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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

For What, All These Wars?

I would like to add my own thoughts to the excellent comments of Pat Buchanan (link below).

Mr. Buchanan seems to be lumping our current involvement in Afghanistan in with all of our other military misadventures of the past 60 years.  But our involvement in Afghanistan is different in a very important way: it was a response to a direct attack upon the United States.

I maintain that George W. Bush was not wrong to attack the Taliban, who were hosting our attackers.  Our mistake, our strategic blunder, was losing our focus by attacking Iraq.  We had the Taliban and al Qaeda on the run.  We should have finished what we started.  Once Afghanistan had been secured, it would have been so much easier to establish a friendly government in Kabul.

But we didn’t do that.  Instead of finishing off the Taliban and al Qaeda, we invaded Iraq.  To be sure, Saddam Hussein was a bad person.  He did uspeakable things to his own people.  But he did not attack us on September 11.  By invading Iraq, we lost our focus on Afghanistan. 

NATO had a presence in Afghanistan, but Europe was not attacked on September 11 and NATO was not going to finish the job that we had started.  The Taliban and al Qaeda were able to regroup and defeating them now is going to be very, very difficult (although President Obama has done a pretty good job of hitting the al Qaeda leadership with drones).

Ten years ago, we kept hearing that failure is not an option.  Well, we have failed.  We failed, not because going into Afghanistan to get our enemies was the wrong thing to do, but because we lost our focus once we got there.  Because over the past 10 years we have been fighting a war of necessity and a war of choice, rather than just one war of necessity, we did not do either one very well.  And we have very little to show for it.  


Please click the link below for Pat Buchanan's commentary.


For What, All These Wars?

News Release from First Energy - Root Cause Report

Report Submitted to Nuclear Regulatory Commission

AKRON, Ohio, Feb. 28, 2012 -- FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) announced today that it has completed its Root Cause Analysis Report regarding the cause of the tight cracks identified in portions of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station Shield Building during its fall 2011 reactor head replacement outage. The report has been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This extensive evaluation supports earlier analysis that concludes the structural integrity of the Shield Building remains intact, and the building is able to perform its safety function.
FENOC's comprehensive 119-page root cause report indicates that absence of an exterior weatherproof coating on the Shield Building allowed moisture associated with the blizzard of January 1978 to migrate into the concrete, freeze and expand, causing tight, subsurface cracks in portions of the building. The root cause report concludes that the cracking occurred following the blizzard's combination of extreme weather conditions, which included three days of driving rain preceding a drastic temperature drop to around 0-degrees Fahrenheit and intense winds throughout the storm.
A team of industry-recognized structural concrete and causal analysis experts assisted Davis-Besse personnel with the comprehensive root cause investigation. The root cause report outlines a number of actions that will be taken by FENOC, including applying a weatherproof coating to protect the Shield Building's exterior walls, performing additional inspections to verify the cracks have not spread and developing a long-term building monitoring plan.
In the course of the root cause investigation, an exhaustive list of potential cracking causes was examined, including possible design, construction, environmental and operational issues. Thorough testing and analysis of numerous concrete samples conducted in support of the root cause demonstrated that the concrete in the Shield Building is sound and in good condition.
Davis-Besse is part of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), which also operates the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, Ohio.

News Release from Exelon - Unusual Event

February 28, 2012

Byron Station Declares Unusual Event, Both Units Operating

Operators at Byron Generating Station declared an Unusual Event for Unit 1 at 5:31 p.m. CT, when power coming in from outside of the nuclear facility was interrupted. Both units are operating at 100 percent power, and the facility is in a safe condition.  

