Monday, December 27, 2010

Monetary Revolution Begins With Competing Currencies

In recent interviews, Congressman Ron Paul has been promoting the idea of legalizing competing currencies in the process of diffusing the Federal Reserve's monopoly over money.

As the Fed's strongest political critic, Paul will now be in a position as the new Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy to enforce more transparency and push for alternative currencies to compete with the dollar.

Already, his unprecedented measure to audit the Fed was passed in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Despite being a watered down version from the original with 300-plus cosponsors in the House, it will still accomplish more transparency of the Fed. Paul has also introduced a lesser-known piece of legislation that he says is vital to reforming monetary policy and restoring economic freedom: the Free Competition in Currency Act of 2009 (HR 4248).

The premise of this bill is that private or public monopolies are naturally destructive to freedom, especially when that monopoly can legally counterfeit the nation's currency with little oversight. Paul says during his floor statement to introduce the bill that the Federal Reserve is a "dangerous organization" that "does not allow competition because they know they can't compete."

Bill HR 4248 will essentially do three things: 1) repeal legal tender laws to remove the monopoly control of the Federal Reserve, 2) legalize private mints to issue coins to be controlled by anti-fraud and anti-counterfeit laws, and, 3) remove taxes from precious metal coins to ensure fair competition among new currencies.

Paul adds that it will provide a smooth transition away from the Fed, pointing out that "if nobody wanted to use them (competing currencies), they wouldn't have to, and everybody could be happy with the Federal Reserve. But if the situation gets so chaotic that the people are looking for an alternative, they can go over to start operating in another currency."

Obviously, coins made with precious metals will maintain, or increase, in value should the world reserve currency, the U.S. dollar, continue its decline. It is this store-of-wealth component and Constitutional obligation to pay all debts in silver or gold coinage that drives Paul's monetary philosophy. And although he prefers the private production of coinage, his proposal to de-monopolize the Fed through competition does not discriminate against paper or public alternative currencies.

Some regional paper currencies have already been in circulation for years such as Ithaca HOURS and BerkShares. According to the HOURS organization, local currencies are perfectly legal "as long as it does not look like dollars, as long as denominations are at least $1.00 value, and if it is regarded as taxable income." In other words, they are essentially tied to U.S. dollars and must be taxed the same.

Ithaca 2 HOUR Note
Ithaca HOURS, based in Ithaca, N.Y. were one of the first local currencies founded in 1991. HOURS are considered "local tender rather than legal tender, backed by real people, real labor, skills and tools" and are based on one hour of labor valued at $10. With around $100,000, or 10,000 HOURS now in circulation, they've been used for millions of dollars in trades by over 500 businesses and organizations.

The organization offers one-year, interest-free loans to local businesses. The supply of HOURS increases with these short-term loans, by issuing grants for local nonprofit organizations, a 5% annual operating/printing fee paid to a local printer, and when members sign up or renew memberships where they receive 2 - 4 HOURS for doing so. HOURS are not redeemable for dollars in banks in order to encourage local commerce.

In contrast, BerkShares, used in western Massachusetts, are directly redeemable in dollars at several participating banks. Their official website describes them as:
BerkShares are a tool for community empowerment, enabling merchants and consumers to plant the seeds for an alternative economic future for their communities. Launched in the fall of 2006, BerkShares had a robust initiation, with over one million BerkShares having been circulated in the first nine months and over 2.7 million to date. Currently, more than four hundred businesses have signed up to accept the currency. Five different banks have partnered with BerkShares, with a total of thirteen branch offices now serving as exchange stations.
BerkShares Being Printed
Anyone can purchase 100 BerkShares for $95 at partner banks. These 100 BerkShares are equal to $100 purchasing power at participating shops and restaurants. These businesses can then either spend the 100 BerkShares back in the marketplace, or convert them into $95 at the bank. Therefore, they give a 5% discount to BerkShare customers to encourage local consumption. The program is so successful that other cities like Baltimore are modeling their BNote currency after it.

Although Ron Paul specifically mentions allowing private coinage of precious metals, these regional paper currencies provide an important alternative exchange structure should the dollar collapse. It is said that these competing currencies are backed by local relationships and labor, but it seems it was their peg to the dollar that helped early skeptics trust their value. Now that the motivation for creating currency alternatives to the Federal Reserve note is rooted in the instability of the dollar, it will be interesting to see if these communities maintain faith in their value should the dollar fail in dramatic fashion.

