What In The World Has Happened To America Pt.3

15 Dec

 Alyssa Thomas, 6, is a little girl who is already under the spotlight of the federal government. Alyssa is on the “no fly” list maintained by U.S. Homeland Security

# 34) Continuing with “What in the World has Happened to America part three will start with fact . A six year old has been placed on the no fly list maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Federal Bureau of Investigations  in Cleveland will confirm that a list exists, but for national security reasons, no one will discuss who is on the list or why. The Thomas family was allowed to make their trip but they were told to contact Homeland Security to clear-up the matter. Alyssa just received a letter from the government, notifying the six-

year-old that nothing will be changed and they won’t confirm nor deny any information they have about her or someone else with the same name. “She’s been flying since she was two-months old, so that has not been an issue,” said Alyssa’s dad. “In fact, we had traveled to Mexico in February and there were no issues at that time.” According to the Transportation Security Administration, Alyssa never had any problems before because the Secure Flight Program just began in June for all domestic flights. A spokesperson will only say, “the watch lists

are an important layer of security to prevent individuals with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying.” Right now, Alyssa has other priorities. “My Barbies, my magic mirror and jumping on my bed!” But her name will likely stay on the list and as for the next time she flies, the FBI says they’ll rely on the common sense of the security agents. “She may have threatened her sister, but I don’t think that constitutes Homeland Security triggers,” said Dr. Thomas. The Thomas family can still fly, but the check-in process will likely take much longer. They plan on making another appeal to U.S. Homeland Security.


During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States
increased for the 16th consecutive quarter

#33) A total of 775 banks, or one-tenth of all U.S. banks , were on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s list of “problem” institutions in the first quarter, as bad loans in the commercial real-estate market weighed on bank balance sheets. Poor loan performance in other sectors alsocontinued to hurt banks, with the total number of loans at least three months past due climbing for the 16th consecutive quarter, FDIC

Sheila C. Bair Image by via Flickr

Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis told reporters in a telephone briefing. Previous reports by the nonprofit fund, which conducts research into healthcare performance and promotes changes in the U.S. system, have been heavily used by policymakers and politicians pressing for healthcare reform. Davis said she hoped health reform legislation passed in March

would lead to improvements. The current report uses data from nationally representative patient and physician surveys in seven countries in 2007, 2008, and 2009. It is available here. In 2007, health spending was $7,290 per person in the United States, more than double that of any other country in the survey. Australians spent $3,357, Canadians $3,895, Germans $3,588,

the Netherlands $3,837 and Britons spent $2,992 per capita on health in 2007. New Zealand spent the least at $2,454.This is a big rise from the Fund’s last similar survey, in 2007, which found Americans spent $6,697 per capita on healthcare in 2005, or 16 percent of gross domestic product. “We rank last on safety and do poorly on several dimensions of quality,” Schoen told reporters. “We do particularly poorly on going without care because of cost. And we also do surprisingly poorly on access to primary care and after-hours care.” NETHERLANDS

RANKED FIRST OVERALL The report looks at five measures of healthcare — quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives. Britain, whose nationalized healthcare system was widely derided by opponents of U.S. healthcare reform, ranks first in quality while the Netherlands ranked first overall on all scores, the Commonwealth team found. U.S. patients with chronic conditions were the most likely to say they gotten the wrong drug or had to wait to learn of abnormal test results. “The findings demonstrate

the need to quickly implement provisions in the new health reform law,” the report reads. Critics of reports that show Europeans or Australians are healthier than Americans point to the U.S. lifestyle as a bigger factor than healthcare. Americans have higher rates of obesity than other developed countries, for instance. “On the other hand, the other countries have higher rates of smoking,” Davis countered. And Germany, for instance, has a much older population more prone to chronic disease. Every other system covers all its citizens, the report

noted and said the U.S. system, which leaves 46 million Americans or 15 percent of the population without health insurance, is the most unfair. “The lower the performance score for equity, the lower the performance on other measures. This suggests that, when a country fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, it also fails to meet the needs of the average citizen,” the report reads.


