Daily Archives: November 18, 2009

Police Officer Uses Taser On 10-Year-Old Girl

4029tv.com | Nov 17, 2009

OZARK, Ark. — Ozark police said they were called to a home where a mother asked for help with her unruly child, but the 10-year-old’s father said he’s outraged at the force police used against his daughter.

“I would like to say Ozark police Tased this little girl right here. Ten years old and [they] shot electricity through her body, and I want to know how the heck in God’s green earth can they get away with this,” said the girl’s father, Anthony Medlock.

Medlock said his daughter was at her mother’s house when Ozark police Officer Dustin Bradshaw shocked her in the back with a Taser and arrested her.

“If you can’t pick the kid up and take her to your car, handcuff her, then I don’t think you need to be an officer,” Medlock said.

Medlock said his daughter does show signs of having emotional issues, but she “doesn’t deserve to be treated like a dog. She’s not a tiger.”

According to a police report, the officer was called to the home by the mother and witnessed the child kicking and screaming.

The officer’s statement said the girl’s mother, Kelly Hamlert, told him to use a Taser on her if he needed to.

The officer did shock the girl after he said she kicked him in the groin.

“He had no other choice. He had to get the child under control,” said Ozark police Chief Jim Noggle.

Noggle said the officer shocked the girl for about a second.

Ozark police said it is their policy to use a Taser on someone who is a threat to others, no matter their age.

Noggle said simply restraining the child could be harmful.

“Well, if he tried to restrain her, he might hurt her by restraining her. If you grab somebody, you can slip an arm out of joint. They can slip from you and fall on the ground,” Noggle said.

“I don’t know what kind of policy it is. I don’t think it’s right,” Medlock said.

Medlock said this is not the first time the girl’s mother has called police to take her daughter to a juvenile facility. He said he will now try to get custody of his daughter.

“She just wants somebody to love her, and I do,” he said.

40/29 News checked with several other police agencies about their taser policies. The Fort Smith Police Department said it will only uses a Taser on a person 14 years old or older if they are a threat to someone.

Fort Smith Police said it’s usually the discretion of each police department to make their own policies on using a Taser.

Noggle said no action is being taken against the Ozark officer who used the Taser on the girl, and he said her case will go before the juvenile court system.

White House reports billions of “improper payments” in 2009

CNN | Nov 18, 2009

By Tom Cohen

Washington (CNN) — The federal government made $98 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2009, and President Obama will issue an executive order in coming days to combat the problem, his budget director announced Tuesday.

The 2009 total for improper payments — from outright fraud to misdirected reimbursements due to factors such as an illegible doctor’s signature — was a 37.5 percent increase over the $72 billion in 2008, according to figures provided by Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

In an evening media briefing, Orszag was unable to provide an overall figure for what percentage of the bad payments was due to fraud. He also lacked a breakdown on how much of the total improper payments involved spending on Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package passed in February.

Orszag said the executive order coming in the next week will promote transparency, strengthen accountability and provide incentives to improve the government payment process, Orszag said.

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British Columbia sees spike in severe reactions to flu shot

Globe and Mail | Nov 17, 2009

by Lisa Priest and Caroline Alphonso

Toronto — As Canadian health officials assured the public that the pandemic H1N1 vaccine is as safe as the seasonal flu shot, at least one province is reporting almost double the rate of severe allergic reactions.

British Columbia Centre for Disease Control said it is probing why residents suffered anaphylaxis at a higher rate compared with the previous five seasonal-flu-vaccination programs, suggesting it could be because some people received H1N1 and the seasonal flu shot simultaneously.

It will be several more weeks before B.C. officials can definitively attribute the spike in the rate – 2.2 per 100,000 doses distributed, compared to 1.2 per 100,000 doses. None of the 18 anaphylaxis reactions in B.C. resulted in death.

