Friday, December 31, 2010
Two stories highlight the absurdity of the current politically correct social experimentation foisted on the Pentagon by liberal politicians:
A paper published in the journal Pediatrics in late 2009 found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in civilian families. The longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the researchers found, the more likely the children were to have had difficulties in school and at home. But those studies do not describe the myriad ways, often imperceptible to outsiders, in which families cope with deployments every day.- continue article in the NY Times
The military's next step after 'don't ask, don't tell': Equal rights for gay service members
After the House voted to repeal the policy, the Senate took on the issue and also voted to lift the 17-year-old ban on gays in the military.
By Chris Patti Washington Post
Thursday, December 30, 2010; 8:00 PM
With a swoop of his pen last week, President Obama wiped away more than a century of discrimination that had culminated in a 17-year struggle for the rights of gay men and lesbians serving in the U.S. armed forces. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will now try to fashion a policy that will filter down to all of us in the services. That policy needs to set a standard for the ethical and equitable treatment of all service members, regardless of their sexuality...
...Despite all of the controversy, repealing "don't ask, don't tell" was the easy part. Politics aside, it takes no courage to simply right a wrong. The president and members of Congress have been congratulating themselves for doing the right thing. But minds should be turning to the difficult questions that remain. These are the same questions that vex our society when it comes to equal rights for homosexuals. They cross over into the "gray areas" where some start to feel uncomfortable and where the legal options are ambiguous.
It is, for example, one thing to hand a gay junior sailor a paintbrush and point him toward a rusty bulkhead. But can that gay sailor, if he has a partner, collect the same housing allowance his married counterparts do? Can a lesbian sailor request to be stationed where her partner is? Will the military recognize a marriage between two service members that is legal in one state but not in another?
The issue of gay marriage provokes deep divisions. I hope that my brothers and sisters in the armed forces can help the Defense Department set standards for the rights of gay men and lesbians that far outpace the conflicted sentiment and resulting legal tangle in our society. This is an opportunity to show all Americans that homosexuals deserve equal treatment under the law. This applies not just in some cases or with limitations but to the full rights all Americans should share when it comes to legal matters such as marriage, salary and tax benefits.
It is incumbent on the military to not only pave a fair and equitable way forward for all service members but also to lead by example and provide our country with a template. The Sailor's Creed, which is recited across the globe every day by everyone serving in the Navy, concludes, "I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all." It is time for those words to ring true for everyone who serves.
Most gay and lesbian service members won't be standing up and announcing their sexual orientation at the next "all-hands" call. They won't get new name tags. They will remain, as they always have been, indistinguishable from their straight counterparts. Instead, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" means that there may be quiet instances of a lesbian sailor telling a shipmate that she is gay, or a gay sailor saying that his plans for the weekend include going on a trip with his partner. Such statements are likely to be met with shrugs, and everyone will go back to getting the mission done. But just because these moments no longer risk automatic discharge does not mean that gay and lesbian service members have equality.
The Pentagon must be clear about treating all members of the U.S. military equally, which means that it must recognize gay marriage as legal and a right of every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine. These rights almost must extend to their spouses, just as they do to the spouses of straight servicemen and women, to include health care, retirement benefits, GI Bill eligibility and commissary privileges.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Baby boomers near 65 with retirements in jeopardy
CHICAGO (AP) — Through a combination of procrastination and bad timing, many baby boomers are facing a personal finance disaster just as they're hoping to retire. Starting in January, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years.
The boomers, who in their youth revolutionized everything from music to race relations, are set to redefine retirement. But a generation that made its mark in the tumultuous 1960s now faces a crisis as it hits its own mid-60s.
"The situation is extremely serious because baby boomers have not saved very effectively for retirement and are still retiring too early," says Olivia Mitchell, director of the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
There are several reasons to be concerned:
— The traditional pension plan is disappearing. In 1980, some 39 percent of private-sector workers had a pension that guaranteed a steady payout during retirement. Today that number stands closer to 15 percent, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C.
— Reliance on stocks in retirement plans is greater than ever; 42 percent of those workers now have 401(k)s. But the past decade has been a lost one for stocks, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index posting total returns of just 4 percent since the beginning of 2000.
— Many retirees banked on their homes as their retirement fund. But the crash in housing prices has slashed almost a third of a typical home's value. Now 22 percent of homeowners, or nearly 11 million people, owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Many are boomers.
Michael Vanatta, 61, of Vero Beach, Fla., is paying the price for being a boomer who enjoyed life without saving for the future. He put a daughter through college, but he also spent plenty of money on indulgences like dining out and the latest electronic gadgets.
