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June 10, 2009

Palau Agrees To Accept Chinese Muslims Held At Guantanamo

Palau Island

President Barack Obama ordered that Guantanamo be shut down by January 2010. Since the order came down U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried has been leading the U.S. State Department’s efforts to resettle the Guantanamo detainees.

After months of negotiations, Palau President Johnson Toribiong said on Wednesday that his government would be “honored and proud” to take in the  17 Uighur Chinese Muslim prisoners who have been held for years at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for suspected terrorist acts. The Bush administration refused to designate the Uighurs as “enemy combatants” but would not release them.  In late 2008 a U.S. federal judge ordered the men to be released into the United States. That ruling was eventually overturned by an appeals court.

Sandra Pierantozzi, Palau’s minister of state says her nation is glad to have the Uighurs. “If they want to settle in Palau we would welcome them,” Pierantozzi said. “This is very much in line with the culture of Palau, where people who drift in and who needs settlement and place are welcome to our shores and our tradition will take care of them and insert them into our society.

The Uighurs are from China’s western Xinjiang province and Beijing has accused the Uighurs — who dominate the province — as separatists who want to create an independent “East Turkestan.” The Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia.

Washington is refusing to send the Uighurs back to China, fearing they would be persecuted.

Pierantozzi says her nation is not concerned over China’s likely displeasure over the resettlement of the Uighurs. “We continue to conduct business as usual, we are a free sovereign country, we are free to make decisions for us, as we believe and see for our benefit,” Pierantozzi said, “and also we are a small country but we are a part of the United Nations and the world community of nations, so we try to do our part.”

The Pacific island nation of Palau is located southeast of The Philippines, south of Guam and north of Indonesia.  Palau is a former U.S. trust territory who has been independent since 1994 and maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, China’s longtime rival, rather than Beijing.

It has been reported that the Palau government agreed to accept $200 million in aid from the U.S. in exchange for accepting the Uighurs. 

May 26, 2009

Judge Sotomayor – Hispanic Nuyorican Nominated To US Supreme Court

President Obama made history today by nominating the first Hispanic to the United States Supreme Court. Her name is Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge who sits on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Sotomayor would replace retiring Justice David Souter, and become the second woman to serve currently on the high court and only the third in history. Born and raised in a South Bronx housing project, the Judge would be the first person of Puerto Rican (she calls herself a Nuyorican which is a blending of the terms “New York” and “Puerto Rican”) heritage to serve on the high court.

In nominating Sotomayor, President Obama cited her professional achievements and compelling personal story, calling her an “inspiring woman who I am confident will make a great justice.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way. No dream is beyond reach in the United States of America,” Obama said.

In a statement in the East Room ceremony announcing her nomination, Sotomayor said, “Never in my wildest childhood imaginings…did I ever dream that I would live this moment.” Judge Sotomayor loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a child and yearned to be a police detective. But a doctor who diagnosed her childhood diabetes suggested that would be difficult. She traded her admiration of Nancy Drew for an allegiance to Perry Mason — she became a huge fan of TV’s Perry Mason and decided to become a lawyer.

Unless there is a scandalous revelation about Sotomayor, she is expected to be confirmed. Conservative will without a doubt make a fuss about the nomination of a Hispanic woman and further alienate Hispanics.  Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said, “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

Judge Sotomayor is the infamous Judge that ended the 1995 Major League Baseball strike. She ruled against the baseball team owners and in favor of the ballplayers, a decision that ended a lengthy strike and resumed play. At age 54, Judge Sotomayor would be the second-youngest member of the court, after Chief Justice John Roberts, thus potentially setting up decades of clashes between competing views of the Constitution and a variety of issues.

Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 16 years, as a US district court judge in New York City from 1992 to 1998 under the great Robert Morgenthau and as a judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York from 1998 to present. Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing in the Senate is expected to begin in approximately two months and her record will no doubt endure microscopic scrutiny.

