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Tags: Feds | Spend-Crazy | at | Years-End | ISIS Wiping Out Christianity in Iraq | Keystone Pipeline | High-Tax Northeast Has Lost 37 Electoral Votes

Feds Go Spend-Crazy at Year's End; ISIS Wiping Out Christianity in Iraq

By    |   Sunday, 05 October 2014 01:58 PM EDT

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Feds Go Spend-Crazy at Year's End
2. Alaska's Lesson for Keystone Pipeline Opponents
3. New Device Lets Lenders Disable Cars Remotely
4. Baghdad Priest: Plight for Christians 'Worst Ever' in Iraq
5. High-Tax Northeast Has Lost 37 Electoral Votes Since '52
6. Wealthiest 400 Americans Now Worth Record $2.3 Trillion

1. Feds Go Spend-Crazy at Year's End

Due to wasteful spending regulations, federal agencies are not permitted to carry over surplus funds from one fiscal year to the next.

So as the year's end approaches, the agencies go on a wild spending spree to use up any unspent funds before they are forfeited to the Treasury.

"Agencies are encouraged to spend every last dime in their budgets to justify their current funding levels, in an attempt to avoid becoming a target for future spending cuts in Congress," said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor and current director of Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute.

As the Sept. 30 end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year approached, the IRS suddenly found the need to spend $2.41 million on "toner products."

The Department of Homeland Security felt compelled to pay $251,016 for "Aeron Mesh Task Chairs," and $15,198 for two pianos.

The U.S. embassy in New Delhi, India, spent $20,362 on alcoholic beverages, bringing the outlay for booze by the State Department to nearly $100,000 in September. The department also spent nearly $25,000 for 50-inch LED HD televisions for the embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $1.8 million on artwork.

Last year, Veterans Affairs allocated $562,000 for artwork as the end of the fiscal year approached in September, the Fiscal Times reported.

The State Department spent $5 million on crystal glassware for several embassies and $1 million on a granite art installation for the embassy in London last year, while the Department of Agriculture shelled out $144,000 for toner cartridges.

The Pentagon alone spent about $5.5 billion on the last day of the fiscal year, and Defense Department officials even sent an email urging employees to spend as much as they could, according to the Fiscal Times.

In an article that first appeared on RealClearMarkets, Furchtgott-Roth pointed to a study by two university professors who found that federal spending on contracts in the last week of the fiscal year is five times higher than the weekly average, and equals 8.7 percent of total federal spending.

The study also found that I.T. purchases made during the last week of a recent fiscal year were six times more likely to be of a lower quality than those bought during the rest of the year, probably due to the hasty decision-making associated with the spending.

Furchtgott-Roth suggested that federal agencies adopt a different approach: For all unspent funds, agency employees could be given a bonus equal to 10 percent of their salaries, or could receive a bonus from a pool of funds equal to half of the agency's unspent funds, whichever is smaller.

She added: "Pity the poor administrator determined to spend all of an agency's funds, thereby denying every employee a bonus."

Editor's Note:


2. Alaska's Lesson for Keystone Pipeline Opponents

The Obama administration has delayed a decision on construction of the 1,200-mile Keystone XL pipeline, citing environmental concerns.

But critics of the proposed pipeline should look at the example of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which has proven ecologically benign since it was completed 37 years ago.

"The lesson of the Trans-Alaska pipeline is that we can build pipelines in ways that protect the environment while yielding large economic benefits," according to Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, and Joel Griffith, a senior research associate at Heritage.

The $5.2 billion Keystone pipeline to bring Canadian oil to U.S. refineries could boost North American energy independence and create 15,000 jobs or more. Yet environmental groups like the Sierra Club warn that it is a "climate disaster in the making."

That's what environmental groups claimed about the 800-mile TAPS beginning in 1969.

The Wilderness Society stated that the Alaska pipeline threatened to do "grave and irreparable damage to the ecology." James Moorman, counsel to the Environmental Defense Fund, warned that "disastrous oil spills" were "inevitable." Friends of the Earth President David Bower claimed we were approaching the "point of no return in a race to oblivion."

In March 1970, the three groups sued to block the pipeline. A court injunction and other legal issues delayed the project until Congress passed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act in November 1973, despite warnings from those like Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, that it posed an "extreme" hazard to wildlife, Moore and Griffith noted in an article for the Wall Street Journal.