Vanatta was laid off last January from his $100,000-a-year job as a sales executive for a turf company. And with savings of just $5,000, he's on a budget for the first time. In April, he will start taking Social Security at age 62.
"If I'd been smarter and planned and had the bucks, I'd wait until 70," says Vanatta, who is divorced and rents an apartment. "It's my fault. For years I was making plenty of money and spending plenty of money."
Vanatta is in the majority. Some 51 percent of early boomer households, headed by those ages 55 to 64, face a retirement with lower living standards, according to a 2009 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Too many boomers have ignored or underestimated the worsening outlook for their finances, says Jean Setzfand, director of financial security for AARP, the group that represents Americans over age 50. By far the greatest shortcoming has been a failure to save. The personal savings rate — the amount of disposable income unspent — averaged close to 10 percent in the 1970s and '80s. By late 2007, the rate had sunk to negative 1 percent.
The recession has helped improve the savings rate — it's now back above 5 percent. Yet typical boomers are still woefully short on retirement savings. Even those in their 50s and 60s with a 401(k) for at least six years had an average balance of less than $150,000 at the end of 2009, according to the EBRI.
Signs of coming trouble are visible on several other fronts, too:
— Mortgage Debt. Nearly two in three people age 55 to 64 had a mortgage in 2007, with a median debt of $85,000.
— Social Security. Nearly 3 out of 4 people file to claim Social Security benefits as soon as they're eligible at age 62. That locks them in at a much lower amount than they would get if they waited.
The monthly checks are about 25 percent less if you retire at 62 instead of full retirement age, which is 66 for those born from 1943 to 1954. If you wait until 70, your check can be 75 to 80 percent more than at 62. So, a boomer who claimed a $1,200 monthly benefit in 2008 at age 62 could have received about $2,000 by holding off until 70.
— Medical Costs. Health care expenses are soaring, and the availability of retiree benefits is declining.
"People cannot fathom how much money will be needed to simply cover out-of-pocket medical care costs," says Mitchell of the University of Pennsylvania.
A 55-year-old man with typical drug expenses needs to have about $187,000 just to cover future medical costs. That's if he wants to be 90 percent certain to have enough money to supplement Medicare coverage in retirement, the EBRI said. Because of greater longevity, a 65-year-old woman would need even more to cover her health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health expenses: an estimated $213,000.
— Employment. Boomers both need and want to work longer than previous generations. But unemployment is near 10 percent, and many have lost their jobs.
The average unemployment period for those 55 and older was 45 weeks in November. That's 12 weeks longer than for younger job-seekers. It's also more than double the 20-week period this group faced at the beginning of the recession in December 2007.
If financial neglect turns out to be many boomers' undoing, challenging circumstances are stymieing others.
Linda Reaves of Silver Spring, Md., never had much opportunity to save as a single mother raising two sons and a daughter. After holding a variety of positions over the years — hotel office manager, research analyst for a mortgage company, hospital mental health counselor — she was still living paycheck to paycheck. Then she was laid off in 2007 at the age of 57.
She entered a training program to learn new skills, but all she has found since is a string of temporary jobs. In her daily quest for clerical or administrative work, she competes against much younger applicants.
Reaves, who turns 60 this month, plans to work until she's at least 70 and then wants to travel, even if she doesn't know where the money will come from.
"I just keep going. I don't really worry about it," she says.
Add this all up, and there's a "slow-burning" retirement crisis for boomers, says Anthony Webb, a research economist at the Center for Retirement Research.
"If you have a crisis where the adverse consequences are immediately clear, then people understand that they have to do something," Webb says. "When the consequences will be felt 20 or 30 years in the future, the temptation is that we kick the can down the road."
As a result, he believes many won't change their behavior.
For less affluent boomers, it won't take that long to feel the pain of poor planning. Concerns about financial trouble will hang over many of those 65th birthday celebrations in 2011.
Many seem to view their plight through rose-colored granny glasses. An AARP survey last month of boomers turning 65 next year found that they worry no more about money than they did at age 60 — before the recession or the collapse of home prices. But in an acknowledgement of reality, 40 percent said they plan to work "until I drop."
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
TOKYO/SEOUL: China is stepping up efforts to deploy a “carrier-killer” missile system, the commander of the US Pacific Command has said in an interview with a Japanese newspaper, published on Tuesday.
