Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Germans Want Their Gold Back

Germany's gold reserves are amongst the highest in the world and they have been kept almost entirely overseas due to Cold War fears of a Soviet invasion. Almost half of Germany's gold is kept in Manhattan — deep in the heart of the Financial District at the New York Fed.
But some German politicians seem to be getting uncomfortable with trusting the US with this system. They want to actually see the gold, to make sure its still there. Some even want it back. A campaign called "Bring back our Gold" was launched in May, and seems to be making an impact on mainstream politics.
Der Spiegel's Sven Böll and Anne Seith have published a good explainer about the situation. A large part of the movement seems to come from Peter Gauweiler, the head of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), who has for years demanded to know exactly where Germany's gold is (He eventually was allowed to visit the Bundesbank's domestic gold in storage  in Frankfurt).
However, what really got Guaweiler riled up was a secret report from Germany's Federal Audit Office that sternly criticized the German central bank. The report, while apparently routine, looked like a key piece of evidence to those expecting some sort of conspiracy theory. As Der Spiegel describes it:
Indeed, the partially blacked-out report read like the prologue to an espionage thriller in which the stunned central bankers could end up standing in front of empty vaults in the US.

How Will the Fed React to Sandy?

There’s already talk on Wall Street about the possibility of the Federal Reserve providing further monetary accommodation in response to the damage wrought by Sandy.
With the Fed Funds target rate at zero, this could mean larger quantitative easing asset purchases or a focus on buying different financial assets by the Fed.
One trader even described what he thinks the Fed will do as “QE Sandy.”
If history and economic theory are guides to Fed policy, however, those counting on further accommodation may be in for a shock. It’s very possible—even likely—that Sandy will mean Fed policy might be tighter than it might have otherwise been. And that’s because Sandy’s side-effects might well accomplish the very things that Ben Bernanke has been hoping that his quantitative easing policy would.
The reason why some of the guys in expensive shoes who are telecommuting this week into Wall Street investment banks might expect further easing is obvious. The economy has experienced a real shock, losses will be in the as-yet-untold scores of billions. Federal and local governments will accelerate spending to provide relief and reconstruction. Economic activity in the Northeast has been severely disrupted. The economy obviously needs an injection of money. 
Only that may not be the way the Fed sees it.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, there were widespread expectations that the Fed would drop its interest rate targets. Economists, who had expected a tightening of policy before the hurricane struck, flipped to predicting easing. The Fed funds rate began dropping in anticipation of a falling target rate.
And then the Fed raised the target rate on September 20, 2004.
An economics paper published three years after this episode of contrarian Fed action explained not only why the Fed took this action—but why “the monetary authority should raise its nominal interest rate target following a disaster.” 

Socialist Liberal Democrats Will Destroy America and Sadly the Left Wing Media Will Gladly Help

Today is Halloween, a day of spooks, goblins and weirdos.  No it is not election day, that’s not for six more days on November 06, 2012; but it will have more than its fair share of Halloween type characters.  Both major political parties will present their versions of the trickery ogres among whom are downright dastardly persons who seek to destroy the United States and all the good things it has brought to the world in the 236 years of its existence.
But this year of 2012 has seen a period of divisiveness in our grand republic that borders on the great separation that occurred in 1861 when eleven southern states seceded from the Union.  This year the issue that is the divider is Socialism, and instead of a geographical set of states for and against the issue, two political parties encompassing citizens from all fifty states are the opponents.
The current President of the United States is engaged in a plan to abolish our tried and true Constitution and install a communist-like program of redistribution of the wealth.  In other words take from the “haves” and give it to the “have-nots” which files In the face of the standards of governance that has allowed America to climb to the highest level of civilized nations in just over 200 years of existence.
Obama is a student and follower of the Socialist - Communist theory and practices of punishing the productive while rewarding the unproductive and incapable.  What was once a dream of success and riches after applying oneself to an ethic of hard work and study is long gone and any just rewards for that hard work will be taken from them and given to those who show no attitudes to succeed.

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Liberals Outraged by Factual Text Messages

Liberal pundits were upset late Monday at a series of anti-Obama text messages sent from anonymous accounts to their cell phones.
The Washington Free Beacon decided to fact check the offending texts.
“Re-electing Obama puts Medicare at risk”
President Barack Obama has yet to offer a comprehensive plan to reform and make solvent the massive federal program that is approaching bankruptcy despite pledging as a candidate to “take on entitlements” such as Medicare.
The president’s controversial healthcare reform law cuts more than $700 billion from Medicare in order to fund a dramatic expansion of federally subsidized health insurance, and establishes a 15-member politically appointed board that will have sweeping powers to impose cost control measures that could limit access to care.
Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster has estimated that Obama’s plan to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in reimbursements to hospitals and other health care facilities would result in about one-fourth of those facilities becoming unprofitable by 2030 and would likely force them to cut benefits or restrict access to care.
Foster noted earlier this year that under current law Medicare reimbursement payments to doctors are scheduled to drop more than 30 percent on Jan. 1, 2013, and unless dramatic changes are put in place the entire program could become insolvent by 2016 or sooner.

Italy in Political Chaos as Election Nears

Five months before an election that will be crucial not just for this country but the whole euro zone, Italy is mired in some of its greatest political uncertainty since World War Two.

Nobody knows what electoral system will be used or who the candidates will be in a parliamentary poll that will be marked by Italian voter anger over the pain of austerity.
The once-dominant party of billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi risks disintegration while the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), likely winner of the election, is torn by splits sharpened by a challenge to its leader Pier Luigi Bersani by the youthful mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi.
"All election campaigns are marked by uncertainty but this time ... we do not even know what electoral law will be used, who will be the party leaders and what will be the coalitions," PD official Lapo Pistelli said. "This is something totally new."
Foreign governments and investors want to see a return by respected, unelected technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti after the poll, but the road to such an outcome is beset by big obstacles which are just as unpredictable as everything else.
Corruption scandals across Italy have fanned disgust with politicians and rocketed the anti-establishment, anti-Europe 5-Star Movement led by shaggy-haired Genoese comic Beppe Grillo into second place in opinion polls.
Around half of Italians are undecided about how to vote or say they will abstain in the poll expected on April 7-8, thickening a fog of chronic confusion.

New ADP Count Slashes Job Creation for September

Revisions to the way payroll data firm ADP counts private sector job creation have resulted in a sharp drop in the September employment count.
ADP's new calculations put the monthly job creation at just 88,2000, down from the 162,000 the firm originally reported earlier this month.
The firm recently has entered into a partnership with Moody's Analytics that will change the way the private payroll count is calculated.
ADP will announce its October count on Thursday, with the Labor Department to follow on Friday.
ADP is expected to announce a further revision to the September count along with its October totals.
In announcing the partnership Oct. 24, the two firms said the partnership will help align the private sector job count with the Labor numbers.
At the same time, the new reports will provide a more detailed breakdown of the numbers while expanding the number of businesses that participate.
ADP occasionally has come under criticism for releasing data that is often widely disparate with the government's final count.