Fannie-Freddie Bailout Could Cost Taxpayers $1 Trillion

Reported by Steve Liesman,
by Michelle Lodge
#31) For American taxpayers, now on the hook for some $145 billion in housing losses connected to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, that amount could be just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the losses could balloon to $400 billion. And if housing prices fall further, some experts caution, the cost to the taxpayer could hit as much as $1 trillion. Two things are clear: Taxpayers don’t want to foot the bill,

and Fannie and Freddie, taken over by the government in 2008 to stanch the financial bloodletting, need a major overhaul. “Some of us who don’t even own homes are paying to support others and their home ownership, and they ask ‘why?’ said Robert J. Shiller, a Yale University economics professor and co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. The indices measure the USresidential real estate both nationally and in 20 metropolitan regions. Shiller added that the mission of Fannie and

they’re helping poor people get into the housing market.” At the crux of the financial crisis, the government took over Fannie and Freddie to avert possible massive losses for banks, money-market funds and, perhaps, most importantly, foreign institutions that purchased billions of Fannie and Freddie debt


Freddie should be severely cut back “so that they’re not helping middle-class homeowners,

 because of its implied government guarantee. The and the US decided it didn’t want them to take a loss on their investment. One possible scenario for the entities is to turn them into utilities, said Sean Dobson, CEO and chair of Amherst Securities, whose company trades as much as $50 billion in mortgages annually. “Freddie and Fannie could be used to standardize the mortgage product,”

Chinese, for example, had invested heavily, Dobson said, “to completely describe what the risks are and then act as a conduit for the capital markets to take the risk.”  ….more


Clones’ offspring may be in food supply: FDA


#30) January meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe as products from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers had followed a voluntary moratorium on the sale of clones and their offspring. While the FDA evaluated the safety of food from clones and their offspring, the U.S. Agriculture Department was in charge of managing the transition of these animals into


the food supply. “It is theoretically possible” supply, said Siobhan De Lancey, an FDA spokeswoman. Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother. There are an estimated 600 cloned animals in the United States. Proponents, including the Biotechnology Industry Organization,

say cloning is a way to create more disease-resistant animals that produce more milk and better meat. The cloning industry and the FDA say cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as their traditional counterparts. Critics contend not enough is known about the technology to ensure it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs to address concerns over animal cruelty

and ethical issues. “It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many ways,” said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for Environmental Health. The possibility of offspring being in the food supply “is just another element of that,” he said. FDA and USDA have said it is impossible to differentiate between cloned animals, their offspring and conventionally bred animals, making it difficult to know if offspring are in the food supply. “But they would

be a very limited number because of the very few number of clones that are out there and relatively few of those clones are at an age where they would be parenting,” said Bruce Knight, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. As the FDA unveiled its final rule, USDA in January asked producers to prolong the ban on selling products from cloned animals. That ban did not extend to meat and milk from the clone’s offspring. Major food companies including Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S. meat company, and Smithfield Foods Inc have

said they would avoid using cloned animals because of safety concerns. The list grew on Tuesday after the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth said 20 food producers and retailers vowed not to use ingredients from cloned animals. The list, provided by the two groups, included Kraft Foods Inc, General Mills Inc, Campbell Soup Co, Nestle SA, California Pizza Kitchen Incand Supervalu Inc. In a letter to the Center for Food Safety, Susan Davison, director of corporate affairs with Kraft, said product safety was “not the only factor” the

company considers. “We must also carefully consider additional factors such as consumer benefits and acceptance … and research in the U.S. indicates that consumers are currently not receptive to ingredients from cloned animals,” she said.


Sales of U.S. New Houses Plunge to Lowest Level on Record

#29) Purchases of U.S. new homes fell in May to the lowest level on record after a tax credit Salescollapsed an unprecedented 33 percent slowdown in private job growth. A lack of inflation and concern over unemployment and housing were among reasons Federal Reserve policy makers renewed a pledgetoday to keep interest rates near zero for an “extended period.” “May was a bad month for the economy,” J. Alfred Broaddus , former Richmond Fed president, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “In Business With Margaret Brennan.” “You have

these soft patches in the early stages of recovery.” At their meeting, Fed policy makers left the overnight interbank lending rate target unchanged in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it’s been since December 2008. Central bankers said limited inflation was “likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.” Housing starts, they said showed purchases at retailers dropped in May for the first time in eight months. Effect on GDP Housing’s role has shrunk so much that a renewed slump will do less

harm going forward is greatly diminished,” Feldman said in a note to clients. Other data confirm the market is stumbling. Sales of existing homes, housing starts, building permits, builder confidence and mortgage applications have all declined. The S&P Supercomposite Homebuilder Index, which includes Toll Brothers Inc. and Lennar Corp., has dropped 28 percent through yesterday since reaching a 19-month high on May 3. The broader S&P 500 Index is down 10 percent from April 23’s 19- month peak. Builders are also concerned that the

