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From: T L Comiskey3/2/2012 6:51:19 AM
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Four Fiscal Phonies


Mitt Romney is very concerned about budget deficits. Or at least that’s what he says; he likes to warn that President Obama’s deficits are leading us toward a “Greece-style collapse.”

So why is Mr. Romney offering a budget proposal that would lead to much larger debt and deficits than the corresponding proposal from the Obama administration?

Of course, Mr. Romney isn’t alone in his hypocrisy. In fact, all four significant Republican presidential candidates still standing are fiscal phonies. They issue apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of government debt and, in the name of deficit reduction, demand savage cuts in programs that protect the middle class and the poor. But then they propose squandering all the money thereby saved — and much, much more — on tax cuts for the rich.

And nobody should be surprised. It has been obvious all along, to anyone paying attention, that the politicians shouting loudest about deficits are actually using deficit hysteria as a cover story for their real agenda, which is top-down class warfare. To put it in Romneyesque terms, it’s all about finding an excuse to slash programs that help people who like to watch Nascar events, even while lavishing tax cuts on people who like to own Nascar teams.

O.K., let’s talk about the numbers.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently published an overview of the budget proposals of the four “major” Republican candidates and, in a separate report, examined the latest Obama budget. I am not, by the way, a big fan of the committee’s general role in our policy discourse; I think it has been pushing premature deficit reduction and diverting attention from the more immediately urgent task of reducing unemployment. But the group is honest and technically competent, so its evaluation provides a very useful reference point.

And here’s what it tells us: According to an “intermediate debt scenario,” the budget proposals of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney would all lead to much higher debt a decade from now than the proposals in the 2013 Obama budget. Ron Paul would do better, roughly matching Mr. Obama. But if you look at the details, it turns out that Mr. Paul is assuming trillions of dollars in unspecified and implausible spending cuts. So, in the end, he’s really a spendthrift, too.

Is there any way to make the G.O.P. proposals seem fiscally responsible? Well, no — not unless you believe in magic. Sure enough, voodoo economics is making a big comeback, with Mr. Romney, in particular, asserting that his tax cuts wouldn’t actually explode the deficit because they would promote faster economic growth and this would raise revenue.

And you might find this plausible if you spent the past two decades sleeping in a cave somewhere. If you didn’t, you probably remember that the same people now telling us what great things tax cuts would do for growth assured us that Bill Clinton’s tax increase in 1993 would lead to economic disaster, while George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 would create vast prosperity. Somehow, neither of those predictions worked out.

So the Republicans screaming about the evils of deficits would not, in fact, reduce the deficit — and, in fact, would do the opposite. What, then, would their policies accomplish? The answer is that they would achieve a major redistribution of income away from working-class Americans toward the very, very rich.

Another nonpartisan group, the Tax Policy Center, has analyzed Mr. Romney’s tax proposal. It found that, compared with current policy, the proposal would actually raise taxes on the poorest 20 percent of Americans, while imposing drastic cuts in programs like Medicaid that provide a safety net for the less fortunate. (Although right-wingers like to portray Medicaid as a giveaway to the lazy, the bulk of its money goes to children, disabled, and the elderly.)

But the richest 1 percent would receive large tax cuts — and the richest 0.1 percent would do even better, with the average member of this elite group paying $1.1 million a year less in taxes than he or she would if the high-end Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

There’s one more thing you should know about the Republican proposals: Not only are they fiscally irresponsible and tilted heavily against working Americans, they’re also terrible policy for a nation suffering from a depressed economy in the short run even as it faces long-run budget problems.

Put it this way: Are you worried about a “Greek-style collapse”? Well, these plans would slash spending in the near term, emulating Europe’s catastrophic austerity, even while locking in budget-busting tax cuts for the future.

The question now is whether someone offering this toxic combination of irresponsibility, class warfare, and hypocrisy can actually be elected president.

