News You Can Use – November 24, 2015

News You Can Use – November 24, 2015

Washington (CNN)The United States issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans amid concerns that terror groups and individuals plan more attacks after the Paris massacres.

The State Department warned that groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram “continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.”

It also warned of the possibility of individuals carrying out their own attacks.

“These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests,” the department said in issuing a travel alert that expires on February 24, 2016.

The alert does not instruct Americans to avoid travel, but it does urge U.S. citizens to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.”

“Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events,” the State Department said in the alert.

The department said that terrorist attacks remain likely as ISIS members return from Iraq and Syria.

It warned that “there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis,” pointing specifically to large sporting events, theaters, open markets and airlines.

In July, the State Department issued a “Worldwide Caution” that also warned ISIS and others continued to plan terrorist attacks against the United States and Western interests in Europe.

An “Alert” is time-limited, often for 90 days, at which it can be reviewed. An alert is not necessarily stronger or weaker than a caution. The most recent worldwide travel alert was issued in December 2014, and prior to that in August 2013, September 2011, and May 2011.

GOP Hopefuls Hope to Break the ISIS

While the rest of the West hunkers down to shore up their security plans, President Obama has been jet-setting to Asia to talk climate change. Well, the world is heating up all right — but it has nothing to do with greenhouse gas. Regardless, the president seems intent on minimizing the crisis that even his own party seems to recognize. On the hot seat over his plan to flood the U.S. with at least 10,000 Syrians (and who knows how many terrorists hiding among the refugees), the White House’s latest approach seems to be ignoring ISIS into submission.

More than once, reporters have pushed Obama on his almost passive attitude after the Paris attacks. Now, anxious to deflect the criticism, the president is insisting his plan for defeating ISIS is working. (He’ll have a tougher time convincing Americans of that — 83 percent of whom believe a “large-scale terrorist attack” in the U.S. is likely.) Still, the president insisted, “We cannot respond from fear.” We can, however, respond from wisdom and common sense, two things conspicuously absent from the White House’s open-door approach.

And while the Republicans are anxious to succeed this president may not agree on specifics, they do agree the president’s strategy is nothing short of a disaster. “Importing terrorism” is how Governor Mike Huckabee put it, a nod to the news that several radicals are trying to game the refugee system in places like Turkey and France. “I think when you see the left-wing, socialist president of France — a very politically correct country — saying, “It’s time to close our borders,’ and he does so immediately, I think it might be a clue to America that this idea of wholesale having people from the Middle East come, and we have no idea who they are, when in fact one of the Paris attackers was one of those refugees, then it’s time to wake up…”

Elsewhere on the Sunday talk show circuit, Republican candidates vied to get their points across on the urgency of these times, which former CIA director Jack Devine called “the most dangerous” yet. “I have never felt more uncomfortable than I do today,” he said. “When you have a group of people who are willing to lose their lives and kill anyone they can, we’re all vulnerable… You have a group in ISIS today that is frankly uncivilized. These folks could get stronger and stronger. We basically have to destroy ISIS over there. If there’s blame to be put, it’s on our failure to have done that by this point.”

Now, Governor Chris Christie (N.J.) blasted, “[Obama] wants the American people to absorb this crisis that he’s created,” referring to the resettling of Syrian refugees. “The FBI director himself said they cannot vet these folks,” the governor reminded CNN viewers. While Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) charges fellow Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for changing his position on immigration, Cruz directed his fire at the administration. “Let’s have a debate on your refugee policy, and if you’re so certain that allowing tens of thousands of refugees, including potentially ISIS terrorists, is a good idea, if you’re so certain the American people are with you, then I would encourage you to come.” Dr. Ben Carson called for “enhancing” America’s intelligence program and monitoring systems, while fellow doctor and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) countered that citizens have already surrendered too much privacy. “You can keep giving up liberties, but in the end,” he warned, “I don’t think we’ll end up safer.”

For his part, Donald Trump continued to take a hard line, arguing more bombings, waterboarding (“They don’t use waterboarding over there. They use chopping off people’s heads”), and increased surveillance on U.S. Muslims. For all of their differences, the GOP field is at least trying to solve the problem — not exacerbate it, as this administration seems determined to do.

And if the White House expected cover from his far-Left friends, you won’t find much of it. Even Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is criticizing the administration for not doing enough to contain ISIS. “I don’t think the approach is sufficient to the job…” Feinstein said bluntly. “We need to be aggressive now. We need a specific, larger special operations plan.”


Photo credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

The next time you hear a politician use the
word ‘billion’ in a casual manner, think about
whether you want the ‘politicians’ spending
YOUR tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend,
But one advertising agency did a good job of
putting that figure into some perspective in
one of its releases.

A..
A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

B..
A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

C..
A billion hours ago Adam and Eve didn’t have any clothes on.