Gulf oil spill and European debt crisis are hurting buyer confidence. Toll, the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder, said deposits have been running 20 percent behind the year-earlier period the past three weeks. Financial Crisis “Concerns about the financial crisis in Europe and escalating regional political tensions, coupled with worries about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its effects on the economy and the environment have negatively impacted the outlook of Americanconsumers,” Joel H. Rassman,chief financial officer at Horsham, signings slowed in May,

Palmdale CA. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

indicating the tax credit helped pull some Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., the largest homebuilder in New sales forward.were projected to drop 19 percent to a 410,000 annual pace, according to the median estimate of 76 economists surveyed. Forecasts ranged from 300,000 to 530,000. The government revised April’s purchase rate down to 446,000 from apreviously reported 504,000. The median price decreased 9.6

percent from the same month last year, to $200,900, the lowest since December 2003, today’s report showed. Purchases dropped in all four U.S. regions last month, led by a record 53 percent decrease in the West. The supply of homes at the current sales rate jumped to 8.5 months’ worth from 5.8 months in April. There were 213,000 new houses on the market at the end of May, the fewest since 1970. Less Inventory

The reduction in inventory puts builders in a better position to deal with the slump in demand than when housing peaked in 2005, said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency.damage to the world’s largest economy, said Jay Feldman, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York. Residential construction accounts for a record-low 2.4 percent of gross domestic product, down from 6.3 percent when the boom peaked in 2005, he said. Housing’s “capacity to do the portfolio of GDP activities marginal.


America’s Race To The Bottom

#28) I sure hope that there is a full and speedy recovery to the massive recession we are all now suffering under. But, I’ll be honest. I doubt

Image by wstera2 via Flickr

that there will be. Most of the up ticks following our latest national downturns have been dismal enough that economists have had to invent a new term for them. phrase is “jobless recovery”, and the implications are as ugly as they sound. What it means is that GDP rises,

but life remains crappy for real people with real jobs. If they’re lucky enough to have one, that is. Where does the money from rising GDP go, then? Funny you should ask. It goes exactly where it’s been going for the last three decades. Not to the public, and not to raising the living standards of ordinary folks. But, rather, to the ueber-class. My guess is that “The

Great Recession” – as some are calling the current disaster (presumably to avoid using the “D” word) – will be followed by what history will record as the “The Tepid and Rather Jobless, Thank You Very Much, Recovery”. If that. And, more importantly, my guess is that this will be the latest and greatest click yet of what is the most massive ratcheting project of

the last three decades, perhaps the most wholesale redistribution of wealth in human history. Consider the numbers… The ratio of executive salary to the average paycheck during the mid-twentieth century was about thirty to one. In the last decade it has ranged from three hundred to over five hundred to one. The richest four hundred Americans were worth an average of about $13 million each in the middle of the century, using today’s dollars. Now they average over $260 million each. The top

taxpayers in America now pay the same proportion of their income in taxes as those earning less than $75,000 per year. Those taxes on the wealthy went from being more than half of their income fifty years ago to about a sixth today. In the past three decades, the income of the richest Americans quadrupled, while the income of the lowest ninety percent actually fell. Today, the median wage is lower than it was in the 1970s, even though productivity has grown by nearly fifty percent. All told, from the 1930s through the 1970s, America produced the biggest

and richest middle class in human history. But then many of us made the mistake – as I did – of assuming that this had become, based on a solid society compact, the default status quo for the foreseeable future. In fact, it was instead an aberration. And it was contingent. It was an aberration because we are now speedily returning (if we haven’t already arrived) to the days prior to the New Deal, when the rich had everything and the middle class was small and insecure. And it was contingent because the good old days depended on a combination of elite

satiation and/or a strong progressive defense of an equitable economic order. But both have disappeared in the Age of Reagan. Today, there are seemingly no bounds conceivable to what the already astonishingly wealthy will do in order to further magnify their holdings. No suffering of the struggling middle class – let alone impoverished brown people inconveniently sitting on top of desirable resources somewhere abroad – represents the slightest impediment to a greed which long ago ceased to have any passing relationship with utility. We are simply