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To: Metacomet who wrote (222176)3/2/2012 7:23:50 AM
From: T L Comiskey
1 Recommendation   of 308685 gut feeling is..

This is Not good news.....

just a hunch........................................

Oceans' acidic shift may be fastest in 300 million years

By Deborah Zabarenko |

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The world's oceans are turning acidic at what could be the fastest pace of any time in the past 300 million years, even more rapidly than during a monster emission of planet-warming carbon 56 million years ago, scientists said on Thursday.

Looking back at that bygone warm period in Earth's history could offer help in forecasting the impact of human-spurred climate change, researchers said of a review of hundreds of studies of ancient climate records published in the journal Science.

Quickly acidifying seawater eats away at coral reefs, which provide habitat for other animals and plants, and makes it harder for mussels and oysters to form protective shells. It can also interfere with small organisms that feed commercial fish like salmon.

The phenomenon has been a top concern of Jane Lubchenco, the head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who has conducted demonstrations aboutacidification during hearings in the U.S. Congress.

Oceans get more acidic when more carbon gets into the atmosphere. In pre-industrial times, that occurred periodically in natural pulses of carbon that also pushed up global temperatures, the scientists wrote.

Human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, have increased the level of atmospheric carbon to 392 parts per million from about 280 parts per million at the start of the industrial revolution. Carbon dioxide is one of several heat-trapping gases that contribute to global warming.

To figure out what ocean acidification might have done in the prehistoric past, 21 researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain reviewed studies of the geological record going back 300 million years, looking for signs of climate disruption.

Those indications of climate change included mass extinction events, where substantial percentages of living things on Earth died off, such as the giant asteroid strike thought to have killed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

The events that seemed similar to what is happening now included mass extinctions about 252 million and 201 million years ago, as well as the warming period 56 million years in the past.

The researchers reckoned the 5,000-year hot spell 56 million years ago, likely due to factors like massive volcanism, was the closest parallel to current conditions at any time in the 300 million years.

To detect that, they looked at a layer of brown mud buried under the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. Sandwiched between layers of white plankton fossils, the brown mud indicated an ocean so acidic that the plankton fossils from that particular 5,000-year period dissolved into muck.

During that span, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere doubled and average temperatures rose by 10.8 degrees F (6 degrees C), the researchers said. The oceans became more acidic by about 0.4 unit on the 14-point pH scale over that 5,000-year period, the researchers said.

That is a fast warm-up and a quick acidification, but it is small compared with what has happened on Earth since the start of the industrial revolution some 150 years ago, study author Baerbel Hoenischof Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said by telephone.


During the warming period 56 million years ago, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, and occurring about 9 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, acidification for each century was about .008 unit on the pH scale, Hoenisch said.

Back then, many corals went extinct, as did many types of single-celled organisms that lived on the sea floor, which suggests other plants and animals higher on the food chain died out too, researchers said.

By contrast, in the 20th century, oceans acidified by .1 unit of pH, and are projected to get more acidic at the rate of .2 or .3 pH by the year 2100, according to the study.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects world temperatures could rise by 3.2 to 7 degrees F (1.8 to 4 degrees C) this century.

"Given that the rate of change was an order of magnitude smaller (in the PETM) compared to what we're doing today, and still there were these big ecosystem changes, that gives us concern for what is going to happen in the future," Hoenisch said.

Those skeptical of human-caused climate change often point to past warming periods caused by natural events as evidence that the current warming trend is not a result of human activities. Hoenisch noted that natural causes such as massive volcanism were probably responsible for the PETM.

She said, however, that the rate of warming and acidification was much more gradual then, over the course of five millennia compared with one century.

Richard Feely, an oceanographer at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved in the study, said looking at that distant past was a good way to foresee the future.

"These studies give you a sense of the timing involved in past ocean acidification events - they did not happen quickly," Feely said in a statement. "The decisions we make over the next few decades could have significant implications on a geologic timescale."

