As a resident of tiny Smithville, Texas (between Austin and Houston), this past Labor Day I was able to observe firsthand the largest and most horrific wildfire in Texas history (which ravaged the area) and also its aftermath. The event — labeled the Bastrop County Complex fire — once again gave rise to the stories that restore one’s faith in people: Neighbors as well as citizens from states around the nation responded immediately to the plight of victims. Yet at the same time, the intrusion of the U.S. government agency FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), with its bureaucratic regulations, provided a clear lesson on why federal aid is not the answer in such situations.
New York Archbishop Timothy J. Dolan has put an exclamation point on the Catholic Church’s opposition to the state’s legalization of homosexual “marriage,” issuing a decree that no same-sex wedding ceremonies will be permitted at facilities owned by the archdiocese, which comprises three of New York City's five counties/boroughs, as well as seven counties in New York state.  
A lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts seeking to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman, has received the support of a legal brief filed by scores of major corporations. According to LifeSite News, nearly 70 companies signed on to the friend-of-the-court brief filed in Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The companies include Microsoft, Starbucks, Google, NIKE, Levi Strauss and Co., CBS, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Time Warner Cable, and Xerox. Also adding their influence to the brief, reported Keen News Service, a website focusing on homosexual issues, were nearly a dozen national law firms, seven trade and professional organizations, and the cities of New York and Boston. LifeSite News reported that the brief “charges that DOMA causes ‘unnecessary cost and administrative complexity’ for employers located in states where same-sex ‘marriage’ is recognized by law. Since same-sex ‘marriage’ is recognized as legal in some states but not recognized by the federal government, employers must contend with a complex tax situation for ‘married’ homosexual couples, the brief says.”
As the debt crisis in Italy and other European Union countries spirals out of control, reports said the French and German governments have started early discussions on a possible collapse of the single currency. Publicly, however, EU bosses are denying problems and demanding more “integration.” Several possibilities have been mentioned by analysts including the outright breakup of the euro-zone altogether or at least expulsion of some of its more irresponsible member governments. And there are more than a few in that category. The massively indebted Italian government, with its bond yields soaring to new heights, is thought to be too big to rescue. And hundreds of billions have already been poured into the socialist Greek regime to no avail. The socialist governments of Spain and Portugal are in terrible financial straits, too. But Italy — the euro-zone’s third largest economy — is dominating the headlines for now. The supranational regime’s bailout fund does not have nearly the amount of money needed to rescue the Italian government. The European Central Bank (ECB) has so far resisted calls to print even more money to completely paper over the Italy problem. But some analysts believe the central bank is secretly plotting to buy up Italian government bonds in the near future.  
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the individual mandate of ObamaCare is constitutional.  Writing for the majority, Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, affirmed that by enacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, specifically the provision mandating that everyone purchase qualifying health insurance, Congress did not exceed the authority ceded to it by the states in the Constitution.  
Most Americans who have become aware of the academic and moral decline of public education tend to believe that the humanistic curriculum that now dominates the system is of relatively recent origin. They believe that the great emphasis now placed on the “affective domain”— all of those programs devoted to values clarification, sensitivity training, group dynamics, feelings, sexuality — is somewhat new. Actually, it is far from new. The fact is that the groundwork for what we have in our schools today was laid early in the 20th century by the Progressives who knew exactly where they wanted to lead America: to a socialist society. The Progressives were a new breed of educator that came on the scene in the late 19th century. These men, members of the "liberalized" Protestant academic elite, no longer believed in the religion of their fathers. They put their new faith in science, evolution and psychology. Science provided the means to know the material world. Evolution explained the origin of man, thus relegating the story of Genesis to mythology. And psychology institutionalized the scientific study of human nature and provided the scientific means to control human behavior. Many of these progressives studied in Germany under Prof. Wilhelm Wundt, the father of experimental psychology. Among the most noteworthy were G. Stanley Hall, James McKeen Cattell, Charles Judd, James Earl Russell, James R. Angell and Frank E. Spaulding. They brought back to America Wundt’s teachings and methodology and set up psych labs of their own in American universities. In these labs man was to be studied scientifically as one would study an animal. But since human beings could not be experimented on in labs, the psychologists used animals.
According to United States Attorney General Eric Holder, the United States is “losing the battle” to stem the flow of illegal guns into Mexico. Holder contends that Congress is partially to blame for the fact that American guns are landing in the hands of Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for murdering tens of thousands of people because Congress refuses to pass stringent gun control. The irony of Holder’s assertions given the recent revelations regarding the ATF’s and DOJ’s botched Project Gunrunner scandal has not gone unnoticed.  
Despite an utter lack of fair coverage in the mainstream media, Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul continues to hold his own in the race for the GOP primary. In fact, Paul may be doing even better than some are aware. According to a survey conducted by Real Clear Politics, Ron Paul is the only other GOP presidential contender besides frontrunner Mitt Romney to have a chance at defeating President Obama in a 2012 presidential race.  
The Obama administration is delaying implementation of its Christmas-tree tax following a tsunami of criticism and ridicule that erupted after news of the 15-cent “fee” broke on November 8. But while the plan is being reviewed, it is not dead yet. The tax on fresh-cut Christmas trees was supposed to fund a new entity within the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the “Christmas Tree Promotion Board” (CTPB). Supported by some industry lobbyists, the estimated $2 million in revenue would have been used to help improve the image and marketing of American Christmas trees. According to the notice published in the Federal Register earlier this week, the CTPB would be tasked with operating a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace.” The board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, would also help to “maintain and expend [sic] existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry.” Only sellers of 500 trees or more would have been subject to the tax.
After three years of trying to solve their self-imposed debt crisis, the Jefferson County, Alabama, commissioners threw in the towel on Wednesday and declared bankruptcy. The bankruptcy, involving over $4 billion in debts owed by the county, will be costly to the banks who loaned the money, the private investors who participated in the bond offerings, the guarantors of the debt, and most especially, the taxpayers of Montgomery. It’s already proven costly to Charles LeCroy, the JP Morgan broker who persuaded the county to refinance its debt in 2004, who was indicted by the SEC in 2009 for fraud in a separate case. And for Larry Langford, a county commissioner at the time, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for fraud in the present case. The seeds for the bankruptcy were planted back in 1994 when the Environmental Protection Agency demanded that Jefferson County build a new sewer system. The county complied and raised money through a bond offering that generated $3 billion which was used to build the new plant. LeCroy was the original broker involved in the deal and when he moved to JPMorgan, he used his position to persuade the county to refinance the bonds at lower cost, using something called derivatives. The refinance would lower the county’s interest payments and generate some cash for the county as well. It was that offer and acceptance of a deal that looked awfully good — too good — that set the stage for the bankruptcy filing on Wednesday.  
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