Western Michigan is one region that has been increasingly accepting silver or gold as a competing currency for local goods and services. A man even paid for $25 of gasoline with a half-ounce silver "barter medallion" bearing Ron Paul's likeness:

Another benefit of using gold and silver as a regional competing currency is that their value is border-less, whereas a new paper-currency may have difficulty expanding trust in times of lost faith in the fiat dollar. However, the established infrastructure for alternative paper currencies may prove to be a quicker regional solution should a dollar crisis unfold rapidly.

Ultimately, the principle of competition is of utmost importance for monetary reform. The argument is that when free market principles take hold, the most stable and trustworthy alternative currencies will likely grow in scale and coverage, yet their competition will continue to keep them honest.

The Working Poor

As the middle class in America continues to be slowly wiped out, the number of working poor continues to increase. Today, nearly one out of every three families in the United States is considered to be "low income". Millions of American families are finding that they can barely make it from month to month even with both parents working as hard as they possibly can. Blue collar American workers from coast to coast are having their wages decreased at a time when it seems like the cost of virtually every monthly bill is going up. Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are only going to get worse and that average American families are going to be financially squeezed even more in the months and years to come.

The Working Poor Families Project has just released their policy brief for the winter of 2010-11. What they have discovered is that the number of working poor in the United States is higher than they have ever seen it before and it continues to increase at a staggering pace. The following are some of the key findings for 2009 that were pulled right out of their report....

* There were more than 10 million low-income working families in the United States, an increase of nearly a quarter million from the previous year.

* Forty-five million people, including 22 million children, lived in low-income working families, an increase of 1.7 million people from 2008.

* Forty-three percent of working families with at least one minority parent were low income, nearly twice the proportion of white working families (22 percent).

* Income inequality continued to grow with the richest 20 percent of working families taking home 47 percent of all income and earning 10 times that of low-income working families.

* More than half of the U.S. labor force (55 percent) has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since the recession began in December 2007.

Unfortunately, things are not going to be getting any better for the working poor. In the new "one world economy" that our politicians keep insisting is so good for us, millions upon millions of American workers now find that they have to compete for work with laborers on the other side of the globe that are willing to work for slave labor wages. This is causing millions of jobs to leave the United States and it is forcing wages down.

Millions of Americans now find that they are making substantially less than they used to. If that has happened to you, perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Or perhaps it is not that comforting. In any event, American workers are not just competing with each other anymore. Now there is the constant threat that all the jobs could just be sent overseas.

As wages are forced down, a record number of working Americans are finding themselves forced to turn to food stamps and to other government anti-poverty programs. Millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs in order to supplement their incomes. Millions of others have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find.

This is all part of a long-term trend. The numbers don't lie. About the only people doing well are those on Wall Street and the very rich. Nearly every other segment of the population is getting poorer.

The following are 10 statistics that I have shared previously, but I think that they do a really good job of highlighting the plight that the working poor in this country are now facing....

#1 In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.

#2 Since the year 2000, we have lost 10% of our middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs. Meanwhile, our population is getting larger.

#3 As 2007 began, only 26 million Americans were on food stamps, but now 42 million Americans are on food stamps and that number keeps rising every single month.

#4 Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factories have closed down for good.

#5 One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one anti-poverty program run by the federal government.

#6 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#7 The number of Americans working part-time jobs "for economic reasons" is now the highest it has been in at least five decades.

#8 Ten years ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. In 2010, the United States has fallen to seventh.

#9 In 1976, the top 1 percent of earners in the United States took in 8.9 percent of all income. By 2007, that number had risen to 23.5 percent.

#10 According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010.

The United States is becoming poorer as a nation even as the boys up on Wall Street are busy grabbing a bigger share for themselves.

We are rapidly becoming a nation that will have a very small privileged class of ultra-wealthy and a very large class of "workers" that is just barely trying to survive.

So is the answer even more government handouts and even more government social programs?

Of course not.

What middle class Americans need are middle class jobs.

But as I have written about previously, the United States is rapidly bleeding middle class jobs with no end in sight.

Globalism has permanently changed the game. The middle class way of life that so many millions of Americans have been enjoying for so many decades is disappearing.

Just because things were a certain way yesterday does not mean that things are going to be the same way tomorrow. The long-term economic trends that this column keeps talking about day after day after day are taking us all to a very dark economic place.

But instead of facing reality, our federal government, our state governments and our local governments just keep borrowing massive amounts of dollars to try to paper over all of our problems.