BYRON, Ill. – Operators at Byron Generating Station declared an Unusual Event for Unit 1 at 5:31 p.m. CT, when power coming in from outside of the nuclear facility was interrupted. Both units are operating at 100 percent power, and the facility is in a safe condition.
The facility responded as designed with one of the station’s many redundant power sources providing electricity for Unit 1.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal oversight organization, requires a nuclear facility to designate an Unusual Event in events such as this.
A failed insulator in the station’s switchyard is believed to be the cause for the loss of power. Technical crews will be in the switchyard this evening and Wednesday to replace the insulator.
Exelon Nuclear has notified all appropriate local, state and federal officials of the Unusual Event.
An Unusual Event is the lowest of four emergency classifications established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Byron Generating Station is in Ogle County, Ill., about 25 miles southwest of Rockford.

###

Dominion Proposes Natural Gas-fired Power Station in Brunswick County

Dominion Proposes Natural Gas-fired Power Station in Brunswick County

Obama Issues Waivers

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Obama Issues Waivers on Military Trials for Foreign Qaeda Suspects

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — Last year, the Obama administration strongly objected to a Congressional mandate that foreigners suspected of being Al Qaeda operatives be held in military custody rather than go through the civilian criminal justice system.

On Tuesday, President Obama sought to have the last word, issuing waivers that would exempt sweeping categories of future prisoners from the requirement, which became law in December.

The rule, imposed by Congress, applies only to a narrow category of terrorism suspects: those who are not American citizens, who are deemed to be part of Al Qaeda or its allies and who are suspected of participating in a terrorist plot against the United States or its allies.

The provision, which the administration called unwise and unnecessary when it was proposed by lawmakers, became another flash point in the debate over whether terrorism suspects should be handled exclusively as wartime prisoners, as many Republicans argue, or whether the civilian criminal justice system should remain an option, a more flexible approach backed by the Obama administration.

The White House prepared the waivers as part of required guidelines instructing the executive branch on how to put the new rule into effect. The waivers would apply, according to the guidelines, to any case in which officials believed that placing a detainee in military custody could impede counterterrorism cooperation with the detainee’s home government or interfere with efforts to secure the person’s cooperation or confession.

The waivers would also cover lawful permanent residents who were arrested in the United States or whose actions occurred domestically, as well as those arrested by the state or local police, rather than the federal authorities.

Even with the exceptions, a senior administration official familiar with the procedures stressed that the mandate meant that executive branch officials would be forced for the first time to consider transferring a newly arrested terrorism suspect to military custody. That could expose the government to greater public scrutiny whenever it decided against the military option.

OH School Shooting Suspect Confesses

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ohio School Shooting Suspect Confesses, Prosecutor Says

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and JENNIFER PRESTON

CHARDON, Ohio — The fatal shooting rampage in a high school in this quiet suburb of Cleveland remained a puzzle on Tuesday, with prosecutors saying that a student had confessed to the killings and had told them that he did not know his victims and chose them at random.

Prosecutors said the student, T. J. Lane, 17, admitted taking a .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic pistol to Chardon High School on Monday and firing 10 rounds at four students at a cafeteria table. He has not been formally charged, but prosecutors said it was likely that he would be tried in an adult court.

Three of the victims — Russell King Jr., Demetrius Hewlin and Daniel Parmertor — have died. Two others were wounded. One has been released from the hospital.

“This is not about bullying, this is not about drugs,” said David P. Joyce, the Geauga County prosecutor. “This was an effect of one lone gunman. He chose his victims at random.”

Mr. Lane appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday, wincing as the prosecutors read the accusations against him. Dressed in a crisp khaki-colored shirt and dark low-slung pants with a thick belt, he sat in a wooden chair with his back straight, speaking in barely audible tones to the judge, Timothy J. Grendell, in Geauga County Juvenile Court. His face crumpled briefly into tears as he was led away, and he appeared to whisper the words “I am so sorry” to two aunts and his grandfather, Jack Nolan, who is also his legal guardian.

The authorities have until Thursday to charge Mr. Lane.

25 Suspected Hackers Arrested

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

25 Suspected Hackers Arrested in International Raids

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARIS (AP) — Twenty-five suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement have been arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America, Interpol, the global police agency, said on Tuesday.

The arrests, in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain were carried out by national law-enforcement officers working under the support of Interpol’s Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology Crime, Interpol said in a statement.

