients, used the letter to renew his support for banks. The industry is facing criticism from Democrats including President Barack Obama, who in his January State of the Union address said bets by lenders prompted the 2008 credit freeze and “left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag.”
‘Enough With the Lambasting’
Buffett, an ally of Obama’s, has won praise from Democratic lawmakers as the billionaire campaigned for higher taxes on the wealthy. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire owns warrants to purchase $5 billion of stock in New York-based Goldman Sachs.
“Maybe this was kind of a message to his Democratic buddies,” said David Rolfe, chief investment officer of Berkshire shareholder Wedgewood Partners Inc. “Buffett is saying, ‘We know where the egregious acts were, so enough with the lambasting of the banking system and all these bankers.’”
Blame for the housing bubble and subsequent slump should be shared among lenders and borrowers, as well as the government, bond-rating firms and the media, Buffett has said. In his letter, read by investors around the world, Buffett praisedJamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Bank of America’sBrian T. Moynihan. JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Bank of America have all repaid U.S. bailout funds.
“The banking industry is back on its feet,” Buffett said.
Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charles Munger, 88, have criticized bankers for contributing to the housing bubble. Munger, in July, blamed the real-estate boom on “megalomania, insanity and evil in, I would say, investment banking, mortgage banking.” Buffett said in October 2010 that Wall Street helps society through finance, while its bets may do harm, “like a church that’s running raffles on the weekend.”
Charles Ortel, managing director of Newport Value Partners, said lenders failed to do sufficient underwriting because they counted on selling the mortgages to investors.
“So nobody had any skin in the game, except we the taxpayers, as it turned out,” Ortel said. “Banks didn’t do the required credit work.”
Wells Fargo posted record profit for the fourth quarter as mortgage financing improved, the San Francisco-based company said last month. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America has gained 42 percent this year in New York through Feb. 24 as it swung to a quarterly profit.
“Wells Fargo is prospering,” Buffett said. “At Bank of America, some huge mistakes were made by prior management. Brian Moynihan has made excellent progress in cleaning these up.”
Sunday, February 26, 2012
'US to announce aerial blockade on Syria'
US readies for possibility of intervention without UN resolution, Asharq Al-Awsat reports, citing US military official; plan to include humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees on Turkey's border
The Pentagon is readying for the possibility of intervention in Syria, aiming to halt Syrian President Bashsar Assad's violent crackdown on protesters, the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Saturday, citing a US military offical.
According to the official, the intervention scenario calls for the establishment of a buffer zone on the Turkish border, in order to receive Syrian refugees. The Red Cross would then provide the civilians humanitarian aid, before NATO crews would arrive from Turkey and join the efforts.
The measure would pave the way for the US to declare an aerial blockade on Syria.
The intercession is to be modeled after NATO's efforts in Kosovo, which brought an end to the Serbian control of the region. NATO's plan of action included prolonged aerial shelling.
The US' diplomatic efforts have yet to yield an effective international resolution that would stop the bloodshed. More than 100 protesters have died over the weekend alone, human rights activists said.
Russia, China to join aid efforts?
According to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Pentagon does not anticipate a change of heart on the part of China or Russia, who have opposed foreign intervention or sanctions against Syria. But the US expects the two nations to join the humanitarian aid efforts, support a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and rebels and send special UN envoys to investigate the developments in the country.
The next step in the reported US Department of Defense plan would be to appoint a team of UN observers to monitor the humanitarian aid, and enter Syria. They would need aerial protection, which would eventually lead to an aerial blockade.
The military official said in the interview that the plan is a cautious one, and takes into account the Syrian air force's advanced capabilities.
In his most forceful words to date on the Syrian crisis, US President Barack Obama said Friday the US and its allies would use "every tool available" to end the bloodshed by Assad's government.
"It is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government," Obama said in Washington, adding that it "absolutely imperative for the international community to rally and send a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition. It is time for that regime to move on."
As government troops relentlessly shelled rebel-held neighborhoods in the besieged city of Homs, thousands of people in dozens of towns staged anti-regime protests under the slogan: "We will revolt for your sake, Baba Amr," referring to the Homs neighborhood that has become the center of the Syrian revolt.
Opposition groups reported that 103 people were killed on Friday by the regime's forces.
Karzai’s Response to Obama’s Apology: Put U.S. Troops on Trial and Punish Them
(CNSNews.com) - Three days after President Barack Obama dispatched his ambassador to Afghanistan to hand deliver a personal letter from the president of the United States to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing because U.S. forces at Bagram Air Force Base had mistakenly burnt some Korans, Karzai has responded to the gesture in a statement broadcast live on Afghan television.
Karzai, according to a BBC translation of his remarks made Sunday, told the Afghan people he was speaking to them after discussing the matter with “jihadi leaders,” “prominent scholars,” and Afghan elected officials, and that he spoke for the “pure sentiments” of the “Afghan nation” and the “Islamic world,” when he said: “We call on the US government to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice and put them on trial and punish them.”
At the same time Karzai was demanding the prosecution and punishment of U.S. troops involved in the Koran-burning incident, he conceded that the U.S. government had indicated that the Koran burning “was not deliberate.”