Med center layoffs may be harbinger

Hospitals across Nebraska are looking to reduce costs to respond to cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, a hospital group said Tuesday after the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha announced job cuts.

Thirty-eight employees at the Nebraska Medical Center will lose their jobs by the end of the year, and 100 open positions will remain unfilled, med center officials announced Tuesday.

No nursing positions will be eliminated, officials said, and patient care will not be affected.

Among the positions slated for elimination are one vice president and three other directors. One of those people was already planning to leave for another job, said Glenn Fosdick, the med center's president and CEO.

Fosdick said he didn't want to identify all of the positions affected until everyone had been notified. “The bottom line,” he said, “is we're not going to compromise our patient care.”

The hospital has about 5,200 employees.

Reimbursement rates for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people age 65 or older, have been targeted under federal health care reform. It's possible that the rates will be further reduced Jan. 1 when automatic spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect. Couple that with ongoing federal deficit-reduction discussions, and hospital officials recognize the need to look hard at controlling costs, said Adrian Sanchez, a spokesman for the Nebraska Hospital Association.

“Hospitals and health care providers typically operate on such thin margins,” he said. “Adjustments to Medicare reimbursement payments will have a significant impact to their bottom line.”

But job cuts, Sanchez said, are “a last resort.”

Fosdick said he had not made job cuts “of any significance” at the med center in more than 10 years. “We could have done it without telling anybody, but we believe in being transparent with our employees,” he said.

A few staff members will see their hours reduced, hospital spokesman Paul Baltes said. People affected will be notified over the next week to 10 days, and administrators will try to place them in spots within the system and “among partner organizations.”

“We're committed to helping them,” Fosdick said.

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'Smart City' Failures Dumped on Taxpayers

If there was ever any doubt as to whether or not the Smart Grid aspect of UN Agenda 21 is marching forward, recent developments in Boulder, Colorado should dispel such skepticism. Likewise, these developments should also make clear that so-called Smart technology is about much more than simply cost saving.

The relevant part of this story starts as far back as 2007 when Boulder entered into an agreement with Xcel Energy to enable the city to become the world’s first “smart city.”

For those who are unaware of what the terms “Smart Grid” and “Smart City” refer to, the Smart Grid is essentially a computerized system that allows the monitoring and control over energy use from power the plant source to every appliance in the home. Smart Grid technology is a major part of UN Agenda 21, the United Nations plans to herd a drastically reduced population into “human habitat areas,” meaning ultra-modern super cities with stack em’ and pack em’ dwelling structures and zero contact with nature and the outside world.

Smart Grid technology includes the infamous “Smart Meter,” which is not only a Big Brother spy device that monitors the amount of power consumed in the household (even down to the specific devices using that power), but it is also linked to a variety of adverse health effects as a result of the frequencies they emit.

Regardless of these issues, however, Boulder is expected to become the model city for the rest of the world within the coming years. Yet, if the Agenda 21 connections and the adverse health effects were not enough to draw serious concern from the average taxpayer, the sheer cost of the project should at least be cause for opposition. 

Democrats Now Rejecting Dodd-Frank

“For some reason, some Republicans in Congress are still waging an all-out battle to delay, defund, and dismantle these common-sense new rules.” That was, in a recent weekly address, President Obama’s all-or-nothing defense of the 2,600-page Dodd-Frank financial “reform” rammed through Congress just after Obamacare in 2010.
Yet, almost by the day, even members of the president’s own party are coming to realize Dodd-Frank is actually toughest on smaller financial institutions while institutionalizing too-big-to-fail for large ones.
Take this Oct. 12 exchange on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” not a place where you expect a conservative or libertarian critique on regulation. Certainly not from a Democratic officeholder. Here are the exact words of Montana’s outgoing Democrat Gov. Brian Schweitzer on the show:
“Banks that actually did their job, like in Montana — where we didn’t have banks go upside down, because they made you bring your financials in and they’d only loan you money if they understood your business plan — now, they are the ones that are being penalized. They now have more regulation on them, and it’s more difficult for them to make the loans. The very banks that were doing their job are having a tougher time because of the banks that are too big to fail.”
Fellow panelist Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who was there to represent conservatives, replied with a grin to Schweitzer, “I knew there was something I liked about you.”
Yet, remarkable as his words were in such a prominent liberal venue, Schweitzer is far from the only community banking advocate, and not even the only Democrat, criticizing Dodd-Frank’s provisions.

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Electronic Voting Machines Designed to “Steal Elections”

CICJ Books has just released “Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement’s Rise and Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People’s Vote, 2000-2008″ by Marta Steele.
Marta Steele has done yeoman work for the election integrity movement. She has plowed through more websites and blogs than one can even imagine. She set out with the nearly impossible task of writing the definitive historical narrative of the folly of electronic voting in the United States between 1988 and 2008. More shockingly, she accomplished that task.
Electronic voting machines are perfectly designed to steal elections. That’s their principle purpose. Ireland has just gotten rid of them altogether. Germany, Japan, Canada, Switzerland all use paper ballots. Why? Because you can actually count them in public, and then count them again.
But here in the US, elections are corporate-owned and operated. Anyone who experienced pushing the e-spot for John Kerry and having the name George W. Bush light up—as happened so often in Ohio 2004—knows all too well that what Marta Steele documents in this remarkable book has become the defining reality in American election theft.
What she has done by way of documentation is truly impressive. Never again will those who question the validity of electronic voting be called “conspiracy theorists.” Through sheer tenacity, the author has scoured the vast morass of cyberspace and brought back all the essential data and assembled it in an understandable and analytical fashion. Readers can only draw one conclusion from her work – those who deny the death of democracy are foolish “coincidence theorists.”

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We are one week out from Election Day 2012 as I write this piece. Tropical storm Sandy has ravaged much of the north eastern sea board including New York, New Jersey, Virginia and the New England states. Millions are under water and/or without power. Officials are predicting up to 10 days to restore power and longer than that to get life back to normal in the affected areas.
I’ll come back to this problem in a moment…
The Obama campaign is in huge trouble, dropping 22 points since 2008 in early voting results across the country and running behind Romney 52-45% according to the most recent Gallup poll. If you think that they were not anticipating and preparing for a tough re-election bid after four years of disastrous administrative failures in every facet of the administrations responsibilities, think again.
At this point in 2008, Obama was massacring John McCain in early voting by a 55-40% margin, with 33% of voters voting early in both elections. McCain closed the gap to 3 points on Election Day 2008 and went on to lose by 7 points in the end.
If Romney really is ahead by 7 points at this stage of the race, Obama could lose big time on November 6th. However, there is no way to have any real confidence in the Gallup poll and even more concerning is the methods by which Obama has plotted to win, even if Romney and Ryan defeat him in the national popular vote.

