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Friday, 31 March 2017 17:23

The Obama Plot to Sabotage Trump

Devin Nunes just set the cat down among the pigeons.

Two days after FBI Director James Comey assured us there was no truth to President Trump's tweet about being wiretapped by Barack Obama, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump may have had more than just a small point.

The U.S. intelligence community, says Nunes, during surveillance of legitimate targets, picked up the names of Trump transition officials during surveillance of targets, "unmasked" their identity, and spread their names around, virtually assuring they would be leaked.

If true, this has the look and smell of a conspiracy to sabotage the Trump presidency, before it began.

Comey readily confirmed there was no evidence to back up the Trump tweet. But when it came to electronic surveillance of Trump and his campaign, Comey, somehow, could not comment on that.

Which raises the question:What is the real scandal here?

Is it that Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta's emails and handed them off to WikiLeaks? We have heard that since June.

Is it that Trump officials may have colluded with the Russians?

But former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and ex-CIA Director Mike Morrell have both said they saw no evidence of this.

This March, Sen. Chris Coons walked back his stunning declaration about transcripts showing a Russia-Trump collusion, confessing, "I have no hard evidence of collusion."

But if Clapper and Morrell saw no Russia-Trump collusion, what were they looking at during all those months to make them so conclude?

Was it "FBI transcripts," as Sen. Coons blurted out?

If so, who intercepted and transcribed the conversations? If it was intel agencies engaged in surveillance, who authorized that? How extensive was it? Against whom? Is it still going on?

And if today, after eight months, the intel agencies cannot tell us whether or not any member of the Trump team colluded with the Russians, what does that say of their competence?

The real scandal, which the media regard as a diversion from the primary target, Trump, is that a Deep State conspiracy to bring down his presidency seems to have been put in place by Obamaites, and perhaps approved by Obama himself.

Consider. On Jan. 12, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote,

"According to a senior U.S. government official, (Gen. Michael) Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials ... What did Flynn say?"

Now, on Dec. 29, Flynn, national security adviser-designate, was not only doing his job calling the ambassador, he was a private citizen.

Why was he unmasked by U.S. intelligence?

Who is this "senior official" who dropped the dime on him? Could this official have known how many times Flynn spoke to Kislyak, yet not known what was said on the calls?

That is hard to believe. This looks like a contract hit by an anti-Trump agent in the intel community, using Ignatius to do the wet work.

Flynn was taken down. Did Comey turn his FBI loose to ferret out the felon who had unmasked Flynn and done him in? If not, why not?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger points anew to a story in The New York Times of March 1 that began:

"In the Obama administration's last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election -- and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Trump and Russians -- across the government."

"This is what they did," wrote Henninger, quoting the Times:

"At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government -- and, in some cases, among European allies."

For what benign purpose would U.S. intelligence agents spread secrets damaging to their own president -- to foreign regimes? Is this not disloyalty? Is this not sedition?

On Jan. 12, writes Henninger, the Times "reported that Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed rules that let the National Security Agency disseminate 'raw signals intelligence information' to 16 other intelligence agencies."

Astounding. The Obamaites seeded the U.S. and allied intel communities with IEDs to be detonated on Trump's arrival. This is the scandal, not Trump telling Vlad to go find Hillary's 30,000 missing emails.

We need to know who colluded with the Russians, if anyone did. But more critically, we need to unearth the deep state conspiracy to sabotage a presidency.

So far, the Russia-connection investigation has proven a dry hole. But an investigation into who in the FBI, CIA or NSA is unmasking U.S. citizens and criminally leaking information to a Trump-hating press to destroy a president they are sworn to serve could prove to be a gusher.

As for the reports of Lynch-White House involvement in this unfolding plot to damage and destroy Trump the real question is: What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?

Patrick J. Buchanan

In the stunned aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, America healed in part by tuning in to "Saturday Night Live," just a few miles from the wreckage of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We all felt like New Yorkers and Pentagon employees after radical Islamic terrorists killed more than 3,000 Americans by hijacking four airplanes.