“It would be fair to say that as more people are vaccinated in the weeks and months ahead, and more data are collected, the rates of adverse events per 100,000 may change both in B.C. and nationally,” said Roy Wadia, spokesman for the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

So far, no other province has reported higher rates of anaphylaxis – a severe, whole-body allergic reaction that can be characterized by respiratory distress, swelling of the lips, eyelids, throat or tongue, and low blood pressure, among other symptoms.

New Brunswick said it had one case of anaphylaxis in the 150,000 doses administered, while Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan all reported rates of serious side effects that are comparable to previous years of providing seasonal flu shots. The Ontario health ministry said the province has had nine serious reactions but could not say how many of those were due to severe allergic reactions.

Canada’s top public health doctor stressed Tuesday that the H1N1 shot is safe – only 36 Canadians have suffered serious side effects, including one death, out of 6.6-million doses as of Nov. 7.

The death of an elderly person after receiving the H1N1 shot has not been conclusively linked to the vaccine and is currently being investigated, said David Butler-Jones, the country’s chief public health officer. It’s possible, he said, that the person had an underlying medical condition.

“Canadians can be assured that, to date, the frequency of serious reactions is less than 1 per 100,000 doses distributed, which is what we’ve seen with other vaccines,” said Dr. Butler-Jones. “The benefit of immunization, the prevention of serious illness and death far outweigh any theoretical risk associated with being immunized.”

Overall, the rate of serious adverse events from the H1N1 vaccine has been trivial: 0.54 per 100,000 doses. The main side effects include allergic reaction, fever and convulsions. Allergic reactions have been reported at immunization clinics, although not as serious as anaphylaxis. Other more common mild effects, such as nausea, dizziness and headaches have also been reported.

The news of the vaccine’s safety was revealed as many cities across the country looked to expand vaccinations to the general public in their fight against a virus that has killed about 200 Canadians.

“It’s important to remember that just because a medical event follows vaccination, it may not have been caused by the vaccine,” Dr. Butler-Jones said. “It may have been caused by other factors, as unfortunate events continue to occur with or without vaccine.”

Andrew Simor, head of microbiology and infectious diseases at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said the serious reactions to the H1N1 vaccine are comparable to the safety profile of many vaccines commonly used today.

“Of all the millions of doses of the H1N1 vaccine administered worldwide,” Dr. Simor said, “there have been very few side effects, demonstrating an excellent safety profile.”

Masonic London: City of Symbols


Illustration by Etienne Gilfillan/Photos from Getty Images

London still sees more than its share of buildings which seem to owe more to the occult than to strict practicality. Number One Canada Square, better known as Canary Wharf, is topped with a conspicuous pyramid with a flashing light at its apex. It could hardly be a more graphic embodiment of the familiar image of a pyramid topped by an eye, a symbol familiar from the back of the US dollar bill.

While Dan Brown looks for Masonic symbolism in Washington, DC, we journey through Masonic London, on a trail that takes in Isaac Newton and Jack the Ripper, St Paul’s Cathedral and Canary Wharf, conspiracy theories and occult forces…

Fortean Times | Nov 2009 Issue

City of Symbols

By David Hambling

Dan Brown’s latest novel sends symbologist Robert Langdon on a new quest. Having previously tangled with the Priory of Sion and the Illuminati, this time he’s pursuing the Freemasons; and once again he must follow a treasure trail of clues hidden in the urban landscape. Dan Brown is notorious for his loose approach to historical fact, and accuracy takes second place to keeping the plot moving. His location is Washington, DC, a city with plenty of Masonic connections. But Brown might have done better to start at the roots of Freemasonry in the City of London.

The City of London, or Square Mile, is history and mythology made concrete, going right back to the celebrated London Stone itself. [1]  Settlement here dates to pre-Roman times, but the biggest influence on the City as we know it today was the rebuilding project that took place after the Great Fire of 1666. This gave London much of its present form and introduced many of its greatest monuments. Unlike the previous random sprawl, which had grown up organically over centuries, the rebuilding was carried out according to a deliberate master plan. Some claim that it was simply an attempt to build on more orderly and ‘rational’ lines, but if we peel back the surface the esoteric, Masonic and even magical aspects of the City are revealed.

We now tend to view the 17th century as a period of scientific progress when rationality broke free from the bonds of superstition. However, that rationality took many forms, and sacred geometry, numerology and astrology were just as respectable as astronomy and chemistry. The quest was on for the keys to the Universe. While we might now believe that science will provide all the answers, in those days the occult held an equal attraction for men of learning, and this is something we can see in their works.

The Freemasons emerged at just the right time for the great rebuilding project (see panel: “The Found­ations of Freemasonry”, p35). They were the latest group of seekers after ultim­ate knowledge, following hard on the footsteps of the “Invisible Coll­ege” of the Rosicruc­ians, which was either a conspiracy, an impenetrable secret society or a hoax, depending on whom you believe. The Royal Society, still an important organis­ation today, dates back to this era and is regarded by some as an extension of the Invisible College. Founded in 1660 as the “Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge”, it originally dealt as much with alchemy and astrology as what we now think of as science. There was a large overlap between membership of the Royal Society, Freemasons and even more secretive esoteric groups such as the Cabala Club.

The great architect of the new London was of course Sir Christopher Wren – astronomer, geometer, Royal Society founder member, MP and architect. He also appears to have been a Freemason. On 18 May 1691, the antiquary and bio­grapher John Aubrey noted: “This day… is a great convention at St Paul’s Church of the fraternity of the adopted masons, where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted a brother…”

Some discount this as hearsay, since Aubrey was simply repeating what he had been told by one William Dugdale. However, the theory is supported by an old trad­ition in the Masonic Lodge of Antiquity No 2 that Wren was Master of the Lodge, and to many Freemasons his membership of the Craft is obvious in his works, particularly in his greatest monument – St Paul’s Cathedral (see below: ‘Isaac Newton and the Temple of Doom’).

Working with Wren were two other notables, John Evelyn and the notorious Nicholas Hawksmoor. The latter was nicknamed “the devil’s architect”, and his Masonic credentials are not in doubt. Hawksmoor’s membership was recorded in 1691, when he became Wren’s assistant. Other acknowledged Freemasons include John James, the second surveyor appointed alongside Hawksmoor, and Nathaniel Blackerby, treasurer to the commission building new churches.


To the builders of the new London, the city was to be the New Jerusalem. Rome was in the hands of Catholics, so London must succeed it as the capital of the true faith. This was reinforced by a popular theory that the English were the descendants of the Lost Tribe of Israel, who disappeared into the West after the destruction of the kingdom in 722 BC. Londoner William Blake – who had a tendency to employ Masonic imagery – was merely echoing this idea when he wrote of Jerusalem being “builded here” decades later. This belief was a help to those who believed that Britain should be a global empire, a true successor to Rome, with a temporal and religious capital to match it.

Several concepts were put forward for the new street plan. All of these did away with the warren of tiny streets and alleys and imposed some sort of regularity. Some, such as the plans put forward by cartographer Richard Newcourt, were simple grid patt­erns. But both Wren and Evelyn had more complex ideas, and it has been suggested that Evelyn’s plan bears a marked resemblance to the Sephiroth or Tree of Life from the mystic Cabala, “the best hieroglyph of the known and unknown universe”. Cabalism was a popular topic among esoteric philosophers of the day, with its mathematical and geometric approach, some of which was assimilated into Freemasonry.

Evelyn had previously written about how a careful arrangement of the environment could “influence the soule and spirits of man, and prepare them for converse with good Angells”. In Cabalism, the angels are the messengers between the physical and metaphysical world.

In the event, practical considerations restricted the wholesale remodell­ing of London to more modest changes. But while they could not demolish streets at will, the architects of London arranged places of worship according to their plan. Wren realigned the axis of St Paul’s so it stood 2,000 cubits (914m / 3,000ft) from Temple Bar to the West and the same distance from St Dunstan-in-the-East in the other direction. Hawksmoor’s St George-in-the-East is 2,000 cubits from the London Wall, St John Horselydown was placed 2,000 cubits from the Monument and Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth is the same distance from his Christ Church Spitalfields.

The measure of 2,000 cubits is used in the biblical Book of Numbers in its rules for city planning: “[M]easure from without the city on the east side 2,000 cubits.” It had featured in modern studies of sacred geometry since 1662. John Wilkins, vicar of St Lawrence Jewry and the first secretary of the Royal Society had converted it into modern measures, creating the essential yardstick for a New Jerusalem.


Christopher Wren is remembered as the chief architect of modern London, but his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor towers above him in occult circles thanks to his 12 churches built in accordance with the 1711 Act. These made a break from the trad­itional Gothic style and introduced a new and alien geometric vocabulary of obelisks, pyramids and cubes. His supposedly morbid interest in pagan cultures and pre-Christian worship have helped darken his reputation.

Hawksmoor’s churches are based on a layout of intersecting axes and rectangles, which he described as being based on the “rules of the Ancients”. His work borrows from Egypt, Greece and Rome – all revered by the Freemasons – and often in a grand manner. The nave of St George’s Bloomsbury church is a perfect cube, with a tower in the shape of a pyramid. Seven of the keystones are decorated with flames, the eighth bears the Hebrew name of God inside a triangular plaque surrounded by a sunburst; the symbolism of this is obscure.

Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth is based on the idea of a cube within a cube. This has represented the squaring of the circle from ancient times, which takes us back to the ideal proportions of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man… and, of course, the Freemasons. [2]

But it is the alignment of Hawksmoor’s churches as much as their architecture that has provoked speculation, starting with the writer Iain Sinclair’s book-length prose-poem Lud Heat in 1975. This describes how Hawksmoor’s churches form regular triangles and pentacles, and “guard, mark or rest upon” the city’s sources of occult power. Sinclair even provides maps to prove the alignments, which are a clear sign of Hawksmoor’s true Satanic affiliation.

Sinclair was the first to connect Hawksmoor’s churches with some of the most shocking crimes in London’s history – the now largely forgotten Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 and Jack the Ripper’s killing spree in 1888. Sinclair suggests that the malign influence of Christ Church, Spitalfields, is so great that it attracts dark acts of violence to its vicinity.

The theme was taken up in Peter Ackroyd’s novel Hawksmoor in 1985, which switches between the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire and a modern serial killer case. Ackroyd, a great scholar of London, playfully names his modern detect­ive Hawksmoor, while the book’s 17th-century architect is Nicholas Dyer.

The idea of Hawksmoor as a manipul­ator of dark forces was further refined in Alan Moore’s hugely ambitious graphic novel From Hell. This involved a unified conspiracy theory linking Hawksmoor, the Freemasons and the Jack the Ripper killings. The Ripper murders, in this version, are carried out by Queen Victoria’s personal physician to conceal an illegitimate child conceived by her grandson, Prince Albert, Duke of Clarence.

Moore taps into an earlier strand of Ripperology connecting the killings with the Freemasons. The oath of secrecy taken by Freemasons includes a very colourful description of the supposed penalties, including mention of a cut throat and the statement “that my left breast had been torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence and thrown over my left shoulder” and “my body had been severed in two in the midst”. Freemasons insist that this oath is symbolic and the penalties have never actually been inflicted on oath-breakers. A number of commentators, though, have suggested that the way the Ripper’s victims were mutilated closely parallels these specific injuries.

Stephen Knight went even further in his book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution in 1976. Graffiti found near two of the murders read: “The Juwes are not the men who will be blamed for nothing”. Knight claimed that “Juwes” was not a misspelling of “Jews”, as usually supposed, but is actually a Masonic term referring to Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum. These are three murderers in Masonic legend who are linked with the gory penalties set out in the oath. Knight’s book received something of a mauling (or perhaps a disembowelment) from other Ripper experts, though it has proved influential, spawning numerous books and films.

Even if the Ripper killings were some sort of enactment of the Masonic penalties, it does little to solve the case. Were they a warning, or was there some other symbolic purpose? Was the Ripper a crazed Free­mason? Or is it all, as Sinclair suggested, down to the influence of Hawksmoor’s dark architectural patterns?

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Congress examines China’s coercive one-child policy

“Abort it! Kill it! Terminate it! You cannot give birth to him or her!” is just one example of the several banners in the streets of China

BP | Nov 16, 2009

by Cindy Ortiz

WASHINGTON (BP)–Congress heard testimony Nov. 10 regarding China’s one-child policy, which employs widespread forced abortions and sterilization as population control methods, ahead of President Obama’s trip to the communist nation.

Witnesses before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission noted that pregnancies in China must be authorized by the government. The hearing occurred two days before Obama left for Asia Nov. 12 to meet with Chinese officials.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of China’s one-child policy, which was implemented to curb the birth rate of the world’s most populous country. It limits women to one child, although exceptions are made, especially in some rural areas for couples whose first child is a girl. The policy has been enforced somewhat differently recently, the commission was told.

A measure codifying the policy, the Law of Population and Family Planning of the People’s Republic of China, went into effect in 2002. The family planning officials “illegally” enforce the law through forced abortions and sterilizations, lawyer Jiang Tianyong said at the hearing. Jiang has been persecuted for defending human rights activists.

In its 2009 report issued in October, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said, “‘Termination of pregnancy’ is explicitly required if a pregnancy does not conform with provincial population planning regulations in Anhui, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Hubei, Hunan, Jilin, Liaoning and Ningxia provinces.”

All couples are required to apply for a birth permit before a pregnancy. If a couple has an unauthorized pregnancy, it must be terminated. After having the limited number of children — one in most areas — a spouse must be sterilized. Refusal results in forced sterilization. If the couple has more than one child, the woman will be forced to have an abortion, Harry Wu, director of Laogai Research Foundation, said at the hearing.

Families that abide by the law and get abortions receive a “One Child Parent Glory” certificate, something the government is using to “beautify” the policy, Annie Jing Zhang of Women’s Rights in China told the commission.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a letter to Obama Nov. 10 regarding his trip to China. “The letter makes the point that you cannot engage in China … without having very serious and candid dialogue about protection of human rights,” USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said at a news conference before the hearing.

Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., who chaired the commission hearing, said, “I believe the Chinese government would respond to the president if he were to take the lead in speaking up in defense of human rights in China.”

Jiang appealed to Obama to speak to Chinese officials about reinstating his law license, which was revoked along with those of other attorneys earlier this year for defending human rights cases.

Smith criticized the Obama administration for its restoration of federal money for a United Nations agency that supports China’s coercive family planning policy.

“It is outrageous that the Obama administration lavishly funds — to the tune of $50 million — organizations, including the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), that partner with China’s National Population Planning Commission,” Smith said.

The Chinese leadership, however, thinks the policy is a great accomplishment, because China’s fertility level (1.7 live births per woman) is lower than replacement level, said Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute. Exclusive of immigration, 2.1 births per woman is the fertility level that ensures a non-declining population.

China’s low birth rate means an age and gender crisis loom within the next two decades.

According to the most recent Chinese population survey, there are 120 males for every 100 females, Eberstadt testified. An ordinary human population ratio would consist of 105 males to 100 females, meaning — by Chinese government estimates — that by the year 2020 there will be 24 million more men than women. The result will be dim marriage prospects, contributing even more to the lack of child births.

The dearth of children also means China eventually will lose its comparative labor advantage to competing countries such as India and Bangladesh. Population projections show that by 2030, India will become the world’s most populous country, with 1.53 billion citizens compared to China’s 1.45 billion. On top of that, China’s shrinking working-age population will have to shoulder an increasing workload (financial and otherwise) of caring for a massively elderly population.