Showdown set on bid to give UN control of Internet

It is expected to be the mother of all cyber diplomatic battles.
When delegates gather in Dubai in December for an obscure UN agency meeting, fighting is expected to be intense over proposals to rewrite global telecom rules to effectively give the United Nations control over the Internet.
Russia, China and other countries back a move to place the Internet under the authority of the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency that sets technical standards for global phone calls.
US officials say placing the Internet under UN control would undermine the freewheeling nature of cyberspace, which promotes open commerce and free expression, and could give a green light for some countries to crack down on dissidents.
Observers say a number of authoritarian states will back the move, and that the major Western nations will oppose it, meaning the developing world could make a difference.
"The most likely outcome is a tie, and if that happens there won't be any dramatic changes, although that could change if the developing countries make a big push," said James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"But there is a lot of discontent with how the Internet is governed and the US will have to deal with that at some point."

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6 Green Lies Threatening to Starve You

Ain’t prosperity grand? We have so much to eat in this country that we toss nearly half of it in the trash. At least that’s the finding of a recent study conducted by a prominent environmental organization. From the Los Angeles Times:
Americans are throwing out nearly every other bite of food, wasting up to 40% of the country’s supply each year – a mass of uneaten provisions worth $165 billion, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
An average family of four squanders $2,275 in food each year, or 20 pounds per person per month, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan environmental advocacy group.
Among the study’s prescriptions is a call for government “to set a target for food-waste reduction” as the European Parliament has. After resolving to reduce food waste, the body stated:
The most important problem in the future will be to tackle increased demand for food, as it will outstrip supply. We can no longer afford to stand idly by while perfectly edible food is being wasted. This is an ethical but also an economic and social problem, with huge implications for the environment.
The obvious alternative to any government “standing idly by” is its taking action. Whenever government takes action, it applies force. That is the NRDC’s ultimate prescription, to force Americans to reduce food waste. This is ironic since government action already plays a substantial role in the amount of food produced and consumed. The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards explains:
Farm subsidies damage the economy. In most industries, market prices balance supply and demand and encourage efficient production. But Congress short–circuits market mechanisms in agriculture. Farm programs cause overproduction, the overuse of marginal farmland, land price inflation and excess borrowing by farm businesses.

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Obama's Layoff Bomb

In June, a diffident and self-deluded President Obama claimed that "the private sector is doing fine." Last week, the private sector responded: Speak for yourself, buster. Who needs an "October Surprise" when the business headlines are broadcasting the imminent layoff bomb in neon lights?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last Tuesday that employers issued 1,316 "mass layoff actions" (affecting 50 workers or more) in September; more than 122,000 workers were affected overall. USA Today financial reporter Matt Krantz wrote that "(m)uch of the recent layoff activity is connected to what's been the slowest period of earnings growth since the third quarter of 2009." Some necessary restructuring is underway in response to the stagnant European economy. But more and more U.S. businesses are putting the blame -- bravely and squarely -- right where it belongs: on the obstructionist policies and regulatory schemes of the blame-shifter-in-chief.
Last week, Ohio-based auto parts manufacturer Dana Holding Corp. warned employees of potential layoffs amid "looming concern" about the economy. President and CEO Roger Wood specifically mentioned the walloping burden of "increasing taxes on small businesses" and the need to "offset increased costs that are placed on us through new laws and regulations."
Case in point: Obamacare. The mandate will cost Dana Holding Corp., which employs some 24,500 workers, "approximately $24 million over the next six years in additional U.S. health care expenses." As Ohio Watchdog blogger Maggie Thurber reported, the firm's Toledo area corporate offices laid off seven white-collar employees last Friday; company insiders told her more were on the way. They are not alone.

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Hong Kong named top financial center for second year

(Reuters) - Hong Kong was named the world's top financial center for the second year running by the World Economic Forum (WEF), thanks to the strength of its business environment, infrastructure and a favorable tax regime.
The WEF's annual Financial Development Report considered a wide range of factors and underscored the rise of Asian trading centers and the influence of China as the world's second-largest economy.
Rival surveys based purely on the total value of transactions typically put New York or London in top place.
However, stalling capital markets, sputtering economic growth and waning trust in financial organizations served to ensure that the top six positions remained unchanged from 2011, the WEF said.
"Macroeconomic uncertainty as well as concerns related to regulation, contributes to inhibiting the financial industry from funding much-needed growth," said Giancarlo Bruno, senior director at the WEF, which hosts an annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland.
Though the report noted "pockets of improvement" across some banking-related indicators, it said that these signified "only a small step in what will be a long road to recovery".
The United States, Britain, Singapore, Australia and Canada followed Hong Kong in the 2012 rankings.
The report looked at legal and regulatory factors, business environment, financial stability, banking and non-banking services, markets and access to them.
"Despite these strengths, Hong Kong has a relatively underdeveloped bond market and its financial sector has yet to be fully liberalized," the report said.
Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden made up the remainder of the top 10 financial centers.
The report said that policymakers face a "monumental" task to restore confidence in markets as waning trust in the overall system holds back investment.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by David Goodman)

Whose Rule of Law?

Two memories stand out about my brief foray at Duke University Law School in the early 1960s. One occurred when I was made my class’s representative to plan the dedication of the new law school building on campus. It was an elaborate ceremony to be led by no less than Chief Justice Earl Warren and joined by all the political elite among the school’s alumni—except for our highest-achieving graduate, former Vice President Richard Nixon.
When I expressed curiosity about the omission, I was briskly shushed by the dean and told in no uncertain terms that Nixon would never be allowed back on the Duke campus for reasons that were never fully explained. And so it would be. Even the offer of his presidential library was not enough to expunge whatever offense Nixon had committed at Duke.
The other memory is more pleasant. Finding myself unable to focus on torts and property in fee simple absolute, I took to wandering through the school until I came on a suite of offices for something called the World Rule of Law Center.
There I met Arthur Larson, the center’s founding director. Larson had been known as “the brains of the Eisenhower administration” which he had served as undersecretary of labor, head of the U.S. Information Agency and, lastly, as Ike’s chief speechwriter. He had resigned in 1959 to return to teaching and to create the center to foster this vague concept called the World Rule of Law.
Taking time to give a patient tutorial to an obvious ignoramus, Larson explained to me that the concept was the latest hot idea of Cold War strategy. Fostering a world standard of justice based on the case-precedent laws of England and the United States would be crucial to establishing true democracies among less developed nations and would prove a bulwark against the arbitrary rule of despots— Communists, Fascists, monarchs. He pointed to a declaration signed in Delhi two years earlier when jurists from 53 nations endorsed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and vowed to work to clarify a common rule of law. It was the coming thing.