Now, many years later, the American Civil Liberties Union is demonstrating its bizarre definition of "civil liberties" by complaining that the 9/11 terrorists are not having their civil rights respected. One article on the website was headlined "Will the 9/11 Defendants Ever Get a Fair Trial?" Most Americans wonder why anyone responsible for 9/11 is still breathing.

But guess who supports that radical take? Stars of "Saturday Night Live."

The ACLU is now promoting a Facebook Live telethon on March 31 called "Stand for Rights," starring former "Saturday Night Live" stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and frequent "SNL" players like Alec Baldwin and Tom Hanks.

Ike Barinholtz, an actor on the sitcom "The Mindy Project," pitched the telethon in a Facebook video, asking, "Do you wish you could help people and protect civil rights while being entertained by some of Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars?"

Hogwash. You somehow "help people" and "stand for rights" by spitting on the graves of the 9/11 dead and championing the rights of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? The left doesn't care about the lost civil rights of people murdered by terrorists, only the civil rights of terrorist suspects. The prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay is somehow more historically heinous than the 9/11 attacks ever were.

Liberals are so arrogant they think conservatives are the oppressors and torturers, even as they support the rights of terrorists and abortionists who sell the body parts of dead babies. The ACLU has created a People Power project to fight President Trump's administration's "anti-civil rights agenda" of "deportation raids, the Muslim ban, Planned Parenthood defunding and other civil rights priorities." It's very selective about which rights are essential, including a so-called right to import yourself into America, especially if you're Muslim.

The ACLU felt much differently about President Obama, even if their ideology was the same. It took out an ad in The New York Times right after the 2012 election congratulating Obama for accomplishing a lot in his first term but demanding that Obama close Guantanamo, rescind "anti-immigrant federal policies and programs" and mandate that abortion coverage "be available in all federal health insurance programs." These priorities would, as the ACLU executive director wrote, "restore America as a land of freedom and defender of human rights."

This lobby has become a hot property among the Hollywood left in the age of Trump. At this year's Oscars, several celebrities, including "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and "Loving" actress and Oscar nominee Ruth Negga, wore blue ACLU ribbons on the red carpet. During Trump's inauguration, celebrities including Jane Fonda, Tim Robbins and Jamie Lee Curtis hosted a Love-a-thon on Facebook Live to support anti-Trump activists, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

Up next? Perpetually confused leftists across America will host screenings of the movie "1984" -- a cautionary tale of oppression by the totalitarian Ingsoc ("English socialism") party -- as an anti-Trump event, encouraging audiences to donate to the ACLU.

The entertainment industry will never stop being egregiously out of touch with the American heartland. One of the easiest ways to prove that is to ignore the fact that the ACLU is at war with our long struggle to provide liberty and justice for all.

L. Brent Bozell III
and Tim Graham

Friday, 31 March 2017 17:11


Pets are a shoulder to cry on, an alarm clock, an exercise partner, and a family member. One of the greatest benefits pets provide is a 24/7 emotional support system. People are happier and healthier in the presence of animals. Scientifically-documented benefits of the human-animal bond include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being, and sometimes our furry friends don't receive the credit that's due. With over 25 years' of research showing that living with pets provides a bounty of health benefits. These are just five:

1. Better Movement

Research shows that dog-owners get 54 percent more exercise than pet-free people. Other research shows pets can help lower stress, blood pressure, cholesterol, and that owning a pet boosts survival among people with heart disease.

Research funded by the National Institutes of Health revealed that more than 2,000 adults who owned and walked their dogs regularly ­were in better shape, and were less likely to be become obese, than those who did not walk a dog.

Additionally, walking improves cardiac risk factors such as diabetes, vascular stiffness and inflammation and mental stress.

2. Lower Stress, Better Attitude

Pets are even being used to help our nation's servicemen overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pets know when we need them most, which gives us a feeling of belonging and a self-esteem boost.

One study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that pet owners had hearts that adapted better to stressful situations than non-pet owners.