Since its completion, TAPS has delivered more than 17 billion barrels of oil worth more than $1.5 trillion in today's dollars from Alaska's North Slope to the Port of Valdez, and the dire warnings about the pipeline have proved to be inaccurate.

When a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck Alaska in November 2002, the pipeline did not buckle.

A study in 2002 delivered to the American Society of Civil Engineers found that "the ecosystems affected by the operations of TAPS and associated activity for almost 25 years are healthy."

And a 2011 census showed the Western caribou herd, which pipeline critics predicted would be negatively impacted, numbered about 325,000, four times the pre-pipeline count.

Keystone opponents point to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, but that was a tanker accident, not a pipeline disaster.

Yet Keystone critics persist. Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, a major Democratic contributor, warned President Obama in an open letter earlier this year to reject the Keystone pipeline or face a rebellion from some of his most loyal supporters.

But Moore and Griffith added: "The naysayers were wrong 40 years ago, and policy makers should give scant credence to their arguments against Keystone today."

Editor's Note:


3. New Device Lets Lenders Disable Cars Remotely

Call it the "virtual repo man."

Auto loan borrowers with poor credit are being required to outfit their vehicle with a device that allows lenders to prevent the car from starting if payments are late.

The so-called starter interrupt device remotely disables the ignition and renders the vehicle useless until the borrower makes the auto loan payments that are due.

Last year about 25 percent of all auto loans in the United States were subprime, given to borrowers with low credit scores, and the devices are used in about 25 percent of subprime auto loans, an eyebrow-raising article in The New York Times disclosed.

Not only can lenders disable a vehicle for late payments, but a GPS function on the device allows them to track the cars' location and movements, enabling collection agents to easily find and repossess delinquent vehicles rather than conduct lengthy searches for them.

Some drivers complain that their cars where disabled when they were only a few days late with a payment. Other say their ignitions were shut down while they were stopped at a light, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods.

A woman in Nevada even claimed her car was shut down while she was driving on a freeway, although the Times noted that if true, the shutdown may have been due to a faulty device.

One collection agent told the Times that he tries to contact borrowers with a warning before their ignitions are disabled, and will enable the ignition for a period of time if there is an emergency. But other agents are not so considerate, according to the Times.

"For poor people, there is a debt collector right in the car with them," said Robert Swearingen, a lawyer with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

Defenders of the device say it enables lenders to grant credit to borrowers who might otherwise not be able to get a loan. And one device maker asserts that its technology has reduced late payments from 29 percent to about 7 percent.

Editor's Note:


4. Baghdad Priest: Plight for Christians 'Worst Ever' in Iraq

The Rev. Andrew White, vicar of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, says he fears that after several millennia Christianity may be at an end in Iraq.

"The future's very bleak," he said in an interview with CNSNews.com. "For the first time, I've had to consider the very real fact that Christianity may be at an end here.

"We don't know if it will survive. Nobody wants to stay here. Everybody wants to get out of here."

Asked to describe the current situation in Baghdad as militants with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) terrorize Iraq, Rev. White said it "is basically the worst it's ever been. People are very fearful."

Islamic State jihadists have carried out mass executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used children as fighters in systematic violations that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said.

They have been terrifying communities into submission by slaughtering those who resist, and are especially targeting minorities, including Christians. American air strikes seem to be doing little to stop the Islamists' advance.

At the time of his CNSNews interview, Rev. White said Islamic State forces were "two miles away" from Baghdad.

"People are fleeing in the hundreds," he said. "We saw all the people who were made to leave Mosul and Nineveh, and now we've seen several come back to Baghdad because things are so bad in the north."

He said that Christians in northern areas of Iraq, where the Islamists have been attacking Christian villages, "are literally homeless. They've no longer got their homes or their security, and they're living in camps. Things are really bad."

White works with the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East to provide aid and promote reconciliation among different religious groups in Baghdad.

As the Insider Report disclosed last week, France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia has compared ISIS militants to Nazis and likened Christians and other minorities they target to Holocaust victims.

Editor's Note:


5. High-Tax Northeast Has Lost 37 Electoral Votes Since '52

To grasp how Americans have been migrating away from high-tax states in the Northeast in recent decades, look no further than the Electoral College.

