Entries from May 2011

Home Ownership Levels at New Lows

May 30th, 2011 at 10:43 pm 5 Comments

The Daily Beast reports:

The scars of the Great Recession are showing on the housing market, treatment as experts say the consumer price index numbers to be released Tuesday will show home ownership has declined to 1998 levels. This drop is due not only to people boxed out of the housing market—because of foreclosure, unemployment or trapped in homes worth less than their mortgage—but because many people who could afford to own are opting out. “They’re renting and they’re happy renting because they’re scared to own,” said Douglas Yearley Jr, the chief executive of the building company Toll Brothers. Builders have begun to adapt to the changes, as construction on multiunit houses are up 22 percent this year while construction on single-family homes are down 21 percent.

Obama Increasingly Targets Employers of Illegals

May 30th, 2011 at 10:35 pm 9 Comments

Slate Magazine reports:

President Obama has mostly given up on the flashy, buy media-friendly raids on workplaces that were popular with his predecessor and often rounded up hundreds of illegal workers for deportation. Instead, sales he is choosing to focus more on punishing those who hire the illegal immigrants in the first place. As a result, cure even as the number of criminal cases against illegal immigrant workers declined, the number of employers facing problems with the law has been increasing, reports the New York Times.

The NYT story seems to be part of an effort by the White House to push back against those who criticize the president’s record on immigration at a time when he has launched an improbable bid for a two-pronged effort at immigration reform that includes border security as well as some sort of amnesty for those who qualify. And there have been no shortage of critics. On one side, Republicans criticize the administration for the declining number of arrests of illegal workers, insisting that should be a particular focus at a time of high unemployment. Yet the Obama administration insists it is carrying out more investigations than ever before, and issued record fines, showing how the issue is being tackled despite the lack of raids.

The piece cites as an example the recent coordinated raid on 14 Chuy’s restaurants, where 42 illegal immigrants were caught but only one was charged with an unrelated crime while 13 were processed for immigration violations. Significantly, “the only criminal defendants were the owners … and an accountant,” details the Times.

Surge in Double Amputees Among War Wounded

May 30th, 2011 at 10:21 pm Comments Off

The Huffington Post reports:

American soldiers and Marines walking combat patrols in Afghanistan have suffered a surge of gruesome injuries, losing one or both legs and often their genitals to crude homemade bombs Taliban insurgents bury in dirt roads and pathways.

In some cases, American military surgeons tell The Huffington Post, these traumatic amputations occur so close to soldiers’ hips that it is difficult to fit prosthetic legs, severely limiting the patients’ future mobility and rehabilitation. In addition, the loss of sexual function for formerly healthy young men in their early 20s causes severe anxiety and depression and can wreck new marriages.

The latest wave of severe injuries comes after Gen. David Petraeus ordered U.S. troops in Afghanistan last year to get out of their protective armored vehicles and start walking. “Patrol on foot whenever possible and engage the population,” he directed in guidance to his troops last August.

The order was hailed as an essential counterinsurgency tactic used to get closer to the people, pick up intelligence more effectively and demonstrate American resolve to protect local villagers from Taliban insurgents.

But the enemy — as Petraeus himself is fond of saying — gets a vote, and the insurgents have attacked the dismounted patrols with a vengeance, planting lethal bombs inches beneath the dusty soil where a footstep can detonate them in blinding flashes.

Cantor: MO Disaster Relief Must Be Offset

May 30th, 2011 at 10:13 pm 18 Comments

The Hill reports:

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) continued to stress Sunday that disaster relief funds for tornado-ravaged Missouri would have to be offset in the federal budget with cuts elsewhere.

The House majority leader added on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that there was a certainly a federal role in helping to rebuild Joplin, try Mo., and that Congress would move after getting a request from President Obama.

“Because families don’t have unlimited money,” Cantor said. “And, really, neither does the federal government.”

Cantor began calling for offsets last Monday, the day after the tornado that has killed well over 100 struck Joplin. On Tuesday, a House appropriations subcommittee found a $1.5 billion offset to help finance an aid package.

But, he said, the government needs to act in this case like a family who faces an unforeseen expense and has to cut elsewhere.

Cain: Strong in Early Polls

May 30th, 2011 at 10:02 pm 3 Comments

The Washington Post reports:

As the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, buy cialis Cain is something of an authority on pie crusts and toppings. But in the embryonic stages of the Republican presidential primary, remedy Cain’s unexpectedly strong showing in early polls and enthusiastic support of the tea party, drugstore with which his fiscal uber-conservatism perfectly aligns, have also lent him the clout to weigh in on his fellow contenders.

Not surprisingly, the radio show host, inspirational speaker and Fox contributor who in a rumbling baritone calls himself the “Herminator,” considers the field thick with lifetime politicians who are thin on credibility. By contrast, Cain says he’s always been consistent and is not beholden to political operatives. “I’m just myself,” he said.

That’s standard stuff for a protest candidate. Except that a surprising percentage of party activists seem to like Herman Cain.

On Sunday afternoon, before a Memorial Day sweep through New Hampshire and his close-up in the media glare, Cain, wearing a purple shirt, black slacks and with a closely cropped graying mustache, argued that his popularity, tracked by Gallup and CNN polls, was the real thing. He said his dismissal as “entertainment” by conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer or as unserious by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove was indicative of the gulf that existed between the establishment and the “real world.”

The reality is that it is far too early to accept Cain’s typically brash view of himself as a serious contender. History says he isn’t. But while his supporters like to talk about “Raising Cain,” his momentary blip is, more than anything, raising some serious questions for the GOP.