Those arrested, who ranged in age between 17 and 40, are suspected of planning coordinated cyber-attacks against institutions including Colombia’s defense ministry and presidential Web sites, Chile’s Endesa electricity company and national library, and other targets.

The arrests followed an ongoing investigation begun in mid-February, which comprised searches of 40 locations in 15 cities and included the seizure of 250 pieces of information technology equipment and mobile phones, Interpol said.

Among the 25 people arrested were four suspected Anonymous hackers seized in connection with attacks on Spanish political party Web sites, the Spanish police announced. A national police statement said two servers used by the group in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have been blocked. It said the four arrested included the suspected manager of Anonymous’s computer operations in Spain and Latin America, who was identified only by his initials and the aliases “Thunder” and “Pacotron.”

The four are suspected of defacing websites, carrying out denial-of-service attacks and publishing data online about police assigned to the royal palace and the premier’s office.

Anonymous has no real membership structure. Hackers, activists, and supporters can claim allegiance to its freewheeling principles so it is not clear what impact the arrests will have. Some Internet chatter appeared to point to the possibility of a revenge attack on Interpol’s Web site, but the police organization’s home page appeared to be operating normally late Tuesday.

Intel Capital to Invest in Future of Automotive Technology

Intel Capital to Invest in Future of Automotive Technology

Intel Invests in Product Development and Research to Spur Innovation in the Connected Car

Intel Invests in Product Development and Research to Spur Innovation in the Connected Car

Bernanke warns lawmakers nation headed for 'massive fiscal cliff' - The Hill's On The Money

Bernanke warns lawmakers nation headed for 'massive fiscal cliff' - The Hill's On The Money

House subcommittee votes to repeal healthcare reform law's 'death panel' - The Hill's Healthwatch

House subcommittee votes to repeal healthcare reform law's 'death panel' - The Hill's Healthwatch

Rules Chairman Dreier announces retirement after 16 House terms - The Hill's Floor Action

Rules Chairman Dreier announces retirement after 16 House terms - The Hill's Floor Action

Marine Industry’s Steady Growth to Continue, GE Capital Survey Reveals : Press Releases : News : GE

Marine Industry’s Steady Growth to Continue, GE Capital Survey Reveals : Press Releases : News : GE

Worried Dems pressing Obama on gas prices - TheHill.com

Worried Dems pressing Obama on gas prices - TheHill.com

Greens and Gulf Coast officials push Congress for fund for oil spill cleanup - The Hill's E2-Wire

Greens and Gulf Coast officials push Congress for fund for oil spill cleanup - The Hill's E2-Wire

Obama, Biden to meet with House, Senate leaders to find 'common ground' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Obama, Biden to meet with House, Senate leaders to find 'common ground' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Boehner ally, critic Rep. LaTourette holds keys to House transportation bill - The Hill's Transportation Report

Boehner ally, critic Rep. LaTourette holds keys to House transportation bill - The Hill's Transportation Report

Occupy London Camp Dismantled

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bailiffs in London Dismantle St. Paul’s Occupy Camp

By ALAN COWELL

LONDON — Moving after midnight, bailiffs supported by police officers dismantled a tent encampment outside St. Paul’s Cathedral here early Tuesday, ending a four-month protest that caused tension within the Church of England and resonated with Britons opposed to what they see as runaway capitalist greed.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park in New York, the camp was started late last year amid a deep economic slowdown, as jobs were being lost and social services cut even as Britain’s investment bankers sought large bonuses.

Many protesters had begun to take down their tents last week after losing a battle in court over whether they could stay. But about 50 tents remained as the bailiffs, who are responsible for enforcing English judicial decrees, and police officers moved across the plaza in front of St. Paul’s.

A handful of protesters resisted, and police officials said 20 people were arrested after they clambered atop a rickety wooden structure for a final, noisy protest, holding banners aloft and rattling tambourines. Riot officers surrounded the platform and bailiffs dismantled it, witnesses said.