“The anti-ship ballistic missile system in China has undergone extensive testing,” Admiral Robert Willard told the Asahi Shimbun in Honolulu, according to a transcript of the interview on its website.
Willard said China appeared to have achieved “initial operational capability” but it would take “several more years” before fully deploying the system.
US military analysts have warned China is developing a new version of its Dongfeng 21 missile that could pierce the defences of even the sturdiest US naval vessels and has a range far beyond Chinese waters.
Washington has expressed rising concern over China’s military intentions following a string of double-digit increases in Chinese military spending and the rapid modernisation of its armed forces. In the interview, Willard also said China aims to become a global military power by extending its influence beyond its regional waters.
“They are focused presently on what they term their near seas—the Bohai, Yellow Sea, South China Sea, East China Sea,” Willard said.
“I think they have an interest in being able to influence beyond that point, and they have aspirations to eventually become a global military,” he said. “In the capabilities that we’re seeing develop, that is fairly obvious.”
Referring to tensions on the Korean peninsula, Willard warned that North Korea is ready to take another provocative step and called on China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally, to play its role in defusing the situation.
“I think, for now, we’re past this particular crisis, but we have no doubt, given North Korea’s history, that a next provocation is readied,” Willard told the daily.
“It’s a matter of assessing how it might be deterred or how the North Koreans might be dissuaded from exercising the next provocation,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to news reports earlier on Tuesday, Beijing is getting tougher with South Korean spies caught collecting intelligence there on North Korea, jailing one of them for more than a year despite pleas from Seoul.
The army major had been trying to collect information on the North’s nuclear and missile programmes when he was caught in July last year in a sting operation, Yonhap news agency and the Korea JoongAng Daily said. A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment.
The newspaper said the man it identified as Major Cho was arrested in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang following a rendezvous with a Chinese military officer posing as an informant.
Cho gave tens of thousands of dollars to the Chinese officer for information about the North’s nuclear development and missiles, it said. He was jailed for 14 months despite the South’s request that he be repatriated;
Fortress at Sea? The Carrier Invulnerability Myth
- Mass media, satellite communication, and the Internet can provide location and disposition of U.S. carriers when they are near shipping lanes or coastal waters; carrier presence is obvious well before the silhouette appears on the horizon.
- Carriers not supporting a conflict requiring continuous air wing operations will not be operating at higher speeds, especially at night.
- Fast, low profile, open-ocean craft are widely available.
- Armored hangar bay doors are useless when open, typical to lower conditions of readiness.
- Carrier crew size and diversity would likely allow unfettered access to clandestine infiltrators of almost any ethnicity.
- While nuclear power provides virtually unlimited steaming, carriers remain dependent on forward staging areas and supply ships for food, aviation fuel, and stores.
- The insatiable appetite for information afloat is satisfied by way of precious, uninterrupted bandwidth flowing through multiple nodes with varying vulnerabilities.
Next-Generation Weapons Are Here Now
Asymmetric Challenges Loom
Pondering the Unthinkable
- A carrier operating with only a single escort on an OEF no-fly day, far separated from other strike group warships, is approached by a small team of highly trained, well-armed saboteurs in a low-profile, fast boat at night in international waters. They gain access via a lowered elevator when the ship is in low readiness conditions for a quick surprise attack with satchel charges in the hangar and flight decks to destroy most carrier air wing aircraft before the ship musters a response.
- An adversary state about to seize several small islands in the Persian Gulf directs a small team of special forces to commandeer a large container ship, which veers into the path of a CVN exiting the southern Suez Canal in a restricted waterway. The resultant collision and carrier grounding causes enough damage to limit the carrier to ten knots, preventing most fixed-wing flight operations indefinitely.
- An extremist group targeted by carrier air wing operations identifies the less protected fleet auxiliaries providing carrier strike group logistics in a forward theater and targets them simultaneously with waterborne improvised explosive devices. Critical fuel, food, and stores shortages severely limit air wing operations for a period of weeks.
We Must Not Assume Away Threats
From the Telegraph ...more men should wear proper hats with pride, including trilbies, pork pie hats, bowlers, flat caps and fedoras. British men might once have had famously stiff upper lips, but they spoke using their hats: they doffed them, tipped them, and threw them high in the air to indicate happiness. When respectable hats fell from fashion, our men were cruelly deprived of a dignified public language, and condemned to the folly of the American baseball cap, which can make middle-aged men look silly Ironically, it is the popularity of Don Draper, the trilby-wearing character from the American series Mad Men, that may help to re-establish the quality hat in the UK. Modern men are often naturally drawn to hats, but fearful of ridicule. Take the plunge, and you won’t look back.
