On Thursday, Bank of America announced that, starting the first of the year, they would be charging debit card users $5 a month for the privilege as a way to recoup lost income under new rules from the Federal Reserve. The rules, which took effect on Saturday, October 1, limit the amount banks may charge merchants accepting debit cards to 21 cents per transaction, down from 44 cents previously. Under the Dodd-Frank bill passed in 2010 — initially proposed by former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) — banks processing the transactions will see their income from those fees drop by about $10 billion a year, all in the name of fairness and equity, according to the Federal Reserve, which determined that the new fees are “reasonable and proportional.” According to industry sources, the real cost of handling each debit card transaction amounts to “a penny or two,” and so politicians decided this called for action.   One of those was liberal interventionist Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the swipe fee amendment, saying,
Referring to his jobs bill in his weekly address to the nation, President Barack Obama stated, “I want it back.” No, the President is not having second thoughts about the $447 billion bill; he just wants Congress to pass the bill so he can sign it. Obama submitted his American Jobs Act to Capitol Hill nearly three weeks ago, having preceded it with a speech to a joint session of Congress in which he repeatedly urged that body to “pass this bill right away.” Since that time the bill has been subjected to much scrutiny and criticism, but no action has been taken on it. Fed up with legislators’ stalling, Obama said, “It is time for Congress to get its act together and pass this jobs bill so I can sign it into law.” Obama’s latest shot across Congress’s bow differed little from his previous remarks on the bill. He asserted that the “bill would boost the economy and spur hiring” and that it “is fully paid for.” “Why,” the President asked, “would you be against that?” There are a number of good reasons to oppose it.
The Department of Energy (DOE) Friday finalized grants for four solar energy projects. The guaranteed funds being made available to the companies total more than $4.7 billion.  Earlier in the week, the DOE awarded separate loan guarantees worth one billion dollars for two solar power plants and one cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.

The decision comes several weeks after the Obama administration announced that Solyndra, a California-based solar energy component manufacturer, was awarded a $535-million loan guarantee. This bureaucratic boon came to Solyndra despite the fact that in 2009 the company had filed for bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers. The grant, the circumstances surrounding it, and the recipient’s obvious lack of demonstrable viability combined in a cocktail of controversy that the President is still imbibing.
   In addition to the foregoing financing, the DOE announced an additional guaranteed funding totaling $737 million for the construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nevada. The project is being spearheaded and overseen by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve.   Despite the facts produced by the DOE itself regarding the questionable economic feasibility of financing solar and wind power versus traditional sources of energy, the Secretary of the Department wrote in a statement accompanying the announcements:
Claiming that the United States “can’t afford” to lose the race to develop the technologies necessary for a transition to a green economy, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank defended the dispersal of millions of dollars in federal funds to the winners of the government’s i6 Green Challenge. The i6 Green Challenge is undeniably a very small program; the challenge website acknowledges that approximately $12 million was available for “proof of concept” models. Under business-as-usual in Washington, D.C., the expenditure of $12 million would look like a departmental rounding error. In part, the i6 Green Challenge awards will receive a measure of public scrutiny because of the scandal surrounding President Obama’s favorite (at least until recently) example of a corporation of the new “green economy” — Solyndra — which recently found itself under investigation in connection with $535 million in loan guarantees that it had received from the federal government. The image of Solyndra being raided by FBI agents may continue to linger for a time — much to the chagrin of the President and his standard bearers in government and the media. An article for CNSNews (“Acting Commerce Secretary: Despite Failures, ‘U.S. Can’t Afford’ Not to Subsidize Green Tech”) highlights the “good money after bad” strategy being employed by the White House: In short, pay no attention to the scandals and lack of success — the “green economy” must be pursued at any cost.
Courageous is one of the few films to hit the big screen this year that's worth writing home about. Exploring the lives of four men that are impacted by tragedy, the movie deals with spirituality and faith, and tells a story that will likely remain with its viewers long after the final credits. Courageous explores the paternal relationships of four unique families. Police officer Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick) believes himself to be a good father because he provides for the physical needs of his wife and children, but thinks nothing of skipping out on a 5K father-son race, or declining an offer from his 9-year old daughter to dance together in a deserted parking lot. He seems to believe that because he works hard at his career, which supports his family, he has earned the right to neglect the emotional needs of his family. Meanwhile, police officer Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes) struggles with maintaining a relationship with his son after his divorce, and finds it difficult to maintain monthly alimony. Rookie David Thompson (Ben Davies) does his best to keep the fact that he has a child hidden from the world, choosing instead to play the role of a carefree bachelor. Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel) is another police officer who has made the conscious decision to support his family in a way his father never did, and is willing to meet that challenge each and every day.