3. A Healthy Heart

Your heart loves your pet in more ways than one. Most studies in this field suggest that cats and dogs can help improve our heart health.

The American Heart Association cites a number of studies that found pet ownership may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some data even indicates that pets help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and that owners with heart issues are more likely to survive heart attacks.

4. Better Than Medicine Allergy Protection.

A study published in JAMA in 2002, shows that being exposed to pet dander early on in life can help prevent future allergies.

Specifically, children under the age of 1 who had two or more dogs or cats as family pets saw a reduction in allergy development by the time they were 6 or 7.

5. Conversation Starter

Taking your dog to the park or around the block for a walk may be benefiting you more than you're aware. Research indicates that walking with a dog leads to more conversations with neighbors, other dog owners, and helps you stay socially connected.

“People who have dogs live longer than people who have cats, and the assumption has been that dogs naturally cause their owners to be more active,” suggests Dr. Thomas Lee, Co-Editor in Chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. “The emotional benefits of having an affectionate creature are also one of the theories for why dog-lovers live longer.”

A 2001 study looked at 48 people with high blood pressure and high-stress jobs who agreed to adopt a dog or a cat if so asked. Half did, and six months later those who got a dog or cat had significantly lower blood pressure when stressed.

The mere act of getting a dog is no substitute for a plan to get regular physical activity, to eat a heart-healthy diet, and to get regular medical care. That said, dogs do seem to be good for your heart in many ways.

“Loneliness can’t be a good thing, either from a cardiovascular or a psychological perspective,” Dr. Lee notes. “I am not going to be prescribing dogs for patients with heart disease, but I certainly won’t discourage them—even if they consider themselves fairly limited by their medical problems.

A 2014 study in the journal Applied Developmental Science found that young adults with a strong attachment to cats and dogs also reported feeling more connected to their relationships and communities. And studies have shown those that have a more fulfilled and busy social life live longer, happier lives.

Historians agree that World War II changed life for American women in the 20th century.

The Civil War had just as great an impact on the lives of American women in the 19th century.

When the South fired on Fort Sumter, S.C., in 1861, American women wanted to do more than just wait at home for their brave menfolk to come home. North and South, women wanted to help the war effort.

In the North, women organized sanitary fairs to ship medical aid, food and suitable reading material to the boys in blue. Many Northern women found themselves running farms and small businesses as their men left for the front. Still other Northern women went to work in factories.

In the South, women also found themselves rolling bandages and making clothes for the boys in gray. They, too, took over farms, plantations and small businesses and went to work in armories providing the weapons of war.

In both areas, there were women who wanted to do more, and they went off to nurse those wounded in action. Some women actually enlisted using mens names and fought with Union or Rebel armies.

Finally, women aided the war effort as spies. Espionage was considered disreputable for men at the start of the war. The idea of one of the fair sex engaging in such activity would have been greeted by horror. But the need for good intelligence was crucial, and men overcame their revulsion when good, accurate information began coming in from women spies.

In the South, one of the most celebrated female spies was Belle Boyd. She was called "La Belle Rebelle" during stage appearances after the war. She was born Isabelle Boyd in Martinsburg, Va. (now West Virginia), in 1844. A beauty, she was presented to society in Washington, D.C., in 1860.

When Virginia seceded, Boyd threw her lot in with the Confederacy and moved back to Martinsburg. At first, she helped in more traditional roles of rolling bandages and raising money for the Confederate forces, but that changed when Union soldiers occupied Martinsburg in July 1861. Boyd mixed with Union officers and picked up tidbits of troop moves and future plans.

She passed those along to Confederate forces.

Her most famous exploit was passing along the plans of Union Maj. Gen. James Shields to Gen. T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson in l862. Learning that Shields intended to destroy Martinsburg's bridges, Boyd undertook a hazardous journey through the Union lines and is said to have urged Jackson to move quickly. He did and, though outnumbered, drove Shields' troops from the Shenandoah Valley.