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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From: T L Comiskey3/2/2012 7:36:20 AM
2 Recommendations   of 308685
The Big Fracking Bubble:

The Scam Behind the Gas Boom

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To: SiouxPal who wrote (222301)3/2/2012 10:30:40 AM
From: T L Comiskey
1 Recommendation   of 308685
EXCLUSIVE: In '02 Romney Touted D.C. Connections, Federal Funds

By Jonathan Karl | ABC News

In a long-forgotten tape from the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race obtained by ABC News, Mitt Romney is seen touting his Washington connections and his ability to get millions of taxpayer dollars from the federal government.

"I am big believer in getting money where the money is," Romney says on the video, "The money is in Washington."

The video, which was surreptitiously shot by Democratic opponents of Romney on Oct. 16, 2002, shows him addressing a group called the New Bedford Industrial Foundation. The Power Point presentation he uses lists ways to improve economic development in Massachusetts, including "boost federal involvement."

"I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities," Romney tells the group.

And while Romney now often criticizes his opponents for being Washington insiders, in this video he touts his Washington connections.

"I have learned from my Olympic experience that if you have people who really understand how Washington works and have personal associations there you can get money to help build economic development opportunities," Romney says.

Romney has frequently criticized Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for their roles in getting federal money - so-called earmarks - to fund special projects in their states while they were in Congress. The Romney campaign, however, says this is different.

"Every state budget in the country is dependent on federal funding, and every governor in the country makes requests for funding, but governors do not get to decide how Congress appropriates money," said Romney spokesman Andrea Saul. "Governor Romney supports a permanent ban on earmarks, which are symbols of what's wrong with Washington."

As for his experience running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Romney says, ""the whole winter games was a combination of the federal, state and local governments along with private enterprise."

"We actually received over $410 million from the federal government for the Olympic games. That is a huge increase over anything ever done before and we did that by going after every agency of government," he says.

He even cites money one his colleagues managed to get for the Olympics from the Department of Education.

"She said, 'Why don't I get the Department of Education to buy tickets to the Paralympics so that high school and grade school kids can go to the Paralympics?' She literally got, I believe the number was over $1 million from the Department of Education, funding to buy tickets for kids," Romney said. "This way we got kids there and we also got additional revenues that we wouldn't have had. That kind of creativity I want to bring to everything we do."

The Romney campaign points out that more than half of the taxpayer money for the Salt Lake City Olympics went for federal, state and local agencies to handle security. And because Romney so aggressively pursued private money, the taxpayer share of the total budget for the Olympics represented 18 percent, compared to 50 percent for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

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From: T L Comiskey3/2/2012 10:38:27 AM
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A Moon of Saturn....................

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From: T L Comiskey3/2/2012 12:04:25 PM
   of 308685
The invisible welfare state of the top one percent
Posted by Ezra Klein
at 10:11 AM ET, 03/02/2012

Pop quiz: What is a government program? And are you on one right now?

Those are the questions Cornell University political scientist Suzanne Mettler has been posing. For her book “ The Submerged State,” she asked a scientifically selected sample of 1,400 Americans whether they had ever used a government social program. Only 43 percent copped to having done so. Then she read off 21 social programs, such as Medicare and the home-mortgage interest deduction, and asked the same question again: Have you ever used a government social program? This time, 96 percent said yes, in fact, they had.

Most of the welfare state for rich and upper-middle class Americans is, in Suzanne Mettler’s words, “submerged.” (Alamy) According to Mettler’s survey, 60 percent of those who benefit from the home-mortgage interest deduction didn’t think they had ever used a government social program. Fifty-three percent of those with student loans didn’t think they had used one. Among Social Security beneficiaries, 44 percent thought themselves unsullied by the touch of government, and among Medicare beneficiaries, 39 percent said the same. Twenty-seven percent of those in public housing answered in the negative, as did 25 percent of those on food stamps.