In the 1952 presidential election following the 1950 Census, the nine states of the Northeast — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine – had a total of 133 electoral votes.

At the same time, 10 states of the South — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee — had 104 electoral votes.

Flash ahead to the 2012 election following the 2010 Census. The Northeast had 96 votes, having lost 37 since 1952, while the South had 122, a gain of 18 votes.

California and Texas alone had a combined total of 93 votes, almost as many as the entire Northeast.

"Critics blame rising taxes in states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut for limiting population growth in the Northeast to just 15 percent from 1983 to 2013, while the rest of the nation grew more than 41 percent," notes Paul Bedard in the Washington Examiner.

A recent report from the American Legislative Exchange Council disclosed that nine of the 11 states with the highest marginal income tax rates, personal and corporate, are in the Northeast, and none are in the South.

The report also showed that of the 10 states that had lost the most residents due to migration from 2003 to 2012, four were in the Northeast, led by New York, which lost 1.52 million.

Of the 10 states that gained the most from migration, four were in the South, with North Carolina alone gaining 642,378 new residents during that period.

Other states among the top 10 gainers include Florida, Texas, Nevada, and Washington, which have no state individual income tax.

The American Legislative Exchange Council called the migration of Americans away from the Northeast "one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in American history. This migration is shifting the power center of America right before our very eyes.

"This movement isn't random or even about weather or resources. Economic freedom is the magnet and states ignore this force at their own peril."

Editor's Note:


6. Wealthiest 400 Americans Now Worth Record $2.3 Trillion

The 400 richest Americans are now worth a total of $2.3 trillion, an all-time record and up $270 billion from last year, according to the latest edition of the Forbes 400.

The average fortune on the new list is $5.7 billion, up from $5 billion last year. The "poorest" member of the list, biotechnology magnate Alan Auerbach, has a fortune of $1.4 billion, and there are 113 American billionaires who didn't make the top 400 list.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates tops the list, as he has for the past 21 years, with a fortune of $81.2 billion. That's significantly more than No. 2 Warren Buffett. The CEO of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway is worth $67.8 billion.

No. 3 is Larry Ellison, co-founder of the technology giant Oracle, with $48.1 billion.

Industrialists Charles Koch and his brother David Koch are next — each has a fortune of $42.9 billion — and they are followed by four members of the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune.

Rounding out the top 10 is 30-year-old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose fortune rose $15 billion to $34.8 billion since the previous 400 list was released last year, when he was No. 20 on the list. That's the biggest increase of anyone on the list.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is No. 11 ($34.3 billion). He's followed by Google co-founders Larry Page ($31.7 billion) and Sergey Brin ($31.2 billion).

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major contributor to Republican causes, is No. 14 ($31 billion), while George Soros, a major Democratic benefactor, is No. 17 ($24 billion).

Rupert Murdoch and his family are No. 33 ($13.9 billion), Donald Trump is No. 125 ($4 billion), and Oprah Winfrey is No. 210 ($3 billion).

The combined $2.3 trillion fortune represents about 13 percent of the entire nation's GDP, estimated at $17.3 trillion in the second quarter of this year.

According to a survey by Wealth-X, New York is the home to the most billionaires, 103, and Los Angeles is second in the U.S. with 25. But No. 2 worldwide is Moscow with 85.

Only one mogul in the world has a larger fortune than Bill Gates: Carlos Slim of Mexico, whose holdings include telecommunications giant Telmex. He was estimated in July to be worth $82.2 billion.

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Editor's Note:


Editor's Notes:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Feds Go Spend-Crazy at Year's End 2. Alaska's Lesson for Keystone Pipeline Opponents 3. New Device Lets Lenders Disable Cars Remotely 4. Baghdad Priest: Plight for Christians 'Worst Ever' in Iraq 5. High-Tax...
Feds, Spend-Crazy, at, Years-End, ISIS Wiping Out Christianity in Iraq, Keystone Pipeline, High-Tax Northeast Has Lost 37 Electoral Votes, Wealthiest 400 Americans Now Worth Record 2.3 Trillion, New Device Lets Lenders Disable Cars Remotely
Sunday, 05 October 2014 01:58 PM
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