After her return to Martinsburg, Boyd continued to spy openly for the Confederates and served also as a courier and scout with Maj. John S. Mosby's guerrillas. She was arrested by Union forces and held in Washington. She contracted typhoid and was paroled in a prisoner exchange.

In 1864, Boyd was on a mission to England bearing letters from Confederate President Jefferson Davis when the Union Navy intercepted her blockade runner. She fell in love with Lt. Samuel Wylde Harding Jr., the Union officer placed aboard the rebel ship as prize master. He allowed her and the Confederate skipper to escape. Court-martialed and discharged, Harding sailed to England and married La Belle Rebelle.

After the war, she wrote an account of her life as a spy and also became an actress. She toured the United States and married again in 1869. Belle Boyd died in 1900.

Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew was a lot more effective. A Richmond, Va., native, Van Lew was schooled in the 1850s at a Philadelphia Quaker school and came to despise slavery. Before the war, she wrote, "Slave power crushes freedom of speech and of opinion. Slave power degrades labor. Slave power is arrogant, is jealous and intrusive, is cruel, is despotic, not only over the slave but over the community, the state."

She freed all the family slaves. Hearing that the children or relatives of Van Lew slaves were to be sold by other owners, she bought and liberated them as well.

When the war broke out, she did not disguise her Union sympathies. She asked to visit Union prisoners held in Richmond and began taking them food and medicines.

Many of the prisoners noted Confederate defenses and troop movements after they were captured. Van Lew set up a network of couriers and devised a code to get that information through the lines to Union forces.

Richmonders called her Crazy Bet, and she cultivated that image. In public she mumbled and hummed to herself. She held conversations with herself. She combed her curls less carefully and wore her oldest clothes and most battered bonnets. All Richmond thought Crazy Bets sympathy for the Union was part of her mental illness.

But Van Lew did more than just pass along tactical information she picked up from captured Union soldiers. Among the slaves she had liberated before the war was Mary Elizabeth Bowser. Van Lew got Bowser a job as house servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis and, together, the two collected and passed information to the North.

She was among the first people Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant visited upon the taking of Richmond. When Grant became president, he appointed Van Lew as postmaster of Richmond. Once the people of Richmond realized the scope of the aid Van Lew provided the Yankees, they shunned her.

Van Lew also died in 1900. The people of Massachusetts erected a marker on her Richmond grave that read, "She risked everything that is dear to man -- friends, fortune, comfort, health, life itself, all for the one absorbing desire of her heart -- that slavery might be abolished and the Union preserved."

Other female spies -- North and South -- followed their convictions during the war. They include Confederate Rose ONeal Greenhow and Union spies Pauline Cushman, Sarah E. Thompson and Harriet Tubman.

All these women truly expanded the range of acceptable activities for women in the 19th century. DOD

The 18 ½ year Global Warming debacle was caused by a selfish, entrepreneur who put personal wealth first and foremost in his life, above all reason and the welfare of his Country! He earned a “D” in his only science course. He changed what his Professor said from something that was true to something from which he could use to make millions even if it wasn’t true! He bilked hundreds of millions of dollars by claiming CO2 is causing Global Warming. Yes, you are correct; I’m talking about Al Gore. His professor said that he believed that fossil fuels were causing smog in LA! Gore turned that into “CO2 from fossil fuel is causing Global Warming”, a “giant leap for mankind”, from a VERY small step.

When Professor Roger Revelle told Gore that what Gore is saying is not true, Gore said the Prof. was senile!

Global Warming is all about MONEY! The US gives the UN 5 billion a year to study “Climate Change”. The UN created the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on “Climate Change”. The IPCC decided to grant all 5 billion to Colleges with PHD scientists, who had no jobs after 8 years of College and no money. To receive the Global Warming grant, the College/University had to “agree” that there IS Global Warming up front and to try to PROVE it. That is the premise…a very scientific “study”!?

