Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
Courtney Dupree is a former Tarheel basketball player who hosted a 2008 fundraiser for Obama
Along the beaches of the Gulf Coast, 2011 ends with a surprise that no one expected this soon: a post-oil spill rebound in tourism, and record-setting at that. The year of 2010, of course, goes down as the horrible, lost period thanks to BP'sDeepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in this nation's history. This year wraps up with not only better tourism numbers than before the oil spill, but better than any year on record. Florida's oil-impacted beaches in the Panhandle saw tourism shoot up 61 percent over 2010. Alabama rose 51 percent, while Mississippi gained 7 percent.
This news is a rebuke to President Obama, who went on national TV from the Oval Office, on June 15, 2010, to read from his Teleprompter:
"Already this oil spill is the worst environment disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it's not a single day event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic that we will be fighting for months and even years."
It kind of spoils the narrative to have the Gulf Coast rebound so well and so fast! But be sure to watch the video of Obama's dramatic reading. You see it all, the drilling moratorium, the green energy agenda that will provide millions of jobs (at Solyndra perhaps?), the evil energy corporations and their reckless polluting ways. All of this baloney was a last ditch effort to pass Cap & Trade and thereby seize control of the energy business and a vast new stream of tax revenue for his "social justice" agenda.
Show this video to the American people along with a graph showing gasoline pump prices during his administration and Obama is done.
Gulf oil spill: some birds die some are saved. Spill ends, life returns to normal. Wind powered generators: killing birds everyday into the foreseeable future. Audubon Society and environmentalists silent.
It's okay for Islamic nations to become more Islamic but not okay for the French to wish to remain French. Hey, Socialist minister: The only reason you take the position yo do is to gain power so stop with the mote in someone else's eye.
Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco is retiring Friday, but only so she can collect a $478,057 pension check and return to work Monday, when she will be sworn in for her seventh term.
Tasco was one of six Council members to enroll in the city’s controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan, better known as DROP. She did not immediately return a request for comment.
Plan participants trade a lower lifetime pension for a large one-time lump sum payment, but they are supposed to retire when they get that check.
Several elected officials, however, exercised a right approved by two city solicitors to run for election, retire for a day, collect their DROP payments, and return to work.
Tasco was one of six Council members to do that. But DROP enrollment became such a political liability that participation in the plan played a role in the decisions of four other Council members - Frank DiCicco, Donna Reed Miller, Jack Kelly and President Anna Verna - not to run again. Councilman Frank Rizzo lost his reelection bid in part because he was enrolled in DROP.
Taco may have paid a price, too. She was widely expected to replace Verna as president, but as the DROP controversy grew, Tasco’s candidacy for the leadership spot faded. Instead, Councilman Darrell Clarke, who is not enrolled in DROP, will be the next president.
DROP allows participants to pick a retirement date four years in the future. That decision freezes their yearly pension payment and prompts the city to deposit an amount equal to their payment in an interest-bearing account. At some point before the end of the four years, the employee retires and collects the lump-sum check.
When DROP was introduced during the Rendell administration, it was thought that it would cost little or nothing.
But a study by the administration of Mayor Nutter said DROP had cost the city $258 million over 10 years. A later study paid for by Council put the pricetage at $100 million over 10 year.
Nutter proposed abolishing DROP, but Council instead chose to modify it to reduce its cost.
I assume this is what Obama meant by "public service".
Thursday, December 29, 2011
As states across the nation ramp up their efforts to catch illegal immigrants, the Obama administration on Thursday launched a new free hotline for people busted on violations to get help.
The hotline, run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is available 24/7 for detained individuals to phone if they think they “may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime.”
The hotline will have translation services available in several different languages. ICE personnel will gather the caller’s information and send it to a field office for immediate action, according to the press release.
The purpose of the hotline and other measures, including a new detainer form, are “to ensure that individuals being held by state or local law enforcement on immigration detainers are properly notified about their potential removal from the country and are made aware of their rights.”
The new practices are “part of a broader effort to improve our immigration enforcement process and prioritize resources to focus on threats to public safety, repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants and immigration fugitives while continuing to strengthen oversight of the nation’s immigration detention system and facilitate legal immigration,” ICE wrote in its press release.
Obama administration officials are deliberately keeping gun owners in the dark about the president’s gun-control agenda as we head into next year’s national election, because administration officials know that when NRA members and gun owners show up at the polls en masse, anti-gun candidates lose.
