Retail Has An Off Week, Up From A Year Ago

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. retail sales fell 0.7 percent during the week ending Oct. 20, but were 2.9 percent higher than during the same week of 2011, a Washington trade group said.

The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs weekly consumer tracking survey released Wednesday found store traffic was lower than during the same week of 2011, although traffic in department and apparel stores was “somewhat stronger.”

Weather Trends International, which advises retailers on climate factors that influence shopping, said the week “was the warmest third week of October in more than 21 years,” with average temperatures 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than during the same week of 2011.

While warmer temperatures might encourage shoppers to get out of the house, there are times when cool weather helps, prompting seasonal sales of items like boots, mittens, hats and skis.

In the week ending Saturday, U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed the national average price of gasoline “tumbled by 13.2 cents from the prior week to $3.687 per gallon,” indicating more discretionary spending power for consumers, the ICSC report said.

Gasoline prices fell to their lowest level since early August, but the average price was 6.5 percent higher than during the same week of 2011. Relative to the same week a year ago, prices rose for an 11th consecutive week.

Monks Win Another Round In Coffin Fight

NEW ORLEANS (UPI) — A federal appeals court has ruled Louisiana monks can sell handcrafted coffins, finding that a state regulation aims only to restrict competition.

In a unanimous decision late Tuesday, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. The abbey has been fighting a cease-and-desist order from the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors for about two years.

“The great deference due state economic regulation (does not require) courts to accept nonsensical explanations for naked transfers of wealth,” the judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit wrote in their decision. “We insist that Louisiana’s rules not be irrational.”

The judges said Louisiana residents are free to buy caskets and coffins on the Internet and that state law does not actually require burial in a container. Therefore, the regulation requiring all in-state purchases of coffins to be from licensed funeral directors has one purpose, protecting their economic interests.

After the abbey’s woodlands, which had been a major source of income, were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the monks invested $200,000 in starting St. Joseph’s Woodworks. They offered a “monastic” coffin for $1,500 and a “traditional” model for $2,000, considerably less than funeral homes were charging.

A U.S. District Court also ruled against the state board.

CareerBuilder Points Out Job Growth

CHICAGO (UPI) — Knowing where to go and what to do could be a critical help in finding a job, research from CareerBuilder suggests.

“Job creation in the United States is on an upward trajectory,” said CareerBuilder Chief Executive Officer Matt Ferguson in a statement.

“While growth has been slower or stagnant in certain areas, there is a wide range of industries where the production of new jobs has accelerated,” he said.

The job categories that are on the upswing include “markets tied to energy, production, technology, healthcare, transportation and consulting,” he said.

Jobs with growth in the double digits and that have added at least 20,000 jobs since 2010 include drilling oil and gas wells, up 29 percent; electronic shopping, up 23 percent; crude oil extraction, up 21 percent; and temporary help services up 20 percent, CareerBuilder said.

Also on the fast-growth list: Marketing consulting, computer systems design, and specialized freight and home healthcare services.

And what markets are growing?

Go West, young job seeker.

The San Jose, Calif., job market has grown 7 percent from 2010, while the Houston job market has grown 6 percent.

In Austin, Texas, the market is up 6 percent and in Detroit, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, and Raleigh, N.C., jobs are up 5 percent, CareerBuilder said.

San Francisco and Phoenix, Ariz., have also seen solid job growth, both markets up 4 percent, CareerBuilder said.

Sunburn, Job In Sun Linked To Skin Cancer

TAMPA, Fla. (UPI) — A history of blistering sunburn and having a job in the sunlight was associated with increased risk of skin cancer, U.S. and French researchers found.

The study, published in the journal BioMed Central, found both a history of blistering sunburn and having a job in the sun were associated with basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Sunlight exposures at younger ages “tended to be associated with squamous cell carcinoma, but not basal cell carcinoma, risk,” researchers concluded.

Senior study author Dana E. Rollison of the Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues at the University of South Florida and the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France surveyed people with both types of cancers, as well as those with no history of skin cancer, to determine the effects of intermittent versus continuous sunlight exposure, as well as the timing of the exposure and age.

“There are more than a million new cases of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas diagnosed in the United States each year,” Rollison said in a statement. “While mortality associated with non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas is low, patients may experience substantial morbidity and treatment costs are high.”