It is not going to work. Unless something is done to fix our structural economic problems, the economic decay is just going to get worse and all of this debt is eventually going to collapse our entire financial system.

If you are a member of the working poor I wish I had better news for you. Things are not going to be getting better, and unfortunately millions more Americans will probably be joining you soon.

Air travel stalls as blizzard bears down on New York, New England

(CNN) -- Thousands of travelers spent the night camped out on airport floors and thousands more were stranded in hotel rooms and relatives' homes as blizzard conditions halted flights at New York's three major airports, slowed rail travel and continued to create treacherous conditions on roads throughout the East Coast on Monday.

The storm brought high winds -- in some cases as much as 80 miles per hour -- and blinding snow to much of the East Coast beginning Sunday. Some places were forecast to receive as much as 30 inches of snow overall. Blizzard warnings remained in effect through noon Monday for much of coastal New England.

Incoming and departing flights were suspended at New York's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports Sunday night, as well as at Newark Liberty International Airport in neighboring north New Jersey, Port Authority spokeswoman Sara Joren said.

The airports are now not expected to reopen until 4 p.m. ET Monday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Amtrak, which had canceled service between Boston and New York on Sunday, said Monday morning that it had resumed limited service between the two cities. But spokesman Cliff Cole warned that many trains may already be sold out.

The passenger train service's decision to cancel service on Sunday affected some 10,000 passengers.

Travel by road was also difficult. Emergency declarations were in place Monday in Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts, among other places.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked people to stay off the state's roads unless absolutely necessary, said Peter Boynton, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management.

"If you have to be on the road, of course, the rule of the day is take it slow," he said.

Airlines have canceled some 2,000 flights since the storm began, leaving airports that normally would have been flush with activity after Christmas largely quiet. Many would-be travelers stayed away, thanks in part to many airlines' pre-emptive cancellations.

But not all. Shabaz Motan came to LaGuardia on Sunday afternoon even though he knew his flight to Chicago had been canceled. He was hoping to get a free hotel room or flight voucher from the airline, but he ended up sleeping on a cot because airline officials told him it wasn't their fault he couldn't fly.

"It's been tough," he said.

Julie Stratton also spent the night at LaGuardia. She was scheduled to fly to Indianapolis, Indiana, on Sunday, but said Monday she is now being told she may not be able to fly out until Thursday.

"It's not the best of scenarios, no," she said. "But you just have to make the best of it. There's nothing else you can do."

Most carriers were waiving penalties for passengers traveling Sunday and Monday to airports from North Carolina to Boston and beyond. Affected customers were being urged to contact the relevant airline either by phone or online.

The mayors of Philadelphia, Boston, Providence and Portland, Maine, also called snow emergencies, while New York City launched a winter snow storm operation and encouraged people to stay off the roads by taking mass transit or staying put.

"Unfortunately, our city is directly in the path," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday afternoon, amid a blizzard warning that extends until 6 p.m. Monday. "It's hard to stand up in a 55-mph wind, so this really is dangerous."

The Northeast was not the only area being affected. In North Carolina, icy road conditions were blamed for three deaths.

The storm's timing, coming over a holiday weekend, was fortuitous for some and disastrous for others. City and state officials predicted that the blizzard's impact on the economy and otherwise might be muted, because many people had the holiday weekend off and fewer were expected to be commuting into work than normal on Monday.

"With the people who are staying home for the holidays, it's great, but we know a lot of people who are trying to get home," said Brett Martin, claiming his hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, had received almost a foot of snow. "We're just playing games and hanging out by the fire."

Metropolitan New York could see snow totals between 15 and 20 inches of accumulating snow, with sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Meanwhile, the NFL announced that a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles -- originally scheduled for Sunday night -- had been postponed until 8:20 p.m. Tuesday.

"It was dangerous for the players, dangerous for the fans," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who called a state of emergency in anticipation of up to 14 inches of snow. "People still have to get out of the parking lot (and get in) their cars."

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters Sunday that 1,000 plows, sand and salt trucks were working to keep state roads clear and that as many as 4,000 would be deployed as the storm worsens.

"We expect visibility to be very low and travel to be extremely dangerous," Patrick said.






