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War drums: Rhetoric on North Korea heats up

War drums: Rhetoric on North Korea heats up

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The missile test reportedly carried out by North Korea over the weekend has the Trump administration and congressional hawks making statements suggesting that the U.S. is closer to military conflict with the withdrawn country than ever before.

The White House began using harsher language in reference to the country late Saturday as Trump press secretary Sean Spicer announced that the president intends to first seek assistance from Russia and China in cooling tensions.

“With the missile impacting so close to Russian soil – in fact, closer to Russia than to Japan – the President cannot imagine that Russia is pleased,” Spicer said.

But the White House official went on to suggest that the U.S. could take action on its own if necessary.

“North Korea has been a flagrant menace for far too long. South Korea and Japan have been watching this situation closely with us,” Spicer continued. “The United States maintains our ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the face of the serious threat posed by North Korea. Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea.”

North Korean officials claim the recent launch is proof that the nation is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead that could possibly reach the U.S. or its allies. Experts aren’t so certain but have said the nation is becoming increasingly nuclear capable.

“North Korea’s latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” John Schilling, an aerospace expert, wrote in a publication which monitors the nation.

And that has lawmakers like GOP Rep. Cory Gardner (Colo.) urging President Trump to ratchet up the pressure on the country and its enablers.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is at the most unstable point since the armistice and the administration must immediately ramp up the sanctions track, especially against the Chinese that are enabling North Korea’s nuclear program,” he said in a statement. “I do not believe we are putting requisite pressure against China that is necessary to stop Pyongyang, and I’ll continue to urge the administration to do so.”

Source: Will County News

Our connected society is extremely vulnerable to Hackers

Our connected society is extremely vulnerable

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The most recent news concerning the massive cyber-attack knocking down critical systems used by businesses, governments and hospitals throughout the world serves as a reminder that bureaucrats are largely powerless to predict and prevent these types of attacks. And as hackers become better at exploiting system vulnerabilities, cyber-attacks will only become more frequent and increasingly deadly in nature.

For now, there’s a great deal of finger pointing going on as the world attempts to figure out exactly who is responsible for the current virus outbreak.

But it’s looking increasingly likely that the hackers got the computer codes needed to cripple systems used by so many businesses and governments throughout the world from the National Security Agency.

Here’s a little background via The Wall Street Journal:

The attack involved so-called ransomware, in this case called WannaCry, that scrambled files, and asked for ransom of as little as $300 in the online currency bitcoin to decrypt them. The malware used vulnerabilities in Microsoft Corp. software and a tool that a group of hackers had previously made public, saying it had been pilfered from the U.S. National Security Agency. The agency has declined to authenticate the material.

In other words, the NSA (which exploits vulnerabilities in softwareto keep us all safe) provided hackers step-by-step instructions to install ransomware on critical computers because the agency isn’t even able to keep its own information safe.

NPR reported that the malware used to infect computers with the WannaCry virus was stolen from the NSA last month.

The agency and other U.S. intelligence outfits routinely come under fire from the world’s biggest technology and software providers for creating backdoors which massively compromise customer privacy without informing the businesses that the vulnerabilities exist.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said the cyber-attack currently underway is simply the latest development in this disturbing trend.

In a post on the company’s blog, Smith noted:

[T]his attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem. This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen. And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today – nation-state action and organized criminal action.

For the heads of tech companies like Smith, these government created problems serve as proof that the private sector must become more involved in protecting Americans from both bad actors and the unintended consequences of government meddling.

A Note from the Bob Livingston Letter™ research team:

In a world where technology is tied to almost every aspect of life, the private sector is looking into new ways to protect far more than just your home computer.

Attacks like the one currently grabbing headlines throughout the world are minor compared to what security experts consider the biggest threat hackers pose to the U.S.: The ability to shut down massive parts of our nation’s power grid.

Just last week, President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies and local governments to examine exactly how a massive cyber-attack on energy infrastructure would affect Americans and how government would go about addressing a massive shutdown.

But just as companies like Microsoft are far ahead of the government in figuring out how to protect users from malware, private energy firms began looking at ways to improve the nation’s power grid long before Trump’s order was issued. It’s a problem that government has been trying not to talk about for far too long, despite rolling warnings from these energy industry insiders.

It’ll take Trump’s order months, even years, to provide information on grid vulnerabilities via bureaucratic pathways. Fortunately, with a president in the White House who is keen on allowing the private sector to take the lead where government can’t, the growing energy security sector will be brought to the table pretty quickly.