Monday, December 27, 2010
December 25, 2010
By JUDAH COHEN
THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.
All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.
For a more detailed explanation, we must turn our attention to the snow in Siberia.
Annual cycles like El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability and global ocean currents cannot account for recent winter cooling. And though it is well documented that the earth’s frozen areas are in retreat, evidence of thinning Arctic sea ice does not explain why the world’s major cities are having colder winters.
But one phenomenon that may be significant is the way in which seasonal snow cover has continued to increase even as other frozen areas are shrinking. In the past two decades, snow cover has expanded across the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Siberia, just north of a series of exceptionally high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Tien Shan and the Altai.
The high topography of Asia influences the atmosphere in profound ways. The jet stream, a river of fast-flowing air five to seven miles above sea level, bends around Asia’s mountains in a wavelike pattern, much as water in a stream flows around a rock or boulder. The energy from these atmospheric waves, like the energy from a sound wave, propagates both horizontally and vertically.
As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.
The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere, just as a bigger rock in a stream increases the size of the waves of water flowing by.
The increased wave energy in the air spreads both horizontally, around the Northern Hemisphere, and vertically, up into the stratosphere and down toward the earth’s surface. In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies. Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.
That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century. Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier. They have ignored the snow in Siberia.
Last week, the British government asked its chief science adviser for an explanation. My advice to him is to look to the east.
It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.
Judah Cohen is the director of seasonal forecasting at an atmospheric and environmental research firm.
I love it. It's cold as Siberia because of ...are you ready for this? Because of Siberia. This makes more sense to me than anything I've read coming from the AGW crowd. Climate changes, we know that. Sea levels rise and fall over time. The world freezes and thaws. Man is resilient. Relax, whirled. Enjoy the ride!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
~ TSA Whistleblowing Patriot Pilot ~
To the thousands of patriotic Americans who have contacted us or shown support for the Patriot Pilot who exposed the major TSA security flaw at the San Francisco (SFO) airport and at other airports throughout the United States and perhaps the World, via YouTube, we say thank you. The Patriot Pilot is an average man, like many of us, who simply wanted to make sure that the American public was truly safe when flying the "frendly skies".
nfortunately, some in the Government, such as TSA, have worked overtime to try and convince us that we are safe, when we, in fact, know that we are not. How can TSA claim that air travel is safe when they can't even keep thousands of pounds of marijuana and hundreds of pounds of cocaine off our commercial aircraft? They can't using their current, myopic system, and punishing the Patriot Pilot is not going to make the skys any safer, either. To illustrate my point, there have been a number of instances where ground crews have been implicated in illegal activities involving commercial aircraft. For example, on August 6, 2010, "Ground crews at Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport were accused ... of smuggling drug-laden suitcases aboard four major commercial airlines bound for the U.S. mainland. ... The three men arrested allegedly stowed cocaine-stuffed suitcases in the airlines’ cargo compartments and sometimes used tags stolen from properly checked luggage[.] ... Last year, nine employees of [a major commercial carrier] were accused of participating in a smuggling ring that allegedly sent at least 9,000 kilograms (19,800 pounds) of cocaine aboard flights from Puerto Rico to the U.S. over a decade."Caribbeanbusinesspr.com. In reality, a bomb is much smaller and substantially more dangerous than the thousands of pounds of drugs already believed to have been smuggled about commercial aircraft by ground crews. Clearly, drug lords know that airports are not the air tight security environments that TSA would like the rest of us to believe.
unishing the Patriot Pilot only serves to remind each of us that we are not free to seek redress from our Government as provided for in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. If we were, then the TSA would be asking for the help of EVERYAmerican and especially the tens of thousands of professional pilots who are flying into literally every airport in the World on a daily basis. What do they see that could make our safety system even better?
ow much better could we make the system if TSA worked with us and not againstus?
he Patriot Pilot would like to sincerely thank Sacramento News 10 Reporter George Warren for bringing this critical story to the American public so that we can finally force TSA to start an intelligent dialog about a real and complete security system.
or our country to truly have a safe aviation system, we need to create a security zone around the airport and check everyone and everything that comes into that security zone,without exception. The current system, as exposed by the Patriot Pilot, allows ground crews far to much unsupervised access to the aircraft and only invites another terrorist attack or mass air disaster. Let's plug the hole, NOW.
lease join us in contacting your congressional represenatives to ask that Congress hold hearings into TSA's compete lack of oversight in the aviation safety system, especially since we, the taxpayers and the flying public have already spent billions of dollars to make the skys safer, only to find out that the security system is, as the Patriot Pilot stated, "is just smoke and mirrors." Congress should ask the Patriot Pilot to testify about his treatment and what he thinks would make the system safer.