Judge Sotomayor’s was born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents; she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. Her father died when she was 9, and she and her brother were raised by their mother, a nurse, in a housing project near Yankee Stadium.

She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. After law school, she prosecuted violent criminals in the District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1979 to 1984. She then worked for eight years in private practice representing international corporations and was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to a federal judgeship.

She was later nominated by President Clinton to her current post on the appeals court. She was confirmed in 1998 by a vote of 67 to 29 to 2.

April 24, 2009

Should Credit Card Rates Freeze?

credit-cards  While President Obama met with executives from the leading credit card companies yesterday two senators have called on the Federal Reserve to immediately implement an emergency freeze on interest rates tied to existing balances on credit cards.

The Federal Reserve plans to put a new set of rules in effect for credit card lending beginning July 2010 but that’s an entire year from now.

In the meantime Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators saying that companies are increasing interest rates now before the new rules go into effect so Americans need help now.

“Consumers describe situations to our offices in which the interest rates on their accounts have doubled or tripled overnight, without any misconduct on their part,” the letter says. “This kind of practice clearly violates the spirit and intention of the rules, even if the delayed implementation date has the effect of making such behavior legal.”

Congress is currently developing legislation that will rearrange and organize the Fed’s new rules but they still have a way to go.

After meeting with 14 executives from companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Visa, President Obama said that his administration would work with Congress to evaluate proposals for reform.

“We’re at a time where issues of credit and how businesses and families are able to finance everything from a car loan to a student loan to just paying their bills every day is on a lot of people’s minds,” President Obama said. “We want to preserve the credit card market, but we also want to do so in a way that eliminates some of the abuses and some of the problems that a lot of people are familiar with.”

The card executives at agreed to work with the Obama administration to address the President’s concerns according to the American Bankers Association, and are currently working to implement the Federal Reserves’ new rules.

(more…)

March 23, 2009

President Obama: Our Trillion Dollar Man

Obama  President Obama and his administration doesn’t want to nationalize our banks so they have unveiled a plan to remove toxic assets from banks’ books in hopes that the plan will breathe life into our financial system so that the government doesn’t have to take them over.

The plan is to finance up to $1 trillion in purchases of illiquid real-estate assets, using $75 billion to $100 billion of the Treasury’s remaining bank-rescue funds. The Public-Private Investment Program will also rely on Federal Reserve financing and FDIC debt guarantees. Doing this will allow banks to clean up their balance sheets and free up the money they were loaned under the TARP so that money can start flowing again and help resurrect our economy.

The government is taking a risk but we cannot solve a financial crisis of this magnitude without the government assuming some risk. It may take months for us to see if this is a successful approach since the government, private sector and banks have to collaborate to make this plan work.  Private asset managers have to be selected (in May), private investors have to participate and banks have to commit to sell their downgraded investments. The point of the program is to save the taxpayers’ money by attracting private capital. The private sector will invest alongside the American taxpayer on an equal basis, so both parties share the downside risk and upside potential. There is a great risk/reward potential here.

The second thing needed for this plan to work is strict oversight by Secretary Geithner. The Secretary has to keenly oversee what the banks are doing to ensure that bank executives continuously do the right things to get our economy back on track.  We have already seen that bank executives are confused, oblivious and disconnected from the reality of what they have done to our economy.  Geithner needs to keep them focused.

Fifty percent of the Treasury’s funds will go to a “Legacy Loans Program” that will be overseen by the FDIC. The Treasury will provide half of the capital going to purchase a pool of loans from banks, with private fund managers putting up the rest. The FDIC will then guarantee financing for the investors — up to a maximum of six times the capital or equity provided.

The FDIC — which has extensive experience disposing of devalued loans from taking over failed banks — will hold auctions for the pools of loans, which will be controlled and managed by the private investors with oversight by the FDIC.

Geithner is expecting a wide range of investors to participate in the Legacy Loans Program, including insurance companies, pension funds and even individual investors.

