Sunday, December 1, 2013

DHS: Northern Border Now Poses Biggest Terrorist Threat
Newsmax

 
A top official with the Department of Homeland Security warns that the "nearly unguarded" northern border has become the most likely point of entry into the country for terrorists.

Brandon Judd, president of Homeland Security's National Border Patrol Council, told a House committee on Nov. 20: "For the most part, when discussions on border security arise, the conversation tends to focus on the southwest border. In no way do I want to detract from the importance of securing the southwest border, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the ongoing threat of the nearly unguarded northern border to the safety of the American public.

"As far as I am aware, all recent threat assessments have pointed to the northern border as the most likely point of entry into our country for terrorists."

The U.S.-Canada border extends for about 5,500 miles, and there are more than 120 land points of entry — not to mention vast stretches of open prairie along the border.

Judd told the committee: "The northern border is ripe for the exploitation of not only alien and drug trafficking, but also for facilitating the illegal entrances of terrorists and those that would do this country harm.

"If we selectively limit manpower to current locations with high volumes of illegal crossings, all we have really achieved is shifting the point of illegal entry to a different location."
In an ongoing trend, unrelated to Obamacare, companies have been passing on more and more healthcare costs to employees.

However, an ACA gotcha has impacted the way costs are passed on, with families taking a bigger hit than individuals at many companies.

Please consider Companies Prepare to Pass More Health Costs to Workers.
Many employers are betting that the Affordable Care Act's requirement that all Americans have health insurance starting in 2014 will bring more people into their plans who have previously opted out. That, along with other rising expenses, is prompting companies to raise workers' premium contributions, steer them toward high-deductible plans and charge them more to cover family members.

The changes as companies roll out their health plans for 2014 aren't solely the result of the ACA. Employers have been pushing more of the cost of providing health insurance on to their workers for years, and firms that aren't booking much sales growth due to the sluggish economy are under heavy pressure to keep expenses down.

A quirk of the Affordable Care Act could make it more appealing for companies to raise rates for family coverage than for individuals, said Vivian Ho, a Rice University health-care economist.

Starting in 2015, companies employing 50 or more people must offer affordable health-care coverage to anyone working 30 hours a week or more. But affordability is measured using the cost of individual coverage, capping the cost at 9.5% of income, Ms. Ho said. Raising family rates could help companies recoup costs without running afoul of that limit, she said.

Gannett Co., which owns more than 80 newspapers and 23 television stations, expects one factor in its increased health costs to be the addition of more employees to its insurance plans due to the ACA rules, according to a person familiar with the company's projections.

To address an overall increase in costs, Gannett has replaced the two plans for families it used to offer its workers with a single high-deductible plan that requires employees to pay the first $3,000 of medical costs each year, according to workers at the Indianapolis Star, one of the company's papers. For those with individual coverage, who make up a little over half of Gannett's insurance pool, the figure is $1,500.

The company also scrapped a sliding scale that let lower-income workers pay lower premiums. For some employees, the result was a 60% jump in monthly premiums for family coverage, to $575 from about $360.

Gannett said more than half of its employees will see premiums fall by 12%.

United Parcel Service Inc. made headlines in August when it said that it would bar spouses from its nonunion health plan if they could get coverage at their own jobs. The company said it expected to see an increase in its health-care costs in part from adding employees to its plan who currently opt out.

About 6% of employers ban coverage for spouses who can get it elsewhere, and another 6% impose an explicit surcharge for covering a spouse, according to Mercer. American Electric Power Co., for example, began imposing a $50 monthly surcharge this year to cover spouses with access to insurance at their own workplace. AEP said 92% of its employees usually sign up for coverage, so it doesn't expect a surge of new enrollment.

In another shift this year, companies have become increasingly aggressive about steering employees toward plans in which they pay more of the initial costs for their care in exchange for lower premiums.

Trucking and logistics company Ryder System Inc. has replaced one of its two insurance options with one such high-deductible plan. Ryder is encouraging employees to choose the new option in part by raising the cost of more traditional coverage.
Winners and Losers

Half of Gannett employees will see a 12% drop in premiums. But others will see a 60% rise. And for those who do see premiums decline, the drop will be solely because they are forced into high deductible plans.