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Is It Time to Stop Putting Food in Our Cars?

The ethanol mandate continues to do more harm than good — inflicting environmental damage, raising food prices, and distorting energy markets.
Two recent developments warrant a reexamination of the fuel ethanol issue.
First, on August 20, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a call for comments on suspending the renewable fuel standard (RFS), sometimes known as the ethanol mandate:
EPA is seeking comment on letters requesting a waiver of the renewable fuel standard and matters relevant to EPA’s consideration of those requests. Governors of the states of Arkansas and North Carolina submitted separate requests for a waiver. Section 211(o)(7)(A) of the Clean Air Act allows the Administrator of the EPA to waive the national volume requirements of the renewable fuel standard program in whole or in part if implementation of those requirements would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region, or the United States, or if the Administrator determines that there is inadequate domestic supply of renewable fuel.
Second, though it has not played a feature role in the 2012 presidential election, both Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have weighed in on ethanol fuel, staking out different positions.
Our conclusions are that the ethanol mandate continues to do more harm than good — inflicting environmental damage, raising food prices, and distorting energy markets.
Ethanol and Food Prices
Projections estimate that by 2016, the United States will have diverted up to 43 percent of its cropland toward ethanol production. Since such land is normally used to harvest grain for feeding livestock, any diversions to ethanol production would require either changing the use of other land to growing grain or sharp increases in the cost of grain and meat. Given these ramifications, it is no surprise that a myriad of global organizations have opposed the biofuel mandate, including the World Trade Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, UN Conference on Trade and Development, World Food Program, International Food Policy Research Institute, UN High Level Task Force, and the World Bank. In a recent opinion piece in the Financial Times, José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, also called for the suspension of biofuel use. He noted that “an immediate, temporary suspension of that [ethanol] mandate would give some respite to the market and allow more of the crop to be channeled towards food and feed uses.”

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In France, a new youth movement is targeting the negative influence Islam is having on French society. Generation Identitaire (Generation Identity) has issued a video, Declaration of War, in response to what is perceived to be an Islamist war against Western society: “We are the generation who get killed for glancing at the wrong person, for refusing someone a cigarette, or having an ‘attitude’ that annoys someone.” Meanwhile, the establishment media are declaring the group to be “far right” and ignoring the circumstances which have led to the emergence of such a movement.

The event which has brought Generation Identitaire into the global spotlight is the construction of a mosque in the French city of Poitiers. On October 20, approximately 60 members of the youth organization occupied the mosque in order to protest the spreading influence of Islam within French society.

The youth group targeted the Poitiers mosque because of its proximity to the site of one of the most famous battles in European history. In A.D. 732, the Battle of Poitiers (which is also called the Battle of Tours) was the critical event which stopped the northward advance of Muslim armies which had already overtaken and brutalized Spain and were threatening to sweep through the rest of western Europe. Under the leadership of Charles Martel, the invading force was halted, but at a substantial cost in lives. Generation Idenitaire’s brief occupation of the mosque in Poitiers came on the anniversary of the famous battle, and was intended to remind their fellow citizens of the tremendous price paid in past generations to prevent the Islamization of the country.

A television report for France 24 provides an overview of the protest in Poitiers:

According to French media, protesters from a group called Generation Identity occupied the building site in a suburb of the town of Poitiers, western France, at around 6am.

They climbed onto the building's roof and displayed a banner marked with “732 generation identity” in reference to the year 732, when Charles Martel halted the advance of the invading Muslim army to the north of Poitiers.

The group makes their views clear on their website, which bears the statement: “We do not want more immigration from outside Europe or new mosque construction on French soil”.

The protesters apparently took to social media site Twitter, declaring they would not be leaving the mosque until they were removed by the authorities.

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Putin Plays Down Russia's Deadly Dependence on Oil & Gas Revenues

How dependent on oil & gas revenues is Russia's federal budget? Vladimir Putin recently claimed that his government is only 50% dependent on oil & gas revenues:
President Vladimir Putin said at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.... “Fifty percent of our budget revenue comes from oil and gas sales.” _Putin talks to Valdai Discussion Group
But Putin's claim is quite low in comparison with most estimates. In fact, even official numbers place Russia's oil & gas dependency at a higher level than Putin:
Russia’s federal budget is reliant on commodities revenues - according to official data, commodities contribute around 60 percent of the federal budget; in reality, that number is closer to 75–80 percent as much of the service sector depends on money from oil and gas. _Russia's Oil Luck or Curse
So, Putin claims a 50% dependency. Official data puts the number closer to 60%. And "in reality," the number may be as high as 80%. Or perhaps even more.
When discussing the impact of the North American shale revolution on the future of Russia, Russia Today puts the figure at 80%:
Should “a shale revolution” really take place, it’ll seriously reshape the world energy market, where traditional energy sources could be replaced by cheaper shale commodities. This will hit Russia’s budget hard, as oil and gas revenues provide for about 80% of the entire Russian budget. _Natural Gas Europe _ via
Regardless of its exact level of dependency on oil & gas revenues, Russia's government is extremely vulnerable to declines in international oil prices, to international competition for oil & gas sales, and to any threats to domestic oil & gas production and transport within Russia itself.

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Barclays hit by fresh U.S. investigations

Barclays, already rocked by an interest rate rigging scandal, unveiled two new U.S. regulatory investigations into the bank's financial probity on Wednesday and said its profit was hit by charges for mis-selling insurance.
Following investigations in the UK over its dealings with Qatari investors, Barclays said the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission were investigating whether its relationships with third parties who help it win or retain business are compliant with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The bank is currently under investigation by Britain's financial regulator and fraud prosecutor into payments to Qatari investors after it raised billions of pounds from the Gulf state five years ago to save it from taking a taxpayer bailout.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is investigating the bank and four current and senior employees, including finance director Chris Lucas, to determine whether it made adequate disclosure of the fees it paid in a 2008 capital raising.
Barclays disclosed the FSA investigation when it released half-year results in July. The FSA investigation relates to fees paid to the Qatar Investment Authority on deals in June and November 2008, when Barclays raised 11.5 billion pounds ($18.5 billion).
Barclays declined to comment on whether the U.S. probe was linked to the same transactions.
Barclays also said on Wednesday that the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was investigating whether it manipulated power prices in the western United States from late 2006 until 2008.

