Tea Party Is Evidence ‘Democracy Works,’ President Bush Says

The rise of the Tea Party movement shows “democracy works,” former President George W. Bush says in an interview to air Tuesday night on Fox News’ “Hannity.” “Here’s what I see. I see democracy working. People are expressing a level of frustration or concern and they’re getting involved in the process,” Bush said in advance of the release Tuesday of his memoir, “Decision Points.” The conservative Tea Party movement is credited with shaking up this year’s midterm elections and helping Republicans win control of the House and cut into the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, though some critics have argued that Republicans lost some races because Tea Party candidates weren’t viable.

Demoralized Democrats Brace for a Rocky, Divided Future

Demoralized Democrats face an uncertain future after their bruising election losses, and the soul-searching and finger-pointing already have begun. A debate raged about whether the party, which suffered its biggest losses in Congress since 1938, needed a dramatic shift in course ahead of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Liberal Democrats demanded more confrontation and less compromise with Republicans, while party pragmatists called for bipartisanship and a move to the center after the election rout Tuesday in which Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and picked up seats in the Senate. But many Democrats cautioned the election did not mark a fundamental shift toward Republicans, and warned against over-reacting to a result driven by voter unhappiness about the ailing economy and Obama’s inability to turn it around. “We were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation,” Obama said in an excerpt from a CBS “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday.

  • They just don’t get it. Instead of looking at their disastrous results from a political perspective, they need to see that their flawed socialistic policies have failed.

Republicans Draw Line on Tax Cut

Republican leaders in the House and the Senate said Sunday that there would be no compromise with Democrats on whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers. President Barack Obama has said he wants to extend the tax cuts for taxpayers with a combined annual income of less than $250,000, but that the cuts should be eliminated for people making more than that. He has suggested there might be room for compromise in discussions with Republicans on other tax issues. But Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is expected to become majority leader in the House when the new Congress is sworn in next year, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Sunday news programs that they would insist on extending tax cuts for the wealthy. McConnell said higher taxes on upper-income earners would harm small businesses. Cantor said Republicans plan to make spending cuts a priority when they take control of the House in January.

Giant Jesus Statue Completed in Polish Town

A gigantic statue of Jesus that Poles claim is the world’s largest rose majestically above a small town of Swiebodzin, as the grandiose dream of a local priest finally came to pass. The white statue with outstretched arms and golden crown rising above the western Polish plains in Swiebodzin provides competition to Rio de Janieros iconic Christ the Redeemer. Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue said it rises 108 feet, or 33 meters — one meter for every year that Jesus lived. By comparison, the statue in Brazil’s Rio is 125 feet tall. While it wasn’t possible to verify the exact height of the new statue, there was no doubt that “Christ the King,” as the golden-crowned Polish statue is called, cut an imposing sight as it was finally completed. It has divided Poles and underlined the deep cultural divide between a deeply Catholic population and an increasingly confident secular society — with many mocking the statue project as tacky. But many residents in Swiebodzin welcome it. They believe it will put their town of 22,000 on the map for tourists and Roman Catholic pilgrims and bring in needed money to renovate the historic buildings in the tiny town center.

  • · Sad that supporters use tourism as justification instead of calling people to repentance and salvation. Still, the Jesus statue calls attention to Him and we can pray that the Holy Spirit does the rest.

Saudis Warned U.S. of Package Bombs Weeks Ago

Western officials are crediting a Saudi intelligence tip they received in early October, nearly three weeks before terrorists in Yemen managed to smuggle mail bombs onto airplanes, with heading off what could have been a series of catastrophic explosions on jets. The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility Friday for sending the two bombs addressed to synagogues in the U.S. and intercepted in Dubai and Britain. The group also said it was responsible for the crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai in September and threatened even more attacks on passenger and cargo aircraft. Investigators say they believe the UPS crash was an accident, not a terror attack, but they’re not discounting the al-Qaeda claim.