The other fifty percent of the Treasury’s contribution will go to the “Legacy Securities Program.” The objective of this initiative is to generate prices for securities backed by mortgages that are no longer traded because investors have little confidence in the principal value of the home loans.

Under this program, the Fed will expand an existing feature that provides financing for investor purchases of asset-backed securities. The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Program will be broadened to take on assets such as residential mortgage-backed securities that were originally rated AAA and sold by private banks.

The Treasury will also approve as many as five asset managers “with a demonstrated track record of purchasing legacy assets” that will buy the securities.

The managers will be given time to raise private capital and receive matching funds from the Treasury.  Geithner is hoping that the private sector will compete to be partners with the government.

There is some fear by investors that if they do well by participating in this program the government will tax them at 90 percent or busloads of people might turn up at their doors. 

I don’t think that will happen, if this works and the market is on an upswing and everyone is making money  populist views will change and these private investors will be hailed as heroes.

A few weeks ago we were all in fear that banks would fail en masse.  If banks had failed en masse, then massive business failures would have followed and massive unemployment would have been the result and that would have led to more foreclosures, and more bank failures and more business failures and more foreclosures and this vicious cycle would not have ended until there was a complete collapse of our economic system.

President Obama stopped the economic free-fall and we have to recognize that and give him credit for it. 

There is more than one way to skin a cat so all of us will not agree 100 percent on this plan, but we have a plan and we must now give this trillion dollar plan the chance to work. 

As Warren Buffet said, we’re in an economic war and we have to start acting like it.  Democrats and Republicans alike have to put aside ideological differences and realize that our economy is under attack by our competitors and we have to band together since we are all in this together

If you are an American and you don’t want to see President Obama succeed then it’s time for you to give up your citizenship and move to another country — seriously.

We’re all Americans.

United we stand, divided we fall. 

Let’s pray for success!

March 19, 2009

Health: Marijuana — Legalize it!

Marijuana is a tricky subject in America.

Based on the way our current federal law is written marijuana seems to be the devil of all plants.  It is demonized and believed to be an immoral and destructive drug that should be censored at all costs and by any means necessary to save our nation from destruction!!!

Some of the methods used to control the use of marijuana are very expensive and quite irrational in my opinion.  We, the tax payers, have to pay for extra police officers and other law enforcement officers to monitor marijuana use.  We have to pay correction officers and maintain prisons to punish offenders who were caught with marijuana. We have the high cost of financially supporting citizens who are healthy and in the prime of their lives and should be working, paying taxes and contributing to their families and communities while they sit around in prisons because they were arrested, tried and committed for possessing a minuscule amount of the plant.

From my understanding, hemp, a natural fiber by product of the cannabis plant (marijuana) could be a very positive, practical and valuable fiber if used for industrial purposes.  The cannabis plant, like bamboo, is a very environmentally friendly plant and grows quickly and abundantly.   Hemp requires little or no pesticides or herbicides, controls erosion of topsoil and produces oxygen.  Hemp can also be used to replace harmful products like tree paper which is processed using chlorine bleach and creates a waste product that is carcinogenic (cancer causing).  The strongest chemical needed to whiten hemp so that it can be used as paper is hydrogen peroxide which is harmless.

Hemp can also be used to produce biodegradable plastics (save our land fills!), clothing textiles, rope, canvas, fuel and health food.

Marijuana can also be used for medicinal purposes. The active ingredient in marijuana (THC) and other compounds found in cannabis are legitimate holistic alternatives.

Marijuana and its by-products are suitable for patients suffering from various types of chronic pain, especially those unresponsive to traditional analgesics (pain killers). In addition, cannabis has less negative side-effects than opioids (synthetic/chemical narcotics used to treat pain) – which can be highly addictive – and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which can induce stomach ulcers, bleeding and kidney failure.