So for 18 years they studied and made releases how the Earth is warming, Polar bears are dying because the Ice Caps and Glaciers are melting …all unchallenged until a few experts decided to check the RAW data. John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, and several members of the

Heartland Institute ( looked at the IPCC temperature model which predicted temperatures and compared the Predicted temperatures to the Actual temperatures and found the model to be totally inaccurate. How bad? Al Gore predicted that based upon the model, the

Arctic Ice Cap and Glaciers would be gone by 2015!!! In fact, the temperatures over the 18 ½ year period actually went DOWN 1degree Celsius!

How bad? Some Colleges put the Thermometers in fenced in areas (good) but on the blacktop in the parking lots (very bad) !!! All temperatures were taken IN the US but the study is called Global Warming?

It gets even better…NASA completed a study in 2015 that says the IPCC study is useless, not even close to accurate and their(NASA) study compared Antarctic Ice over a 10,000 year period and found that the “land ice mass” is thicker, larger and colder than ever before. Also, Satellite photos of the Arctic Ice cap prove that all the Arctic Ice that melted over a 10 year period regained all that was gone from 2012 to 2013 by regaining 1 million square miles of new ice, in one year!! That, folks, is called Climate Change and NOT Global Warming! Coleman also did a study on Polar Bears and found that their population is greater now than since they started keeping records!

Whistle blowers from the IPCC, NOAA and the former President of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore (google him!), all say their Agencies lied! In 1998 31,000 Scientists (9,000 of whom are PHD Climate related Scientists) signed a Petition and sent it Congress telling them to NOT sign the Kioto Treaty agreeing to reduce CO2! The petition said that scientists do not know the effect of manmade CO2 on Climate Change and they do NOT believe there is Global Warming and manmade CO2 sources have had NO effect! People, what does it take? You MUST read what Patrick Moore confides! He is the founding, Greenpeace President! You won’t find what he came clean about, in the major news Medias!

On 2-4 &5-17, the Daily Mail (a UK Paper) reported that John Bates a high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that “America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015”.

WHY? It’s all about money! Saudi Arabia sells the US oil, they lobby against US oil production and persuade Politicians ($$$) to claim mining oil in the US is bad for the Environment (but good for Saudi Arabia’s)? I would feel very safe saying that ANY Politician who says there is Global Warming or… fossil fuel and CO2 are bad… is making LOTS of money from oil lobbyists or has some other scam working (sort of a swamp). How much was Barack Obama paid to push for debunked/bankrupt Solyndra to receive grant money or maybe a “reward”, and that’s besides the 1.5 million they donated to Obama’s campaign? What did he get from the $418,000,000 he gave them, before they filed for bankruptcy?

How about this, convince people that there is a fossil fuel, CO2, scare and Solar is the only way to go. Push a new solar company as a great investment and tell your constituents it’s the energy of the future. Invest heavy and when you know it will crash, sell!

Like I said, it’s a scam; the facts prove there is NO GLOBAL WARMING AND SOME IDIOTS DON’T WANT TO BE CONFUSED BY THE FACTS!!!

No reasonable, informed person could possibly believe there is Global Warming! Just look at the evidence that’s out there. So why would Politicians push it? There is only one reason…LOBBY MONEY!!!

J Gary DiLaura
Retired FBI

Thursday, 30 March 2017 06:38

End Incentives For Seizing Assets

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan have introduced legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture, a practice by which law enforcement agencies seize the property and assets of individuals with minimal due process.

The practice has encouraged "policing for profit," distorting the mission of police agencies toward revenue generation to the detriment of the property rights of Americans. Paul's and Walberg's bill should unite those concerned with upholding constitutional rights and justice more broadly.

The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, or FAIR Act, previously introduced by Paul in 2014, seeks to shore up the rights of Americans facing civil asset forfeiture proceedings and curb the perverse profit incentives that underline the practice.

"The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime," said Paul. "The FAIR Act will protect Americans' Fifth Amendment rights from being infringed upon by ensuring that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process."

Under current practices, federal agencies, often in partnership with state and local police departments, may seize a person's cash, home or vehicle simply upon the suspicion that such assets were connected to criminal activity. One need not even be charged or convicted of a crime to have personal assets permanently seized.