The implication seemed to be that Americans are hypocrites, or at least woefully uninformed. But in forthcoming research, Mettler and co-author Julianna Koch dig deeper, and find the reality is more complicated.

Their new paper argues that “policy design” is an important determinant of whether people recognize they’re using a government program or not. Some programs, like food stamps and Medicaid, force recipients to go to a government office and apply for them. Those are the programs that beneficiaries are most likely to recognize as government social programs.

Other programs, like Medicare, are provided by the government, but eligibility is mostly automatic, and recipients have paid into them. Beneficiaries of such programs are somewhat less likely to realize they’re on a government dole than beneficiaries of means-tested programs.

Then there’s what Mettler calls “the submerged state.” These policies are mostly, though not exclusively, tax breaks. They include the much-beloved home-mortgage interest deduction and the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care. Recipients of these policies — and there are tens of millions of them — are rarely cognizant that they’re benefiting from a government program.

But they are. “Indirect social policies offer benefits that are comparable to direct social benefits both in their purposes and in their costs,” Mettler and Koch write. “Both are targeted to specific groups of people, aimed to reward some kind of activity or some class of persons whom policymakers deem worthy of public support. From an accounting perspective, as well, both types have the same effect: They impose costs on the federal budget, whether incurred through fiscal obligations or lost revenues.”

The costs are significant. Huge, in fact. Tax expenditures now cost the federal government $1 trillion annually — more than Medicare and Medicaid combined. And they’re regressive.

There is also a pattern to these programs: The more a government social program benefits wealthier Americans, the less obtrusive it is. We design policies for the poor in ways that make it hard to escape the knowledge that the government is providing help. But richer Americans rely on programs that are “submerged.”

The Tax Policy Center estimates that eliminating all individual income tax expenditures would raise levies on the bottom 20 percent by $931. For the top 1 percent, the tax increase would be almost $280,000. (Notably, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have talked about cutting back on tax expenditures for the wealthy, but neither has provided details.) Even so, many middle class and wealthy beneficiaries have no idea that they’re receiving any government assistance at all.

Not surprisingly, this influences Americans’ attitudes toward government. Mettler and Koch find that the more likely you are to know you have used a government program, the more likely you are to have a positive opinion of them. “These results point to an important but previously overlooked form of stratification in American politics,” they write, “in which some citizens are made cognizant of governments’ role, but others — although they too benefit from it — are not.”

Other factors influence whether people think they’ve used a government social program. All else being equal, a 75-year-old is 28 percent more likely than a 30-year-old to say he has never used a government program; a conservative is 50 percent more likely than a liberal to say the same.

Mettler hypothesizes that such differences could play a role in the nation’s growing political divide. “I think one of the drivers of the kind of polarization we have today is policy design and delivery, because we have these policies where people can benefit a lot from the government but become more anti- government because they’re paying higher taxes and don’t think they’re getting benefits.”

I’m more worried about the role submerged policies play in the budget and in good policy. We’re funneling an enormous amount of money to people who, in many cases, don’t need it and don’t even know they’re receiving it. We’re designing programs to be hidden in the annual budget — tax expenditures don’t show up as spending, even though that’s what they are — and invisible to taxpayers. That’s economically inefficient and politically problematic.

If Americans who either rent or own their homes outright were asked to accept a tax increase of $150 billion in order to subsidize the mortgage payments of their indebted friends, it seems unlikely they would find that appealing. The same goes for asking Americans who don’t get health insurance through their work to spend $100 billion or so annually subsidizing the benefits for those who do. Of course, that’s exactly what’s happening right now, but it’s hidden in the tax code, so most Americans don’t know it and can’t protest it.

It is in part because these policies aren’t visible that they’re so difficult to change. That’s the thing about submerging a large part of your welfare state. Sink it deep enough, and it becomes almost impossible to dredge up.

