Apr 16

86 Million Workers Sustain 148 Million Benefit Takers…


Buried deep on the website of the U.S. Census Bureau is a number every American citizen, and especially those entrusted with public office, should know. It is 86,429,000. That is the number of Americans who in 2012 got up every morning and went to work — in the private sector — and did it week after week after week. These are the people who built America, and these are the people who can sustain it as a free country. The liberal media have not made them famous like the polar bear, but they are truly a threatened species. It is not a rancher with a few hundred head of cattle that is attacking their habitat, nor an energy company developing a fossil fuel. It is big government and its primary weapon — an ever-expanding welfare state. First, let’s look at the basic taxonomy of the full-time, year-round American worker. In 2012, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 103,087,000 people worked full-time, year-round in the United States. “A full-time, year-round worker is a person who worked 35 or more hours per week (full time) and 50 or more weeks during the previous calendar year (year round),” said the Census Bureau. “For school personnel, summer vacation is counted as weeks worked if they are scheduled to return to their job in the fall.” Of the 103,087,000 full-time, year-round workers, 16,606,000 worked for the government. That included 12,597,000 who worked for state and local government and 4,009,000 who worked for the federal government. The 86,429,000 Americans who worked full-time, year-round in the private sector, included 77,392,000 employed as wage and salary workers for private-sector enterprises and 9,037,000 who worked for themselves. (There were also approximately 52,000 who worked full-time, year-round without pay in a family enterprise.) At first glance, 86,429,000 might seem like a healthy population of full-time private-sector workers. But then you need to look at what they are up against. The Census Bureau also estimates the size of the benefit-receiving population. This population, too, falls into two broad categories. The first includes those who receive benefits for public services they performed or in exchange for payroll taxes they dutifully paid their entire working lives. Among these, for example, are those receiving veteran’s benefits, those on unemployment and those getting Medicare and Social Security.

The second category includes those who get “means-tested” government benefits — or welfare. These include, for example, those who get Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Women, Infants Children. Let’s examine this second category first, which the Census Bureau reports as “anyone residing in a household in which one or more people received benefits from the program.” In the last quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 82,457,000 people lived in households where one or more people were on Medicaid. 49,073,000 lived in households were someone got food stamps. 23,228,000 lived in households where one or more got WIC. 20,223,000 lived in households where one or more got SSI. 13,433,000 lived in public or government-subsidized housing. Of course, it stands to reason that some people lived in households that received more than one welfare benefit at a time. To account for this, the Census Bureau published a neat composite statistic: There were 108,592,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2011 who lived in a household that included people on “one or more means-tested program.” Those 108,592,000 outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private-sector workers who inhabited the United States in 2012 by almost 1.3 to 1. This brings us to the first category of benefit receivers. There were 49,901,000 people receiving Social Security in the fourth quarter of 2011, and 46,440,000 receiving Medicare. There were also 5,098,000 getting unemployment compensation. And there were also, 3,178,000 veterans receiving benefits and 34,000 veterans getting educational assistance. All told, including both the welfare recipients and the non-welfare beneficiaries, there were 151,014,000 who “received benefits from one or more programs” in the fourth quarter of 2011. Subtract the 3,212,000 veterans, who served their country in the most profound way possible, and that leaves 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers. More

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Apr 16

WARS N RUMORS OF WARS – NATO Plans New Deployments in response to Russia Crisis


The head of NATO pledged on Wednesday to immediately step up military patrols along the alliance’s vast eastern border in response to mounting evidence of Russian interference in Ukraine. The announcement by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, appeared to be another sign that the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine was becoming more acute. But Mr. Rasmussen emphasized that the move was designed to be a deterrent rather than preparation for conflict. “Our decisions today are about defense, deterrence and de-escalation,” Mr. Rasmussen said in a statement posted on the NATO website. “NATO will protect every ally and defend against any threat against our fundamental security,” he said. Even so, the moves represent a significant strengthening of NATO’s posture in a region where it is already operating an air-policing mission in the Baltic states and surveillance flights over Poland and Romania. Mr. Rasmussen said the decision on Wednesday meant that aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region and that allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required.  In addition, military personnel will deploy “to enhance our preparedness, training and exercises,” he said. “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land,” he said.

The measures will be implemented “straight away,” he said, and “more will follow, if needed, in the weeks and months to come.” Mr. Rasmussen also renewed calls on Russia to stop destabilizing Ukraine, to pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border and to “make clear it doesn’t support the violent actions of well-armed militias of pro-Russian separatists.” At a separate news conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said preparations were underway among the bloc’s leadership to strengthen sanctions against Russia if necessary. “When it comes to Stage 3, the preparatory work is in an advanced stage,” said Ms. Kocijancic, referring to a possible toughening of measures that are already in place.  Ms. Kocijancic declined to comment on whether European Union divisiveness over how to react to evidence of growing Russian interference in Ukraine was affecting plans for a possible summit meeting next week. She said it would be up to Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, to decide whether to hold such a meeting. The announcement that NATO was strengthening its presence in Eastern Europe heightened nerves about Ukraine across all of Europe. More

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Apr 16

WARS N RUMORS OF WARS – Ukraine Crisis could start World War 3!