The Obama campaign’s strategy goes like this:
- Neutralize gun owners and NRA members as a political force in the upcoming national election by pretending to be pro-gun or at least not focused on pushing a gun-control agenda;
- With gun owners neutralized, Obama will be able to win the election. After the president is re-elected, he won’t have to answer to voters because he won’t have to face another re-election battle;
- Launch a full-scale, all-out assault to rip the Second Amendment out of the Bill of Rights through legislation, litigation, regulation, executive orders and international treaties — in short, every lever of power at the administration’s disposal.
Barack Obama spent his entire political career proudly and publicly pushing for the most radical anti-gun positions you can imagine. He endorsed a total ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns. He opposed right-to-carry laws. He voted to ban nearly all commonly used hunting-rifle ammunition.
During the presidential primary debates, Obama even vowed to re-impose the discredited Clinton gun ban, which banned many commonly owned firearms used for hunting and self-defense.
Obama hasn’t had a sudden change of heart; rather, he’s making a purely political calculation by staying quiet on the gun issue until the time is right. In the meantime, he’s gearing up for his second-term assault on the Second Amendment in a number of ways.
Just consider …
- Obama loaded his administration with anti-gun zealots bent on destroying our Second Amendment freedoms.
- With the help of his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, Obama made the U.S. an active partner to the U.N. gun-ban treaty. The U.N. will unveil this unmitigated attack on our sovereignty this summer and the Obama administration has vowed to implement it.
- Obama appointed two anti-Second Amendment Supreme Court justices and continues to flood our lower courts with dozens of anti-gun, activist judges.
- With the help of his attorney general, Eric Holder, Obama led a campaign to demonize law-abiding gun owners, claiming our Second Amendment rights were to blame for drug violence in Mexico. And in fact, emails recently released by the Justice Department prove that operation “Fast and Furious” was a deliberate attempt to build the case for a gun-control agenda.
- Obama unilaterally imposed gun registration in four border states — requiring gun dealers to register the sales of any law-abiding citizen who purchases more than one semi-automatic rifle within one week.
It isn’t hard to see the writing on the wall. The actions that President Obama has taken so far in his presidency clearly show his disdain for the Second Amendment and hint at his plan to gut our firearm freedoms in his second term.
But the key to President Obama’s strategy is keeping gun owners complacent for now.
After all, Obama knows what happened in 1994, when the politicians who voted for Clinton’s gun ban were swept out of Congress. Even Clinton admitted the NRA was the reason Democrats lost their 40-year lock on control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Obama saw what happened in 2000, when Al Gore built his campaign on a platform of gun control and then watched as the NRA and gun owners derailed Gore in the battleground states of Arkansas, West Virginia and even his home state of Tennessee — costing him the White House.
Obama administration officials know that it’s good politics to avoid making gun control a public issue. They hope that they can lull gun owners into a false sense of security and then play us for fools in the 2012 election. NRA members, gun owners and liberty-minded Americans should not be fooled. Next year’s presidential election will be a referendum on our freedom.
Would it bother you to know that the federal Centers for Disease Control had been shown your daughter’s health records to see how she responded to an STD/teen-pregnancy-prevention program? How about if the federal Department of Education and Department of Labor scrutinized your son’s academic performance to see if he should be “encouraged” to leave high school early to learn a trade? Would you think the government was intruding on your territory as a parent?
Under regulations the Obama Department of Education released this month, these scenarios could become reality. The department has taken a giant step toward creating a de facto national student database that will track students by their personal information from preschool through career. Although current federal law prohibits this, the department decided to ignore Congress and, in effect, rewrite the law. Student privacy and parental authority will suffer.
How did it happen? Buried within the enormous 2009 stimulus bill were provisions encouraging states to develop data systems for collecting copious information on public-school kids. To qualify for stimulus money, states had to agree to build such systems according to federally dictated standards. So all 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students.
The administration wants this data to include much more than name, address and test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income and family voting status. In its view, public schools offer a golden opportunity to mine reams of data from a captive audience.
The department’s eagerness to get control of all this information is almost palpable. But current federal law prohibits a nationwide student database and strictly limits disclosure of a student’s personal information. So the department has determined that it can overcome the legal obstacles by simply bypassing Congress and essentially rewriting the federal privacy statute.
Last April, the department proposed regulations that would allow it and other agencies to share a student’s personal information with practically any government agency or even private company, as long as the disclosure could be said to support an evaluation of an “education program,” broadly defined. That’s how the CDC might end up with your daughter’s health records or the Department of Labor with your son’s test scores.
And you’d have no right to object — in fact, you’d probably never even know about the disclosure.