Scientists Find Damage to Coral Near BP Well

For the first time, federal scientists have found damage to deep sea coral and other marine life on the ocean floor several miles from the blown-out BP well — a strong indication that damage from the spill could be significantly greater than officials had previously acknowledged. Tests are needed to verify that the coral died from oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, but the chief scientist who led the government-funded expedition said he was convinced it was related. For the government, the findings were a departure from earlier statements. Until now, federal teams have painted relatively rosy pictures about the spill’s effect on the sea and its ecosystem, saying they had not found any damage on the ocean floor.

  • · Rosy pictures are the government’s specialty, despite the facts.

Feds Shell Out $1 Billion to Dead People

The federal government has paid out well over $1 billion to 250,000 deceased individuals over the past decade — and can’t figure out how to fix the problem, according to a new report from Sen. Tom Coburn. “Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills,” the Oklahoma Republican’s report says. The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in stimulus funds to 71,688 dead people, and $40.3 million in questionable benefit payments to 1,760 deceased individuals. The Department of Agriculture sent $1.1 billion in farming subsidies to dead farmers. The Department of Health and Human Services sent $3.9 million to 11,000 dead people to help pay heating and cooling costs. Medicare paid up to $92 million in claims for medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors and $8.2 million for medical supplies prescribed for dead patients.

  • · If dead people can vote, then they should also be able to collect benefits

Ongoing Problems at Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

Government-controlled mortgage buyer Fannie Mae is asking for $2.5 billion in additional federal aid after posting a narrower loss in the third quarter. Fannie Mae also said it was likely that the market disarray and suspension of foreclosures due to big lenders’ problems with flawed documents will have a negative impact on the delinquency rates of its loans, its expenses and foreclosure timelines. Fannie Mae said it lost $3.46 billion, or 61 cents a share, in the July-September quarter. That takes into account $2.1 billion in dividend payments to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $19.8 billion, or $3.47 a share, in the third quarter of 2009.

Taxpayer-funded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have spent more than $2 billion this year on foreclosed property expenses after acquiring tens of thousands of homes through foreclosures. The mortgage giants owned more than 240,000 foreclosed homes on Sept. 30, they reported last week. That’s about 25% of all lender-owned homes in the U.S. Fannie and Freddie, which buy mortgages from lenders and package them into securities to sell to investors, own or guarantee half of all U.S. mortgages. Together, they have more than twice as many foreclosed homes now as they did this time last year, with a combined value of $24 billion. The longer foreclosed homes stay on their books, the larger taxpayers’ expenses will be.

  • · The government never should have been in the mortgage business to begin with. Too much government involvement is the problem, not the solution.

Economic News

The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes fell in September after two months of gains. The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes dropped 1.8% in September. The setback highlighted the continued problems facing the housing industry as it struggles to mount a sustained recovery from a deep recession.

A heartening jobs report last week masked an ominous statistic: Discouraged workers hit a record 1.2 million. Discouraged workers are those who want a job but aren’t counted in the labor force because they’ve stopped looking for work. When the job market improves, many Americans on the sidelines will return to the labor force, holding up the unemployment rate even if job growth surges.

Consumer borrowing increased in September for the first time since January even though the category that includes credit cards shrank for a record 25th straight month. The Federal Reserve said that consumer credit increased at an annual rate of $2.1 billion in September after falling at a $4.9 billion rate in August. It was only the second increase in the past 20 months. Americans have been reducing their borrowing for nearly two years as they try to repair their balance sheets in the wake of a steep recession and high unemployment.