Tinted Contact Lenses Can Damage Eyes

CHICAGO (UPI) — Decorative tinted contact lenses are popular on Halloween, but a U.S. optometrist warns improper use without a prescription could cause eye damage.

Peter Russo, director of the Contact Lens Program at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago, said non-prescription Halloween contacts that come in such colors as white zombie, red vampire and “sexy sapphire” are sold illegally in beauty shops, costume stores and over the Internet.

“Contact lenses should never be worn without a prescription from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist,” Russo said in the statement. “In fact, it is against the law to sell decorative contact lenses without a prescription.”

Many buyers are teenagers and young adults and when purchased without a prescription, these lenses might not be fitted properly, and buyers usually do not receive proper instruction on how to care for and wear contacts, Russo said.

For example, users might use the wrong solution, share with a friend, wear improperly, fail to disinfect or use tap water rather than contact lens solution, Russo said.

Improper use can cause inflammation and infections, making eyes red and painful. Even when these complications are treated, there’s still a risk that scar tissue could permanently impair vision and require a corneal transplant, Russo said.

“Even when worn for a relatively short period of time, such as during a Halloween party, decorative contact lenses can damage eyes if not used properly,” Russo said.

Parents Fear Backlash Over Ill-Child Care

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (UPI) — A survey indicates one-third of U.S. parents of young children reported they fear losing jobs or pay when they stay home to care for sick children.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents who have children age 6 and younger in daycare about the impact of child illness on their families.

Almost one-half of the parents indicated they’ve missed work in the last year to care for sick kids, and one-quarter missed work three or more times.

Half of parents of young children in daycare said finding alternative or backup care is difficult because many providers have rules excluding sick children from care.

Thirty-one percent said they don’t have enough paid leave to cover the days they need for sick children, the survey said.

In addition, 8 percent of parents said they took their sick children to the emergency room because it was more convenient than seeing a primary care doctor.

Dr. Andrew Hashikawa, clinical lecturer in pediatric emergency medicine at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said many daycare facilities exclude sick children until they have a doctor’s note, are taking antibiotics or their symptoms improve, but not every child with a runny nose or cold needs to be sent home from child care.

Typically, colds are spread before the child has any symptoms, so exclusion from daycare does not necessarily reduce the spread of illness, Hashikawa said.

Politics Demonstrates Body Language Well

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (UPI) — Pointing fingers, interrupting and smirking are ill-advised at work, so there is much to learn from political candidates’ body language, a U.S. expert says.

Melvin Scales, executive coach and Wake Forest University Schools of Business assistant director of student career services, said regardless of political affiliation, debates are a one-stop shop for observing what body language and speech styles reflect the best impression.

“Given that we only have 7 seconds to make a good first impression, it’s important to make every second count and 75 percent of that impression comes from body language such as strong eye contact, a slight smile and a firm handshake,” Scales said in a statement. “Pleasant conversation accounts for the other 25 percent.”

Scales coaches students to control their body language using a technique he calls “head, shoulders, knees and toes:”

— Keep eyes focused on the interviewer without staring. Blink, don’t wink.

— Smile now and then to assure the interviewer that you understand what is being asked, as well as during your responses. This generates confidence.

— Don’t look up or from side to side when responding to a question. Averting your gaze makes you seem less certain, trustworthy and truthful.

— Keep back straight, head up and with arms at the side.

— Minimize the use of hands.

— To make an emphatic point, lean slightly toward the interviewer without invading his or her space, which is about 3 feet.

Probiotics Lessen Severity, Days Of Colds

NEWARK, N.C. (UPI) — College students, who took probiotics had shorter, less severe colds than students who didn’t take the beneficial microorganisms, U.S. researchers found.

Registered dietitian Tracey J. Smith, an adjunct professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–School of Health Related Professions, randomized 198 college students ages 18-25 living on-campus in residence halls at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

One group received a placebo and the other group got a powder blend containing Hansen’s probiotic strains Bifidobacterium animalis lactis, or BB-12, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, or LGG, for 12 weeks. Each day, students completed a survey to assess the effect of the probiotic supplementation.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found the rate of colds was similar between the two groups, but those who took the probiotics had colds two days shorter, symptoms that were 34 percent less severe and a higher quality-of-life resulted in fewer missed school days — 15 vs. 34 missed by students taking the placebo.