All the government needs to do is meet the relatively low standard of a preponderance of the evidence to prevail in court -- while innocent owners have the burden of trying to prove their innocence and bearing the costs of legally opposing government authorities.

This has created a situation where the federal government has seized billions of dollars in assets under questionable circumstances. According to the Institute for Justice, from 2001 to 2014, the forfeiture funds of the Department of Justice and Treasury Department took in nearly $29 billion. This provides financial incentive to both federal agencies and state and local partners, who get a cut of the money through "equitable sharing," to increasingly focus on cases with revenue-generating potential.

To ameliorate the litany of problems associated with civil asset forfeiture, the FAIR Act does a number of important things consistent with the values this nation was founded upon. Among other things, the FAIR Act removes the profit incentives involved by directing proceeds of federal civil asset forfeiture to the Treasury's General Fund to be used at the discretion of Congress, rather than federal agencies. Doing this also ends the practice of equitable sharing, thereby reducing the incentives of state and local law enforcement agencies to prioritize revenue generation.

The current system disadvantages the innocent, who often lack the resources to take on the federal government. The FAIR Act seeks to restore the rights of innocent property owners by requiring clear and convincing evidence of a person's guilt, rather than a mere preponderance of the evidence. The FAIR Act also provides indigent property owners counsel if they need it -- no small issue considering the federal government has more than enough money and lawyers on hand to intimidate most Americans.

Civil asset forfeiture defies the very notion of limited, constitutionally restrained government. We encourage a bipartisan effort to rein in the abuses of civil asset forfeiture by working to pass the FAIR Act.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 06:35

Ex-Spouse Social Security Benefits

You've probably heard about recent Social Security changes that impact certain strategies couples have used to collect maximum benefits. And you're correct that one of these changes concerning what's known as a "restricted application" does apply to ex-spouse benefits depending on your age. But the good news is that the basic qualifications for ex-spouse benefits remain the same.

Perhaps even better news, depending on your circumstances, is that your ex-husband doesn't even have to be involved. He just has to be eligible for benefits, meaning he has to be at least 62 years old. And for the record, what you collect on your ex's record has no effect on what anyone else can collect.

Your age, the length of your marriage and your current marital status all determine whether you qualify for an ex-spousal benefit. In a nutshell:

--You must be at least 62 years old.

--You must have been married for a minimum of 10 years.

--If your ex hasn't yet filed for benefits but is eligible, you must have been divorced for two years.

--You must be currently unmarried.

--If you did remarry, that marriage must have ended.

--If you're under your full retirement age, the benefit based on your own work record must be less than the spousal benefit from your ex.

--If you have more than one ex-spouse (each with a minimum 10-year marriage), you can collect on either spouse's record, but not both.

If you meet the basic qualifications, the next thing to consider is when to file. And this is where it can get more complicated because, as with any Social Security benefits, filing for ex-spousal benefits before you reach FRA (66 for those born between 1943 and 1954) means you'll get a smaller check.

When looking at the numbers, first realize that a spousal benefit, whether you're married or divorced, is at most 50 percent of the spouse's FRA benefit. So even if your ex were entitled to the current maximum benefit at FRA of $2,687, your maximum ex-spousal benefit if you filed at age 66 would be $1,343.50.

Now consider that filing early reduces that amount even more -- between 6 1/2 and 7 1/2 percent for each year leading up to your FRA. So even filing at age 64 could mean a significant financial hit in the long term.

You might be thinking that you could file for benefits on your ex-husband's record now, even if they're reduced, and then switch to your own benefit later. That has never been an option when filing early, and it's currently a limited option when filing at FRA. In general, whenever you file, your benefit is calculated as the greater of either your own benefit or the spousal benefit (you don't get both). When you file early, either of those amounts would be reduced accordingly. And those reductions are permanent.