~ Much More Later Today (12/26/2010) ~
lease Check Back Later Today For The Rest of The Story
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Iraq's war on Christians
Oil and geopolitics prevent the United States and Western European countries from speaking out against what amounts to genocide against Christians in the Middle East.
As much of the world once more prepares to celebrate the birth of Christ, it is a melancholy fact that many of the most ancient churches established in his name are being pushed to the brink of oblivion across the region where their faith was born.
The culprits are Salafist Islam's increasingly virulent intolerance, the West's convenient indifference and, in the case of Iraq, America's failure to make responsible provisions to protect minorities from the violent disorder that has persisted since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
When America intervened to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Christians — mostly Chaldeans and Assyrians — numbered about 1.4 million, or about 3% of the population. Over the last seven years, more than half have fled the country and, as the New York Times reported this week, a wave of targeted killings — including the Oct. 31 slaying of 51 worshipers and two priests during Mass at one of Baghdad's largest churches — has sent many more Christians fleeing. Despite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promises to increase security, many believe the Christians are being targeted not only by Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has instructed its fighters "to kill Christians wherever they can reach them," but also by complicit elements within the government's security services.LA Times
The United States, meanwhile, does nothing — as it did nothing four years ago, when Father Boulos Iskander was kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered; or three years ago, when Father Ragheed Ganni was shot dead at the altar of this church; or two years ago, when Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped and murdered; as it has done nothing about all the church bombings and assassinations of lay Christians that have become commonplace over the last seven years.
The human tragedy of all this is compounded by the historic one. The churches of the Middle East preserve the traditions of the Apostolic era in ways no other Christian rites or denominations do. The followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch Syria, and it was there that the Gospels first were written down in Koine Greek. For 1,000 years, the churches of Iraq and Syria were great centers of Christian thought and art. Today, the Christian population is declining in every majority Muslim country in the region and is under increasingly severe pressure even in Lebanon, where it still constitutes 35% of the population.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Profit Outweighs Risk in Juárez Factories
By JULIÁN AGUILAR
Published: December 11, 2010
In 2009, more than $42 billion in trade value moved through the ports that Ciudad Juárez shares with El Paso, representing 15 percent of the total trade between the United States and Mexico. That number is estimated to be even higher in 2010.
Since June 2009, more than 24,000 manufacturing jobs have been added in Juárez, on the Texas-Mexico border, and the amount of tractor-trailer traffic hauling goods through the region increased by 22 percent from January to June of 2010 compared with the first six months of last year.
At the same time, there were more than 2,600 killings in Juárez in 2009, the byproduct of a battle between the rival Sinaloa and Juárez drug cartels, and the city is on pace to exceed 3,000 homicides in 2010.
So much for the deadening economic impact of headline-making violence. The psychological impact, however, is something different.
While the killings and threats of extortion have forced thousands of retail businesses in Juárez to close and tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes for the safety of Texas, border business experts say the vibrancy of the city’s manufacturing industry is due to what is and has always been the bottom line: money. Not even an unshakeable fear instilled in most of the 1.3 million Juárez residents can curb the success of the factories, or maquiladoras, where assembly-line workers earn, on average, $1.60 to $2 hourly.
“Juárez is open for business,” said Toby M. Spoon, the executive vice president of Tecma, an outsourcing company based in El Paso that will celebrate 25 years in business next year.
A shelter operation that provides factory space, employees and legal expertise to businesses with a manufacturing presence in Mexico, Tecma had one of its best years in 2009, Mr. Spoon said. The company signed five new clients and netted an estimated $45 million in profits.
Yes, I'm afraid that the profit is worth the risk. But is the profit interfering with immigration reform or control of the border? No doubt about it. We want that cheap labor and Mexico wants those remittances. We have an intractable mess of foreign and domestic and economic policy that will take years to sort out.
Meanwhile, wages in the USA are being forced down but expenses are not. With oil at $91 per barrel, those who still hold jobs in the USA are once again beginning to feel the pinch. We have an outlook of falling wages, high expenses and economic uncertainty. So called economic and investment experts are blowing smoke and hot air about the markets and recovery, but does anyone actually know what is happening? I don't think so.
Welcome to the new decade of the new millennium.