Many left the camp voluntarily on Tuesday. “We haven’t got any choice, and I’d rather protect the tent for another day without it being destroyed by the bailiffs,” said Gary Sherborne, 50, speaking to The Press Association news agency.

Kai Wargalla, a 27-year-old student from Germany, said he had been part of the protest since it began in mid-October. “It’s really sad what’s happening today, but I think we can be proud of what we have achieved.”

Iran Attacks Likely if Israel Strikes

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

U.S. Sees Iran Attacks as Likely if Israel Strikes

By THOM SHANKER, HELENE COOPER and ETHAN BRONNER

WASHINGTON — American officials who have assessed the likely Iranian responses to any attack by Israel on its nuclear program believe that Iran would retaliate by launching missiles on Israel and terrorist-style attacks on United States civilian and military personnel overseas.

While a missile retaliation against Israel would be virtually certain, according to these assessments, Iran would also be likely to try to calibrate its response against American targets so as not to give the United States a rationale for taking military action that could permanently cripple Tehran’s nuclear program. “The Iranians have been pretty good masters of escalation control,” said Gen. James E. Cartwright, now retired, who as the top officer at Strategic Command and as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff participated in war games involving both deterrence and retaliation on potential adversaries like Iran.

The Iranian targets, General Cartwright and other American analysts believe, would include petroleum infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, and American troops in Afghanistan, where Iran has been accused of shipping explosives to local insurgent forces.

Both American and Israeli officials who discussed current thinking on the potential ramifications of an Israeli attack believe that the last thing Iran would want is a full-scale war on its territory. Their analysis, however, also includes the broad caveat that it is impossible to know the internal thinking of the senior leadership in Tehran, and is informed by the awareness that even the most detailed war games cannot predict how nations and their leaders will react in the heat of conflict. Yet such assessments are not just intellectual exercises. Any conclusions on how the Iranians will react to an attack will help determine whether the Israelis launch a strike — and what the American position will be if they do.

While evidence suggests that Iran continues to make progress toward a nuclear weapons program, American intelligence officials believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb. But the possibility that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike has become a focus of American policy makers and is expected to be a primary topic when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel meets with President Obama at the White House on Monday.

Syrian Paradoxes

Do we (the U.S.) really want to get involved in this?  Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Syria Crisis Highlights Paradoxes of Assad Support

By TIM ARANGO

NAJAF, Iraq — Abu Ali fled his life as a Shiite cleric and student in Homs, the besieged Syrian city at the center of an increasingly bloody uprising, but it was not the government he feared.

It was the rebels, who he said killed three of his cousins in December and dumped a body in the family garbage bin.

“I can’t be in Homs because I will get killed there,” he said from this religious city in Iraq where he has taken refuge. “Not just me, but all Shiites.”

Like his fellow Shiites in Iraq, Abu Ali, who used his nickname to protect his family back in Syria, said he regards the Syrian rebels as terrorists, not freedom fighters, underscoring one of the complexities of a bloody civil conflict that has persisted as diplomatic efforts have failed. In spite of President Bashar al-Assad’s willingness to unleash a professional military on a civilian population, with lethal results, Mr. Assad retains some support at home and abroad from allies, including religious and ethnic minorities who for decades relied on the police state for protection from sectarian aggression.

“What the government is doing is trying to protect the people,” Abu Ali said, echoing the Assad government’s propaganda. “They are targeting terrorist groups in the area.”

The insurrection in Syria, led by the country’s Sunni majority in opposition to a government dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiism, is increasingly unpredictable and dangerous because it is aggravating sectarian tensions beyond its borders in a region already shaken by religious and ethnic divisions.

For many in the region, the fight in Syria is less about liberating a people under dictatorship than it is about power and self-interest. Syria is drawing in sectarian forces from its neighbors, and threatening to spill its conflict into a wider conflagration. There have already been sparks in neighboring Lebanon, where Sunnis and Alawites have skirmished.