Chinese demographers also predict that in 2025 there will be a generation of only children in China, Eberstadt said. These children will have no siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins.

“It’s as if we’re all going to be privileged to watch a sort of science-fiction movie that will be playing out on our watch. We have never seen anything like this before,” said Eberstadt.

At the age of 35, Feng Junhua was in her ninth month of pregnancy when she was forced to have an abortion by family planning officials in June in Guan county of Shandong province. The injection that aborted the child caused hemorrhaging and killed Feng, according to the CECC report.

“We believe this is the worst women’s rights violation in the history of the world. Forced abortion … is a crime against humanity,” Smith said.

Families or women who refuse to have an abortion are charged a hefty fine or get their homes destroyed by the government.

“They went to their home, took their valuables, their beds … their tractors, their TV, their clothing. Those that don’t have anything left, [they] took … their children,” Jing Zhang of Women’s Rights in China said at the hearing. “The same method that was used in [the 1989] Tiananmen Square massacre now is being repeated in various, different villages.”

More than 500 Chinese women commit suicide every day, according to worldhealthcare.org, Smith said. The suicide rate for women is three times higher than that of men.

“I don’t think that this suicide rate is unconnected to the forced abortion in China,” Reggie Littlejohn, an expert on the policy for Human Rights Without Frontiers, said at the news conference before the hearing.

“Abort it! Kill it! Terminate it! You cannot give birth to him or her!” is just one example of the several banners in the streets of China that the Family Planning Commission uses to promote the policy, Wu said in his written testimony.

CNN reporter detained in Shanghai over Obama-Mao T-shirt

A worker dries shirts bearing an image of U.S. President Barack Obama’s face over that of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong at a shirt printing factory located on the outskirts of Beijing October 30, 2009. CHINA/USA REUTERS/David Gray/Files

AFP | Nov 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — A CNN correspondent said Monday she was detained byChinese security guards in Shanghai for two hours for displaying a T-shirt on camera depicting US President Barack Obama as Mao Zedong.

Emily Chang, a Beijing-based correspondent for the US television network, said in a blog post on CNN.com that she hunted down the shirt after hearing they had been banned amid fears they “may offend the American president.”

The shirt shows Obama, who is making his first visit to China as president, in a Red Army uniform staring into the distance in a pose made famous by the former Chinese leader.

The front of the shirt says “Serve the People” in Chinese, Chang said. “Oba-Mao” is written on the back in English.

Chang said she held the shirt up to the camera while filming a story in a Shanghai market.

“Two security guards happened to pass by at the moment I announced to the camera: ‘This is the T-shirt everybody is talking about,'” she said.

“And that was it. They scrambled towards us and tried to pry the shirt out of my hands,” Chang said. “I didn’t give in.

“There was a bit of yelling and quite a scuffle,” she said, adding that CNN “had everything on tape.”

“We ended up being detained for two hours in the cold, maze of a market,” she said. “A crowd gathered round. More security and then police showed up.

“They wanted our press cards, our passports, but most of all, they wanted the shirt,” she said. “Finally, they let us go. Phew!”

Chang refused to surrender the offending shirt and joked that a number of jealous White House and CNN colleagues had tried to “bribe” her for it.

Obama in China: Not an opera, more of an awkward meeting with your banker

President Barack Obama (2nd R) attends a State Dinner Reception with China’s National People’s Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo (L) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (2nd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 17, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

seattletimes.nwsource.com | Nov 17, 2009

by Jon Talton

Top of the News: More than ever, expectations are low for President Obama’s trip to China. With China (and even the EU) pulling out of the great recession faster than America, and with China holding trillions in American debt, what is there to talk about?

Plenty, of course. And wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall if the president brings up China’s currency manipulation, intellectual property, protectionism — especially in sustainable energy — and its looming environmental crash. Instead, from reports I’ve read, he’s explaining to our Chinese lenders “in detail” how health care legislation would affect the budget deficit. That’s what happens when you’re the debtor. A new world order.