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France Can’t Compete With Rest of Europe: WTO Chief

France is uncompetitive not only versus China, but against the rest of Europe, according to Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization.
“The competitiveness of France on foreign markets has been damaged for the last 10 years. This is nowhere more obvious than in Europe, where France has lost market share for the last 10 years,” said Lamy in an exclusive interview with CNBC in Paris.
“The place where the trade balance of France has deteriorated the most is within Europe, where conditions of competition are roughly level. So contrary to what I hear from time-to-time, they are probably not [struggling because of] China.”
Lamy said that in the short term France must become more cost competitive by cutting taxes on businesses “so they regain a bit of margin for maneuver.”
France’s socialist government under President Francois Hollande is due to outline measures to boost competitiveness on November 6. 
However, the government has already detailed plans to increase, rather than decrease, taxes on big companies as part of its 2013 austerity budget, which aims to tackle France’s crippling deficit.
On Sunday, around 100 French business executives made a joint appeal in a French newspaper to cut payroll taxes by 30 billion euros ($38.8 billion).  

Revolutionary Improvement Increases Lithium Ion Battery Capacity by 300%

California Lithium Battery (CLB), a finalist in Department of Energy’s 2012 Start Up America’s Next Top Energy Innovator challenge, has announced the record-setting performance of its new lithium ion battery anode.
Called the “GEN3” the anode is a silicon graphene composite material engineered with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) over the past eight months.  Independent test results in full cell lithium ion batteries indicate the new GEN3 anode material, used with advanced cathode and electrolyte materials, increases energy density by a stunning 3 times and specific anode capacity by an astonishing 4 times over existing lithium ion batteries.
The new performance level comes from a new lithium battery anode material for use with advanced cathode and electrolyte materials.  The press release performance characteristic quotes are an energy density of 525WH/Kg and specific anode capacity of 1,250mAh/g.
The performance quotes compare to today’s common commercial offerings at a density of between 100-180WH/kg and a specific anode capacity of 325mAh/g.
An understandably pumped CLB CEO, Phil Roberts, said, “This equates to more than a 300% improvement in lithium ion battery capacity and an estimated 70% reduction in lifetime cost for batteries used in consumer electronics, EVs, and grid-scale energy storage.”  Taken as quoted, this would be a massive shift in electrical storage costs for the better.
The CLB business model is underway fast-tracking the commercialization of its GEN3 breakthrough battery anode material. Over the next two years the firm plans to produce and sell its silicon-graphene anode material to global battery and electric vehicle manufacturers and start U.S. based production of a limited quantity of specialized batteries for high-end applications.

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Novartis Settles Medicaid Fraud Claims for $19.9M


AUSTIN (CN) - Pharmaceutical giant Novartis agreed Tuesday to pay $19.9 million to settle claims that it deceptively marketed a topical skin cream to defraud Medicaid.
     Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said a state investigation found that Novartis illegally marketed its exzema drug Elidel to treat infant children. He said the company failed to disclose side effects, including cancer-related risks.
     "Evidence uncovered by the state revealed that Novartis improperly urged physicians to prescribe Elidel to children under two years of age for purposes that had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," prosecutors said in a statement. "Because of the defendant's misrepresentations, the Texas Medicaid program overpaid for Elidel prescriptions."
     Under the settlement, the U.S. government will receive approximately $13.3 million while Texas will receive approximately $6.6 million. The unnamed whistle-blower who reported the activity to authorities will also receive a share of the settlement, as well as recovery for investigative and legal costs.

Corporate China Hit by Unpaid Bills

Chinese listed companies have reported a sharp rise in unpaid bills during the third quarter, in one of the clearest signs yet of the toll that China’s economic slowdown is taking on corporate balance sheets.
A Financial Times analysis revealed that 66 percent of listed Chinese companies that have reported third-quarter results showed a year-on-year increase in such unpaid bills – called accounts receivable in accounting – as a proportion of sales, according to the S&P Capital IQ database.
China’s economy is on track to grow at less than 8 percent this year, which would be its slowest in more than a decade. While that is still very fast by international standards, many companies have invested on the expectation of sustained double-digit growth and the sharp rise in accounts receivable is an indication of how even a mild slowdown has caught them off guard.
The hardest hit companies are those linked to the construction and infrastructure sectors, including machinery makers, steel mills, coal and cement companies.
Sany Heavy, the world’s ninth-largest machinery maker by sales, reported that accounts receivables were up 83 percent year to date at the end of the third quarter, hitting Rmb21 billion. “Due to the impact of the macroeconomic environment, sales repayments have seen some deferrals,” the company said. Other machinery companies reported similar problems: at Shanghai-listed First Tractor, accounts receivable rose 169 percent from the beginning of the year.
At Zoomlion, a leading Chinese machinery maker, accounts receivable at the end of the third quarter were up 69 percent from the beginning of the year, according to earnings released on Tuesday.

Oil, Guns, Spies and Islamism

The events leading up to the bombing of a munitions factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum last Monday– believed to have been carried out by Israel – has all the markings of the next made for Hollywood blockbuster spy thriller; international intrigue, politics, espionage, arms trafficking and Islamist fervor all taking place in oil producing countries.
What is interesting  -- and worrisome – in this story is the extent to which the Middle East conflict has evolved, the number of countries which have become drawn into it and just how complex and dangerous this issue has become, transgressing borders and establishing new frontiers in international Islamist cooperation.
There are two very different parts to this story that at first may seem unrelated. Last Monday an Iranian naval task force docked in Sudan, most probably in Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. The naval force was bringing a message “of peace and security to neighboring countries,” reports the official Iranian news agency, IRNA. “The visit by Iranian warships to Sudan “is intended to underscore the defense and security ties between the two countries,” said IRNA.
The force included the Shahid Naqdi, a corvette-class vessel and the Kharg, a supply vessel capable of carrying three helicopters. The ships had set sail from Iran, most likely from Bandar Abbas, last month, according to IRNA. Note the presence of a supply ship, an indication that supplies were to be carried, one would assume.
The task force arrived in the African country six days after the destruction of the al-Yarmouk munitions factory in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. It is believed by a number of intelligence sources that these arms were being built in Sudan with Iranian financing and destined for Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement in the Gaza Strip. The weapons are believed to include rockets and other weapons and are then smuggled through Egypt into Gaza.
These rockets are a step up from the crude home-made rockets Hamas has fired at Israel in the past.