Just this past week, HB 648, a bill allowing severely ill patients to grow and use marijuana for medicinal purposes has won a 13-7 vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee in New Hampshire and heads for a full House vote next week.

The bill requires patients to be certified by a doctor before they can grow or possess up to six plants or two ounces of marijuana. They or a caregiver can grow the plants, and a patient is given the option of obtaining marijuana from another certified patient.

In addition to New Hampshire thirteen states have laws permitting medicinal use of marijuana. California is unique among them for the presence of dispensaries — businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services. These dispensaries are legal under California law even though they are still illegal under federal law.

In the past month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal policy will shift, giving states more leeway to pass and enforce their own medical marijuana laws. The Federal government will no longer focus on raids of marijuana clinics but will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state laws.

That is a departure from the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state’s law. California law permits the sale of marijuana for medical purposes even though it’s still is against federal law.

Medical marijuana advocates in California welcomed the news, but said they still worried about the pending cases of those already in court on drug charges.

“Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal and state law,” Attorney General Holder said.

Kris Hermes, a spokesman for national medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said he welcomed Holder’s perspective and that “It signals a new direction and a more reasonable and sensible direction on medical marijuana policy.”

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana.  Or anyone getting a disease because of marijuana but I have heard of people who got alcoholic poisoning and died; and people who were DWI and killed other people.  

So why not give marijuana the same laws and restrictions as alcohol?  Americans can legally brew beer and make wine up to a certain quantity for personal consumption. So why shouldn’t we be able to grow and possess marijuana up to a certain quantity for personal consumption?

Take it out of the hands of the dealers and let law enforcement concentrate on dangerous drugs.  In fact, we should legalize cannabis and encourage farmers to plant this very eco-friendly plant industrially as a source for paper and other by-products.  Why not?

Additional reading:

http://legalizepot.wordpress.com/2008/01/23/why-is-marijuana-illegal/

 

 

February 12, 2009

Phoenix, Arizona – Kidnapping Capital of the U.S of A

This is very scary, the states and cities bordering Mexico are especially in trouble since this can easily spread to the population at large in those areas.

In what officials caution is now a dangerous and even deadly crime wave, Phoenix, Arizona has become the kidnapping capital of America, with more incidents than any other city in the world outside of Mexico City and over 370 cases last year alone. But local authorities say Washington, DC is too obsessed with al Qaeda terrorists to care about what is happening in their own backyard right now.

“We’re in the eye of the storm,” Phoenix Police Chief Andy Anderson told ABC News of the violent crimes and ruthless tactics spurred by Mexico’s drug cartels that have expanded business across the border. “If it doesn’t stop here, if we’re not able to fix it here and get it turned around, it will go across the nation,” he said.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown warned that as the U.S. government focuses so intently on Islamic extremist groups, other types of terrorists – those involved with the same kidnappings, extortion and drug cartels that are sweeping Phoenix – are overlooked.

“Those [criminals], for the average Californian or the average American, may be a more immediate threat to their well being,” Brown said.

In fact, kidnappings and other crimes connected to the Mexican drug cartels are quickly spreading across the border, from Texas to California. The majority of the victims are either illegal aliens or connected to the drug trade.

An ABC News’ investigation uncovered horrific cases of chopped-off hands, legs and heads when a victim’s family doesn’t pay up fast enough.

“They’re ruthless, so now they’re ripping each other off, but doing it in our city,” Anderson said.

To try and combat the crime wave, the Phoenix police have created a special unit to handle the kidnappings called the Home Invasion Task Force, which has pulled more than a dozen officers off other assignments. The crimes are occurring across the valley and in all types of neighborhoods, authorities warn.

For the rest of this very informative ABC News story including videos go to:

http://www.abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=6848672&page=1

February 6, 2009

Is California On The Verge Of A Financial Collapse?

California is America’s most populous state and it might be on the verge of a financial collapse.  If this is happening in California, how long will it be before this same type of financial monsoon slams into your state?

