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Renewing American Leadership in Space

Renewing American Leadership in Space

By Kewt Gingrich

Renewing American Leadership in Space

Occasionally you know that you are watching history being made. October 5, 2017 was such a day for me.

On that day, Vice President Mike Pence stood before the space shuttle Discovery and called to order the first meeting of the renewed National Space Council. Historians of tomorrow will regard the meeting at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center as the beginning of America’s return as the leader in mankind’s race to explore outer space.

The meeting was of course historic in the literal sense. This was the Space Council’s first meeting in nearly 25 years, since the Clinton Administration disbanded it in 1993.

But this month’s meeting was especially significant for another reason. It signaled a serious change in the way the United States approaches and interacts with space. In addition to attendees from government agencies such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and others, the room at was filled with key people from private enterprise who are currently working to break out and lead the world in space activity.

The council heard from leaders at Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, both of which are pioneering reusable rocket technology that will help greatly reduce the cost of getting into outer space.

Fatih Ozmen, the CEO of Sierra Nevada Corporation, spoke about his company’s Dream Chaser space vehicle, which is designed to launch from a rocket, perform a mission in space, then return and land on any runway that can accommodate a large passenger airplane. The vehicle can be used more than 15 times, which represents a huge step forward for regular space flight, space tourism, and potentially high-speed travel here on earth. During the council meeting, Ozmen described a future where you could travel anywhere on the globe in 45 minutes or less.

The private sector’s investment in space is extremely important. Private innovation will help launch us out of the old, government bureaucracy-led model, which has become inundated with red tape, risk aversion and politics, and into a more dynamic era that’s driven by competition, technology, and enterprise.

From his chairman’s seat on the National Space Council, Vice President Pence has the opportunity to help unlock NASA, reform decades-old flight regulations, and make it possible for the private industry to achieve breakthroughs that will fundamentally change life on earth.

I am especially excited about Vice President Pence’s recognition that it is important to put Americans back on the Moon – and that going to the Moon is about more than just landing there. He said, “We will return American astronauts to the Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.”

The Vice President correctly described the Moon as “a stepping stone” for America to reach the real potential of space. In addition to going to Mars, that potential includes asteroid mining, zero-gravity manufacturing, deep space travel, advances in propulsion systems, and other breakthroughs which could propel human beings into a wide-open future.

During his inaugural address, President Donald Trump pledged that America would once again look to the stars and “unlock the mysteries of space.” This first meeting of the National Space Council was an important step to accomplishing the President’s goals.

The council’s next job will be to fully analyze our current policies on space and make recommendations to President Trump on how to move forward. Based on what I saw earlier this month, America will soon be leading the world in space travel – and inspiring a new generation of Americans to explore the stars.

Your Friend,

Source: Will County News

Illinois communities facing a backlog of infrastructure neglect

Illinois communities facing a backlog of infrastructure neglect

FILE - Georgetown, Illinois
The intersection of US 150 and West Street in Georgetown, Illinois.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons


Illinois communities such as Georgetown are coming to grips with a backlog of infrastructure repairs that will mean higher bills for ratepayers who are already dealing with this summer’s income tax hike.

Next month, Georgetown residents will begin paying at least $8 per month more on their water and sewer bill to help the east-central Illinois city continue to fund infrastructure improvements. The situation is the result of past councils failing to properly analyze system costs, according to Alderman Darren Alexander.

Other nearby cities are facing rate hikes by water companies of between 47 and 125 percent, Alexander said, adding that Georgetown owns its water and sewer systems.

“I think people are starting to realize that the council members who are making these decisions live in the community as well, and we have to pay these increases,” Alexander told Illinois News Network. “We’re not a board of directors sitting in some high-rise building and saying, ‘Hey, we don’t care about the people. Raise their rates $50 a month.’ “

The city has submitted its infrastructure plan to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for financing, according to Alexander, and city officials have tried to get the word out about repair plans to residents through social media.

“We haven’t tried to hide anything,” he said. “We haven’t heard any complaining at all.”

Among the key projects is taking care of the city’s water tower, which requires sandblasting and recoating every 20 years, Alexander said. That project will cost $300,000.

Another priority is replacement of water meters in the community that are 20 to 30 years old. New meters will be more secure, more accurate and will allow the city to calculate residential water use electronically, Alexander said, adding that the upgrades should pay for themselves within eight to 10 years.

But the initial cost will be about $650,000, he said. The total cost of the planned water and sewer upgrades is estimated at about $6 million.

Prior to the current council’s rate adjustments and infrastructure plans, sewer rates had not been studied or adjusted since 1988, Alexander said. Typically, those costs are adjusted annually to deal with inflation, which can run at 1 to 3 percent per year, he said.

The new rate schedule should allow the city’s water and sewer funds to pay back the general fund for past expenses and provide funding for future projects, Alexander said.

A 2014 report card issued to Illinois by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the state a “C-minus” for the condition of its infrastructure. Among other things, the report found that 42 percent of the major roads in Illinois were in a poor or mediocre state, while drinking water and sewer systems needed $36.5 billion in improvements over the next two decades.

“Certainly, the investment needs to increase,” Becky Moylan, the ASCE’s spokeswoman, told Illinois News Network. The society doesn’t take a position on whether that should mean raising revenues or simply diverting funds from other government programs, she said.

Illinois’ neglect of its infrastructure mirrors the nation as a whole, which was given a grade of “D-minus.” Among the key challenges for states such as Illinois is that for a long time infrastructure issues were simply not getting a lot of attention, Moylan said.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, who at one time had Georgetown in his district, said state lawmakers regularly hear from communities explaining their infrastructure needs or looking for state or federal assistance to help get things done.

“There’s not a municipality in the state that if you came to them and asked them, ‘Hey, could you use some help with infrastructure needs or do you have projects to do?’ isn’t going to be able to hand you a list,” Righter told Illinois News Network.

State lawmakers are discussing a bill that would fund statewide capital projects, he said, but finding the money to accomplish that goal will be a challenge.

“I don’t know how far down the road we are on details,” Righter said.

The two-year state budget impasse that was broken over the summer contributed to the state’s infrastructure problems, he said, adding that the public’s perceptions of state government will make solutions difficult going forward.

“Among legislators in Springfield, we just approved an income tax increase to balance the state budget,” Righter said, and lawmakers are wary about turning around and asking constituents for additional funds for something else.

“My Democratic colleagues don’t seem to get that taxpayers don’t trust Springfield,” he said. A day doesn’t go by when constituents open a newspaper and see an example of how money is being wasted in Springfield, according to the state senator.

Righter’s advice to local governments seeking to deal with infrastructure issues is to explain the situation to constituents and ask them about the best ways to come up with the needed funds.

“I would say the best advice I could give … is that you’ve got to talk to the public, talk to the taxpayers, and explain to them what the needs are …” he said. “Even in the end, our constituents – they want to be listened to.”

Source: Will County News

Tax Reform Means Better Business for America

President Trump’s tax reform plan will jumpstart America’s economic engine by making it the most desirable country in the world for businesses to invest and grow. By lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, the “American Model” will encourage businesses to return from overseas, bringing trillions of dollars into the American economy. To learn more about the Unified Framework for Tax Reform, visit whitehouse.gov/taxreform.


Captain Gary M. Rose Receives Medal of Honor 
On Monday, President Donald J. Trump awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Captain Gary Michael “Mike” Rose (retired). Rose, a United States Army Captain, received the highest military honor for conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War, where he risked his life to administer lifesaving aid to his comrades in spite of severe injury and enemy fire. From September 11 through September 14, 1970, while his unit was engaged with a much larger force deep in enemy-controlled territory, then-Sergeant Rose repeatedly ran into the line of enemy fire to provide critical medical aid to his comrades, using his own body on one occasion to shield a wounded American from harm.

On the final day of the mission, although wounded himself, Sergeant Rose voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire while moving wounded personnel to the extraction point, loading them into helicopters, and helping to repel an enemy assault on the American position. As he boarded the final extraction helicopter, intense enemy fire hit the helicopter, causing it to crash shortly after takeoff. Again, ignoring his own injuries, Sergeant Rose pulled the helicopter crew and members of his unit from the burning wreckage and provided medical aid until another extraction helicopter arrived.

“[Y]our will to endure, your love for your fellow soldier, your devotion to your country inspires us all,” the President said. “Nations are formed out of the strength and patriotism that lives in the hearts of our heroes.”

Read more here.

Vice President Participates in Commemoration of 1983 Tragedy 
Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Vice President Pence praised the courage of the Marines who were sent to Lebanon to help protect the innocent and prevent a civil war from becoming an even greater tragedy. “[B]ecause of the principles for which they stood and the peace for which they strived, these heroes aroused the attention of great evil,” Pence said, describing what was the beginning of the global war on terror.