Libyan Army Generals Defect

May 30th, 2011 at 9:54 pm 2 Comments

The Huffington Post reports:

Eight top Libyan army officers, including five generals, who have defected from Moammar Gadhafi’s regime appealed to their fellow officers Monday to join the revolt to hasten the end of Gadhafi’s 40-year rule.

Italian Foreign Ministry officials presented the generals, two colonels and a major to reporters in Rome three days after they fled Libya.

One of the officers, Gen. Melud Massoud Halasa, estimated that Gadhafi’s military forces are now “only 20 percent as effective” as what they were before the revolt broke out in mid-February, and that “not more than 10″ generals remain loyal to Gadhafi.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam, who now backs the anti-Gadhafi rebels, told the news conference that the eight officers are “part of 120 officials who left and abandoned Gadhafi and are now out of Libya.”

Cost of War Drives Afghan Troop Level Talks

May 30th, 2011 at 9:42 pm 1 Comment

The Washington Post reports:

Of all the statistics that President Obama’s national security team will consider when it debates the size of forthcoming troop reductions in Afghanistan, generic the most influential number probably will not be how many insurgents have been killed or the amount of territory wrested from the Taliban, viagra according to aides to those who will participate.

It will be the cost of the war.

The U.S. military is on track to spend $113 billion on its operations in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and it is seeking $107 billion for the next. To many of the president’s civilian advisers, that price is too high, given a wide federal budget gap that will require further cuts to domestic programs and increased deficit spending. Growing doubts about the need for such a broad nation-building mission there in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death have only sharpened that view.

“Where we’re at right now is simply not sustainable,” said one senior administration official, who, like several others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations.

Civilian advisers, who do not want to be seen as unwilling to pay for the war, are expected to frame their cost concerns in questions about the breadth of U.S. operations — arguing that the troop surge Obama authorized in 2009 has achieved many of its goals — instead of directly tackling money matters. When the president’s war cabinet evaluates troop-withdrawal options in the next few weeks presented by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander, “it’s not like each of them will have price tags next to them,” the official said. But “it’s certainly going to shape how most of the civilians look at this.”

Daniels: “I Could Have Beaten Obama”

May 30th, 2011 at 5:26 am 18 Comments

Politico reports

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has taken himself out of the running for president, but he says he believes he could have defeated President Barack Obama for a second term.

“Yes, I think so,” Daniels said when asked whether he could have beaten Obama on ABC’s “This Week.” “I mean no one can know.”

Daniels said that his decision to not run was based on his family’s desire for privacy and security, which he said would inevitably have been lost in a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

“We’ve got young women, three of them that have been married not too long,” Daniels said. “They’re looking forward to building lives, starting families and this was just a – a disruption that – that they were very, very leery of. And who wouldn’t understand that?”

Texas Bill Bans TSA Groping

May 30th, 2011 at 5:25 am 33 Comments

Reuters reports

The Texas House of Representatives late on Thursday approved a bill that would make invasive pat-downs at Texas airports a crime, after a former Miss USA said she felt “molested” at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport last month.

Transportation Security Administration agents could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, face a $4,000 fine and one year in jail under the measure.

The proposal would classify any airport inspection that “touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person” as an offense of sexual harassment under official oppression.

The measure’s author, Republican David Simpson, said: “Indecent groping searches when innocent travelers are seeking access to airports and public buildings would be outlawed under this bill.”

The bill needs a final vote from the House before it would go to the Senate.

“This has to do with dignity in travel,” Simpson said.

TSA spokesman Luis Casanova said he could not comment on pending legislation. He said just 3 percent of the traveling public is subjected to pat-downs.

TSA pat-downs have drawn some high-profile criticism, including from former Miss USA Susie Castillo, who said in a widely-viewed online video. that she felt “molested” by a pat-down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport last month.

The agency reviewed Castillo’s incident and found that the officer followed proper procedures, said TSA assistant administrator Kristine Lee.

“We wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren’t necessary but that just isn’t the case,” Lee said in a statement.

Thousands Protest Mladic Arrest

May 30th, 2011 at 3:21 am 1 Comment

The Los Angeles Times reports

Thousands of supporters of war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic rallied Sunday to protest the arrest of the man whom they revere as a national hero but whom much of the West considers a mass murderer.

Ultranationalists, government foes and rowdy soccer fans gathered in front of the parliament building in downtown Belgrade to wave Serbian flags and denounce Mladic’s capture and expected extradition this week to The Hague to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

As darkness fell, a few clashes broke out as demonstrators threw rocks at riot police, who were deployed in large numbers throughout the city center and around Western embassies. Police said about 100 people were arrested; Serbian state television reported that 18 people were injured.

If the two-hour rally was a mostly peaceful affair, it was also far smaller than organizers had hoped. The turnout was only a fraction of the size of the angry crowds that filled the streets when Mladic’s onetime boss, former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, was arrested and extradited three years ago.

The Mladic supporters who showed up Sunday evening included members of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party bused in from other parts of the country.

The protesters condemned President Boris Tadic as a toady of the West and denied allegations that Mladic, as the Bosnian Serb military commander, ordered the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica in 1995. The atrocity was the worst in Europe since World War II and has come to symbolize the brutality of the ethnic cleansing campaigns seen in the 1992-95 Balkan war.

“Ratko Mladic is a hero for us. He fought for the Serbian people,” declared soldier Zoran Petrovic, 35.

Others say Mladic, now 69, may not have been blameless but that he and other Serbian fighters have been unfairly singled out.

“In war practically everyone is a criminal. Generals on both sides do terrible and great things,” said Marko Radulovic, 24. “If one side is to be accused of anything, the other side should be accused of the same thing.”