A Ukrainian military convoy traveling towards the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk where Russian nationalists have seized the regional administration building
Deep in the flat and featureless landscape of eastern Ukraine, it is all too ­possible that the outline of World War III is taking shape. Whipped up by the Kremlin ­propaganda machine and led by Russian ­military intelligence, armed men are erecting road blocks, storming police stations and ripping down the country’s flag.  They are demolishing not just their own country — bankrupt, ill-run and beleaguered — but also the post-war order that has kept most of Europe and us, here in Britain, safe and free for decades. Vladimir Putin is striking at the heart of the West.  His target is our inability to work with allies in defence against common threats. The profoundly depressing fact is that the events of the past few months, as Russia has annexed the Crimea and ­suppressed opposition in Ukraine, have shown the West to be divided, humiliated and powerless in the face of these land grabs. We are soon to face a bleak choice.

As the tension escalates a Ukranian air force Su-27 fighter patrols an area 100 miles from the Russian border in estern UrkraineWe can chose to surrender any responsibility we have to protect Ukraine and the Baltic states — almost certainly Putin’s next target — from further Russian incursion. Or we can mount a last-ditch attempt to deter Russia from furthering its imperial ambitions.  If we do choose to resist Putin, we will risk a terrifying military escalation, which I do not think it an exaggeration to say could bring us to the brink of nuclear war. Putin knows that. And he believes we will choose surrender. For the real story of recent events in Ukraine is not about whether that country has a free-trade deal with Brussels or gets its gas from Moscow.  It is about brute power. It is about whether Putin’s Russia — a rogue state on Europe’s doorstep — can hold its neighbours to ­ransom, and whether we have the will to resist him. So far the answer to the first question is yes. And to the second a bleak no. The Russian leader believes the collapse of the Soviet Union was a ‘geopolitical catastrophe’. He believes Russia was stripped of its empire by the West’s chicanery. And quite simply, he wants it back. When the Soviet Union was ­dissolved in 1991, the former captive nations of Eastern Europe scrambled into Nato and the protection it offered as fast as they could. More

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Apr 16

Detroit snow breaks records, topples power lines, creates flooding risk


A spring storm shattered seasonal snowfall records in Detroit and Flint, as melting snow and rising rivers from heavy rain threatened homes Tuesday.  The snow came after a weather roller coaster Monday, with rivers overflowing their banks and hundreds of thousands of people losing power. Mid-70s temperatures in some parts of the state tumbled below freezing by Tuesday morning. By the time the snow ended Tuesday morning, 3.1 inches had fallen at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, pushing the seasonal total to 94.8 inches, and making it the snowiest winter on record, the weather service said.

That exceeded the previous Detroit seasonal record of 93.6 inches from the winter of 1880-1881.  The state’s largest utilities said crews are working to finish restoring power to about 35,000 homes and businesses without service following storms packing high winds that began on Saturday. Cleanup also continues from those storms, including at damaged schools in Kent County and the village of Byron. In Flint, 1.3 inches fell as of Tuesday morning, pushing the seasonal total to 83.9 inches. That exceeded the previous Flint seasonal record of 82.9 inches from the winter of 1974-1975. ”Most people alive today have never experienced this,” said Brian Tilley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in suburban Detroit. ”It’s probably the best way to sum it up, without getting carried away with superlatives.” Flood warnings are in effect along rivers in a wide swath of the Lower Peninsula. The Muskegon River in western Michigan was 3.3 feet over its banks at Evart in Osceola County on Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service said, and earlier it was 2.8 feet over flood stage near Croton Dam in Newaygo County’s Croton Township.

Water at Croton Dam, about 35 miles north of Grand Rapids, was expected to remain high through next week, the weather service said. Newaygo County’s emergency services director on Monday told some downstream to evacuate. The Muskegon River caused flooding in the Newaygo County community of Grant. Flooding also was reported along the Pere Marquette, Chippewa, Tittabawassee and White rivers. And forecasters are asking people to keep an eye out for rising water levels in the Escanaba River in the Upper Peninsula. Newaygo, Mecosta, Midland, Osceola and Wexford counties have declared local state of emergencies, which enable them to execute operations plans, and administrate local aid and assistance, the state said.  Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. said about 28,000 of its 150,000 affected electricity customers were offline Tuesday morning, including 15,000 in Oakland County, 5,000 in Wayne County and 2,000 in Macomb County. Crews from Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin are assisting. Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. says 7,000 of its more than 149,000 affected Consumers Energy customers were without service Tuesday morning. Outages include about 1,950 in Montcalm County, about 800 in Newaygo County and about 770 in Muskegon County. ”Mother Nature has provided a challenging combination of rains, high winds and even snow since Saturday night,” Mary Palkovich, Consumers Energy’s vice president of energy delivery, said in statement. “However, we’re confident that we soon will be finished restoring power to the communities we serve.” More