Obamacare created a pool of winners and losers, with some of the losers far worse off than before. Many people were hardly affected at all, at least initially. In aggregate, ACA did nothing to lower overall costs, it just shifted costs around in an inefficient manner, making things worse than before.

The most widely reported "success" has been the enrollment of tens of thousands of people into Medicaid. Because of cost sharing that kicks in later, many states are likely to regret that effort.
Are U.S. federal government policy makers planning for an economic meltdown? Fiscal and financial news isn’t a particularly sexy topic for broad audiences, even under normal circumstances.

And over the Thanksgiving national holiday weekend, about the only news people care to consume are football scores.

But as we enjoyed turkey dinners, shopping, and hopefully some quality time with friends and family – and even in the recent days leading up to the holiday weekend – some major policy ideas and changes have emerged that could keep you away from your personal finances in the face of another meltdown. Americans are rightly angered right now by the disastrous impacts of the Obamacare implementation, but consider what else may lie ahead for our lives, our households, and our livelihoods.

For one, there was the November 25th report in the Financial Times indicating that the U.S. Federal Reserve is considering the possibility of arbitrarily cutting the amount of interest it pays on money that it borrows from private commercial banks. The interest that the government pays when it borrows money from private banks is, understandably, a big revenue stream for those banks. If the Federal Reserve makes this move, banks say they will in turn need to make up for the lost revenue by charging private individuals, households and businesses for depositing money in their accounts.

Let’s be clear about what is under consideration here. Customarily when an individual or an organization puts its money in a bank account, the bank will pay their customer at least some nominal level of interest in exchange for the privilege of possessing the customer’s money for a period of time. In the scenario that the Financial Times reported, some banks would completely reverse this historic bank-customer relationship and charge private individuals and businesses for the privilege of “parking” their money in an account for a time.

Could that create a bit of a backlash against banks? Recall that in March of this year, the dreadfully overspent government of Cyprus arbitrarily chose to impose a tax on all private bank deposits as a means of feeding the government’s never-ending hunger for money. This created a “run” on banks with private citizens rushing to clear out their accounts, which in turn led the government to force private banks to close for about ten days. When the banks re-opened, citizens were only permitted to withdrawal about $383 of their own money each day – a quick-fix that Nobel laureate economist Christopher Pissarides said was “extremely unfair to the little guy.”

The Cyprus crisis – as well as the meltdown of financial systems in Spain and Greece, among other places – may be what led one of President Obama’s appointees to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s board of Governors to propose a means of stopping “bank runs” here in America. According to a November report from Reuters news agency, Dan Tarullo, whose specialty is “financial regulation,” has proposed that banking regulators (like him) need to “supplement prudential banking regulation” with more “policy tools” – i.e., the ability to order banks closed. Tarullo and the other fed Governors are working on a new set of such “policy tools” to be unveiled in 2014.

So is the American financial system a safe place to keep one’s private assets? Bloomberg news reported one year ago that the U.S. Federal Reserve was weighing the possibility of trying to force foreign banking institutions to play by the U.S. government’s rules. Today that process has already begun, with Federal Reserve authorities notifying foreign banking institutions that they must report all American-owned assets and enforce American banking rules.

In economic terms, this is called “capital controls” – an effort by the U.S. federal government to control private peoples’ money as much as possible, and prevent it from leaving the country. Over the past six months private banks in Canada and New Zealand have become increasingly stringent with their willingness to hold deposits from Americans, and within the last two days the British territory of the Cayman Islands acquiesced to U.S. pressure and signed a controversial agreement that, for the first time, will require banks there to report all deposits from American citizens to American governmental authorities.

Why is this happening? Officials from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury it’s all precautionary. In case another 2008 type financial “meltdown” ever occurs again, so the reasoning goes, the U.S. will have as much control as possible over the global financial system.

But fundamentally, and philosophically, there is an undercurrent to all of these policies and proposals: it is the belief that the wellbeing of the institutions of government is more important that the wellbeing of individual persons, and an individual’s right to possess their own money.

Here’s hoping your team won this weekend. Now let’s figure out how to enable the American citizen to be a winner, once again.