E..
A billion dollars ago was only
8 hours and 20 minutes,
at the rate our government
is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain…
let’s take a look at New Orleans…
It’s amazing what you can learn with some simple division.

Louisiana Senator,
Mary Landrieu (D)
was asking Congress for
250 BILLION DOLLARS
To rebuild New Orleans.   Interesting number…
What does it mean?

A..
Well .. If you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans
(every man, woman and child)
You each get $516,528

B..
Or… If you have one of the 188,251 homes in
New Orleans , your home gets $1,329,787.

C..
Or… If you are a family of four…
Your family gets $2,066,012.

Washington, D.C.

HELLO!
Are all your calculators broken??

Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax (Fed)
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
(And to think, we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes)

STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY?

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago…
And our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt…
We had the largest middle class in the world…
And Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened?
Can you spell
‘politicians’!

And I still have to
Press ‘1’  for English.

In response to a letter from Ralph Nader decrying the plight of savers who are suffering from years of exceptionally low interest rates, Federal Reseve ChairmanJanet Yellen noted that Americans would have been worse off if the Fed had not taken drastic action to counter the severe financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 and the ensuing recession.

“Americans generally have benefited, most particularly lower- and middle-income people affected disproportionately during the downturn,” Yellen wrote.

By pegging the benchmark federal funds rate between zero and 0.25 percent point in December 2008, the Fed lowered borrowing costs for millions of American families and businesses, in turn supporting the housing market and job growth, she argued.

“We all hope and expect that the economy will continue to expand, that the jobs market will continue to make progress, and that inflation will move toward our two percent price stability objective,” Yellen wrote.

“If that is the case, my colleagues and I have indicated it will be appropriate to begin to normalise interest rates.”

The markets expect the central bank to announce the rate liftoff on December 16, capping a two-day meeting of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

Justifying keeping rates near zero for almost seven years, Yellen said: “Would savers have been better off if the Federal Reserve had not acted as forcefully as it did and had maintained a higher level of short-term interest rates, including rates paid to savers? I don’t believe so.

“Unemployment would have risen to even higher levels, home prices would have collapsed further, even more businesses and individuals would have faced bankruptcy and foreclosure, and the stock market would not have recovered.”

In an open letter to Yellen posted online October 30 by The Huffington Post, Nader said he was writing as one of millions of “frustrated” Americans who are getting near zero percent on their traditional bank savings and money market accounts.

“We want to know why the Federal Reserve, funded and heavily run by the banks, is keeping interest rates so low that we receive virtually no income for our hard-earned savings while the Fed lets the big banks borrow money for virtually no interest,” Nader wrote.

In her response, Yellen acknowledged the frustration of savers caused by their very low returns, which have “caused hardship for some of them, particularly seniors on fixed incomes.”

Forbes put together the definitive wealth list of the 2016 presidential candidates. Looking at both major parties, we have come up with net worth estimates for the 20 top Republican and Democratic contenders. BeyondDonald Trump, whose $4.5 billion net worth dwarfs the rest combined, we find that several candidates are worth more than $30 million, including Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, and Carly Fiorina. At the same time, we found that only three of them aren’t millionaires (Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio, and Martin O’Malley). For a complete analysis of our list, see my post here.

To piece together a precise picture of their individual wealth, Forbes used a variety of documents, starting with financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission. Candidates are only required to report their net worth in ranges, so the Forbes wealth team dug deep, looking through property records, mortgage papers, and tax records when available. We called experts and checked with county clerks. Finally, we called the candidates themselves, looking to corroborate our figures. We didn’t always get a response.

Their average net worth, excluding Trump, tops $13 million, while all but four can call themselves multi-millionaires. Several of them have leveraged their political capital–contacts while in office, influence, power–into successful careers in the private sector (particularly private equity and consulting), or turned to media, raking in big bucks from book deals, radio shows, TV appearances, and even films. At the end of the day, being a successful politician is a lucrative business, as the Clintons can attest to.

Since Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2001, they have earned more than $230 million. But in federal filings the Clintons claim they are worth somewhere between $11 million and $53 million. After layering years of disclosures on top of annual tax returns, Forbes estimates their combined net worth at $45 million. Where did all of the money go? No one seems to know, and the Clintons aren’t offering any answers.

From 2001 to 2014 the power couple spent $95 million on taxes. Hillary’s 2008 presidential run cost her $13 million. Their two homes cost a combined $5 million, and the Clintons have given away $22 million to charity. All of this is according to FEC filings, property records and years of tax returns. Add it up and you get $135 million. If the Clintons made $230 million, spent $135 million and have just $45 million left over, what happened to the other $50 million?

“That’s kind of strange,” says Joe Biden’s accountant, Walter Deyhle. “You have to report all of your assets. You have to report assets that are owned by your spouse.”