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From: T L Comiskey3/2/2012 12:13:30 PM
1 Recommendation   of 308685
Must-Read: Economist William Nordhaus Slams Global Warming Deniers, Explains Cost of Delay is $4 Trillion

By Joe Romm on Mar 2, 2012

Yale economist William Nordhaus has eviscerated the 16 scientists who wrote a disinformation-filled Wall Street Journal piece in late January. Yes, three dozen climatologists already debunked the posers (see “Dentists Practicing Cardiology”), as did I.

But Nordhaus’s blunt piece — “ Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong” – is worth reading because he is no climate hawk. You may recall his October article that found “Oil and Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added.” It use an uber-low, uber-lame, uber-outdated “price” for CO2:

We use the social cost of carbon for the year 2000. This cost will rise over time as greenhouse gases accumulate and marginal damages increase. We assume that the central estimate of the social cost of carbon is $27 per ton of carbon (Nordhaus 2008b).

The actual social cost of carbon today is at least 5 times that price and more than 10 times that in the near future (or now, see here). The International Energy Agency (IEA) noted back in 2008 that just to stabilize at 550 ppm (roughly 3°C or 5.4F warming), which would likely still be catastrophic for humanity, you’d need a price of “$90/tonne of CO2 in 2030,” which is to say $330 a metric ton of carbon. You need a 2030 CO2 price of “$180/tonne in the 450 Policy Scenario” — $660 a metric ton of carbon.

So when a guy like Nordhaus slams disinformers hard, that’s a big deal. Let me excerpt his key rebuttals and then his economic analysis:

  1. The first claim is that the planet is not warming…. The finding that global temperatures are rising over the last century-plus is one of the most robust findings of climate science and statistics.
  2. A second argument is that warming is smaller than predicted by the models…. In reviewing the results, the IPCC report concluded: “No climate model using natural forcings [i.e., natural warming factors] alone has reproduced the observed global warming trend in the second half of the twentieth century.”
  3. The sixteen scientists next attack the idea of CO2 as a pollutant. They write: “The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant.”… In short, the contention that CO2 is not a pollutant is a rhetorical device and is not supported by US law or by economic theory or studies.
  4. The fourth contention by the sixteen scientists is that skeptical climate scientists are living under a reign of terror about their professional and personal livelihoods…. The idea that climate science and economics are being suppressed by a modern Lysenkoism is pure fiction.
  5. A fifth argument is that mainstream climate scientists are benefiting from the clamor about climate change…. One of the worrisome features of the distortion of climate science is that the stakes are huge here—even larger than the economic stakes for keeping the cigarette industry alive. Tobacco sales in the United States today are under $100 billion. By contrast, expenditures on all energy goods and services are close to $1,000 billion. Restrictions on CO2 emissions large enough to bend downward the temperature curve from its current trajectory to a maximum of 2 or 3 degrees Centigrade would have large economic effects on many businesses.Scientists, citizens, and our leaders will need to be extremely vigilant to prevent pollution of the scientific process by the merchants of doubt.
Snap. Nordhaus’s final point concerns himself and the 16 poser-dentists misrepresentation of his own work, where they claimed “economics does not support policies to slow climate change in the next half-century.” They wrote:

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls. This would be especially beneficial to the less-developed parts of the world that would like to share some of the same advantages of material well-being, health and life expectancy that the fully developed parts of the world enjoy now. Many other policy responses would have a negative return on investment. And it is likely that more CO2 and the modest warming that may come with it will be an overall benefit to the planet.

I will repost his answer in full:

On this point, I do not need to reconstruct how climate scientists made their projections, or review the persecution of Soviet geneticists. I did the research and wrote the book on which they base their statement. The skeptics’ summary is based on poor analysis and on an incorrect reading of the results.

The first problem is an elementary mistake in economic analysis. The authors cite the “benefit-to-cost ratio” to support their argument. Elementary cost-benefit and business economics teach that this is an incorrect criterion for selecting investments or policies. The appropriate criterion for decisions in this context is net benefits (that is, the difference between, and not the ratio of, benefits and costs).