“The study supports the combination of LGG and BB12 — two very specific strains of probiotics. These two strains also are in a number of supplement-type products that are available over the counter,” Smith said in a statement. “But consumers need to read the label to be sure that the product contains LGG and BB12. There also are some yogurts that contain LGG and/or BB12 but check the labels, since companies change the probiotics strains often.”

Dogs React To Yawning After 7 Months

LUND, Sweden (UPI) — Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to contagious yawning, but it develops gradually and puppies younger than 7 months seem immune, Swedish researchers say.

Researchers at Lund University, writing in the journal Animal Cognition, report a developmental, age-related trend in susceptibility to contagious yawning seems to operate in both humans and dogs.

Previous research has demonstrated contagious yawning in humans, adult chimpanzees, baboons and dogs, and suggests it is evidence of empathy.

The researchers studied 35 dogs between 4 and 14 months of age in bouts of play and cuddling with humans and observed the dogs’ responses when people repeatedly yawned, finding only dogs older than 7 months showed evidence of contagious yawning.

A similar pattern exists in humans, researchers said, with children typically beginning to yawn contagiously at age 4 when a number of cognitive abilities begin to show.

The results suggest a general developmental pattern, shared by humans and other animals, in terms of affective empathy and the ability to identify others’ emotions, they said.

Brain Waves Predict Video Game Performance

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UPI) — A recording of brain waves can be used to predict who will improve most on an unfamiliar video game, researchers at the University of Illinois report.

Using electroencephalography to record electrical activity in the brains of 39 study subjects as they began playing Space Fortress, a video game developed for cognitive research, researchers found subjects whose brain waves oscillated most powerfully in the alpha spectrum — about 10 times per second, or 10 hertz — tended to learn at a faster rate than those whose brain waves oscillated with less power.

The brain signals were an excellent predictor of improvement on the game, postdoctoral researcher Kyle Mathewson said.

“By measuring your brain waves the very first time you play the game, we can predict how fast you’ll learn over the next month.”

Electrical activity in the brain reflects the communication status of billions of neurons, Mathewson said.

“These oscillations are the language of the brain, and different oscillations represent different brain functions.”

The new findings offer tantalizing clues to the mental states that appear to enhance one’s ability to perform complex tasks, he said.

Researcher’s ‘Self-Plagiarism’ Detected

TORONTO (UPI) — A medical journal has castigated a University of Toronto medical researcher for quoting his own previous studies in what it called “self-plagiarism.”

Editors at the Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews issued a rebuke to Stephen Matthews and two colleagues for using unattributed text from five of Matthews’ previous papers in a paper published in 2005, Postmedia News reported.

The replication was uncovered by an undisclosed software program used to seek out plagiarism, the report said.

The journal issued a retraction to the report this month along with a harsh criticism.

“Re-use of any material should be appropriately cited and quoted,” the journal says. “As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system.”

The retracted paper written by Matthews and two associates focused on the effects of glucocorticoid drugs routinely used on pregnant women at risk of early delivery, Postmedia said.

Matthews’ various research projects have received more than $10 million in Canadian federal funding from various agencies, which define self-plagiarism as “redundant publication” and disallow the practice, the report said.

Neither Matthews nor the university would comment on the journal’s retraction.

Gun Advocates Seek To Overturn Maryland Law

RICHMOND, Va. (UPI) — Lawyers for gun-rights advocates challenged a Maryland law  Wednesday, arguing gun owners should not have to show a reason for carrying a weapon.

The state appealed a federal judge’s ruling that restrictions in the law violate the Second Amendment, The Baltimore Sun reported. Raymond Woollard of Baltimore County challenged the law after he was refused a renewal of his gun permit in 2009 because he did not have “good and substantial reason” for carrying a firearm.

Alan Gura, a lawyer for the Second Amendment Foundation, told a federal appeals panel in Richmond, Va., that other constitutional rights do not come with that kind of hedge. For example, he said, no one has to show a good reason for exercising the right to free speech.

“There’s no way we can apply such a restriction to the right to bear arms,” he said.

Gura said the foundation is not objecting to the notion of requiring licenses.

Matthew Fader, an assistant attorney general, said overturning the law would allow almost everyone to carry a gun whenever they wanted to.

Lawsuit Filed By Anti-Obama Filmmakers

SAN DIEGO (UPI) — The three executive producers of an anti-Obama movie are in a California court arguing over who gets the money it made.