(英國‧倫敦27日訊)《2001太空漫遊》作者、英國已故科幻小說大師克拉克,曾在另 一部小說《天堂噴泉》中構思出太空升降機,把人類從地球送上軌道。但由於兩地距離至少3.6萬公里,科學界一直想不出用甚麼物料製造繫鏈,能有足夠強度把 巨型升降機升起,同時不會被本身重量壓斷。

英國科學家最近在碳納米管(carbon nanotube)研究上取得突破,令建造升空天梯不再是天方夜譚。






(美國)被稱為“性書大亨”的《花花公子》雜誌創辦人赫夫納在twitter透露,他在平安夜與年輕60載的女友、24歲的前花花公子玩伴哈里斯(Crystal Harris)訂婚。

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84歲的赫夫納(Hugh Hefner)12月24日在twitter表示:“今晚看電影后,哈里斯與我交換禮物,我給她一枚指環。這真是一個值得紀念的平安夜。”他翌日又寫道: “當我向哈里斯送上戒指,她喜極而泣。這是我記憶中最快樂的聖誕節。”他沒說明送了什麼戒指,令各界議論紛紛。他其後再在twitter澄清,這枚戒指不 是普通聖誕禮物,“我給哈里斯的是訂婚戒指,我不是要故弄玄虛。祝各位有一個非常快樂的聖誕。”


赫夫納結過兩次婚,首任妻子是大學同學威廉斯(Mildred Williams),兩人1959年離婚。1989年,赫夫納與1988年1月號的花花公子玩伴康拉德(Kimberley Conrad)結婚,兩人今年離異,但在未離婚前,赫夫納身邊一直有多名“官方女友”陪伴。即將成為第3任花花公子夫人的哈里絲,是去年12月號的花花公 子玩伴,她讀大學時主修心理,與赫夫納一樣。(香港明報)


















































點擊省時網站,就會被連接到全國志願服務與慈善中心(National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre,簡稱NVPC)的主頁。只要輸入希望能加入的機構名稱、個人的興趣、受益群體或地點,網站就可以幫忙配對,尋找適合的公益機會。

1. 打好領帶後不要解開,每天直接套上。省5分鐘。
2. 購買7件一模一樣的上衣,不用再為穿甚麼衣服出門傷腦筋。省5至35分鐘。
3. 朋友是遲到大王,約他見面時,提早一個鐘頭。省1小時。
4. 避免被對方嘮叨,常對伴侶說好話。省2小時25分鐘。
5. 與較少人吃午飯。省45分鐘。
6. 駕駛時跟在救護車後面,讓它幫你開路。省30分鐘。
7. 看到大排長龍,不要去排隊。省45分鐘。
8. 不要討價還價。省25分鐘。
10. 剃光頭,不用花時間打理頭發。省35分鐘。
11. 選不用綁鞋帶的鞋子。省5分鐘。




























Brian Aitken – New Jersey Man Freed by Governor Chris Christie After Corrupt Judge Denies Jury Right To Hear Law

Intel Hub - The Judge in this case denied the jury the right to hear the law. This is an OUTRIGHT attack on the 2nd amendment and freedom as a whole. How is it legal for a judge to hold a bias against a defendent which is turn almost cost him seven years in jail?

Ginny Simone talks to Brian Aitken – For more information, go to…

Listen To Our Interview with NWO Researcher Adrian Salbuchi.

Ron Paul: Competing Currencies Can 'End the Fed' Softly (VIDEO)

Ron Paul on the House floor introducing his bill for legalizing competing currencies -- the HR 4248 Free Competition in Currency Act of 2009.

The Act Summary:
  1. Repeals the federal law establishing U.S. coins, currency, and reserve notes as legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.
  2. Prohibits any tax on any coin, medal, token, or gold, silver, platinum, palladium, or rhodium bullion issued by a state, the United States, a foreign government, or any other person.
  3. Prohibits states from assessing any tax or fee on any currency or other monetary instrument that is used in interstate or foreign commerce and that has legal tender status under the Constitution.
  4. Repeals provisions of the federal criminal code relating to uttering coins of gold, silver, or other metal for use as current money and making or possessing likenesses of such coins. Abates any current prosecution under such provisions and nullifies any previous convictions.
Contact your Rep to support this effort. Read full bill HERE.

Bartlett: Cooking the Books -- The 2010 Deficit Was $2.1 (Not $1.3) Trillion

Bruce Bartlett (The Fiscal Times), Cooking the Books: The 2010 Deficit Was $2.1 Trillion:

If corporate accountants used government rules for their financial statements, they’d be jailed. That’s why we rarely see the real number of the federal deficit—a terrifying $2.1 trillion last year. ...