talking here about sociopaths – people who cannot fathom a reason to alter their predatory behavior under any circumstances, even when the lives of millions are at stake, and even when another pile of millions of dollars in their investment portfolio does nothing to improve their condition because they are already so rich to begin with. Okay, well, that’s not exactly a new thing. Unless, say, you’re a geologist and you happen to think that human beings are a new thing. But what is new is that the other possible protection against the gutting of the middle

and working classes – that is, the existence of a progressive bulwark against greed – has all but disappeared. At the level of elites, this has transpired because the Democratic Party has simply joined the GOP in becoming a corporate tool, serving the interests of Goldman Sachs and a few others, with near complete disregard for the public interest. At the mass level, Americans have embraced their own petite bourgeois form of greed, and have

become stupider and Republicaner with each passing year. The result is that the aberration is ending, albeit slowly and somewhat fitfully, and the country is returning to its natural state, where outrageous disparities of wealth are common. So common, in fact, that no serious political movement exists to redress ths injustice. So common that the wealthy go to churches where Jesus the proto- socialist who talked about camels and needles

has been morphed instead into the First Coming of Ayn Rand. So common that a guy can run for president incessantly repeating the word “change”, invoking the greatest moral struggles of history, and come to office during a time of multiple crises for a deeply stressed American public, only to turn out to be just another Wall Street hack, busy diverting the remaining chunks of the commonwealth to the plutocracy. It’s not exactly a mystery how we ended up here, although there’s more obfuscation on this question than there are hypocritical sinners at a GOP family values convention. more…


Immigration Mexican Gangs Maintain Permanent Lookout Bases in Hills of Arizona

By Adam

27) U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased its number of agents on the border, but officials are saying that isn’t the reason illegal immigration has decreased. Mexican drug cartels have set up shop on American soil, maintaining lookout bases in strategic locations in the hills of southern Arizona from which their scouts can monitor every move made by law enforcement officials, federal agents tell Fox News. The scouts are supplied by drivers who bring them food, water, batteries for radios — all the items they need to stay in the wilderness for a

Image by roberthuffstutter via Flickr

long time. Housley. “To say that this area is out of control is an understatement,” said an agent who patrols the area and asked not to be named. “We (federal border agents), as well as the Pima County Sheriff Office and the Bureau of Land Management, can attest to that.” Much of the drug traffic originates in the Menagers Dam area, the Vekol Valley, Stanfield

and around the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. It even follows a natural gas pipeline that runs from Mexico into Arizona. In these areas, which re south and west of Tucson, sources said there are “cartel scouts galore” watching the movements of federal, state and local law enforcement, from the border all the way up to Interstate 8. “Every night we’re

getting beaten like a pinata at a birthday party by drug, alien smugglers,” a second federal agent told Fox News by e-mail. “The danger is out there, with all the weapons being found coming northbound…. someone needs to know about this!” The agents blame part of their plight on new policies from Washington, claiming it has put a majority of the U.S. agents on the border itself. One agent compared it to a short-yardage defense in football, explaining that once the smugglers and drug-runners break

through the front line, they’re home free. “We are unable to work any traffic, because they have us forward deployed,” the agent said. “We are unable to work the traffic coming out of the mountains. That traffic usually carries weapons and dope, too, again always using stolen vehicles.” The Department of Homeland Security denies it has ordered any major change in operations or any sort of change in forward deployment. “The Department of Homeland Security has dedicated unprecedented manpower, technology and infrastructure resources to

the Southwest border over the course of the past 16 months,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said. “Deployment of CBP/Border Patrol and ICE personnel to various locations throughout the Southwest border is based on actionable ntelligence and operational need, not which elected official can yell the loudest.” While agents in the area agree that southwest Arizona has been a trouble spot for more than a decade, many believe Washington and politicians “who come here for one-day visit” aren’t seeing the big picture. They say the area has never been controlled and has suddenly gotten worse, with the cartels maintaining a strong presence on U.S. soil. More than ever, agents on the front lines are wearing tactical gear, including helmets, to protect themselves.

“More than 4,000 of these agents are deployed in Arizona,” Chandler says. “The strategy to secure our nation’s orders is based on a ‘defense in depth’ philosophy, including the use of interior checkpoints, like the one on FR 85 outside Ajo, to interdict threats attempting to move from the border into the interior of our nation.” Without placing direct fault on anyone, multiple agents told Fox that the situation is more dangerous for them than ever now that the cartels have such a strong position on the American

side of the border. They say morale is down among many who patrol the desolate area, and they worry that the situation won’t change until an agent gets killed.


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Posted by on December 15, 2010 in News and Views


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