More than 200,000 state government employees are expected to stay home without pay today as California began it’s first-ever furlough (involuntary unpaid leave of absence), a move intended to save money during the ongoing fiscal crisis.

State agencies scrambled in the days before the furloughs took effect to avoid confusion for the public, such as people trying to register vehicles, getting drivers license or trying obtain professional licenses or city permits.

Among the offices to be closed Friday are those of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Consumer Affairs. The governor’s Office of Emergency Services also would be dark as part of a cash-saving move ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Critical and revenue-generating agencies were scheduled to remain open, including police precincts, fire stations, parks and employment centers that process unemployment insurance claims. California’s unemployment rate is 9.3 percent — a 15-year high.

Schwarzenegger ordered the two-day-a-month furloughs, reducing the average state worker’s salary by 9.2 percent, as he and lawmakers try to solve the state’s $42 billion budget shortfall.

The governor had hoped his order would apply to some 238,000 state employees, but each of the seven other constitutional officers have said they will not comply. Employees of the Legislature are not under his authority.

Schwarzenegger’s legal affairs secretary, Andrea Hoch, said the administration was prepared to sue the state controller if he did not reduce paychecks for more than 15,000 workers in the other constitutional offices, which include the attorney general, secretary of state and insurance commissioner.

A judge who affirmed Schwarzenegger’s authority to order the furloughs said his ruling did not apply to statewide elected officials because they were not a party to the lawsuit. The administration has maintained that employees of constitutional offices are covered by the furlough order.

Doors to about 180 DMV offices were to be locked Friday. Some people said the state gave little notice to the public about the furloughs, which will continue on the first and third Fridays of each month through June 2010.

“They don’t have any signs telling us about Friday,” said Ingrid Dela Cruz of Sacramento, who was inside a Sacramento DMV office on Thursday.

In fact, there were plenty of signs, but they were posted in locations invisible to most customers because they were hidden behind sliding glass doors.

Schwarzenegger’s administration estimated that cutting worker hours would save the state $1.3 billion over the next year-and-a-half.

The state decided to keep some 250 career centers open after previously announcing they would be closed. The centers are where the unemployed get information about job training and benefits.

Dan Gurule, a police officer at the state mental hospital in Norwalk, said the state would have to pay overtime at 24-hour facilities to those workers who backfill the shifts of people on furlough. Five state mental hospitals and 33 adult prisons are required to provide constant care to patients and inmates.

“Somebody has to fill in my position,” Gurule said. “We still have to have a minimum staffing. That’s going to be someone on overtime, being paid time-and-a-half.”

California is not the only state on the brink of a financial disaster. The state of Florida still has a balanced budget — for the time being — but barely.  Governor Charlie Crist has acknowledged that “this economy is struggling greatly.”  He has co-signed a letter with Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, a Democrat, supporting Obama’s stimulus package and encouraging all governors to do the same. “If President Obama sees a need for Republican assistance with his stimulus plan, I’m happy to do that,” said Crist.

He sees in Obama and his recovery plan “lifelines of hope to persevere.”  “There is a level of optimism that is not detached from reality. … I see the glass as half-full —and not without reason. … My optimism does relate to the stimulus plan.”

Many Governors and Mayors support President Obama’s Stimulus Plan since they are on the front lines and see the crises up close and personal on a daily basis. 

Governors and Mayors do not want to see police precincts and fire stations closed.  Nor do they want to see thousands upon thousands of teachers losing their jobs which will cause classroom sizes to increase or schools to close. 

Governors and Mayors do not want to see the millions of unemployed Americans lose their unemployment insurance and lose the ability to pay for food, utilities, rent/mortgage, taxes, car loans and the necessities of life.

I urge you to contact your Senators and Congresspersons from both Houses and encourage them to get together, make the necessary revisions and get this stimulus plan passed for the greater good of all Americans!

Contact Congress:      

http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

Contact Senate:          

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

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