Not surprisingly, these proposed regulations provoked a firestorm of criticism. But on Dec. 2, the Department of Education rejected almost all the criticisms and released the regulations. As of Jan. 3, 2012, interstate and intergovernmental access to your child’s personal information will be practically unlimited. The federal government will have a de facto nationwide database of supposedly confidential student information.
The department says this won’t happen. If the states choose to link their data systems, it says, that’s their business, but “the federal government would not play a role” in operating the resulting megadatabase.
This denial is, to say the least, disingenuous. The department would have access to the data systems of each of the 50 states and would be allowed to share that data with anyone it chooses, as long as it uses the right language to justify the disclosure.
And just as the department used the promise of federal money to coerce the states into developing these systems, it would almost certainly do the same to make them link their systems. The result would be a nationwide student database, whether or not it’s “operated” from an office in Washington.
The loosening of student-privacy protection would greatly increase the risks of unauthorized disclosure of personal data. Even the authorized disclosure would be limited only by the imaginations of federal bureaucrats.
Unless Congress steps in and reclaims its authority, student privacy and parental control over education will be relics of the past.
The group said elephants have had a "horrible year", with 23 tonnes of ivory seized - representing at least 2,500 dead animals.
Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 to save elephants from extinction.
But it has continued illegally because of huge demand in Asia, where it is used to make decorative objects.
"The escalating large ivory quantities involved in 2011 reflect both a rising demand in Asia and the increasing sophistication of the criminal gangs behind the trafficking," said a statement from Traffic, which monitors the trade in wildlife products.
"Most illegal shipments of African elephant ivory end up in either China or Thailand."Shifting smuggling routes
The group said there had been at least 13 large seizures of ivory this year, amounting to more than 23 tonnes, compared to six last year of less than 10 tonnes.
"In 23 years of compiling ivory seizure data... this is the worst year ever for large ivory seizures. 2011 has truly been a horrible year for elephants," Traffic's elephant expert Tom Milliken said.
Traffic said the smugglers appear to have shifted away from using air to sea - in early 2011, three of the large scale ivory seizures were at airports but later in the year most were found in sea freight.
"The only common denominator in the trafficking is that the ivory departs Africa and arrives in Asia, but the routes are constantly changing, presumably reflecting where the smugglers gamble on being their best chance of eluding detection," it said.
In six of the large 2011 seizures, Malaysia was a transit country in the supply chain, Traffic said.
In the most recent case on 21 December, Malaysian authorities seized hundreds of African elephant tusks worth about $1.3 million (£844,000) that were being shipped to Cambodia.
The ivory was hidden in containers of handicrafts from Kenya's Mombasa port, Traffic said.
Mr Milliken said despite the seizures, there were generally few arrests.
"I fear the criminals are winning," he said.
Some environmental campaigners say the decision to allow some southern African countries, whose elephants populations are booming, to sell their stockpiles of ivory has fuelled the illegal trade.
Those countries - South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe - however, deny this and argue they should be rewarded for looking after their elephant populations.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
A Venezuelan campaign group says the country has suffered a record number of murders in 2011.
The Venezuela Violence Observatory says at least 19,336 people have been killed this year, an average of 53 a day.
The figures suggest Venezuela's murder rate is the highest in South America and four times that of Mexico.
Criminal violence is set to be a major issue in next year's elections, when President Hugo Chavez is seeking another term in office.
"We must inform the nation that 2011 will end as the the most violent year in the nation's history," the Venezuela Violence Observatory (OVV) said in a news release.
Its figures - based on research by several Venezuelan universities - suggest that in 2011 Venezuela had a murder rate of 67 per 100,000 inhabitants.
That compares to 32 per 100,000 last year in neighbouring Colombia and 14 per 100,000 in Mexico, two countries suffering widespread drug-related violence.
The Venezuelan government has recognised the problem of violent crime, though its figures are much lower.
Last February, Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami told Congress the murder rate was 48 per 100,000 inhabitants.'Impunity'
The OVV says violent crime has risen steadily in Venezuela since 1999 when President Chavez took office. In that year only 4,550 murders were registered.
The group did not give an overall reason for the rising violence, but said the problem was fuelled by impunity, with the great majority of killings going unpunished.
A high level of gun ownership is also a factor.
Along with the murder rate, levels of robbery and kidnap have also been going up.
In November, President Hugo Chavez announced the creation of a new armed force - the People's Guard - to improve public security.
Thousands of troops were deployed to support police on the streets of Caracas and other regions where crime levels are high.
Several Latin American countries have murder rates far higher than the global average of 6.9 murders per 100,000 people.
The highest rate in 2010 was in Honduras, which suffered 82 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.