And here in Iraq, where Shiites are a majority, the events across the border have put the nation on edge while hardening a sectarian schism. As Abu Ali discovered, Iraq’s Shiites are now lined up on the side of a Baathist dictatorship in Syria, less than a decade after the American invasion of Iraq toppled the rule of Saddam Hussein and his own Baath Party, which for decades had repressed and brutalized the Shiites.

Some Remains of 9/11 Victims Improperly Disposed of

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

9/11 Victims’ Remains Disposed of in Landfill, Mortuary Report Finds

By ELISABETH BUMILLER

WASHINGTON — The mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware disposed of body parts of some victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by burning them and dumping the ashes in a landfill, an independent panel said in a report to the Pentagon released on Tuesday.

The startling new disclosure was the latest to tarnish the reputation of Dover, hallowed ground for the military and the entry point for the nation’s war dead, and is likely to create further anguish among families of the Sept. 11 victims.

Mortuary officials had already been under fire for what the Air Force termed “gross mismanagement” for losing the body parts of two service members in 2009, repeated failures of command, doing little to change sloppy practices and sawing off the protruding arm bone of a dead Marine without informing his family.

The method of disposal of the Sept. 11 body parts was limited to what the report said were “several portions of remains” that could not be identified from the attack on the Pentagon and the crash site in Shanksville, Pa. The report said the remains were cremated and placed in containers provided to a biomedical waste disposal contractor, which then incinerated them and put them in the landfill.

Air Force officials said they could not confirm all the information about the Sept. 11 remains and were trying to clarify details on Tuesday night.  

Lisa Linden, a spokeswoman for the families of United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, said in a statement Tuesday night: “This is impossible to believe. The remains from the Flight 93 crash were under the care and control of the great Somerset County coroner, Wallace Miller. He has said that no remains were sent to Dover.”

The practice of landfill disposal was also used for some unidentified remains of war dead, a fact first disclosed late last year. The practice has since been stopped and the ashes are now put in urns and buried at sea.

The review, which was ordered by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta after the problems with lost body parts were made public last fall, indicates that problems at the mortuary were more extensive and go back further than previously known.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Obama slams Romney, Santorum at political pep rally with UAW - The Hill's Transportation Report

Obama slams Romney, Santorum at political pep rally with UAW - The Hill's Transportation Report

News Release from Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Welcomes GAO Report, Calls for Spring Cleaning in Congress 

(Washington, D.C.) – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today issued a statement expressing its support for the recommendations in the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report on duplicative or wasteful federal programs. 

The report, titled “Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue,” identifies 51 areas of government “where programs may be able to achieve greater efficiencies or become more effective in providing government services.”  Among those programs are hundreds of agencies, offices, and initiatives that provide similar or identical services to the same populations, including 53 programs across four departments that focus on supporting entrepreneurs; 50 programs across 20 federal agencies promoting financial literacy; and 14 programs across three departments for the administration of grants and loans to reduce diesel emissions.  

GAO also recommended 18 cost-saving measures that could save taxpayers billions, including consolidating federal offices, selling excess uranium at the Department of Energy, replacing the $1 bill with a $1 coin, and cutting improper payments by Medicare and Medicaid, which totaled an estimated $65 billion in fiscal year 2011.  CAGW has long advocated eliminating the $1 bill in favor of a $1 coin, which would save taxpayers at least $4.4 billion over a 30-year period, or $146 million per year.

“We consider this report further proof that government waste is endemic in Washington," said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  "With the nation facing another trillion dollar-plus deficit in fiscal year 2012, it is imperative that every single example of duplication and overlap in this report be eliminated immediately.”

Despite its enthusiasm, CAGW was quick to point out that much of the waste highlighted by the GAO has been obvious for many years, but that Congress has failed to address the problems.  