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Coulter Defends Romney

Mitt Romney tells people he won't fire federal workers or cut education spending. He says he'll spend more on the military. He sounds like a big-government guy. Or is he just pandering for votes?
Ann Coulter came on my TV show to defend Romney.
"What you call pandering is called getting elected," Coulter said.
Romney says he'll repeal Obamacare. Great! But he wants to keep popular parts: coverage for pre-existing conditions and keeping grown kids on their parents' policies until age 26. Those mandates are popular. But that's not insurance. That's welfare.
"If we do not repeal Obamacare in the next few years, America takes the first step into 1,000 years of darkness. ... Romney is far more free market than any recent Republican candidate, including George Bush. What Romney is talking about here is the free market."
But that's not the free market. It's a forced handout.
"If it's popular, it will be provided on the free market. There are insurance products we can't even think of, including buying insurance for your unborn children. ... The problem with health care -- and the reason Romneycare was a libertarian solution for a governor to provide because the governor can't repeal all the federal government stuff -- is that right now, you already have government intervention. Government pays for nearly 50 percent of all health care in America. It is already 50 percent socialist. Romney is going to roll it back, apply free-market magic, and everything you want covered is going to be covered."
But he says he will force every insurance company to cover pre-existing conditions.
"He's not saying 'force.' ... The free market will cover it. I promise you that's what he means."
Really? He does say, "Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan." That sounds like force. A free market is voluntary. But I decided to move on.
Romney wants to increase military spending. America is going broke, and yet we still spend about as much on "defense" as all other countries combined. How can we afford this?
"For one thing, I do trust Romney to cut a lot of government -- more than Ronald Reagan did. That's why we need Romney right now as much as we needed Reagan in 1980. This is a free-market guy. He saved companies from going into bankruptcy. He saved the Olympics from going into bankruptcy. In Massachusetts -- the Soviet Union -- he balanced the budget and cut taxes. You need someone who'll go through the budget line by line and look at the things that can be cut."

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No Men in The White House

Between e-mail revelations and whistle-blower testimony, the Band-Aid is very painfully being pulled off the Obama administration's Benghazi disaster.  And as in any management failure, we have two ways to look at the issue -- long-term and short.  In the short-term view, we learn something about the quality of our actions -- i.e., was the right or most proper decision or sequence of decisions made based on the facts known at the time?  But the benefit of the long-term view is that it may reveal failings in the way we organize ourselves for these occasions and, by extension, the likelihood of such a thing happening again.
It's this long-term view of Benghazi which is so disheartening because it so obviously illustrates how we're set up to produce ever more situations similar to this one, wherein our people not only die expecting help, but die several hours after they had fixed a targeting laser on the mortar position which would eventually kill them.  More tragedies wherein we have to listen to a political operative like Leon Panetta reference some completely fictitious military maxim that you never send a force in without knowing exactly what's happening on the ground.  More calamities where what we don't hear is that someone like General Petraeus, who is supposed to be a soldier, ended his career by refusing to abandon his men -- indeed, wherein not even one man in the White House Situation Room, in uniform or not -- not one diplomat in the loop at State, not one senior CIA official, not one Naval officer offshore, not one serving general in the multitude of American commands in Europe would sacrifice his career in order to save them.

Expect a Wild Session as Wall Street Opens

As Wall Street prepares to re-open for business on Wednesday, investors should prepare for a “wild session” before earnings reports could subdue the markets again, Michael Yoshikami, founder & chief executive of Destination Wealth Management, told CNBC.
After two days of closures for Wall Street as Superstorm Sandy wrought havoc, U.S. stock exchanges are preparing to re-open on Wednesday — the last day of trading in November when traders and fund managers assess stocks and value holdings for investor and regulator reports.
“It should be a wild session,” Yoshikami told CNBC Europe’s “Squawk Box”. “It’ll be interesting to see what the volume is like but I expect significant volatility.”
“Fortunately we have earnings postponed by a number of companies until Thursday or Friday but it should be a wild session.”
Despite extensive flooding in New York affecting transport into the city, Wall Street experts told Reuters on Tuesday that there could be a dangerous back up in customer orders and damage done to confidence in the U.S. markets if they remained shut.
Confidence has already been hit in recent months because of trading glitches, a botched Facebook IPO and inexplicable market swings.
Speaking to CNBC from San Francisco, Yoshikami said that investors should expect “a down day in the market” on Wednesday.

Supreme Court to consider how and when police can use drug-sniffing dogs

The US Supreme Court is going to the dogs on Wednesday in a pair of important cases that ask the justices to decide how and when police are able to use dogs specially trained to detect narcotics.
Both cases involve drug investigations in Florida, but their resolution could affect the use trained dogs across the United States.
In both instances, the Florida Supreme Court issued rulings that make it harder for law-enforcement officials to use dogs to discover illicit drugs in a home or vehicle.
Prosecutors in Florida, the Obama administration, and more than 20 state attorneys general are urging the high court to overturn the Florida Supreme Court and establish bright-line rules allowing police to use dogs during traffic stops as well as at the front door of a private home.
“This case is critically important to the fight against illegal narcotics,” Carolyn Snurkowski, Florida assistant deputy attorney general, said in her brief to the court.
Lawyers for defendants who were targeted for dog sniffs disagree. The courts, they say, should be suspicious of the increased use of dogs as a law-enforcement tool.
“The dog may be man’s best friend, but as sources of probable cause, canine alerts are subject to error and misinterpretation,” wrote Glen Gifford, Tallahassee assistant public defender, in his brief urging the justices to uphold the Florida high court.
“Some dogs are more accurate than others, and, like people, dogs have good days and bad days,” he said.
The justices will be hearing the two Florida cases back to back Wednesday morning. Each case explores a different question related to dog sniffs.

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It's Not Over

Does anyone believe that when Barack Obama loses on November 6, he will go quietly?
This election is shaping up to be a landslide loss for the president, and by the ever-present look of desperation on his face, he knows it.  The nation should be preparing for how he might react when it happens -- there is nothing more dangerous than a cornered god. 
In 2008, Americans wholeheartedly bought the Obama dream.  It's never easy to let go of a dream, but today, people have let go of Obama the dream -- and on November 6, they will let go of Obama the man.
The debates served two purposes -- namely, showing the world that Mitt Romney was not the evil mastermind Obama and his crew had spent hundreds of millions of dollars portraying him to be while erasing the myth of Obama as invincible and inevitable. 
For a man who is supposedly brilliant, it was devastating to see him perform like an uninformed moron in Denver.  It can be said that he was unprepared, but whose fault was that?  Preparation was too much of a "drag," and he wanted to see the Hoover Dam -- a particular draw for him, since it has always been a dream of Barack the god to build an Obama Dam while Americans forced to live in the economy he has built scream "God damn Obama." 
The last two debates showed that the president did not understand what was going on.  He thought he needed to be more aggressive, but all America saw was a rude and obnoxious man, with a dismal record of governance and no plan for the future.  It used to be said that he is likable, but his condescension and constant belittling of Mitt Romney dispelled that notion.
He spent millions of dollars and much of the past year trying to define Mitt Romney and was outraged when his carefully concocted caricature didn't show up.  Most people saw a man who was reasonable and presidential.  A nation shell-shocked by four years of failed leadership saw the next president of the United States.

