Not long ago, factions on both sides of the political aisle — from Republican Senator Charles Grassley in 1994, to liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in 2008 — viewed allegations of massive prying by government agencies, which purportedly tracked the personal information and activities of private citizens, as lunatic-fringe alarmism. But in the aftermath of United States v. Jones last week, even former skeptics are worried that the proverbial boat has sailed.
The Obama administration’s latest effort in its "We Can’t Wait" jobs strategy is a $1-billion grant program for organizations to hire, train, and deploy new healthcare workers. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Monday that the department will disperse the grant money over three years to generate jobs which enhance healthcare through innovation. "Both public and private community organizations around the country are finding innovative solutions to improve our health care system and the Health Care Innovation Challenge will help jump-start these efforts," Sebelius affirmed in a statement. The initiative, called the Health Care Innovation Challenge, will award grants of from $1 million to $30 million next spring to medical providers, nonprofit organizations, community groups, local government agencies, and other organizations serving patients in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. While the funding stems from Obama’s healthcare overhaul, the program is an appendage to the President’s "We Can’t Wait" campaign, a political ploy by the White House to pressure congressional Republicans into supporting Obama’s jobs plan. The program is designed to find "the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program," a White House announcement disclosed. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, established as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will administer and monitor the program.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders Monday to collaborate in financing a multibillion-dollar fund to combat global warming. Speaking at a conference in Bangladesh’s capital, Mr. Ban said global efforts must be taken to establish a $100 billion Green Climate Fund dedicated to taming the "damaging" effects of climate change, and that the global economic crisis should not hinder such efforts. "The aim of this conference is to get the nations who are disproportionately affected by climate change, the most vulnerable nations, to come together and speak with one voice," asserted Bangladesh's environment secretary Mesbah ul Alam. "Climate change is real and it is affecting us now — we live with floods, with climate refugees, with rising salinity in our coastal areas and with the impact of rising sea levels."
Newt Gingrich's lucrative $300,000 consulting contract with mortgage giant Freddie Mac in 2006 — during the height of the housing bubble it was fueling — was geared toward stopping Republican support for new restraints on the guarantee of sub-prime mortgages, according to a November 15 report by Bloomberg News. The controversy went public again during the CNBC debate November 9, when CNBC Host John Harwood asked Gingrich: "Your firm was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac in 2006. What did you do for that money?" Gingrich responded by denying he'd been a paid "lobbyist": I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, "We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do," as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible. Of course, Harwood hadn't accused Gingrich of lobbying, and had only asked what he had done to earn the $300,000 contract. By knocking down the lobbying straw-man argument, Gingrich hoped to end the issue. But his "historian" remark only made those in the press more curious about what he'd done to earn this very substantial paycheck.
Writing in Business Week, Hans Nichols announced that with the improvement in the economy President Obama’s chances for reelection in 2012 are improving as well. He noted that the unemployment rate fell last month (from 9.1 percent to 9.0 percent) while unemployment claims dropped (by 10,000). And the outplacement firm of Challenger Gray & Christmas noted that government layoffs have slowed as well. Then he reviewed several different polls that showed improvement in President Obama’s ratings (each still below 50 percent), and then concluded that this mass of positive data is improving the president’s “political prospects.”
When 70 students attending economics professor Greg Mankiw’s Economics 10 class on November 2nd walked out in protest, they wrote an open letter to him explaining why: "Today, we are walking out of your class…in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course…...
According to a study published in the Journal of Religion and Health recently, regular attendance at religious services produces a more optimistic outlook on life and a reduced inclination to depression. Those respondents to the survey who attended religious services more than once a week in the prior month were 56 percent more likely to be above the median score on a measurement for optimism than those who had not attended religious services at all. Respondents who attended weekly religious services were 22 percent less likely to be depressed than those who did not attend religious services. Not everyone agrees, however, about what exactly these numbers mean. Eliezer Schnall, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Yeshiva University in New York notes that: "There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality. One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services. The person who says, 'I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic' -— while a possibility, that may not be true." A 2008 study conducted by Schnall found that those who sent to religious services regularly had a 20 percent reduced risk of death over the period of the study and its follow up. Schnall again cautioned against reading too much into the study: "We're trying to connect the dots here. We know they're less likely to die, and health outcomes can be related to psychological factors."
At an APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit last weekend in Hawaii, President Barack Obama told CNSNews that the United States needs to step up its courtship of foreign dollars. He said America has been “a little bit lazy” in promoting itself to overseas investors. He added, “It’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world, and there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.” But the concepts of stability and free markets have taken a hit during his administration, and not because free markets don’t work. A real unemployment rate of what critics say is closer to 20 percent than nine, a downgrade of the United States' debt rating, and a huge national debt don’t reflect stability. How does Obama propose to promote this climate as stable, open, and innovative? “One of the things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States, and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America,” he told CEOs and others at the summit.
I suppose you could call me a “right-wing extremist,” although I don’t consider myself an extremist by any stretch of the imagination. But that’s the way the liberals have labeled us, and since they control so much of the printed and electronic media we have no choice but to roll with their punches. I am an individualist as opposed to a collectivist. As a writer, I willingly spend a lot of time alone at my word-processor. In the old days, it was the typewriter. Today it is the much more accommodating word-processor. But in my case, individualism was the reason why I could work so well alone. I was by no means a loner, but I never minded being alone with my thoughts, or while writing, or reading a book, visiting a museum, or traveling to new cities. I’ve always had good friends, but I also enjoy my own company. I spent seven years writing my book on the Shakespeare authorship controversy, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection. I had to read a lot of what others had written on the subject. I had to read all of Marlowe and all of Shakespeare. I probably could have earned a doctorate at some university on the basis of the research and writing I put into the project. Of course, I also had an economic motive in mind. I thought it would be an easy sell and earn me my retirement. That was a big mistake. It turned out to be a tough sell, so tough that when McFarland, a publisher of scholarly books in North Carolina, accepted it for publication without paying an advance, I was happy indeed.
Late last week the heads of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) informed their superiors at the United Nations General Assembly that their work is being hampered by a staff shortage. In a news release issued Friday, November 11, the General Assembly warned that based on information provided to it by the presiding judges of the war crimes courts, the “great progress” made in the last year in “ending impunity for genocide and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda” may be slowed by the “alarming rate” at which experienced and qualified staff is departing.