“While it is gratifying to have a nonpartisan government oversight entity endorse so many of the cuts and consolidations we support, Congress cannot continue to claim ignorance of these duplicative, bloated programs,” added Schatz.  “The GAO has long published annual accounts of improvident spending, and many of its most recent recommendations were part of both the original Grace Commission report, which led to CAGW’s founding 27 years ago, and GAO’s similar report from a year ago.  Obviously, despite reminders from all sides that wasteful spending is rampant and endemic to government, many of these glaringly wasteful programs have been allowed to continue and even grow.  

“While the GAO acknowledges that Congress has ‘taken actions to address’ some of its 2011 recommendations, many of those steps amount to little more than empty rhetoric.  CAGW has been fighting to eliminate duplication and waste by publishing its Congressional Pig Book and Prime Cuts database since the 1990s, and taxpayers can count on CAGW to continue to shed light on opportunities to lighten the big-government load,” Schatz concluded.  

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.


- ### -

News Release from Sen. David Vitter

February 28, 2012

Vitter Says Reforms to FHA, Not a Bailout, Needed to Revive Housing Market


(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter today offered the following statement after a hearing in the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on the state of the housing market.
“It seems that the administration’s main proposal to revive our struggling housing markets is to move more people onto the Federal Housing Administration’s dime. There’s one pretty big problem with that, though – the FHA is broke,” Vitter said.
Since 2009, the FHA has been violating the congressionally mandated ratio of capital it must keep in its mortgage insurance fund. Vitter has introduced legislation to reform the FHA and make sure it can remain solvent without a federal bailout.
Vitter added, “The FHA has a responsibility to manage their funds responsibly and keep their books in order. There is no way FHA could operate like that if they were a private bank, and we need to hold them accountable. And I certainly don’t believe that giving even more power to the FHA is going to fix what’s broken in the housing market.”
Here is a summary of the Vitter FHA Reform Bill:
• Requires that HUD Secretary, and FHA Commissioner, use all available methods under law to recapitalize the MMI fund to its statutorily required two percent capital reserve ratio within two years.
• Assesses penalties if the fund fails to maintain a ratio of two percent.
• Prohibits secret bailouts of the FHA by the Treasury Department. Treasury currently has authority to make a "credit transfer" to FHA and doesn't need Congressional authority to do so.

Preparing Students for Jobs of the Future

IBM Unveils Playbook for U.S. Cities to Develop Grades 9-14 Schools That Prepare Students for Technology Jobs

IBM and City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago to open grades 9-14 school, modeled after NYC school and informed by Playbook
Chicago - 28 Feb 2012: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today released a new playbook designed to outline how to develop an innovative grades 9-14 school that connects education to economic development and good-paying jobs. (#THINKskills) In conjunction with the release of the playbook, IBM also unveiled plans to partner with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) to open a grades 9-14 school in the City of Chicago enabling students to graduate with an associate’s degree and enter the workforce with the marketable skills that many employers now require.
The playbook demonstrates how Chicago and other cities across the United States can implement and replicate an education model that blends high school, college and career into one. Called “STEM Pathways to College and Careers Schools: A Development Guide,” the playbook is the result of a three-month IBM Smarter Cites Challenge grant to the City of Chicago. It outlines specific details such as designing a curriculum, creating an integrated college experience, and building a strong teaching faculty. 
“To put America back to work, parents, teachers, students, civic leaders, and private sector employers must collaborate on new and innovative approaches to public education,” said Stanley S. Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs at IBM. “Today’s announcement will help close the skills gap not only in the City of Chicago, but in any city that chooses to implement the playbook and open a grades 9-14 school.”  
In reviewing the Chicago labor market, the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge experts found that the largest growth area for jobs in the next six years is in Information Technology (IT). To help increase the skills of Chicago’s students and train its workforce, the City of Chicago will open five new grades 9-14 schools offering an increased focus on technology skills and career readiness. These new schools will incorporate a six-year program culminating in an associate's degree and provide students with the science, math and technology skills needed to transition into careers focused on technology.  
As one of the corporate sponsors of the schools, IBM will recruit corporate volunteers to mentor every student entering the school. These students will participate in both in-person and online mentor sessions with the IBM employees to focus the students on career goals. IBM will help shape the curriculum and connect the students to the skills required in the workplace by providing guest speakers, workplace visits and internships. Graduates then will be “first in line” for jobs at IBM.  
The school will open in September 2012 with a class of ninth graders at the new southwest area high school being built at 7651 South Homan in Chicago. IBM will open the school in partnership with CPS and CCC. Each student will be able to graduate in four-years with a high school diploma with college credits, with a goal of graduating within six years with an Associate of Science (AS) degree in Computer Science or an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Information Technology. The college courses will be taught by professors from CCC. 
These schools in Chicago follow the opening of the nation’s first 9-14 school that blends high school, college and career in one. IBM worked with the City of New York to open Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn this past September with more than 100 ninth grade students.  
IBM's $50 million Smarter Cities Challenge grant program provides expert IBM advice to 100 progressive cities worldwide to help improve city services and quality of life. More information on IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge grant program can be found athttp://smartercitieschallenge.org/. For more information on IBM can be found atwww.citizenibm.com. Follow IBM’s citizenship activities on twitter @CitizenIBM. Follow the grades 9-14 school conversation on twitter at #THINKskills.  