These innovators are going to play a major role in improving the nation’s power grid and will become part of an energy security industry worth billions of dollars. Our researchers have watched this new sector emerge, carefully identifying the players best positioned to profit as the nation fixes its vulnerable power grid. To view our in-depth analysis of the perfect opportunities for contrarian investors to profit alongside these innovators, check out our recent special alert: The Real Hacker Threat.

Source: Will County News

Get your DVD of the first episode of Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent

Time is running out to get your DVD of the first episode of Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent

Monday, May 15, 2017

 

“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

It’s an old saying, but one that AFA has tried to live by. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about an exciting new project from AFA that will punch some holes in the spiritual and moral darkness that shrouds our land.

Meet the secret agent your kids (and grandkids) are going to love – Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent.

Click here to see parents and children react to the premiere showing of Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent.

Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent is a half-hour animated action/adventure series about a young spy with a lot to learn.

I’m confident that your kids or grandchildren are going to love it. A 13-part series, each episode features a story illustrating strong moral values and a Christian worldview. Moreover, each story presents parents in their God-given roles as sources of wisdom and love. How’s that for a twist?

For your donation today, I want to send you the first episode so you can put it in the hands of a family whose children or grandchildren will enjoy the new cartoon and profit from the lessons it teaches.

Whether you have been supporting AFA for a month, a year, or since the beginning some four decades ago, I want you to know two things that I’m convinced of: 1) God is blessing the efforts of your AFA. 2) He is using your faithfulness in contributing to AFA to push back the darkness in our nation and our world.

Please support our efforts today and get a copy of Ryan Defrates: Secret Agent.

Tim Wildmon, President
American Family Association

Source: Will County News

17% OF ILLINOIS HOMES ARE SERIOUSLY UNDERWATER

17% OF ILLINOIS HOMES ARE SERIOUSLY UNDERWATER

 
Illinois’ sky-high property tax rates and lackluster economic growth have aggravated the state’s housing crisis.

Nearly 17 percent of Illinois homes with mortgages were seriously underwater as of the end of 2016, according to a report by RealtyTrac. The total number of seriously underwater homes in Illinois ranked second-worst of all states, behind Nevada’s rate of almost 20 percent.

Nationwide, around 10 percent of mortgaged properties fell into that same category.

Seriously underwater properties can devastate homeowners, because a homeowner selling an underwater or seriously underwater property doesn’t profit from the sale. In fact, he still needs to write a check to pay off the mortgage. For many homeowners, that could mean the loss of an entire life’s savings.

Diminished property values are a main reason homeowners find themselves submerged. And Illinois’ epidemic of seriously underwater properties suggests true housing recovery continues to disproportionately elude the state.

It also signals crisis levels of residents stuck in homes that have become debt traps.

What does a seriously underwater property look like?

A homeowner who is “underwater” owes more on his mortgage than the actual value of his home; “seriously underwater” means he owes at least 25 percent more than his home is currently worth to pay off his mortgage.

It works like this. Imagine purchasing a home in Illinois for $168,000, and:

  1. You put down 20 percent of the purchase price ($33,600). This represents your immediate equity in the home.
  1. You take out a mortgage to finance the outstanding 80 percent ($134,400). You agree to pay this amount, with interest, regardless of market changes.
  1. The value drops to $107,520.

If you were to sell under those conditions, you’d make $107,520, but would still owe the bank $134,400, or 25 percent more than the home value. Your equity would be gone, and you’d have to shell out even more just to walk away.

Many Illinois homeowners grappling with seriously underwater mortgages are unable or unwilling to suffer losses on their homes. So, they have little choice but to stay put and hope the market recovers. Alternatively, they could walk away from their homes to get out from under the debt. But this would destroy their credit and ability to borrow in the future.

Neither option helps those who can’t find work in Illinois, but can’t afford to follow opportunities to other states, either.

Economic failures have exacerbated the housing crisis in Illinois

Illinois teeters on the edge of an economic death spiral, and the state’s ongoing housing crisis strikes further at the state’s economic foundations.

After the Great Recession, economic winners and losers began to emerge among U.S. states. States that recognized the heightened need to compete for jobs and population implemented pro-growth policies and became hotspots for business and residential investment. Meanwhile, Illinois policymakers rejected reforms and raised income taxesin an attempt to address perpetual budget deficits.

Policymakers still refuse to change the policies making Illinois uncompetitive, such as high workers’ compensation costs, forced unionization, a crushing tax burden and heaps of red tape – despite the state’s deepening financial hole replete with billions in debt, backlogged bills and unfunded pension liabilities.

Residents are reacting to hostile economic conditions by fleeing Illinois, further complicating the state’s ability to bounce back.