Dinesh D’Souza, one of three executive producers of “2016: Obama’s America,” which has racked up millions in box office receipts and DVD sales, wrote a book heavily drawing from the film and has not shared any of the profits with the film’s two other creators, a lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court alleges. A separate suit alleges D’Souza tried to wrest control of the production company responsible for the film away from his two collaborators, in violation of an agreement the trio had forged, U-T San Diego reported Tuesday.

D’Souza, also the film’s director, is being sued by his two partners Douglas Sain and Christopher Williams. The trio formed Obama’s America Foundation, a film production company, half of which is owned by D’Souza and the other half split between Sain and Williams, Sain’s lawyer said.

Sain charged D’Souza diverted money from OAF to fund his personal ventures and help pay for an affair he was having with a woman. D’Souza denied the affair but resigned from his position on the board of an evangelical college and filed for divorce from his wife of 20 years Oct. 4, U-T San Diego reported.

Police Say Louisiana Woman Set Herself Afire

WINNSBORO, La. (UPI) — A candlelight vigil was held for a severely burned Louisiana woman, hours after investigators determined she deliberately set herself on fire.

The prayer vigil by nearly 130 friends and neighbors of Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, of Winnsboro, who suffered burns to 60 percent of her body and remained in critical condition in LSU Hospital in Baton Rouge, came after the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office determined it was Moffitt herself, and not three alleged assailants, who burned her, the Shreveport Times reported Wednesday.

“This has been a very disturbing case for all involved. All the evidence indicates this was a self-inflicted situation,” Sheriff Kevin Cobb said.

The attackers allegedly burned Moffitt and wrote “KKK” and other racist remarks on her car in a paste-like substance, but her DNA and fingerprints were found on a lighter and container of lighter fluid, the newspaper said.

Moffitt’s family released a statement Tuesday, apologizing for her actions and thanking law enforcement for its work in the case, expressing its “appreciation for the outpouring of love, prayers and support.”

The Franklin Parish District Attorney’s Office will determine if Moffitt will face criminal charges.

Teen Boy Arrested In Colorado Girl’s Death

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (UPI) — A 17-year-old youth has been arrested in the abduction and slaying of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, police in Westminster, Colo., said Wednesday.

The suspect was identified as Austin Sigg, who lives less than a mile from the Ridgeway home, police said in a statement posted on the department’s website.

Sigg also is to be charged in an attempted abduction that took place in late May near Ketner Lake, just a few blocks from Siggs’ home, police said.

The release said law enforcement got a “major break” in the Ridgeway investigation Tuesday evening when they received a call that led them to a home near Ketner Lake.

Jessica disappeared from her Westminster home Oct. 5 when she for school. Five days later, her body was found at a park in Arvada, several miles from her home.

Accused Cole Bomber Alleges Mistreatment

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (UPI) — The alleged mastermind of the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in 2000 complained to a military judge he’s being mistreated at Guantanamo.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 47, told Army Col. James Phol, the judge overseeing the case, military guards chain him so severely for his trips to court he vomits during transport, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday. Nashiri said he has a back problem and the heavy stomach chains he wears aggravate it.

Nashiri told the judge he wants to attend his court sessions but, “Let the world know that the judge sentenced me to death because I didn’t show up to court due to chains. Thank you.”

The U.S. government has accused Nashiri of being the mastermind behind the Cole attack that saw a small ship loaded with explosives pull up alongside the American warship and explode, killing 17 sailors.

Nashiri denies the charges and his lawyers have suggested the government already killed the person they believe was responsible for the Cole attack in a missile strike in November 2002.

Sacred Cow Defense Will Kill America

President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney both agree that the United States is in the midst of a historically unsustainable debt spiral; they also both agree that military spending is a sacred cow that can be cut under no circumstance.

Obama has used drones in an unprecedented way that has resulted in the loss of life of not only enemy combatants in war zones, but also civilian casualties in countries like Pakistan where the United States is not at war. And Romney — who, if elected, will take control of the same remote-operated fleet of death machines — applauds the current President’s drone strategy, which has come under fire from many within the human rights community and drawn protest from the citizens and leadership of countries abroad.

“I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends,” Romney said when asked about drone policy at the Presidential debate Monday.

Romney also proffered the same 2014 Afghanistan troop withdrawal date that Obama has been touting, despite having criticizing the President in the past for “offering the enemy a timeline.”

The two candidates spent a long time during the debate Monday driving home one point: America is in dire financial trouble, but cannot make defense spending cuts.