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Apr 16

FBI Visiting Gun Shops to Investigate “People Talking About Big Government”

FBI counter terrorism agents are visiting gun shops in South Carolina to investigate “suspicious purchases” made by people who talk about “big government,” according to a new report. Author Brandon Turbeville says he was approached by an individual who works in a Columbia, South Carolina gun shop to relate the story of how an FBI agent entered the store on Monday, showed his credentials, before proceeding to ask a series of stunning questions. Telling the gun store worker he was tasked with visiting all the firearms outlets in the local area to check on “suspicious purchases” for counter terrorism purposes, the agent then began discussing what in actual fact were “completely normal transactions,” such as, “paying with cash, purchasing long guns, and other similarly innocuous behavior.” The FBI agent then reportedly made a shocking remark that almost seems too chilling to believe. “If you see some Middle Eastern guy come in, you don’t have to be so worried about that. What we’re really looking for are people talking about being sovereign such as sovereign citizens or people talking about big government,” the agent reportedly stated.

Before the agent left the store, he handed the employee a flyer which lists paying with cash, buying in bulk, along with other seemingly innocuous behavior as suspicious activity. While there’s little chance of verifying the story since the FBI would almost certainly deny the claim, the notion of FBI agents charactering innocuous activity as a potential indication of terrorism is firmly established in the federal agency’s own literature and training procedures. The FBI has also repeatedly labeled those who identify as “sovereign citizens” to be domestic terrorists. In 2012, we reported on how the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism (CAT) program was instructing businesses that banal activities conducted by millions of Americans on a daily basis were potential indications of terrorist activity. Flyers for the program being handed out to businesses such as Internet cafes even listed paying for a cup of coffee with cash as a suspicious activity. More

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Apr 16

Rouhani says Iran sanctions will unravel in months

President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday international sanctions on Iran would unravel in months following negotiations with world powers on its nuclear program, the official IRNA news agency reported. Some international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program have been eased temporarily after a deal was reached last year with world powers, but Washington has said the lifting of sanctions can only happen “in total” after a comprehensive deal is reached. ”With your support, this government has taken the first steps towards the lifting of the brutal sanctions … We will witness the sanctions shattering in the coming months,” Rouhani told a crowd during a tour of Sistan-Baluchestan, a restive underdeveloped province bordering Pakistan. ”Today we already see the sanctions unraveling,” he said, according to IRNA, referring to the modest easing of sanctions in return for concessions made by Rouhani’s government in nuclear talks with world powers. World powers want Iran to curb its nuclear activity, which Western nations fear is aimed at giving Tehran the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Iran denies that, saying its nuclear program is only for power generation and civilian uses. The sanctions have bitten deeply. In late 2012, Iran’s economy was losing billions of dollars per month as sanctions slashed oil sales. Its currency plunged, inflation jumped and the economy went into recession. In an interim deal with Iran reached in November, U.S. and E.U. negotiators agreed to lift sanctions on sectors such as petrochemicals and precious metals for six months, with broader sanctions relief if Iran agrees to permanent curbs on its nuclear program.

The president blamed both the sanctions and “tactless policies” by the previous hardline administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the economic hardship faced by his nation. ”Due to the brutal sanctions and unwise administration, our country has faced myriad problems in the past years… but we will break down the inhuman sanctions,” Rouhani said. ”We will prove to the world through these negotiations that what has been said about Iran is a lie. Iran has never pursued nuclear weapons and never will.” Negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – met in Vienna last week to start drafting a long-term agreement on settling their decade-old nuclear dispute by a July 20 deadline. Western powers, along with Russia and China, want to prevent tensions in the Middle East from boiling over into a wider war or triggering a regional nuclear arms race. Iran exported oil at levels higher than allowed under the sanctions for a fourth straight month in February, ship loading data seen by Reuters showed, raising the risk of a crackdown if Washington feels economic pressure is being relaxed too quickly. Iran’s main clients are mostly in Asia. More