To Pay NY Pension Fund, Cities Borrow From It First

Excerpt from an article in

The New York Times
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Pay New York Pension Fund, Cities Borrow From It First

By DANNY HAKIM

ALBANY — When New York State officials agreed to allow local governments to use an unusual borrowing plan to put off a portion of their pension obligations, fiscal watchdogs scoffed at the arrangement, calling it irresponsible and unwise.

And now, their fears are being realized: cities throughout the state, wealthy towns such as Southampton and East Hampton, counties like Nassau and Suffolk, and other public employers like the Westchester Medical Center and the New York Public Library are all managing their rising pension bills by borrowing from the very same $140 billion pension fund to which they owe money.

Across New York, state and local governments are borrowing $750 million this year to finance their contributions to the state pension system, and are likely to borrow at least $1 billion more over the next year. The number of municipalities and public institutions using this new borrowing mechanism to pay off their annual pension bills has tripled in a year.

The eagerness to borrow demonstrates that many major municipalities are struggling to meet their pension obligations, which have risen partly because of generous retirement packages for public employees, and partly because turbulence in the stock market has slowed the pension fund’s growth.

The state’s borrowing plan allows public employers to reduce their pension contributions in the short term in exchange for higher payments over the long term. Public pension funds around the country assume a certain rate of return every year and, despite the market gains over the last few years, are still straining to make up for steep investment losses incurred in the 2008 financial crisis, requiring governments to contribute more to keep pension systems afloat.

Supporters argue that the borrowing plan makes it possible for governments in New York to “smooth” their annual pension contributions to get through this prolonged period of market volatility.

Critics say it is a budgetary sleight-of-hand that simply kicks pension costs down the road.

Rove Wrong on Foreign Policy (Again)

Rove Wrong on Foreign Policy (Again)