Unmentioned, however, was the fact that the budget cuts that the two candidates are so worried about do not actually cut defense spending at all. The focus of the contention is on “sequestration” cuts — automatic spending cuts put into place last year when government again raised the debt ceiling.

The first round of “cuts” has already taken place under sequestration, shaving $487 billion from Pentagon spending over the next decade as defense spending continues to grow at the rate of inflation.

Romney wants to reinstate that money. And Obama said Monday that he, too, would reverse sequestration cuts.

If government doesn’t act by January, an additional $600 billion in defense spending will go into action. But even under complete sequestration, defense spending will continue to rise by about 16 percent.
 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGqpUz5Hbi4&w=560&h=315]

School Suspends Student Growing Hair For Locks For Love

A high school junior in Ohio has been suspended because of his long hair. Zachary Aufderheide was growing his hair for Locks for Love, a group that uses donated hair to make hair pieces for kids who lose their hair because of illness.

Aufderheide has been growing his hair since October 2011.

“If I could just give the chance for one kid to have a normal life, then I’m just going to go for it,” Aufderheide said.

But Aufderheide’s hair is a violation of the school’s dress code. School officials told Aurderheide that his hair has to go.

“Just them telling me, ‘No, you can’t do this. You’re not allowed.’ When it’s so close to being done–its just–it’s unbelievable,” said the junior at Canton South High School.

Aufderheide does not plan to cut his hair until he’s ready. Therefore, he’ll face suspension. Aufderheide was planning on growing his hair another inch.

“It’s just hair. I know it’s in the [school handbook] contract. I know it’s in the school policy. But it is just hair. What harm can hair do?” Aufderheide said.

The CIA Wants More Drones

The Central Intelligence Agency needs more drones, according to a proposal submitted by director David Petraeus.

Petraeus submitted a proposal to add up to 10 drones to a program that currently has about 30 to 35 of the unmanned aerial vehicles. The increase is needed to allow the agency to continue launching strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, while targeting terror threats in other regions of the world, according to a report by The Washington Post.

If the CIA proposal is approved, it could expand its drone missions to North Africa, where al-Qaida is expected to have established significant strongholds, while continuing aggressive bombing missions in Yemen and Pakistan.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently claimed that 80 percent of those killed in U.S. drone attacks in his country are civilians. And a recent study conducted by Stanford and New York University backs up the claim, finding that only about 2 percent of the nearly 3,000 casualties were high-value militant targets.

The White House Counterterrorism Security Group has not yet approved the CIA proposal; and, because top Pentagon officials have previously expressed concern about the CIA’s increasing involvement in targeted killing missions, there is a chance the agency will not get the extra drones.

California Dreamin’

“You know the preacher likes the cold
He knows I’m gonna stay
California Dreamin’
On such a winter’s day”
–“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas

California! Home to the gold rush, Hollywood and, once upon a time, the greatest of all American dreams. But as Don DeLillo, the great modern American novelist said: “Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.”

I wrote last week about the economic tragedy that has befallen Greece. But the economic crisis is far closer to home than that island nation. For America it may start and end in California.

In the book California Crackup, authors Joe Mathews and Mark Paul explain the economic meltdown for California — whose State coffers may be just as empty as those in Athens, Greece — has legislative districts filled with very partisan people. Every new tax or big spending decision requires a two-thirds majority. Even if a measure finds the needed votes, it can be undone by the voter-initiative process.

Bestselling author Michael Lewis (The Big Short) wrote: “Throw in term limits—no elected official now serves in California government long enough to fully understand it—and you have a recipe for generating maximum contempt for elected officials.”

The California government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will despise the people they elect, according to Paul.

“What all the polls show is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got,” Paul said.

It sounds like what’s going on now in Congress. I find it hard to imagine that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be effective in instituting change.

For Arnold Schwarzenegger, two-term Governor of California, it was a series of economic crises that began with the Internet bubble and ended with the real estate bubble.

In his new autobiography, Total Recall, Schwarzenegger wrote: “Besides being golden and prosperous, California is disaster prone.” He didn’t understand the full extent of this until 2003 when he was elected as a Republican Governor.

“After so many years of ugly, pointless fighting in Sacramento, both sides had lost touch with the art of negotiation. In fact, the legislative districts were drawn to elect the most partisan, uncompromising members of each party; legislators who were bred to fight, like roosters bred for cockfighting.”