In principle, changes in the cost of long-term commitments should be included in the budget, as they would under accrual accounting. The Financial Report takes a stab at doing so and finds that it would have almost doubled last year’s budget deficit from $1.3 trillion to $2.1 trillion.



3,149 UK Wind Turbines – Produced Less Than 0.5% Of UK’s Electricity Needs

During the cold snap, the 3,149 UK wind turbines were nearly useless. At times delivering less than half of a percent of the UK’s electricity needs.

Maybe 1,000,000 wind turbines would do the job, as long as there aren’t any calm days?

Would there be any birds or tourists left in the UK?

Economics Is Simple ... The Fat Cats Just Want You to Think It's Complicated So That You Won't Demand Change

Economics and finance seem like complicated topics, and so many people "leave it to the experts".
However, these topics are actually simple, and if people hear a clear explanation, they will be able to form an opinion about our current economy and the government's response to economic challenges.
It will be easy to understand the economy if we think of money as water. Links showing that the analogy holds true with the economy are provided for convenience.
Let's imagine that there is only a limited amount of fresh, drinkable water in the U.S. (which is true), and that a handful of say 5 big water companies control the rights to 90% of the water in the country.
Let's further imagine that the water companies - wishing to make more money - expand beyond their traditional water business, into mining for oil and gas. Indeed, the oil and gas mining business becomes so lucrative that it soon dwarfs the size of their actual water business. They keep their traditional water business, but soon also become the largest polluters in the country.
They dig for oil and gas right around where the aquifiers are where they pump water. Unfortunately, they are greedy and cut corners, and end up polluting all of the aquifiers with toxic crude petroleum compounds.
The water companies loudly tell the government that this pollution was "unexpected" and simply a temporary "water-flow" problem. They jump up and down and yell that - unless the government "bails them out" by giving them more water - the entire water distribution system in the U.S. will fail, and Americans will suffer a water shortage and severe thirst.
Advocates for the American people argue that the big water companies should be forced to clean up the aquifiers. They point out that we will have a drastic water shortage unless these water supplies - which constitute the lion's share of fresh water in the U.S. - are cleaned, and that the water companies must be forced to stop mining for oil and gas right next to the water supplies so that it won't happen again. They also demand that the government distribute the water in its emergency strategic water supply directly to the people, as that will directly address the problem of thirst and water scarcity.
They point out that drilling for oil is a wholly-separate business from pumping and selling drinking water, and demand that the water companies sell their petrol business.
They point out that if the costs of cleaning up the aquifier are honestly tallied, the water companies are bankrupt. They say this the problem is not a "temporary" water shortage, but that the big water companies are actually insolvent, and that their entire business model is flawed.
And they note that the big water companies are not as efficient at extracting water from aquifiers as smaller water companies, but that the big companies are getting so big that they re driving the smaller companies out of business.
The big water companies respond that they're "too big to fail", that they're doing fine and only experiencing a very temporary "liquidity crisis" shortage of water, that they just need a little temporary help to get the water flowing to America again, and that they'll drill safely for oil and gas and that so new rules are needed.
The White House and Congress (having received a lot of contributions from the big water companies), and the Federal Water Reserve - a quasi-governmental agency owned entirely by the big 5 water companies - decide not to crack down on the big 5 water companies. Instead, they exempt them from pollution laws by relaxing reporting requirements so that the companies don't have to report how much oil and gas pollution has really gotten into the aquifiers. Indeed, the government let's the big companies write the rules for a series of highly-publicized "stress tests" which are simply a P.R. ploy to reassure the public that the water is safe and the companies sound, even though neither is true.
The government and Federal Water Reserve also buy all of the polluted water in the aquifiers at 100% of the normal price for clean water (and used it for security for cheap loans to the big water companies), and that water is stockpiled in the bowels of the Federal Water Reserve building (even though the high petrol content makes the water highly flammable, and thus a fire hazard). So instead of the water companies having to pay for their toxic pollution problems themselves, the government takes care of it ... at the taxpayers' expense.
The government also taps into it's emergency water supply, and gives all of the water to the big 5 companies to help them through their "temporary" water shortage. Americans are starting to get thirsty, but the big 5 don't sell to average Americans. Instead, they use most of the water in their oil and gas mining operations (it takes a lot of water sprayed on the rocks being drilled to keep the dust down). The big 5 sell some of the water to fat cats who already have lots of fresh water in private ponds and storage tanks, and stockpile some of it. Somehow the water given to the big companies never trickles down to the public. The average American on "Main Street" gets thirstier and thirstier.
The government also props up the big water companies by giving them all sorts of subsidies, incentives and business opportunities which guarantee that they'll make money. The government offers none of these to smaller water companies, and actually penalizes smaller water companies by charging them extra fees to pay for the misbehavior of the big companies.
The American people become thirstier and thirstier, and without water to grow crops, put in their cars' radiators, or even wash their hands, America becomes poorer and living standards decline.
The big water companies try to make the situation seem extremely complicated, so that only the "experts" can understand it. By making things seem complex, the American people won't feel competent to demand changes. Indeed, they even promote academics who are trained to ignore the real world and instead focus on highly complex - and unrealistic - models.
But the situation is actually simple. Things haven't improved, and won't improve until:
  • The big water companies are broken up, so that smaller water companies focusing just on H20 can step up to find clean water and sell it to normal Americans
  • The big companies are forced to clean up the polluted water, and the illegal mining operations of the big companies are prosecuted
Simple, isn't it?