"We all know that regrettably some days ago an American soldier burnt our Holy Koran,” Karzai said, according to the BBC translation. “We condemn this vicious act in the strongest terms. The government and the people, scholars, tribal dignitaries, spiritual figures of Afghanistan, the educated people of our country all share the people's feelings... Our people's sensitiveness is right and is laudable.”
"The US government says that such act was carried out because of ignorance and lack of knowledge,” Karzai said. “This incident happened as a result of the ignorance of the US military officer about our vision about Islam and not recognizing the Koran. It was not deliberate."
"Today,” Karzai said, “we had a detailed session attended by jihadi leaders, prominent scholars, speakers of both houses--the lower house and the senate--the esteemed chief justice, vice presidents and other dignitaries and our government. We discussed the matter of the burning of the Holy Koran. Representing the Afghan nation and their pure sentiments, in fact the Islamic world, once again we call on the US government to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice and put them on trial and punish them."
While lauding the Afghan people for the “sensitiveness” to the Koran burning, and calling for the prosecution and punishment of the U.S. military personnel involved, Karzai appealed to Afghans to calm down and allow the Afghan and U.S. governments to move “pursue the matter.”
"We should all try to calm down and by calming down we should not allow the enemies of security and peace and progress of the people of Afghanistan to misuse or hurt our people's property or our people's lives by using the people's sensitiveness,” said Karzai. “We hope our people will be calm and develop the country. They should be sure that the government of Afghanistan and all its institutions will pursue the matter and we and the US government will pursue the matter."
The White House did not publicly release the three-page letter that Obama sent to Karzai on Thursday. However, the New York Times reported on Friday, that Karzai’s press office said two of the sentences in Obama’s letter said: “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”
Worshippers Kill Suspected Fleeing Church Bomber
Angry worshippers at the headquarters of Church Of Christ In Nations (COCIN) in Jos on Sunday killed one of the two suspected bearers of the explosives that hit the Church in the morning.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bomber and one other, who both wore army camouflage, drove into the Church and beat the security before hitting the building.
NAN correspondent, who was at the scene, reports that the suspect appeared to be in his early 30s.
The suspect, who wore a neatly carved moustache, looked well-fed.
But probably afraid of dying, the bomb carrier jumped out of the vehicle just before the blast went off and attempted to run but could not move as he was affected by the blast.
The angry worshipers, however, descended on him and clubbed him to death.
An eyewitness and a worshipper in the Church, Joyce Dalyop, told NAN that there were arguments among the worshipers over what to do with the bomber before he was finally killed.
``Immediately they (bombers) entered the Church, one of them jumped out of the black jeep but luck ran out of him as the explosion affected him and so he could not run very fast before he was caught.’’
``Some people even pleaded that he should not be killed; they suggested that he should be handed over to Police for further investigation, but others argued that the police could not be trusted and opined that the suspect may be released,” she said.
Another worshipper in the Church, Elder Bulus Haruna, said that the other bomber, who drove the vehicle, was blown into pieces together with the vehicle that was reduced to only the engine.
``His (bomber) body parts were scattered everywhere – the legs and hands were charred and had become roasted by the fire from the explosion,” he said.
Commander Views US Helplessness as Root Cause of Quran Burning by American Soldiers
"The US has committed such an ugly action and burnt Quran because of the heavy slap it has been given by Islam," Commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi said on Saturday.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
The point of view of the victims is almost always the same: How can anyone do this to another human being?
The point of view of the sociopaths is also consistent: How can anyone be naive, trusting, and foolish enough to let someone do this to them?
The same question could be asked of modern Western society. If we didn't have so many people who believed that everyone is good, that every culture is equally deserving of respect, and that every religion is at its core the same as every other religion, we wouldn't be in this mess, regardless of what orthodox Muslims were doing.
The reason sociopaths are able to take advantage of their victims is because the victims do not believe someone can be so cold and unfeeling. They don't know anything about sociopathy. They don't know it is possible. And they assume everyone else is like them: Good at heart. A decent, law-abiding citizen who tries to be fair with everyone and who feels empathy for others.
The assumption is their undoing. Sociopaths exploit that assumption for all its worth, and leave a trail of broken lives in their wake.
Same with the West. The assumptions many of us are making has allowed Islamic supremacism to get as far as it has gotten.
From Mail Online, dated February 25, 2012:
A furious mob has desecrated dozens of Commonwealth War Graves in a Libyan cemetery amid continuing fury in the Middle East over the burning of the Koran by U.S. soldiers.Much more about the Koranifada at the above link.
Headstones commemorating British and Allied servicemen, killed during World War II campaigns in the Western Desert, lay smashed and strewn across Benghazi Military Cemetery.
Protesters rampaged through site on Friday, despite efforts by America to calm tensions sparked when it emerged U.S. soldiers had burned Muslim holy books in a pile of rubbish at a military base in Afghanistan....
Military sources said that books were removed from the library of a nearby detention center because they contained extremist messages.
Prisoners had been writing in the books as way of communicating....
Video added by AOW: