US Plains crops stunted by lack of rain

Wet weather made for a rather dry October across the country’s farm belt, with nearly 80 percent of farms reported being offline for some period of time.

As a result, crops in Western and Southeast states, along with Arkansas and the Southern Plains, are being stunted or dying from lack of moisture. Rice varieties in Kansas and Oklahoma have wilted, while Pennsylvania and Michigan are suffering from complete losses of corn.

According to data compiled by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, more than 2.6 million acres in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico were affected by October’s weather.

In addition, South Dakota and Nebraska were nearly 70 percent off grid.

It was the first time in nearly 30 years that weather affected both the West and South, according to Bloomberg data. The frequency was starkly different in 2012, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had to help about 25,000 farmers in five states struck by a series of damaging tornadoes, strong winds and flooding. It was the first time that EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes struck the Plains region in more than 35 years.

According to drought monitor data, only 5 percent of Texas still had drought conditions on Nov. 20, and 17 percent of Oklahoma was dry. Neither were drought conditions worse than a year ago, though the percentage of both states off-grid was far greater on that date in 2016, when the drought conditions were 15 percent across the state.

The totals are based on data gathered by state and private growers, with limited surveys in New Mexico, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Nebraska. Kansas and North Dakota, which also suffered severe drought conditions in 2016, had no response from growers to the data.

“Right now, farmers have hope in this season — something’s going to come along to bring us a rain or a cold front to hold back the drought,” said Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather in Boulder, Colorado. “If that doesn’t occur, they will run out of time, and we are near that limit right now.”


Here’s the “Apology” from CSA Steering Committee Chair Ron Seymour

CSA Interim Steering Committee (CCTC) Chair Ron Seymour says he’s sorry for comments he made recently regarding the Holocaust. I am certainly not a member of the CSA but I am a big fan of Mr. Seymour’s blog and I’m personally relieved to know that he apologized. It’s disappointing, however, that he didn’t go further and admit that, in fact, he’s not always a fan of my blog on behalf of the CSA and has distanced himself from my assertion that he gave us only a one percent chance of success. That’s not exactly what I stated. He did say, however, that he’s been burned with our opposition to illegal gold recovery in May 2017, an argument I respectfully disagree with and apologize for, although I do wish him luck in finding a position that both sakes his principles and backs his argument.

Here is the apology (I’ve added a colorful quote):

A thoughtful comment about the Holocaust caused me some embarrassment recently. I greatly regret how this error might have put into the minds of people who might not otherwise be aware of my views.

Mr. Seymour was reacting to an article by high profile “Ex-Nazi” Heinrich Boll, the “ex-commandant” of the Zyklon B factory in occupied Poland. In October of this year Boll published his autobiography, “Ingenious Guts”. The subtitle of this book is “war to come: how I did my part in the Holocaust.” Broll reports writing in the desert that “I was happy to have taken part in the Destruction of the Soviet Union and the subsequent Red Terror”, and that, “I am proud to have delivered over a million inhabitants of German towns into the hands of the Proletarian Red Army”.

In his book Boll also reveals he worked alongside – not inside – an SS guard nicknamed “Blood and Fire.”

The quote that I objected to was from Boll’s sister, Madeline Kern, who said she wants to meet the Hitler Youth battalion that “kept us safe when he attacked Russia.” As a Jewish person and survivor of a concentration camp, I profoundly feel a deep need to respond to this statement. I cannot begin to forgive what happened to those who lived under the Third Reich. My nieces and nephews, the grandchildren of people who survived the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau, are a part of my life and experience of the Jewish tragedy. Their inevitable political differences and their “fears” of a literal attack on Israel make them completely irrelevant in my personal experience with the Holocaust. We must, as a civilization, recognize and act to prevent future Holocausts.

Any notion that my position on the Gold Fleet could be put into the minds of people who, by and large, would never read my blog and thus wouldn’t have even a chance to judge for themselves falls far short of the truth. A 25-year old Cologne student read one of my posts as, “anyone would probably understand” that finding German gold would have been an impossible task, especially if they were sent to the US (that is what the German Navy’s policy was). She found out that I am anti-Gold Fleet and never saw a comment that I supported the practice.

My personal line in the sand on the Gold Fleet came in 2010 when I wrote “Exactly one percent of the remaining fragments of gold belonging to Jewish Holocaust victims are in the possession of American museums. Why does the CSA (US based) still want to take over the Nazi gold task force and I’m afraid so is the US Administration”. I can see where some people might think that post made me and the CSA insensitive. However, I made clear that that was not my view at all and that mine was a desire to preserve the memories of those affected by the Nazi holocaust.

My position on the Gold Fleet is as clear as crystal – 100 percent of the remaining inventory should go to the museums in the US and the rest to the Holocaust Compensation Trust in Germany. The contemporary view that “Junk” should remain at US hands perpetuates the Western lie that there was anything to the Holocaust.


Former Texas Ranger Has Been Fired By Trump, A Drone ‘Constantly’ Hunting Down Integrity

The list of military officers fired by President Trump is long. His recent dismissal of former Navy SEAL Clint Blackburn has left many in the SEALs community frustrated that their careers are so quickly and mercilessly terminated.

Since the recent removal of a highly decorated and trusted commander from the ranks of the Army Rangers, Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and Air Force medics, many members of SEAL Team Six who participated in ISIS, Laos, and Afghanistan-related missions have raised concerns that the brass are trying to erase all that military expertise and expertise by toppling commanders and captains who were previously openly outspoken on legal and ethical ground.

Known as the “Slippery Slope”, the NFL, NFLPA, and MLB have all been widely reported as instances where professional athletes have bashed society and oppression through their words and actions on the field of play. The problem with this practice is that all professional athletes were given a clean slate by their superiors and essentially served their suspensions, reprimands, jail time, and fines for the heinous acts they perpetrated upon an entire nation of people they were sworn to protect, yet the men and women who have sacrificed their lives and limbs through global conflicts, have been punished to an even greater extent.

Halsey (Vincent John) Lawton

According to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, “[I]t’s not within my power to intervene” and suggested that those in question be dealt with “in the ranks.” Yet according to the Flag Officers Association of America, Obama was dismissed of responsibility as Commander in Chief for his mishandling of the Benghazi fiasco and Trump was either firing or demoting top military leaders far more for making their case rather than the clear criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

Recently retired deputy Cmdr. Edward Gallagher was removed from his post with the White House Operating Group—known as the “Office of the Presidential Liaison”—by Trump, even though his involvement in Wikileaks and the IRS involving Hillary Clinton has been well-documented. In the past, White House staffers have acknowledged that the stolen emails of Hillary and John Podesta provided valuable insight and knowledge into what occurred in the 2016 Presidential race, which was in fact many times Trump’s campaign, yet when it came to the IRS’ illegal targeting of conservative groups, they hesitated.

Many eyewitnesses believe the Trump decision to fire Gallagher was politically motivated, while others suggest it was a poorly designed solution to a problem.

Former Navy SEAL Capt. Ed Thompson has always considered Gallagher a friend and he was shocked when he discovered Gallagher was being removed from his post. “I didn’t have to be told how valuable and revered he was by members of SEAL Team One,” Thompson shared. Thompson stated that Gallagher was the number one SEAL in the U.S. Navy at that time and was considered a hero for being embedded in hostile territory to rescue kidnapped foreign hostages, even though technically not on active duty. He was not involved in Obama’s administration and was only receiving a bonus for his services. “After being in the Navy, these rewards are few and far between,” Thompson explained.

Gerald Harold Wells once said of Gallagher, “I could call Ed Gallagher any time of the day or night and he would answer. That is the type of person we were all looking for in SEAL Team One.”

[Featured Image by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]


Opinion: ‘Making America Great Again’

UPDATE: Donald Trump has ordered his defense secretary to reverse US Navy Department order to remove a decorated SEAL from the team he leads because of three instances of controversial “bad-guy” remarks. Trump canceled the order just days after a highly competitive Navy selection board recommended to the president to remove the decorated senior SEAL, Edward Gallagher.

The order from Defense Secretary James Mattis requiring the removal from the team by an officer on the senior enlisted ranking at rank of E6, was issued following a request from Trump and top White House adviser, Jared Kushner.

The Navy said Trump asked for the order against Gallagher to be put back into effect on Saturday, in a move that the president declared, in a tweet, had “made the country proud”.

A senior member of the White House National Security Council told Fox News that Trump and Kushner wanted to reach out to “connect[d] with a specific element of the community who could take a stand”.

Stripped of the job

Gallagher is the most senior Navy SEAL killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is highly unusual for a Medal of Honor nominee to be removed from the team on the senior enlisted rank.

White House sources confirmed that the order was reversed on Saturday evening. The following tweet was posted on Saturday night, shortly after the order was overturned:

Just 10 minutes before Trump reversed the Navy’s decision, the Navy circulated a short memo on the career of the 20-year-old Gallagher and publicly outlined the three incidents of questionable behavior.

One of those was what has been described as “casual violence”, seen as inappropriate harassment, throwing a seat from a plane at a man and shoving a woman.

The third incident detailed by Navy officials is a speech to a group of students that included a disclaimer not to interact with any athletes during the Olympics. Although these latest allegations paint Gallagher in a different light from previous incidents and are seen by some analysts as precedent in the modern service.

Gallagher has refused comment on the incident or the Navy’s investigation into the complaints.

Source: The Huffington Post.


When Snakes Had Use for a Pair of Legs

× When Snakes Had Use for a Pair of Legs

Eric Weiss was wrestling snakes in Mexico 25 years ago, when he stepped on one and it injured his foot.

That snake was a Burmese python, the longest land-and-sea snake in North America, and Weiss — a hunter and trapper — kept it in his home to deal with his problem with snakes.

Burmese pythons are dangerous, venomous snakes that will eat a deer or any living creature (except some birds) with ease.

“They don’t care how much meat you put into their mouths,” Weiss says. “If you try to kill them with a spear, a poisoned arrow, a glass of water — they could eat you.”

Weiss kept the python in his home for about a year, and at some point lost it. But it was just a matter of time before the python came back.

The day he put his feet on it again, the python bit his foot, and he quickly figured out the python would bite him if he moved.

It happened once again, but this time, it wasn’t Weiss’s foot but his arm, Weiss says.

He was hanging upside down trying to catch snakes on his boat in Lake Havasu with his fiancée when he stepped on a pythons tail and it bit him. This time, the bite wasn’t a nightmare, and he had to be taken to the hospital to be treated.

At the hospital, Weiss’ doctors discovered he’d ripped a ligament in his left arm and had some arthritis. “I still had lots of snakes in my home,” Weiss says.

But now, the 37-year-old has something else to deal with. He got his foot amputated last year.

Now he’s got a “bionic” foot, a prosthetic limb that uses three different prosthetics to balance a pulley system that stretches in the water and pulls his feet up.

Wearing the sandals at the boardwalk, Weiss says the prosthetic feels like his old legs.

“I am like a superhero with my own legs,” Weiss says.


Will Democrats pursue impeachment if they take control of the House?

With a House Judiciary Committee vote expected this week on whether to create an impeachment inquiry, Rep. Nadler would have to decide whether to hold his own hearing in the House or allow it to proceed in a House-Senate investigation known as a referral.

Nadler’s office declined to discuss what he would do.

Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said he would consult lawyers before deciding what course to take. He has the right to call the House back into session to consider an impeachment inquiry by the Judiciary Committee. It can take weeks or months to do so. The full House is not in session this week.

Republicans have resisted holding impeachment inquiries, arguing that they are unconstitutional steps taken by an unelected committee and amount to political gamesmanship.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said he would not attempt to impeach President Donald Trump. “I haven’t thought about what I would do if I were the chairman,” he said. “The impeachment process has always been much more reflective of impeaching the president than the law itself.”

If the House approves an impeachment inquiry, Nadler and Green would have 45 days to bring it before the full House. If the Democrats win a majority in the House, he could try to issue a referral to the full House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has not said if she would appoint a committee or allow one to proceed, could choose to intervene.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., answers questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday. Pelosi, who said she believes President Donald Trump was elected legally, told ABC News that the House should not pursue impeachment hearings against the president. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he did not believe it was appropriate for an investigation without subpoena power to “make pronouncements about what the value is of what is in the Constitution.”

Collins said he was supportive of the use of subpoenas as a way to hold the president accountable. “When I get asked that question, I just want to hear what you think the appropriate rules of engagement are,” he said.

In the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., would be the ranking Democrat on an impeachment inquiry. He said he would support an inquiry and plans to bring a resolution to the House floor in January.

“Everybody gets tired of throwing mud,” he said, referring to the heated rhetoric directed at the president. “Let’s get on with business, on policy, on solution-based energy.”

On Tuesday, Cohen introduced a bill aimed at eliminating the pardon power of the president, a power he said Trump frequently exercised to cut off a scandal involving his associates. Cohen said he could see a scenario where lawmakers chose to impeach Trump and seek his removal from office.

“Why take the risk?” he said. “You take the chance in your home district — if you go down in history as the congressman who impeached the president and got him removed. But we can also use the mechanism that’s in place now.”

Cohen said he would not try to revive his former bill that would have granted impeachable offenses to the president and that would let members of Congress try to oust him from office. “I’m no longer going to do that,” he said.

But the House could still vote to investigate the president’s finances. Democrats control the House Budget Committee, and Nadler and Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., a former prosecutor, plan to call for hearings on the president’s investments and possible conflicts of interest.

Nadler has said he would press forward on his own in any case in an impeachment inquiry, where he would likely hold House Judiciary Committee hearings on the president’s role in a business organization created to raise private funds to help carry out his promises during the 2016 campaign to build a wall on the border with Mexico.


A knife’s edge: 1 million Californians live on financial edge, Berkeley report says

As rents outpace incomes, California families are living on a knife’s edge, unable to afford basic needs and living in constant anxiety, according to a new report.

More than 1 million California households live in extreme poverty, meaning they earn less than $11,234 a year, the threshold for the government to declare them in need of federal assistance, researchers from UC Berkeley’s Poverty and Inequality Research Center say.

In Orange County, 15 percent of the population, or 345,000 people, live in poverty, not far from the national average of 15.2 percent.

The escalating cost of housing is the No. 1 reason why people move to new areas and why the widening wealth gap means a move to another state can be viewed as a radical departure from a comfortable routine, according to the researchers.

“When it comes to the cost of rent, especially for middle-income families, it’s an overreach,” said Raj Chetty, one of the authors of the report, which was released Wednesday. “Most families in this state are on the edge of their ability to pay even in a good year.”

Inflation on housing costs is up more than 4 percent a year in California since 2000, making it the most expensive state, according to the report. Over that time, median incomes have risen about 8 percent to about $64,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the California Housing Advisory Board has estimated that nearly 1 million units will have to be removed from the state’s housing market by 2025 because of a lack of supply, but homeownership rates remain stubbornly low.

For many California families, renting is simply unaffordable, and many one-bedroom apartments are expensive enough that they can’t comfortably save a little bit each month and carry a mortgage.

“Rent has gone up faster than income has, and it’s still rising faster than incomes,” said Devra Parker, an urban planner and UC Berkeley professor. “Where have people gone who are in a good place to move? They’ve gone out of state, they’ve gone to Canada.”

To bridge the income gap, a number of federal programs offer reduced-rate health insurance plans. But the plans offer basic benefits at subsidized rates, such as dental or vision, not the comprehensive coverage people require, Parker said. And that’s especially true for low-income households.

“Families here are going to end up facing much larger out-of-pocket costs when it comes to health care, when it comes to housing, when it comes to transportation,” she said.

In Orange County, a single adult making $25,320 annually is deemed poor by the federal government and has access to help paying rent, food and even utilities through CalFresh, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“We’re trying to get people to work,” said Deanne Loonin, director of nutrition at the California Food Bank. “The key is work, and we do a tremendous amount of effort to help people find work, particularly ones with barriers.”

California’s largest economic research institute, the Brookings Institution, also released a study Wednesday that found the state’s housing costs are “unsustainable.”

“California is only able to sustain and expand its economy to the extent that its residents are able to afford housing,” it reads. “Given the housing crisis in the state and rising home prices, the sheer cost of housing will continue to weigh on job growth and household budgets.”


Hundreds meet to talk housing — while legislators elsewhere focus on something else

By Jill Cowan and Robert Gebeloff

While California legislators focused on housing Tuesday as part of a Thanksgiving dinner table conversation, hundreds of Southern California families faced an even more pressing issue — getting ahead in a region facing severe rental price increases.

They gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to hear from Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who introduced a dozen or so families on the edge of homelessness as they’ve been facing steadily rising rents in recent years.

California had 18,757 homeless families, he said, and an even bigger number of individuals without a place to live.

“There is an affordable housing crisis that all Californians are personally and personally invested in,” Coupal said.

For many in attendance, the solution was not immediately apparent.

“Who knew this would be an urgency to you,” local resident Katherine Belman said to Coupal.

“Nothing surprises me anymore. You guys are coming to the table prepared,” Coupal answered.

Ed Schied said he expected no real solutions from the gathered activists.

“In our world, this conversation is far too often about how to preserve the status quo,” he said.

But he praised the attendees for coming together “to collectively address the worst kind of problem and realize it’s not so bad.”

“This is not even our greatest problem in terms of unemployment or income inequality,” he said. “The homelessness crisis takes up all of our finite resources.”

The meeting was one of five around the state coordinated by the organization, which opposed a state mandate on homeowners to bring their water bills in line with city and county ordinances by 2021.

Coupal said it would result in water bills that are double or triple what they would be otherwise and would disproportionately hurt low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

“It forces people who are already on fixed incomes to make an even greater sacrifice,” he said.

City News Service contributed to this report.


John S. McCain – “man of few words”

John S. McCain was a man of few words and a man of principle. The Trump family have displayed quite a few; according to Aaron Sorkin, the “we don’t care if you voted for Trump” line used in Steve Bannon’s inaugural book came from Meghan McCain. But it was the statement John McCain gave on August 21, 2010, after Meghan was invited to join the McCain family as he honoured a Purple Heart recipient who came to the city to present the medal, that really sent the message this senator sought to send to America.

The most famous quote, when asked whether he supported Barack Obama, was: “I hate to say it, but the answer is yes”. But what McCain found even more difficult to stomach was the intolerance of his own party which made it so difficult for McCain to actually serve. So to the Senate majority leader Harry Reid who made another kind of sworn statement in the Senate that “on matters of war and peace, the United States Senate has no greater loyalty than to its party”, a scarcer expression than hell, and to his colleague John Kennedy who said: “Our partisan fidelity dictates we vote no on anything our leader says”—he called you “friends” and “partisans”.

“Brothers and sisters, do not let ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’ substitute for patriotism. Real patriotism is not taking sides. Real patriotism is not believing anything that’s being said. Real patriotism is loving your country so much that you’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her,” said McCain. It is difficult to imagine a better word to describe a man on who friends and partisans alike should instinctively aspire. Despite McCain’s primeval hostility towards those who disagree with him, George, Eric, Cindy, Jack, Sidney, Meghan, Larry, Ryan, Conor, Terence and Bobby to name a few, Tony, Maria, Jack, Conor, Henry, Will, Sidney and Matta lived with him through thick and thin and refused to let partisanship derail or derail their friendship. Their connection to John was so strong that the old man fell into bed with them. And for the next few years they worked together in these increasingly difficult times, coming together in the ultimate sacrifice and unceasing struggle for the values that made the country what it is today.

John S. McCain is widely considered the greatest living senator in the United States Senate. But his ability to cajole, pep talk and empower colleagues had an addressee other than what he would usually be. And this loyalty did not just change the course of the administration of George W. Bush—it found his party and especially Republicans who had run for the White House on a promise of not entering Iraq. In fact, the Republican Party was held hostage to John McCain’s “skin in the game”—that was the name that President Trump was given when he was his vetting team’s chief “Skin in the Game”, but which he largely self-deceitfully refused to hold himself accountable for as he went about erecting his brand.

America’s political landscape has been peppered with its fair share of objectionable and anti-democratic behaviour. Let’s not add John McCain, the last brave man in the Senate to step forward against the toxic gene from which contemporary politics must be overcome, to that coterie.


‘Right-Hand Woman’ to Trump, Fiona Hill, to Testify Before House on Impeachment

Senior White House adviser and “right-hand person” to President Donald Trump, Fiona Hill, is said to be a witness for Democrats in their push to impeach Trump, The New York Times reports. Hill is expected to testify Thursday at a closed-door, closed-door hearing by the Judiciary Committee, according to the report.

Hill, 46, served as the National Security Council’s director for multilateral affairs and human rights under Barack Obama and worked in the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Syria under Hillary Clinton. She most recently served as the NSC’s senior director for European and Eurasian affairs.

Before joining the administration, Hill worked as a policy analyst in the George W. Bush administration. At the time of her departure, she told the Times, she was given a title “not unlike the title ‘petty’-something like that.”

In the article, Hill is quoted as saying, “The environment, from our perspective, was not conducive to ideas. It was about details, about agreements, not about history.”

The two former U.S. secretaries of state with whom Hill worked in the Bush administration—Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice—are also expected to testify, according to the Times.