Failed Renewable Technologies Are An Expensive Teaching Moment

A story that went viral over a week ago showed how (non)-workers at a Michigan electric vehicle battery plant, funded through the stimulus by taxpayers, spent their time playing games, reading magazines, watching movies or helping charities like Habitat for Humanity – that is, when they weren’t ‘off-duty’ on their cyclical furloughs.
According to a report by WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, the LG Chem factory in Holland, Mich. – blessed with $151 million from a Department of Energy Recovery Act grant and $100 million from Wolverine State taxpayers – had “yet to ship out a single battery.”
But another local television station discovered some workers doing something else with their paid-but-free time: teaching students about their failed industry. WZZM, the local ABC affiliate, reported that engineers from LG Chem visited a local job training facility called Careerline Tech Center after they were invited by its director, Dave Searles.
“We’re working with LG Chem about future technology that’s coming out,” he told reporter Alex Shabad.
Contrary to the methods apparently taught in journalism schools today, Shabad responded to Searles with the kind of skeptical question that ought to be on the lips of every reporter in the nation whose beat includes any project from President Obama’s alternative energy stimulus initiative. If you ever visit the Web site, you’d realize that’s pretty much the entire media.
“If a technology is failing,” Shabad asked Searles, “is it still important for students to know about it?”

Here's The REAL Nightmare Scenario On Election Day

Amid the chaos of Hurricane Sandy, it has been easy to forget that the presidential election is less than one week away.
Aside from the implications that the storm may have on early voting, turnout, and the campaign schedule, the storm could have serious effects on Election Day at the most fundamental level: How people vote.
Since Monday, massive power outages have hit at least 16 states in the mid-Atlantic and the Midwest, affecting more than 7 million people.
In several places, the power is expected to be out for up to 10 days — well past Election Day on November 6. Which raises some major questions about how people are supposed to vote if the lights — and voting machines — are off.
As of Tuesday night, the answers to those questions remain largely uncertain. Election officials in most of the affected states have been unable to go to work this week, making it difficult to assess the situation and come up with contingency plans.
But state officials are already promising that every effort will be made to give voters access to the polls, while also raising concerns about the potential logistical nightmare of organizing an election in the dark.
In New York, state officials told the New York Times that the state has given a list of prioritized polling sites to ConEd, and is prepared to move or consolidate sites without power. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett said Tuesday that the county election officials are working with utility companies to make sure they have power on election day.
Generally speaking, in polling places that use paper ballots, power outages will be an annoying, but not insurmountable, problem. While election officials won't be able to scan and electronically submit ballots, the ballots can still be counted by hand.

The Old [Electoral] College Try

The howls were heard from coast to coast in 2000. Let's junk the Electoral College, liberals cried. It's outmoded. It's outrageous. Why? Because in the first election of the New Millennium, the Electoral College had produced one of its very rare instances where the winner of the popular vote, Vice President Al Gore, had lost the critical vote of the Electoral College.
The popular vote that tumultuous year went narrowly for Gore. He won 50,999,897 votes (48.9%) to Texas Gov. George W. Bush's 50,456,002 (47.9%). The Electoral College tally, however, gave Bush the narrowest of victory margins-271 to 266 for Gore. And under our Constitution, it is the Electoral College and not the popular vote that determines the legitimate winner of the Presidency.
Hillary Clinton, then a newly-elected U.S. Senator from New York, loudly demanded an overhaul of the Electoral College. Soon, Barack Obama, a state senator in Illinois, would join her call for abolishing the venerable institution. The Electoral College seemed to be the only college where these liberal icons did not want to hold an election rally, or shower with more federal funds. Former Vice President Al Gore, twelve years later, has come on board for abolition of the Electoral College. Perhaps he felt he would seem a sore loser had he urged boarding up this dear old Federal U. earlier.
Now in 2012, the liberal dovecote has gone strangely silent. No more cooing about the injustices and undemocratic nature of the Electoral College. Wonder why? Perhaps it's because this year some pundits are seeing President Obama's re-election hopes hinge on a narrow victory in the Electoral College even if he loses the popular vote.

As many as 50 Obama-backed green energy companies bankrupt or troubled

The October bankruptcy of solar company Satcon Technology Corp. puts the number of bankrupt or troubled green energy companies as high as 50, according to one estimate.
During the first presidential debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said the Obama administration had doled out $90 billion to green energy companies, half of which he said had failed, which sparked a media-wide debate over the accuracy of the claim.
The Romney campaign later clarified that he was talking about the DOE’s 1705 loan program which doled out $16.1 billion to green energy companies, according to the Washington Post. Of the 33 companies that received 1705 loan guarantees, only three have declared bankruptcy.
However, when other subsidies, outside of the 1705 loan guarantees are factored in, the number of government-backed green energy failures is much higher.
The blog Green Corruption’s “Obama green-energy failure” list contains 23 bankrupt and 27 troubled green energy companies which were backed by the federal government. This list uses data compiled by the Heritage Foundation, but also includes some things the conservative think tank doesn’t.
According to the Heritage Foundation, $80 billion was set aside in the 2009 stimulus package for clean energy loans, grants, and tax credits, and 10 percent of these funds have gone to companies that have filed for bankruptcy or are in dire straits.
The Green Corruption estimates are on the high end as others have total number of bankrupt and troubled green energy firms much lower.
The Heritage Foundation’s list contains 34 companies that have either filed for bankruptcy or are faltering as of October 18. Of those 34 listed, nineteen have filed for bankruptcy and fifteen are considered faltering.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Outside Groups Outspend Candidates in 26 House Races

Illinois' 17th Congressional District looks like it was drawn by an X-acto knife on crack, pitted with divots large and small and tendrils leading nowhere.

This misshapen plot of land, dubbed the "rabbit on a skateboard," is the result of a redistricting process that made it slightly more Democratic territory.

That means first-term Rep. Bobby Schilling, a Republican, doesn't exactly have a smooth glide-path to re-election. In fact, he’s in a fight -- an expensive one. Through Oct. 17, Schilling and his Democratic opponent, Cheri Bustos, together have spent $3.3 million on the race ($1.9 by Schilling, $1.4 million by Bustos).