Boeing: Boeing B-1 Bomber Completes 10,000th Combat Mission

Boeing: Boeing B-1 Bomber Completes 10,000th Combat Mission

News Releasee from Ofc. of Sen. Tom Coburn - Duplication

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) released the following statements today regarding the second annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identifying ongoing duplication and areas for costs savings throughout the federal government. The 2012 GAO duplication report reviews 51 areas of government spending, including 32 areas of extensive federal duplication, fragmentation and overlap, and 19 additional areas of opportunities for large cost savings through addressing waste and mismanagement. Read the full report, titled “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue”: here.
An amendment introduced by Senator Coburn, approved unanimously in the Senate,[1] and attached to the February 2010 debt limit vote, directed to the GAO to “annually identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities, to estimate the cost of such duplication, and to make recommendations to Congress for consolidation and elimination of such duplication.”
“At a time when our debt is the greatest threat to our economic and national security, Congress should be doing everything in its power to set common sense priorities. Eliminating duplicative spending should be the easy part. This year’s report tells us more about what we already know. Congress is wasting hundreds of billions of dollars every year because it has created duplicative and fragmented programs, many of which are producing little or no value for taxpayers. Even worse, Congress has done almost nothing to address problem areas GAO has already identified. This report shows why Congress has a 9 percent approval rating. Instead of eliminating duplicative spending, Congress spent the last year finding new ways to borrow money,” said Dr. Coburn.
Senator Collins said, “Duplication and overlap serve neither the taxpayers nor the intended beneficiaries of the programs in question. Just look at the duplicative IT systems government-wide, parallel programs to protect the safety of our food supply from biological attack, and 53 separate, disjointed economic development programs are operating to try to get our economy back on track in some way. The list goes on. At a time when our country has an unsustainable debt of $14 trillion, there simply can be no excuse for such waste, duplication, and inefficiencies.”
“The weak economy and unsupportable debt demand that we identify federal cost savings. This GAO report on duplicative federal programs must guide us in reducing wasteful spending. Its analysis of the government's duplication of efforts says that billions of taxpayer dollars could be saved by streamlining, improving efficiency and strengthening competition. Congress and the administration should get to work now on implementing the best of GAO's recommendations,” said Senator Lieberman.
Key GAO findings and examples of duplication, mismanagement and waste
• Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. There are 209 federal STEM education programs, administered by 13 different federal agencies, costing taxpayers more than $3 billion annually.
• Financial Literacy. There are 56 financial literacy programs across 20 federal agencies, according to a March 2011 survey of federal agencies. However, a subsequent analysis by GAO found that there were 15 financial literacy programs across 13 federal agencies, costing taxpayers more than $30 million annually, if a narrower definition of financial literacy is used.
• Department of Justice Grants. Since 2005, Congress has spent $30 billion in overlapping Department of Justice grants for crime prevention police and victims services from more than 200 DOJ grant programs, and $3.9 billion in grants just in 2010.
• Housing Assistance. In 2010, the government spent roughly $170 billion on housing related programs, of which $132 billion was forgone revenue from tax expenditures related to housing. GAO found “twenty different entities that administer 160 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools, that support homeowners and renters.” GAO also found “39 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools provide assistance for buying, selling or financing a home,” and eight programs and tax expenditures provide assistance for rental property owners.”
• Support to Private Sector on Green Buildings. There are 94 federal initiatives to encourage “green building” in the private sector, all run by 11 different federal agencies.
• Diesel Emissions. There are 14 programs and three tax expenditures that sole or joint purpose is to reduce diesel emissions. Thirteen of the programs provide grants and one is a loan program. GAO also identified three tax expenditures that provide incentives for owners and operators of diesel engines and vehicles.
• Overseas Defense Posture. Approximately 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are stationed overseas on a given day. However at least half of these military service members are in nations other than Iraq and Afghanistan. GAO recommends re-examining our overseas deployments to nations such as South Korea and Japan as well as territories such as Guam.
Excerpts
“This report identifies government duplication, overlap, and fragmentation as well as other cost savings and revenue enhancement opportunities. Its findings involve a wide range of government missions and touch virtually all major federal departments and agencies.”
“Duplication occurs when two or more agencies or programs are engaged in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries. In many cases, the existence of unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation can be difficult to estimate with precision due to a lack of data on programs and activities.”
“We have found that agencies can often realize a range of benefits, such as improved customer service, decreased administrative burdens, and cost savings from addressing the issues we raise in this report.”
Additional documents
  • Dr. Coburn's prepared testimony at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: here. An appendix of the testimony: here.
  • An Executive Summary of the 2012 GAO report: here.
  • Executive Summary of the Report Card on 2011 GAO duplication report: here.
  • Chart detailing 2012 GAO report cost savings: here.
  • A 1966 article highlighting the proliferation of duplicative federal programs titled, "Government by Totem Pole: As federal programs proliferate and duplicate we're fast becoming The Overlapped Society".
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