Better numbers from China don’t translate into a restart of the great American consumer engine. And Chinese policies help stifle American exports. West Coast ports are still suffering — although Seattle and Tacoma are not as vulnerable as the mega-port of LA-Long Beach. China and Asia are still buying Washington wheat. Still, Obama’s warning to Asia that it can’t count on American consumers as it has in the past may be the most important, and undercovered, aspect of this trip.

National Debt Now $12 Trillion, could top $14 trillion

National Debt could top $14 trillion.

CBS | Nov 17, 2009

by Mark Knoller

It’s another record-high for the U.S. National Debt which today topped the $12-trillion mark. Divided evenly among the U.S. population, it amounts to $38,974.34 for every man, woman and child.

Technically, the debt hit the new high yesterday, but it was posted on the Treasury Department website just after 3:00 p.m. ET today. The exact calculation of the debt is a 16-digit tongue-twister and red-ink tsunami: $12,031,299,186,290.07

This latest milestone in the ever-rising journey of the National Debt comes less than eight months after it hit $11 trillion for the first time. The latest high-point is not unexpected, considering the federal deficit for the just-ended 2009 fiscal year hit an all-time high at $1.42-trillion – more than triple the previous year’s record high.

Much of the increase in the deficit and debt is attributed to government spending outpacing revenue – both exacerbated by the recession and the government response to it – including hundreds of billions in bailouts and stimulus spending and tax cuts along with decreased tax revenues due to rising unemployment.

In recent days, President Obama has spoken of the need to bring the rising deficit and debt under control.

“I intend to take serious steps to reduce America’s long-term deficit – because debt-driven growth cannot fuel America’s long-term prosperity,” he said in remarks prepared for delivery to the leader’s meeting last Sunday at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The National Debt has increased about $1.6 trillion on Mr. Obama’s watch, though less than $4.9 trillion run up during the presidency of George W. Bush.

But the White House budget review issued in August projects that by the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30th, the National Debt could top $14 trillion.

It gets worse. The same document projects that by the end of the decade, the National Debt will hit $24.5 trillion — exceeding the Gross Domestic Product projected for 2019 of $22.8 trillion.

The new debt number adds urgency to Treasury Department calls on Congress to quickly raise the statutory limit on the National Debt which now stands at $12.104 trillion. The debt ceiling was last raised in February as part of the $787 billion Recovery Act stimulus bill.

The debt also costs a fortune to maintain. In the fiscal year just ended, the National Debt cost taxpayers over $383 billion. And that amount means the government is only paying 3.3 percent interest. If interest rates go up, so does the amount paid on the debt.

And we’re paying it to scores foreign countries which hold $3.5 trillion of the U.S. Debt.
China leads the pack holding nearly $800 billion in U.S. Government securities, followed closely by Japan with $731 billion.

Among the smaller nations lending the U.S. money are Luxembourg, Taiwan, Singapore and Ireland.

Mr. Obama has said he hopes the health care plan pending in Congress will serve to curb the growth in the debt by reducing the amount government spends on health care. But it’s a claim disputed by critics who say it will have the opposite effect.

Hong Kong shivers through coldest November in a decade

earthtimes.org | Nov 17, 2009

Hong Kong – As heavy snow fell in parts of China, Hong Kong temperatures fell below 10 degrees Celsius Tuesday as the sub-tropical city shivered through its coldest November in 10 years. More than 30 elderly people were taken to hospital with cold-related illnesses as a winter monsoon sent temperatures plunging.

Tuesday was the coldest day of the year so far with an average temperature of 12 degrees Celsius and temperatures two to three degrees lower in the New Territories bordering China.

Weathermen warned the cold conditions would last at least until the end of the week.

Hong Kong is located in a sub-tropical belt at the southern tip of China where it never snows and only occasionally traces of frost can be seen.

As well as the coldest November temperatures for a decade, 2009 saw Hong Kong’s hottest August for more than 30 years with average daily temperatures hitting 33 degrees on at least 10 days.