Afghanistan

Afghan and NATO forces targeted suspected insurgent strongholds in a joint operation in southern Kandahar province, killing 15 and capturing 13, an Afghan official said Monday. NATO and Afghan forces have been trying to seize control of the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan since July. They have established some pockets of security but the ultimate success of the operation will depend on the Afghan government’s ability to secure the area with its own forces and provide services to the population. U.S. officials have said that the war against the insurgency is slowly beginning to turn around and that some of the 100,000 American troops will begin withdrawing by next summer. They have not said how many troops will remain but are confident that Afghanistan should be ready to handle its own security by the year 2014. Canada’s defense minister said Sunday that Canada is considering a U.S. request to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2011, but switch them from a combat to a training role.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber killed 67 people Friday at a mosque frequented by tribal elders opposed to the Pakistani Taliban. Hours later, three people died in a grenade attack on another mosque associated with anti-Taliban militia. The strikes in northwest Pakistan were a reminder of the potency of the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies along the Afghan border despite U.S.-backed army offensives. The Obama administration believes success against insurgents there is key to its hopes of winning the war in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has supported the creation of militias to fight the Taliban, who are unpopular in many parts of the northwest. The groups know the region and its inhabitants and are seen as useful in securing cleared areas or stopping militants from moving into their districts. The insurgents regularly target these groups with suicide attacks and warn residents not to join up with them. On two occasions this year suicide attackers have killed about 100 people attending militia events, while dozens of others have been killed in smaller strikes. A pair of American drone strikes killed 14 suspected militants in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday in the latest attacks against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants seeking sanctuary in that region.

Yemen

The threat from al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen is growing, but the U.S. military has few quick options to respond to the increasing danger, analysts say. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is reluctant to be viewed as being dependent on the United States, fearful that it will strengthen his critics. Yemen’s weak central government is struggling with revolts as it tries to control a country of rebellious tribes spread over a rugged landscape of remote villages, desert and mountains. The United States says al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen is behind two shipments of explosives that originated in Yemen and were addressed to Chicago. The United States must strike a balance between helping the Yemeni government fight al-Qaeda without appearing to give it too much support

A U.S.-born radical Yemeni cleric involved in previous attacks on the U.S. called for Muslims around world to kill Americans in a new video message posted on radical websites Monday. Anwar al-Awlaki said since all Americans are the enemy, clerics don’t need to issue any special fatwas or religious rulings allowing them to be killed. Born in New Mexico, al-Awlaki has used his website and English-language sermons to encourage Muslims around the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq and has been tied by U.S. intelligence to the 9/11 hijackers, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, as well as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in November at Fort Hood, Texas. A Yemeni judge ordered police Saturday to find the radical U.S.-born cleric “dead or alive” after the Al Qaeda-linked preacher failed to appear at his trial for his role in the killing of foreigners.

Burma

Voters in Burma, also known as Myanmar, cast their ballots Sunday in the first elections in 20 years amid a barrage of criticism that the balloting was rigged in favor of the ruling military, as well as hope that some change toward democratic reform might nonetheless follow. t was almost certain, however, that through pre-election engineering the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party would emerge victorious despite widespread popular opposition to 48 years of military rule. The streets of Yangon, Burma’s largest city, were unusually quiet and voter turnout appeared light at many polling stations. Some residents said they were staying home as rumors circulated that bombs would explode.

Mexico

At least 20 people were killed in drug-gang violence over the weekend in this northern Mexican border city, including seven found dead outside one house. There have been several such massacres in Ciudad Juarez, a city held hostage by a nearly three-year turf battle between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels. Few residents now venture out to bars and restaurants. And like those attacked on Saturday, others have discovered that they aren’t even safe in their own homes: Last month, gunmen stormed two neighboring houses and massacred more than a dozen young people attending a party for a 15-year-old boy.

Weather

Hurricane Tomas pushed northward from Haiti on Saturday, leaving villagers to mop up, evacuees to return to their tents and most everyone relieved that the country did not suffer what could have been its first big disaster since the January earthquake. The storm’s western track caused widespread floods, wind damage along the far edge of Haiti’s coast and is blamed for the deaths of at least eight people. It was a serious blow, but far better than had been feared in a nation where storms have been known to kill thousands, and more than 1 million quake survivors were living under tarps and tents. Floodwaters covered streets in Leogane, the town closest to the epicenter of the Jan. 12 quake, and about a foot of water stood on a thoroughfare of the flood-prone northwestern city of Gonaives. Mountain towns were cut off by flooded roads and landslides, including one reported by U.N. peacekeepers in the mountains near the southern port of Jacmel. However, earthquake camps were not torn apart by wind, storm surge did not drown the oceanside slums, the La Quinte River — which has twice drowned Gonaives above the first stories of its buildings since 2004 — stayed in its bed.

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