The Federal Reserve is seeking contractors to build a tool that will monitor and analyze blogs, news reports, and social-media chatter about the central bank and its policies, with a goal of being able to use “public relations” strategies to counter the growing barrage of negative publicity. But critics quickly added to the institution’s troubled image as the news spread by lambasting the half-baked scheme as “Orwellian” spying and “intimidation.” The Fed’s “Request for Proposal” explains that the institution needs a platform to “monitor billions of conversations” and “identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers.” Information collected will be used to measure the effectiveness of the central bank’s “public relations” and “communication strategies” — known in laymen’s terms as propaganda operations.   “There is need for the Communications Group to be timely and proactively aware of the reactions and opinions expressed by the general public as it relates to the Federal Reserve and its actions on a variety of subjects,” the document states. News outlets, Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs, YouTube, and other social media platforms will all be targeted.
Drop what you’re doing. I mean it. Stop whatever it is that you’re doing and go online to find out when the next showing is. Take a friend, go alone, doesn’t matter. Moneyball isn’t about baseball. No way. This is about taking a chance, taking a risk, putting it all on the line. This is what it feels like to try to (and succeed in) overthrowing the existing order of things. It’s about finding out not only who your friends are, but how it feels to be alone. I don’t even like baseball. And I don’t particularly care much for Brad Pitt. You probably don’t, either. Doesn’t matter. In this movie he is Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics, which just lost the American League Division Series to the New York Yankees in 2001. No wonder. The Yankees had a $114 million salary budget to finance their race for the pennant, compared to the A’s $39 million.
The federal government was again just days away from a potential shutdown when the Senate passed another spending bill which critics say is strewn with far too much spending. The legislation includes money for victims of Hurricane Irene and the summer tornados, and funds the federal government at the start of the new budget year, which begins on Saturday. The resolution was approved by the Senate after a series of behind-the-scenes discussions which ultimately ended the latest round of vicious debates between Democrats and Republicans over items such as spending, cuts, and taxes. According to The Blaze, those disputes have “rattled financial markets and coincided with polls showing congressional approval ratings at historically low levels.” The bill passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 79-12. The measure is now on its way to the House of Representatives for a vote, though there is little doubt it will pass there, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated that it is acceptable. “I think it’s a reasonable way to keep the government operational,” he commented.
For the so-called “old media,” it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Last week the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press released a survey whose results indicate that 43 percent of Americans now claim to get most of their news from Internet sources. This figure represents a record number of respondents citing the web as their primary provider of information on issues of national and international importance.   Television news is declining as Internet news is rising. The number of Americans polled by the Pew group that identified television as their first choice for news is at a record low. Sixty-six percent still claimed to look to TV for their news.   For 20 years the Pew organization has been asking Americans: “How do you get most of your news about national and international issues?”   According to a synopsis of the survey:
A new Gallup poll found a record-breaking 81 percent of Americans dissatisfied with the U.S. government’s performance, as the economy remains stagnant and the country’s fiscal integrity wanes. The polling company noted:  Americans’ various ratings of political leadership in Washington add up to a profoundly negative review of government — something that would seem unhealthy for the country to endure for an extended period. Nevertheless, with another budget showdown looking inevitable and a contentious presidential election year getting underway, it appears the ratings reviewed here could get worse before they improve. A relatively new trend, American discontent with the way Congress and the White House govern, has significantly deepened. In 2003, 59 percent of Americans approved of the federal government’s overall performance, while only 39 percent disapproved. An analysis of the past few years presents an upward curve in dissatisfaction with the federal government, particularly as war in the Middle East endures and as the U.S. economy remains stale.
Does anxiety over what some fundamentalists believe is the coming "biblical apocalypse" motivate Republicans to vote for a particular candidate?  According to a recent op-ed published in the New York Times, the answer is yes. The author of the piece, Matthew Avery Sutton, is an associate professor of history at Washington State University and is the author of Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America. In his article, Sutton claims that a “small but vocal minority” of Republicans associate the recent economic crises, the rise of “radical Islam,” and diverse natural disasters with the “last days” of the earth and as such they are searching for the candidate they believe will lead them safely through this eschatological maelstrom. How does religion, particularly the branch of Christianity called “fundamentalism,” influence presidential politics? According to Sutton: Christian apocalypticism has a long and varied history. Its most prevalent modern incarnation took shape a century ago, among the vast network of preachers, evangelists, Bible-college professors and publishers who established the fundamentalist movement. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and independents, they shared a commitment to returning the Christian faith to its “fundamentals.”