But that's not the half of it. Another $6 million has been spent by outside groups, a cool $2.7 million more than the candidates themselves have laid out.

That makes the contest one of 26 House elections in which outside spending adds up to more than spending by the candidates, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

The table below shows the top ten races in which outside groups have spent more than the candidates. (Totals are through Oct. 17, the last date for which candidate spending data is available.)

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Judicial Watch’s Hard-Hitting Documentary “District of Corruption” Scores Big Box Office Numbers on Opening Weekend

Film Written, Produced, and Directed by Stephen K. Bannon, the Writer/Director of “Occupy Unmasked,” and “The Undefeated” 
“Obama 2016” Distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures Manages Distribution Campaign 
(Washington, DC)Judicial Watch, the nation’s largest government watchdog organization, and Victory Film Group, announced today that their hard-hitting feature documentary “District of Corruption” scored the second highest per-screen average at the box office on its opening weekend. The film, distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures, averaged $7,374 over three theaters, finishing behind one other debut film, vaunted film festival favorite, “The Loneliest Planet.”  The “District of Corruption,”  relying on grassroots support and word of mouth, beat out virtually every other major film this past weekend. Plans are to release the film in more markets on November 9.
“The District of Corruption” puts the spotlight on Judicial Watch’s epic battle against government scandal, secrecy and corruption through the last three presidential administrations (see trailer here). Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon, the writer/director of “Occupy Unmasked” and the Sarah Palin film “The Undefeated,” and produced in association with Constant Motion Entertainment, the Judicial Watch film is released nationally by Rocky Mountain Pictures, the distributors of the documentary sensation, “Obama 2016.” The movie “The District of Corruption” opened in select theaters on October 26:
  • Old Mill Playhouse, Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, 1000 Old Mill Run, The Villages, FL
  • AMC Lennox Town Center 24, 777 Kinnear Road, Columbus, OH
  • Edwards Greenway Palace Stadium, 3839 Weslayan Street, Houston, TX
Judicial Watch is partnering with Movie to Movement, the grassroots group that helped turn out box-office-busting numbers of movie goers for “Obama 2016.”

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The Libertarian Case for Gary Johnson

The libertarian case in favor of voting for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is pretty self-evident and exceptionally strong.
Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor of the overwhelmingly Democratic state of New Mexico, is not just the single-most qualified candidate the LP has yet to field for president. At this stage in his life, he's got more experience in managing actual political reality and bureaucratic state operations than the one-term former governor Mitt Romney has or the wet-behind-the-ears senator Barack Obama had when he moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Or for that matter, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) had when the good Dr. No ran for the LP in 1988.
As a bonus as big as the Mt. Everest that he actually climbed (on a recently busted leg, for god's sake!), Johnson actually happens to be a full-throated champion of strictly limited government and maximally empowered individuals, of free minds and free markets, of marriage equality, engagement with the world through trade not aid (or drones or boots on the ground), of open borders, of social tolerance, and more. (Go here for Johnson's platform.) When he was running the show in the Land of Enchantment, he held the line on spending and taxes and vetoed hundreds of bills while pushing school choice, prison reform, competitive outsourcing, and many other good things. He never once threatened to invade Texas or Arizona or Colorado, or even Mexico.

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The Libertarian Case for Barack Obama

If Ron or Rand Paul were running as the GOP nominee against Barack Obama this year, I wouldn't even try to make a case for libertarians to vote for the Democrat. And if you're a Libertarian who's not in a swing state - you live in California, maybe, or Texas - there's no compelling reason for you to cast your vote for anyone other than Gary Johnson.
Regardless of your preferences, you're going to be looking at the inauguration of Mitt Romney or Barack Obama come January, so if you're a voter in swing state, you should give some thought to voting for Obama as the lesser of the two big-government, Harvard-educated evils.
On some issues of course, like foreign policy, it's hard to find daylight between Obama and Romney, although Obama clearly has more mastery of the details of being a head of state. Both guys are willing to deploy American military forces abroad even when there is little compelling reason to intervene. And Romney seems perfectly capable of adopting a liberal government program when it suits him. While Romney officially opposes Obamacare, it's scarcely different from the health-care reform Romney presided over in Massachusetts. And Romney's proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act seem designed to capture the inefficiencies of such a system while dispensing with the efficiencies (he would limit the risk pool, which will push individual premiums higher).

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The Libertarian Case for Mitt Romney

Should libertarians like me declare a pox on both major parties’ houses by voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson? Or should we opt for the Republican Mitt Romney, who I think would be significantly less bad than the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama?
Over the decades since I first became eligible to vote, I have often faced this choice in presidential elections. Sometimes I voted Libertarian, and other times I voted Republican, depending on the circumstances. This year, as a resident of Florida, there is no question that I will vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket. If I lived in a different state, my choice might be different.
My prime consideration in deciding how to vote in 2012 is the future of liberty. I’ve considered myself a libertarian since my college days, when I was good friends with Dave Nolan, an MIT classmate and subsequent founder of the Libertarian Party in 1971. While I did not attend the first LP convention, I participated actively in the LP’s first 15 years, as a delegate to state and national conventions and once or twice serving on the national platform committee. Most of my professional career has been devoted to advancing liberty, building a national magazine and a national think tank devoted to that end.
In Gary Johnson, the LP has the most credible and best-qualified candidate it has ever run. After building and running a successful business, he was elected governor of New Mexico, winning as a Republican in a traditionally Democratic state. He reduced numerous taxes and vetoed countless bills that threatened personal or economic liberty, and was re-elected to a second term in which he did likewise. In short, he has demonstrated the ability to apply libertarian principles in the executive branch of government, and he did so in a manner that led to him being re-elected in a state that seldom elects Republicans.

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Homeland Security Meets Office Politics

Idealist goes to the naton's capital, idealist produces notoriously shoddy document that his higher-ups refuse to defend, idealist gets snagged in bureaucratic politics, idealist leaves his job and becomes a government contractor. It isn't the usual narrative arc for a Washington book, but it might be a more typical Washington story. And while the author certainly wouldn't put it in the terms I used, it's the story underlying Daryl Johnson's Right-Wing Resurgence, the meandering memoir of the man who wrote the Department of Homeland Security's infamous report on right-wing extremism.
Johnson's paper set off a firestorm when it was exposed in 2009. The document seemed at least as interested in right-wing groups' ideologies as it was in their capacity for violence, a fact that set off civil liberties alarm bells. And a footnote gave the impression that the paper was casting its net pretty wide. "Rightwing extremism in the United States," it said, "can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration." This was widely construed to mean that anyone opposed to immigration, abortion, or federal authority was perceived as a potential threat.

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