Missouri Guard to train inmates for emergencies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —The Missouri National Guard plans to start training some of the state's prison inmates to help it during natural disasters and other emergencies.

Missouri Guard spokeswoman Maj. Tammy Spicer said Thursday that under the proposal, the prison inmates would become a more formalized part of the Guard's disaster response. She said it would give the Guard a larger and better trained pool of workers to respond to emergencies. The training would focus on skills such as filling and stacking sandbags and removing debris.

Prison inmates already have been used in the past to help local officials during floods and other emergencies. Over the past several years, prison inmates have worked with volunteers and others to shore up levees and fill sandbags along flooding rivers from near St. Louis to northwestern Missouri.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Nixon allowed 37 inmates from a prison in St. Joseph to help stack sandbags along I-29 near Craig to protect the highway from a flooded Missouri River. In 2008, nearly 150 inmates from prisons across the state were among those fortifying levees near the Mississippi River in northeastern Missouri. And in 2007, prison inmates and the National Guard worked to protect a water treatment plant, schools and an ethanol plant near Craig from flood water.

Spicer said formal agreements between the Missouri Guard and the state Department of Corrections have not yet been signed. It was not known how many inmates could participate or how much the training would cost.

The National Guard said the inmates who participate in the training could not be convicted of violent offenses and would need to be eligible for the Department of Corrections work release program.

The Department of Corrections said the requirements to be eligible for work release include having 5 years or less left on their sentence and having no escape attempts or convictions for offenses such as rape, kidnapping and robbery. Prison officials also examine the inmates' mental health and the risk they pose to the public

Fading optimism in “new normal” America

Optimism is so deeply embedded in the American national psyche that it withstood the Great Depression in the 1930s and a string of recessions since then. But in the era some economists call “the new normal” in America, optimism is fading.

So say public opinion polls that ask Americans how they see the future, theirs and their country’s. One recent survey, by the respected Pew Research Center, found that depression era Americans were more optimistic about economic recovery in the near future than people questioned in a Pew poll this October, when only 35 percent said they expected better economic conditions in a year’s time. In response to a similar question in 1936 and 1937, about half expected general business conditions to improve over the next six months.

The phrase “new normal” was coined by PIMCO, one of the world’s biggest investment funds, and is shorthand for an American future that includes lowered living standards, slow growth and high unemployment. Joblessness now stands at 9.8 percent, up from 9.6 percent in October. Add workers who have given up looking for jobs and people forced to work part time and the rate climbs to 17 percent, a powerful reason for declining optimism.

But it’s not the only one. A slew of studies, surveys and reports show that a growing number of Americans – some surveys say more than half – no longer believe that their country is a land of unlimited opportunity, where all it takes to rise to success is hard work and determination.

“The end of American optimism,” as a headline over an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal proclaimed this summer, has not quite arrived. But Americans increasingly believe that the rich just get richer and the poor just get poorer. They have good reason to think so. The rich-poor gap in the United States is wider than in any other developed country.

That has rarely been a matter of concern for most Americans but the recession that began in December 2007 turned inequality into a topic of public debate, on occasion with peculiar twists.

In November, a widely-read New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, compared the United States to Latin American banana republics. To see countries where the richest one percent take home more than a fifth of the national income, he said, it was no longer necessary to leave the U.S.

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