FBI purged quotes of Qur'an verses favored by jihad terrorists from counter-terror training materials

From Jihad Watch / Posted by Robert Spencer


ObamaTurban.jpgHaram

God forbid that the FBI should understand the world view, motives, and goals of those who have vowed to destroy us. "Critics say the effort was driven by political correctness and made America more vulnerable by limiting the training FBI counter-terror agents receive to avoid offending Muslims." Indeed. And we saw the fruits of this at the Boston Marathon. Agents had been warned by the Russian government and probably also the Saudis about the Tsarnaev brothers; but since they're forbidden to study and understand the jihad doctrine, they didn't know how to evaluate the warnings.

"Obama, Eric Holder, cartoons and Lady Gaga are among the 'inappropriate' images purged from FBI counter-terror training," by Mark Flatten for the Washington Examiner, November 25:
A photo of President Obama in a turban and cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that led to terrorist plots against the Danish newspaper that published them are among documents purged from FBI counter-terrorism training materials, new disclosures from the agency show.
The documents deemed unfit for inclusion in FBI classrooms range from slides showing verses in the Quran favored by terrorists to a video called “God Hates Lady Gaga” produced by a fundamentalist church best known for its intrusive anti-gay protests at veterans' funerals
Entire sections dealing with Middle Eastern history, Islamic culture and techniques for interviewing Muslims while being mindful of Islamic customs were removed.

So was a reference to Attorney General Eric Holder's inability to define radicalism in a 2010 congressional hearing. The reason for that deletion was redacted.
The FBI began scrubbing its training materials in October 2011 after media reports that some of the presentations were deemed offensive or inaccurate.
Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller ordered the review under pressure from several Islamic-American groups. It was completed in March 2012.
Critics say the effort was driven by political correctness and made America more vulnerable by limiting the training FBI counter-terror agents receive to avoid offending Muslims.
"If you are going to be able to survive an enemy that wants to kill you and destroy your country, then you have got to know and understand your enemy," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a longtime critic of the FBI document purge.
"When you are in a war to save your country, your way of life, your liberty, then you need to know everything you can about those who are trying to destroy you," he said.
"For the first time I am aware of in our nation’s history, we are refusing to take a good look at who wants to destroy us," Gohmert said.
Almost 700 pages that were discarded by the FBI were released to the Washington Examiner in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in April 2012.
The disclosure provided no accounting of whether all removed materials were released or an explanation of why individual presentations were deemed unacceptable.
The Examiner compared the new documents to records released in May by the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch, which obtained them through FOIA.
Those records included explanations of why individual pages were considered unacceptable, but not the actual pages themselves.
The Judicial Watch records make reference to about 475 separate document numbers that include purged materials. The agency disclosures to the Examiner list only about a third of those files.
However, since many pages are duplicated in multiple presentations, it is not clear how many documents were not released.
Gohmert, who previously reviewed the FBI files, said he believes large numbers of documents were not released to the Examiner.

Why they hate us

From Jihad Watch / Posted by Robert Spencer


KORANgun.jpg
Gavin McInnes recounts a conversation I had with him in the lobby of The Breakers during Restoration Weekend a couple of weeks ago. "Stuck in the Past," by Gavin McInnes, November 22:
I just flew back from Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, and boy are my arms tired of the old narrative. I was on a panel with James O’Keefe and Sonnie Johnson called “Changing the Narrative,” and we all talked about how dangerous it is for the GOP to remain stuck in the past. 
The speakers at this conference bore impressive pedigrees and included Ann Coulter, Ted Cruz, Pamela Gellar [sic], Dr. Benjamin Carson, Bill Whittle, Robert Spencer, and conference founder David Horowitz. Just as New York City is an island of lunacy surrounded by hundreds of miles of reality, walking around The Breakers Palm Beach Hotel felt like a wee bit of sanity in a world gone mad.
While trying to register, I strolled by Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer, who was sitting in the lobby checking his email. After a brief introduction, I asked some totally predictable questions like, “Do you ever think of quitting?” and “Do you have bulletproof windows?
“If I stopped doing what I do, I wouldn’t suddenly become immortal,” he replied.
I told him of a recent revelation where I realized it’s not a choice between “Do they hate us because they’re inbred?” or “Do they hate us because of Israel?”
It’s both. They hate us because they’re inbred and also because of Israel.
He disagreed and said it was neither. “It’s because the book says to kill us and they think God wrote the book.” We then talked about seemingly random attacks on Vancouver and Glasgow and how little our foreign policy in Israel has to do with terrorism in the Philippines right now. The conversation ended with both of us agreeing that nobody kills more Muslims than Muslims do....