There is an exception if you were born before January 2, 1954. For many years a married -- or divorced -- person at full retirement age could collect a benefit based on their spouse's work record while letting their own benefit continue to grow. So in the past, one could file for a spousal or ex-spouse benefit only (a restricted application) and then switch to their own increased benefit at a later date. Not any more -- with one exception.

A person like you, who was born before January 2, 1954, can still choose to receive a divorced spouse's benefit at FRA, and delay receiving their own retirement benefit up to age 70. That could mean a significant (8 percent per year!) increase. Unfortunately, for those whose birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, that option no longer exists.

While you may not be thinking about this now, it's good to be aware that an ex-spouse is also eligible for survivor's benefits, although the rules change a bit. If you're 60 years old and you were married for 10 years or longer, you're entitled to 100 percent of your deceased ex-spouse's Social Security payout, the same as a widow or widower.

The rules regarding marital status are different in this case, as well. You can be married and still collect survivor benefits on your ex as long as you didn't remarry until age 60.

What you decide will depend on your economic circumstances, as would be the case if you were deciding when to file for your own benefit. If you really need the money now, taking benefits early might an appropriate choice. But if you can afford it, since you still have the possibility of filing a restricted application, waiting until 66 could be the smartest way to increase your options and your benefits.

Of course, you'll also want to consider your health, family longevity and overall retirement plan before making a decision. If you want more information, does a pretty good job of explaining your choices. And it's always a good idea to check in with your financial advisor.

Carrie Schwab-Pommerantz

Thursday, 30 March 2017 06:31

Wells Fargo ATM’s Go Cardless

Last week, Wells Fargo announced that they would to allow customers to use ATMs without a physical card. By upgrading all of its 13,000 ATMs, Wells Fargo will enable customers to use a smartphone instead of a debit card to withdraw money from their checking or savings account.

Wells Fargo has 20 million customers who use the bank's mobile app, they can now access its 13,000 ATMs via their phone. Customers will be able to login to ATMs using their PIN number and an eight-digit code sent to the mobile app.

“Mobile continues to be the channel of choice for millions of our customers, so it only makes sense to leverage it for new, convenient ATM experiences,” , head of virtual channel operations at Wells Fargo, said this week during an employee town hall

“Whether a customer happens to have a card on them or not, One-Time Access Code provides another simple and secure way to withdraw cash at any of our ATMs.”

Card-free ATM transactions will be quicker, reducing the time down to about 15-20 seconds and they can be more secure than those involving plastic. Thieves use skimmers they have attached to ATMs that copy card information and/or cameras that record users entering their PIN, mobile technology is harder to crack. a thief would need both your phone itself and your password to the bank app, and the app stores no personal information.

Thursday, 30 March 2017 06:25


Seemingly in the face of President Trump’s immigration ban last month (which was stayed by a Federal Judge from Washington State, the home State of Starbucks, interestingly), Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said that “The company planned to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in 75 countries, he did this two days after U.S. President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from certain countries… hiring efforts announced last month, would start in the United States by ‘initially’ focusing on individuals who have served as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where the military has asked for such support.’ Schultz also affirmed the company’s commitment to trade with Mexico.”

Infamously, IBM, in the 60s, when questioned about the company’s increasing practice of sending jobs overseas to lower paid employees only to market the products back in the States, was asked if his corporation did not feel any sense of loyalty to its nation, which had made it wealthy. IBM responded that they were not an “American” corporation but a “multinational” one.

How little things have changed since then.... Pick a corporation. Present an image, which most people accept, of being a loyal American business, and then just do what you will because the people will not likely ever find out the actual nature of your activities. Starbucks has a long history of labor issues, including attempting to stick it to Trump now.

According to a May 21, 2009 article by ZP Heller, “In just one day, 10,000 people have signed the memo insisting that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz allow workers to unionize… Starbucks is part of the Orwellian-sounding Committee for Level Playing field. (Notice the pattern of “Starbucks speak.” The company sticks to an “Optimal Scheduling policy" that is anything but optimal for its “partners”, which is the company’s clever name for its workers, even though Starbucks routinely disrespects these workers by punishing them for participating in union activities.)