It seems unlikely that the Clintons could have spent all of it. Over 14 years $50 million averages out to $3.6 million in extra expenses per year, or $9,800 per day.

WHERE COULD THAT much money have disappeared? The Clintons have been speaking around the world for years, and they count millions in travel expenses under their businesses. It is unclear whether they have paid for additional travel expenses out of their own pockets. It seems unlikely, but they could have given it away overseas: Donations to foreign charities are not deductible and would not be listed on tax returns. Billionaires like Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, Lakshmi Mittal of India and Joseph Safra of Brazil have donated to their foundation. Maybe the Clintons are returning the favor?

Or maybe they have given millions to their daughter, Chelsea, although she has plenty of her own money, after working for years and marrying hedge fund manager Marc Mezvinsky in 2010. The problem with all of these ideas is they are merely guesses. The Clintons did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Others were just as perplexed as we were.

“I don’t see how that would be possible,” said Jeff Mussatt, a certified financial planner who helped put together the financial disclosures for Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore. “That’s quite a mystery you have on your hands.”

What we do know is that when Bill Clinton ended his presidency, he and Hillary owed millions in legal fees and were essentially broke. On a financial disclosure document Hillary filed after entering the U.S. Senate in 2001, the Clintons declared assets of less than $1.8 million and liabilities of more than $2 million.

White Christians now make up less than half of the U.S. population, largely receding from the majorities of most demographic groups, with one notable exception: the Republican Party.

According to the latest results from Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape survey published Monday by National Journal’s Next America project, just 46 percent of American adults are white Christians, down from 55 percent in 2007.

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At the same time, according to the report, the share of white Christians identifying as Republican has remained steady, even equal with the share of the party that carried President Ronald Reagan to his 1984 reelection. Nearly seven in 10 white Christians — 69 percent — identify with or lean toward the GOP, while just 31 percent do the same with Democrats.

Among nonwhite Christians, meanwhile, 32 percent identify with or lean toward Democrats, and just 13 percent do the same with Republicans.

In less than a decade, the gap in Christian identification between Democrats and Republicans has increased by 50 percent. According to the data presented, in 2007, 88 percent of white Republicans and 70 percent of white Democrats identified as Christian, an 18-point disparity. By 2014, 84 percent of white Republicans identified as Christian, but the share of white Democrats identifying as Christian fell by 13 points, to 57 percent, a 27-point gap.

Pew conducted the massive survey by telephone between June 4 and Sept. 30, 2014, interviewing 35,071 Americans, with an overall margin of error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points.

A darling red-headed seven-year-old boy who made international headlines after he had an ill-timed case of the hiccups but carried on singing the national anthem at a baseball game says he is loving the attention.

Ethan Hall, 7, who attends Hallmark Music Studio in South Australia, was given the privilege of singing the national anthem before the Australian Baseball League game between the Brisbane Bandits and Adelaide Bite at Cooper Stadium on Friday night.

After footage of the memorable performance that showed players from both baseball teams struggling to contain their giggles as Ethan stumbled through the song went viral, he told Network Ten’s The Project he was soaking up the limelight and appreciated his new-found ‘talent’.


‘I also love being famous,’ he said on the television program.

Ethan was also asked by host Carrie Bickmore what he was thinking before he took to the diamond.


He simply replied with ‘uh oh’, drawing a laugh from Bickmore, her co-hosts and the studio audience, before treating them to a rendition of the national anthem sans hiccups.

In another interview, Ethan told ITV’s Good Morning Britain how his bout of hiccups had come at home before his big moment and his father had tried to help him stop them.

‘At home I had the hiccups when I was getting changed and then daddy scared me. I wasn’t expecting it. He actually didn’t scare me, he scared the hiccups,’ the seven-year-old said.

Despite getting rid of them for a short while, they came back, forcing him to endure them as he sang the anthem.

His mother, Kylie, said he had been a bit overwhelmed with all the attention, but was proud of the resilience he had shown in dealing with the unfortunate predicament and subsequent interest in him.

‘He had to make a decision as to what he did, so that’s something we can always call on forever,’ she said.

Ethan has been called a ‘legend’ after the adorable footage went viral all over the world.

It showed the seven-year-old was not fazed by his unfortunate breathing spasms and managed to power through the entire performance, much to the delight of the crowd and players.

As he exits the field, an ecstatic Ethan – who is dressed in a red vest and black slacks – is met with an enormous cheer from the crowd.

Several amused players also approach the little boy, high-fiving him for his efforts.

One of the commentators labelled the performance as ‘absolutely priceless’.

‘What a lot of courage from the youngster,’ he said.

The video has gone viral after circulating around sports news and commentary website Deadspin, with the little boy’s powerful rendition earning him more than 15,000 likes since it was uploaded on Saturday.

News You Can Use – November 24, 2015