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Apr 16

Jordan air force strikes cars near Syria

Syrian man carrying the body of a child killed by an airstrike in Aleppo
Jordan’s army says the country’s air force has attacked cars that were at the kingdom’s border with neighboring Syria. An army statement says the attack happened Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT). The statement says the camouflaged vehicles were driving in a rugged area near the border and ignored demands to stop from security forces. The statement says Jordanian warplanes fired warning shots at the vehicles. The statement says the vehicles didn’t stop and were then destroyed in airstrikes. The statement did not say how many vehicles were destroyed, nor did it offer casualty figures. Yahoo News

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Apr 16

DEATH TOLL IN EBOLA OUTBREAK RISES TO 121


DAKAR, Senegal
(AP) — An outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has been linked to the deaths of more than 120 people, according to the latest World Health Organization count. There is no vaccine and no cure for the deadly virus, and its appearance in West Africa, far from its usual sites in Central and East Africa, has caused some panic. Health workers are trying to contain its spread, tracking down anyone with whom the sick have had contact. Mali announced Tuesday that samples from all its suspected cases had tested negative for the disease. Malian Health Minister Ousmane Kone said that the country had sent out 10 samples for testing at labs in the United States and Senegal, and all were declared negative for Ebola. There are no other known suspected cases in the country.  As of Monday, the U.N. health agency said it had recorded a total of 200 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola, the majority of which are in Guinea. That figure includes some of the Mali cases that the government now says are negative. The organization said the deaths of 121 people in Guinea and Liberia have been linked to the disease. Officials have said the current outbreak could last months. Associated Press

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Apr 16

Obama Administration in Talks for Detroit Bailout.

US-POLITICS-OBAMA-PRAYER
The Obama administration and state officials are in discussions on a deal that would free up an additional $100 million to soften the blow to Detroit pensioners, two people familiar with the talks told the Free Press late Tuesday. The two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information, confirmed that there have been talks about the federal government supporting a move by the state to give Detroit $100 million in federal money for blight remediation. That, in turn, would free up $100 million of the more than $500 million that emergency manager Kevyn Orr planned to spend for blight removal over the next 10 years. Orr could then use that money to reduce pension cuts.  The federal funds would come from the Hardest Hit Fund, a $7.6-billion Obama administration effort established in 2010 to help the 18 states most hurt by the housing downturn. Michigan received $498.6 million to operate homeowner assistance programs, including those offering mortgage subsidies, home loan rescues, mortgage modifications and principal debt reductions.

But as of last summer, only a portion — about $2 billion nationwide and about $94 million in Michigan — had been spent. It was at that time that the U.S. Treasury allowed the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to use up to $100 million in unspent funds on demolitions in five cities, with the bulk going to Detroit. The $100 million that’s now the focus of negotiations is separate from the $100 million that was set aside for blight removal in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Pontiac, the sources said. But the talks are fraught with political ramifications for both President Barack Obama and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Obama, not keen to set a precedent of the federal government sending money to cities or states with deep pension debts, has publicly said there’s no support for a bailout of bankrupt Detroit. But Obama also has been under pressure from unions not to let retirees suffer in Detroit, a city that votes heavily Democratic. More

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Apr 16

China Growth hits 24 Year Low


China’s economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter but appeared strong enough to satisfy Chinese leaders who are trying to put the country on a more sustainable path without politically dangerous job losses.  The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.4 percent from a year earlier in the January-March quarter, down from the previous quarter’s 7.7 percent, government data showed Wednesday. It matched a mini-slump in late 2012 for the weakest growth since the 2008-09 global crisis. Beijing is trying to guide China’s economy toward growth based on domestic consumption instead of trade and investment following the past decade’s explosive expansion. The top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, last week ruled out new stimulus and said leaders will focus on “sustainable and healthy development.” ”Chinese growth held up better than expected last quarter and there are signs that downwards pressure on growth has eased somewhat,” said analyst Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. Retail sales and factory output were weaker than in the previous quarter but improved in March. On a quarter-to-quarter basis, economic growth from January to March slowed to 1.4 percent from the previous period’s 1.8 percent. The data reflect official efforts to shift emphasis from investment-intensive industry to services such as restaurants and retailing that generate more jobs.

Credit growth slowed in March and the expansion of China’s overall money supply rose at its slowest rate since 1997. Housing sales in the first quarter declined 5.7 percent from a year earlier. ”The continued slowdown in money and credit growth is likely to keep exerting relentless downward pressure on China’s economic growth,” said Societe Generale economist Wei Yao in a report. “Without re-acceleration of debt growth, the economy is unlikely to stabilize for another quarter at least.”  Stock markets in Asia and Europe were mostly higher, shrugging off the Chinese figures because growth didn’t slow as much as forecast by analysts. The latest economic growth is below the official annual target of 7.5 percent announced last month. But Chinese leaders appear willing to miss that target so long as the economy creates enough jobs to avoid potential unrest. In a sign of concern about employment, they launched a mini-stimulus in March of higher spending on building railways and low-cost housing. More

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