Starbucks… has repeatedly violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Look at how McDonald’s is now going to “revolutionize” the fast food industry by having you place your orders on automated systems, with no customer service, largely due to the repeated efforts of their employees to unionize due to labor issues.

According to the video “5 Darkest Starbucks Secrets”. “Starbucks claims to support the welfare of farmers in developing countries… but a 2005 fight with Ethiopia’s coffee growers revealed that Starbuck’s socially responsible image is only a marketing tactic. To protect the value of their unique coffees (sold to Starbucks for only 2-3% of what the company charged consumers)… Ethiopia sought to trademark its brands. During the application process, the country was shocked to find that Starbucks had already applied for their own trademarks on the names. If successful, Starbucks would have been able to use the names on any coffee that they sold… cutting out the Ethiopian farmers they claimed to support and depriving them of $80 million annually.

“In 2012, Starbucks decided to boost the variety of teas it offered by acquiring Teavana, a specialty retailer of loose-leaf teas. With Starbucks spending $620 million on the purchase, investors looked very closely at Teavana and were shocked with what they found. Lab tests of Teavana’s most popular teas were tested for pesticide residue, and despite being labeled as such, none were ‘organic’. 77% of the samples tested would have failed European Union pesticide import standards, with one variety containing 23 different pesticides. Most concerning was the finding that 62% of the teas showed traces of Endosulfan, a chemical known to cause infertility and birth defects. Despite the concerns, Starbucks pushed through the acquisition and proudly serves Teavana teas today.

“Responding to growing community discontent over its rapid global brand expansion, Starbucks turned to opening ‘stealth’ locations in 2009. 15th Street Coffee and Tea and Roy Street Coffee were both opened in Seattle as secret de-branded Starbucks. Gone were the siren logo, green aprons and “tall, grande and venti” designations--- all replaced to portray the shops as independent. The stores were proclaimed to be laboratories for new Starbucks concepts, but independent coffee shop owners suspected a stealth attack.

Starbucks move to squeeze local businesses (like the one-time “Lush” European Bakery and Coffee next door in Fort Myers, FL which did not last long) came after their 2008 purchase of Clover, a brewing machine used by many independent cafes. The equipment is no longer available for purchase and owners of existing equipment have complained of deliberately slow service repairs.”

Mark Stiggs
North Fort Myers

Thursday, 30 March 2017 06:08

School Choice Leads to Revitalization

There is now a wealth of evidence that public charter schools, private schools and other school choice policies tend to improve educational outcomes, but a new study shows that they can have economic and community revitalization benefits as well.

The study from EdChoice, a nonprofit school choice organization, examined family relocation decisions for those with children who have attended the Orange County School of the Arts, or OCSA, a public charter school in Santa Ana, California, with a strong extracurricular emphasis in a variety of artistic fields, including music, theater, dance, visual arts, creative writing, digital media, film and television, and culinary arts. The school has an enrollment of more than 2,100 students in grades 7-12.

The researchers found that students' families were substantially more likely to move closer to the school, and that those who already lived close by were reluctant to move away. The effect was very similar to that of employees who move to be closer to workplaces, they noted. In addition, since student enrollment in public charters and private schools is not bound by strict geographic boundaries, "they are probably more like colleges in the way they impact their surrounding communities," the study concluded.

"When families are buying a home, one of the first questions they always ask is 'how are the schools?' The perceived quality of public education in a neighborhood has historically been a huge factor in relocation. 'Good' schools drive up property values, making it harder for lower-income families to access them," EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow said in a statement.

He added: "This case study shows that a quality choice school -- one where students can attend from anywhere -- actually attracted new families to a once-blighted community and helped spur urban renewal. What's happened in Santa Ana could be a roadmap for other cities looking to revitalize neighborhoods and drive economic development."

This is particularly true for OCSA because its numerous after-school arts performances and events bring friends and family into the vicinity, where they dine and shop, but other charters could have a similar stimulative effect. Since quality schools are such a magnet, this is all the more reason to encourage school choice.