When one considers viewing a movie that explores in depth the difficulties of coping with terminal illness, and depicts the full range of agonizing and grievous emotions, one would not expect the fim to include Seth Rogen, who is better known for his roles in foolish films such as Pineapple Express and Superbad. Yet in 50/50 Rogen proves that Rogen is a multi-faceted performer. The film is inspired by the true story of 27-year-old screenwriter Will Reiser, Rogen's friend in real life (known a Adam Lerner in the film and played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. When Adam learns that the survival rate of the disease is only 50 percent, he undergoes a crisis that provokes him to reflect on his life and the relationships that have shaped his existence. 50/50 does the unthinkable by actually making light of a dark and disturbing topic. In fact, there is a great deal of levity in the two-hour film, inspired by the adept writing of Will Reiser, who sharply manages to capture his own personal experiences. The script features lively, witty, and at times hilarious banter, while managing to shift moods rather smoothly to serious discussions of life and death.
President Obama touted the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen September 30, raising constitutional questions of whether the President has become judge, jury, and executioner for alleged criminals. Obama noted that Awlaki was a longtime video propagandist for al-Qaeda, and claimed that "the death of Awlaki is a major blow to al Qaeda's most active operational affiliate. Awlaki was the leader of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans." Awlaki wasn't the only American targeted in the drone strike. "The strike also killed a second U.S. citizen — Samir Khan, the co-editor of an al-Qaeda magazine — and two other unidentified al-Qaeda operatives," the Yemeni government told the Washington Post. The New American reported back in June that dozens of other American citizens are apparently on Obama's assassination list. President Obama alleged that Awlaki "directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. He directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010." Awlaki denied directing these attacks in a February 2010 interview with Al Jazeera, though he admitted he liked the idea of attacks on U.S. military targets.
Who talked Rick Perry into grabbing the third rail of American politics? In case you don’t recognize the phrase, “the third rail” refers to any criticism of the Social Security system or any suggestions on ways to improve it by anyone running for public office anywhere in the United States. It’s called the third rail because, just like a subway line, touching it usually proves fatal. In the book Perry published last year, which he called Fed Up!, the Texas Governor referred to Social Security as “a Ponzi scheme.” Nobody made much of a fuss about it at the time. Outside of Texas, who cares what the Governor there says? But now that Perry has taken the top spot in the Republican race for the White House, the poor guy is really getting pounded for it — and for a bunch of other “crazy, right-wing” sentiments he expressed there as well. Or at least so saith the New York Times and Washington Post.
Facebook continues to be the subject of controversy over issues of privacy, this time because Facebook cookies were found to be accidentally tracking other sites users visited after they had logged off. The information is then sent to Facebook via the cookies, provoking concerns over users’ privacy violations.  According to The Daily Mail, the cookies “send Facebook your IP address — the ‘unique identifier’ address of your PC — and information on whether you have visited millions of websites: anything with a Facebook ‘like’ or ‘recommend’ button on it.” One Facebook spokesperson admitted, “We place cookies on the computer of the user,” and that some of those cookies do in fact send back the address of the users’ PCs and sites they visited, even while logged out. “Three of these cookies inadvertently included unique identifiers when the user had logged out of Facebook. We did not store these for logged out users. We could not have used this information.” The malfunction was made public by Australian blogger Nik Cubrilovic, who was disgruntled with the recent changes made to Facebook.
Following complaints by a homosexual student who was allegedly dismissed from a Christian fraternity at the school, Vanderbilt University has launched a crusade aimed at forcing Christian groups that receive school funding to follow an official policy that conflicts with some of the groups’ own faith-based bylaws and policies.  “Last academic year, an undergraduate made an allegation of discrimination against a student organization,” the university said in a statement on September 15. “As a result of that allegation, we sought to ensure that the more than 300 student organizations were aware of their need to comply with the university’s longstanding nondiscrimination policy.” The university’s policy is a model of  political correctness, stating that in addition to all of the other ways in which it does not discriminate against individuals (“on the basis of their race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability…”), the university also “does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression….”
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