Americans have invested in homes in many ways for a long time. During the frontier days of the West, families would homestead property and so through grit and endless work transform a patch of prairie into a home, a barn, a farm, and an investment. Federal policies have gutted much of that wealth. Environmental regulations have interfered with the sensible activities of farmers (as if Big Government had a greater long term interest in the preservation of the land than those who lived and worked on it). Farm subsidies, beginning with the disastrous New Deal, contorted rational economic decision-making by farmers and induced them instead to enter the Never-Never Land of government subsidies, so that in Iowa — a politically potent state because of its early role in the primaries — the wasteful use of corn to produce ethanol is still sacrosanct. Federal estate taxes, too, have forced families to sell farms which their grandfathers intended to remain in the family forever. Stocks and bonds have historically been another long-term investment for millions of Americans. Long before the Roaring Twenties, middle-class Americans saw the virtue of creating a portfolio of stocks and bonds. Innovators such as Edison and Bell, geniuses of management such as Carnegie and Ford, and people with just great business ideas, such as Sears, created vast amounts of commercial wealth and then converted that potential wealth into usable cash by liquidating their stock holdings and selling them on the market.
A Louisiana woman suffering from cystic fibrosis is being hailed throughout the world for her decision to deliver three healthy triplets, rather than abort them as doctors had advised her.  Identical triplets Dakota, Savannah, and Brooklyn recently celebrated their first birthday because their mother, 21-year-old Kandace Smith, refused to “terminate” them as she was counseled by her doctors, who told her “she was too small and weak to bear even one child, much less triplets,” reported Beliefnet.com. Cystic fibrosis is a serious hereditary disorder that affects the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and often leading to early death. Smith was told that she would likely never be able to have children. “I couldn’t believe that I was actually pregnant,” she recalled to the British newspaper the Daily Mail, “and when the scan showed there were three heartbeats I nearly passed out. I didn’t actually believe it was possible — and there were three babies in my womb.”
Rick Perry’s suspect record as governor of Texas, his love for doling out public funds to illegal aliens, his fondness for lining the pockets of his political allies, and his neo-con attitude toward the perpetuation of foreign wars should be enough to dissuade constitutionalists from voting for the Republican presidential hopeful. As if that weren’t enough, Perry’s recent debate performances may be driving the final nails in the governor’s presidential prospects. Those once considering voting for Rick Perry are now tying their hopes to one of his colleagues after the erstwhile “front runner” has proven himself not only incapable of parrying the barrage of attacks coming at him from his competitors. Herman Cain, the reputed winner of the most recent televised job interview, told Fox News that Perry’s performance was “was not up to primetime.” Surprisingly, Perry himself is copping to the charges of bending under the pressure of the long presidential campaign. At a conference of GOP activists in Michigan, Perry admitted that his debate performances were consistently sub par and less impressive than those of his Republican rivals.
Republican Representative Darrell Issa has been portrayed by the media as being one of the more fiscally conservative members of the House. A recent revelation contradicts that portrayal, as it has been discovered that Issa has been trying to redirect federal money for green jobs in his own district in California. In January of 2010, Issa sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking for his support on a federal loan for an electric car maker. The letter read, “Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Moters will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district.” The letter surfaced after Issa was harshly critical of the Obama administration for its crony capitalism on behalf of two companies: Solyndra  and Lightsquared. With Solyndra, there have been high-profile hearings on the $535 million federal loan guarantee to the California solar power company that declared bankruptcy last month. In the case of LightSquared, House Armed Services Committee Republicans are expressing support for an "aggressive investigation" into why the company received regulatory approvals from the FCC despite well-documented concerns that its planned satellite-terrestrial broadband network would interfere with GPS — including national security.
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