It has led to economic failure in what was the land of opportunity.

CNBC reports: “California is on the verge of an economic meltdown. The state, with the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation, is being hammered by the deep recession, rising unemployment and a growing multi-billion dollar budget deficit. … And, while California may be the biggest state in trouble, it isn’t alone.”

How bad is it? I was out at a gathering with all my oldest friends last week. One of them owns the largest motorcycle dealership in California. He has a son and is very worried about his future because of recent events in the State. Yet he said he didn’t know where to go where they would be better off.

That was when I decided to follow up my Greek article and write about California. Only after I did my research did I find that GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney had already made the comparison.

Speaking in Iowa in August, Romney compared California’s economy to Greece’s economic crisis.

“Entrepreneurs and business people around the world and here at home think that at some point America is going to become like Greece or like Spain or Italy, or like California.”

Romney also derided California at a fundraiser in Irvine, Calif., earlier this summer when he warned that the ills of that State could spread to the rest of the Nation.

“How have the liberals done in California? Do you want the same policies in Washington that you see coming out of Sacramento? With education, with the deficit, with taxes? Is that the way you want the country to go? I don’t know how anybody in California can keep voting for liberals,” Romney said.

One thing is certain, California is becoming a disaster zone and not because of earthquakes or forest fires. Last month, the Debord Report stated:

The independent State Budget Crisis Tax Force has released its analysis of California’s finances and found that rather than being a whopping $28 billion in debt, as Gov. Jerry Brown alleged with he came to office, the state is actually a nearly unfathomable $335 billion debt. Brown called it a “wall,” as the New York Times noted. But it’s really more like a dozen walls. All stacked on top of each other to make a mega-wall that blocks out the Sun.

This is not an exaggeration. Californian’s total level of debt, on and off the books, is pushing a fifth of the total annual economic output of the state, which is about $2 trillion.

The United States, along with Canada and most Western democracies, has adopted California’s propensity for spending just as it has embraced Hollywood entertainment and La Jolla fashions.

California is the land of illusion. Illusions of prosperity have been adopted worldwide. For his latest bestseller, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, Lewis interviewed the mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed.

Lewis pointed to the fact that San Jose has the second highest per capita income of any city in the United States (after New York) and had one of the highest credit ratings until last March (that was when Moody’s Investors Service cut the general-obligation grade one step to AA1 from AAA).

Reed told Lewis that the city has a problem: It owes so much more money than it can afford to pay to its employees that it could cut its debt in half and still end up broke.

Reed said: “We’re not as bad as Greece, I don’t think.”

Maybe not yet, but for how long? And for how long will the United States be not as bad as Greece? If Washington could not write blank checks because the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, there would be more serious downgrades to U.S. Treasury debt and that would incur much higher interest rates.

For four years, the Obama Administration has refused to do anything but pass the buck — in this case, to future generations. With a little luck we will at least have the opportunity to see if President Romney has the courage to do more. If not, “California Dreamin’” will become America’s nightmare, and many of us will be stepping into churches to pray.

Yours in good times and bad,

John Myers
Editor, Myers Energy & Gold Report

Alabama Lawmaker Wants To Ban U.N. Observers

Want proof that America has sunk to the level of a Third World banana republic? Four words: United Nations election observers.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a U.N.-affiliated agency, will be observing the Nov. 6 U.S. election for election fraud and voter suppression. It will be on hand at the request of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and other liberal organizations. The observers come from such bastions of free and fair elections as Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. OSCE has assessed elections in the United States since 2002. It somehow missed those Black Panthers guarding the doors in Pennsylvania in 2008.

The States of Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Mexico explicitly allow for international observers. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard wants to make sure Alabama does not. Hubbard says he will push for future legislation to ban non-U.S. citizens from acting as poll watchers.

U.S. election laws already allow multiple parties — some affiliated with candidates and others who are part of interested groups — to observe the election process. One of those is True the Vote, a conservative, Tea Party-affiliated group. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ACLU and Leadership Conference could monitor them as well. Of course, when you have a racist and highly partisan U.S. Attorney General like Eric Holder, it doesn’t matter how much fraud is uncovered. It’ll just get ignored when it doesn’t fit his agenda.

Foreign observers are redundant and unnecessary. The George W. Bush/Al Gore election of 2000 showed that the United States is perfectly capable of botching the election process on its own. It doesn’t need U.N. observers bringing their “botching” expertise into the mix.