In the sink-or-swim of post-recession recoveries, Illinois is the Titanic of the Midwest – the largest ship, by far, but one that is taking on water.

These policy failures have left Illinois without the tools to dig itself out of recession era economic chaos, and Illinois’ flailing economy has had reverberating effects on the state’s housing market.

  1. Slow jobs and personal income growth undermine economic vitality. Illinois’ jobs and employment growth trail those of surrounding states. Similarly, Illinois’ post-recession personal income has grown at an unimpressive annualized rate of 0.9 percent, worse than that of every state except Nevada’s 0.6 percent, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. A recent report by Trulia Inc. identified a close correlation between property value recovery and personal income growth. That’s significant, since Nevada and Illinois are worst and second-worst, respectively, on both seriously underwater mortgages and personal income growth.
  1. Unaffordable property taxes crush Illinoisans. Since 1990, Illinois’ property taxes have grown 3 times faster than the state’s median household income. Property taxes often amount to a second mortgage; yet local governments continue raising them with little regard for property values or the harm that higher rates inflict on homeowners. They’re taxing families out of their homes, while also scaring away potential buyers. In some parts of Illinois, property taxes are so high they’re driving down home values and wiping out home equity.
  1. Residents flee to friendlier states. Illinoisans increasingly leave for better opportunities in faster-growing, more affordable states, and those losses aren’t being offset by new residents settling in Illinois. So, housing demand plummets, and home values remain low.

The housing market can’t recover without economic recovery. But anti-growth policies exacerbate meager jobs and personal income growth, perpetuate soaring property taxes, and spur rampant out-migration – keeping property values depressed, deterring home sales, and financially squeezing homeowners.

Path to recovery

Businesses and residents consistently choose other states over Illinois in a clear rejection of the state’s uncompetitive policies. And the divide between Illinois and the rest is widening. State policymakers must institute pro-growth reforms that stimulate jobs and personal income growth, reduce debilitating property taxes, and stop mass out-migration to ripen the state for economic growth.

Policymakers should start by freezing property taxes. This would protect homeowners against growing liabilities while also reducing businesses’ overhead costs. Fixing cost drivers in Illinois’ workers’ compensation system – which is far more expensive than those in neighboring states – reducing restrictive licensing schemes, and enacting Right to Work would also foster growth in jobs and personal income.

These changes would stimulate economic and housing recoveries, which would in turn help homeowners lift their heads back above water.

Source: Will County News

Trump News May 15, 2017

Today, the flags at the White House are lowered to half-staff in recognition of the Peace Officers’ Memorial Day. For 36 years, the Fraternal Order of Police has honored the memory of those brave men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty by holding an annual service and ceremony in Washington, D.C. President Donald J. Trump is honored to speak at today’s service at the United States Capitol where 234 officers will be memorialized. Additionally, the White House will be lit up in blue this evening in honor of Police Week.

TODAY’S EVENTS

11:00 AM: President Trump gives remarks at the 36th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. Vice President Pence will join the President at the service – Watch
1:30 PM President Trump welcomes and has a working luncheon with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan of Abu Dhabi. Vice President Pence will join the President and Crown Prince for the working luncheon.
1:30 PM: Press Briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer – Watch Live
3:00 PM: Vice President Pence participates in a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – Watch Live

WHITE HOUSE UPDATES

President Trump released a statement yesterday recognizing Women’s Health Week saying, “As we celebrate Women’s Health Week, beginning with Mother’s Day, we recognize the importance of providing women access to the best, evidence-based health information and care, and growing our medical knowledge through basic and applied research support.”

President Trump proclaimed Friday, May 12, as Military Spouse Day. President Trump is committed to supporting and increasing opportunities for military spouses.

The President nullified the rule issued by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration entitled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform” by signing S. 496 on Friday.

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at the Liberty University commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 13, 2017 in Lynchburg, VA (Official White House Photo By Shealah Craighead).

First Lady Melania Trump opened the White House movie theater to visitors to the East Wing, treating them to a new piece of history along the tour route.

Watch Friday’s press briefing with Sean Spicer:

WHAT WE ARE READING

“Trump further reiterated his promises to stabilize the U.S. job market and end “the sellout of American workers.” “I want you to know that my administration is working every single day to create new opportunities and to reverse years of stagnant growth, falling wages, and disappearing jobs. We are ending the sellout of American workers,” the President said. “The Hill

“What President Trump is seeking is to unite people of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress and prosperity. He will bring a message of tolerance and of hope to billions, including to millions of Americans who profess these faiths,” Mr. McMaster said during a briefing at the White House.”Washington Times

Source: Will County News