This point can be seen in a simple example, which would apply in the case of investments to slow climate change. Suppose we were thinking about two policies. Policy A has a small investment in abatement of CO2 emissions. It costs relatively little (say $1 billion) but has substantial benefits (say $10 billion), for a net benefit of $9 billion. Now compare this with a very effective and larger investment, Policy B. This second investment costs more (say $10 billion) but has substantial benefits (say $50 billion), for a net benefit of $40 billion. B is preferable because it has higher net benefits ($40 billion for B as compared with $9 for A), but A has a higher benefit-cost ratio (a ratio of 10 for A as compared with 5 for B). This example shows why we should, in designing the most effective policies, look at benefits minus costs, not benefits divided by costs.

This leads to the second point, which is that the authors summarize my results incorrectly. My research shows that there are indeed substantial net benefits from acting now rather than waiting fifty years. A look at Table 5-1 in my study A Question of Balance(2008) shows that the cost of waiting fifty years to begin reducing CO2 emissions is $2.3 trillion in 2005 prices. If we bring that number to today’s economy and prices, the loss from waiting is $4.1 trillion. Wars have been started over smaller sums. 1

My study is just one of many economic studies showing that economic efficiency would point to the need to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions right now, and not to wait for a half-century. Waiting is not only economically costly, but will also make the transition much more costly when it eventually takes place. Current economic studies also suggest that the most efficient policy is to raise the cost of CO2 emissions substantially, either through cap-and-trade or carbon taxes, to provide appropriate incentives for businesses and households to move to low-carbon activities.

See, for instance, “ IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy.”Nordhaus continues:

One might argue that there are many uncertainties here, and we should wait until the uncertainties are resolved. Yes, there are many uncertainties. That does not imply that action should be delayed. Indeed, my experience in studying this subject for many years is that we have discovered more puzzles and greater uncertainties as researchers dig deeper into the field. There are continuing major questions about the future of the great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica; the thawing of vast deposits of frozen methane; changes in the circulation patterns of the North Atlantic; the potential for runaway warming; and the impacts of ocean carbonization and acidification. Moreover, our economic models have great difficulties incorporating these major geophysical changes and their impacts in a reliable manner. Policies implemented today serve as a hedge against unsuspected future dangers that suddenly emerge to threaten our economies or environment. So, if anything, the uncertainties would point to a more rather than less forceful policy—and one starting sooner rather than later—to slow climate change.

The group of sixteen scientists argues that we should avoid alarm about climate change. I am equally concerned by those who allege that we will incur economic catastrophes if we take steps to slow climate change. The claim that cap-and-trade legislation or carbon taxes would be ruinous or disastrous to our societies does not stand up to serious economic analysis. We need to approach the issues with a cool head and a warm heart. And with respect for sound logic and good science.


Kudos to Nordhaus for speaking up and setting the record straight.

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From: T L Comiskey3/2/2012 1:03:58 PM
   of 308685
2 March 2012

Alabama homes destroyed by suspected US tornadoes

Several homes have been destroyed in the US state of Alabama by suspected tornadoes, the latest mayhem wreaked by storms that have killed 13 people.

There are reports of injuries, and local media say people were trapped in cars near the city of Huntsville.

A possible twister also hit a maximum security jail near Huntsville, although officials said inmates remained secure.

Forecasters also predict storms with potential tornadoes in the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia

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To: T L Comiskey who wrote (222310)3/2/2012 1:06:37 PM
From: Land Shark
2 Recommendations   of 308685
>Alabama homes destroyed by suspected US tornadoes

Not foreign tornadoes? OMG, must be domestic terrorists. Call in Homeland Security.

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From: SiouxPal3/2/2012 4:10:48 PM
1 Recommendation   of 308685
Tonight Bill Maher is new.

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