The Vice President paid his respects to the fallen and commended those who are currently fighting to defend American freedom.

Creating Jobs, Creating Growth, and Offering Relief to Families 
On Monday, Advisor Ivanka Trump attended a tax reform town hall in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she discussed the Trump Administration’s unified tax reform plan. She was joined by U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza as she delivered remarks to a crowd of roughly 250 attendees.

“There are so many elements squarely targeted at creating jobs, creating growth, and offering relief to our middle-income families,” Trump said, as she continued to tout the merits of the tax-overhaul effort.

The tax reform plan is aimed at simplifying the tax code and increasing U.S. competitiveness on the global stage. Tax reform will provide middle-class relief by permanently reducing tax rates and it will lower the corporate tax rate and give American businesses the competitive edge in the global market. The tax code will be simple, fair, and easy, eliminating loopholes and ensuring that 90% of Americans will be able to file their taxes on one sheet of paper. Finally, the tax reform plan will bring back trillions of dollars in wealth parked overseas, allowing those dollars to be re-invested in American workers, jobs, and companies.

President Trump’s tax reform plan is pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker, and pro-American. Learn more about his tax reform plan here.


President Donald J. Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Retired U.S. Army Captain Gary M. Rose | October 23, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


Today, winners of the National Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards Program will be visiting the White House for ceremonial recognition by President Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. These awards celebrate the achievements of minority entrepreneurs and recognize individuals and organizations that are committed to advancing global minority business enterprise.

Later, President Trump will also participate in the swearing-in ceremony of Callista Gingrich as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. And this afternoon, the President will head to the Capitol and participate in the Senate Republican Policy Lunch to discuss tax reform.

Source: Will County News

Niger Attack Was Likely a Set-Up by Terrorists, Officials Say

Niger Attack Was Likely a Set-Up by Terrorists, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — An emerging theory among U.S. military investigators is that the Army Special Forces soldiers ambushed in Niger were set up by terrorists, who were tipped off in advance about a meeting in a village sympathetic to local ISIS affiliates, three U.S. officials who have been briefed on the matter told NBC News.

The group of American Green Berets and support soldiers had requested a meeting with elders of a village that was seen as supportive of ISIS, and they attended the meeting at around 11 a.m. local time on Oct. 4, after a long night of patrolling, the officials said. Such meetings are a routine part of the Green Beret mission, but it wasn’t clear whether this meeting was part of the unit’s plan.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not address that theory when he briefed reporters on the incident Monday. He said the troops had been on a reconnaissance mission.

Three weeks after a deadly attack that has become a political flashpoint, the U.S. military is grappling to get a handle on the basic facts of what led to the deaths of four service members — and the growing chorus of questions about the U.S. mission in Niger and other parts of Africa.

‘Sneak attack’? New details emerge on the deadly Niger ambush

Among the questions, Dunford said, was whether the mission changed; whether the intelligence was good enough, and why one of the fallen soldiers was separated from the rest of the unit.

“We owe you more information; more importantly, we owe the families of the fallen more information,” Dunford said. “Did the mission change? It’s a fair question.”

Investigators are leaning toward a conclusion that local militants used the meeting in the village of Tongo Tongo to mount a sneak attack, officials said. Villagers sought to delay the troops as they tried to leave the village, according to officials. Once they departed, in unarmored vehicles, militants attacked them with small arms and machine-gun fire, the officials said.

Related: Deadly Ambush Highlights America’s Growing Mission in Africa

The solders dismounted and began returning fire, and were soon facing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades launched from “technical” vehicles — light military vehicles — the officials said.

The soldiers got back in their trucks and retreated about a mile before they were ambushed again. The attackers had trapped the Americans in a kill zone, the officials said, where they could envelop them in fire.

The two separate ambush sites could explain why Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was found more than a mile from the coordinates from which the other dead and injured troops were evacuated by helicopter.

Image: Army Sergeant La David T. Johnson
Army Sergeant La David T. Johnson Dept of Defense

The Americans didn’t ask for help until about an hour into the firefight, the officials said. Once they did, a drone arrived within minutes, and French Mirage fighter jets arrived in about an hour, Dunford said.

“My judgment would be that that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support,” Dunford said, addressing the one-hour delay in the call for assistance.

The jets flew low over the site in an attempt to scare off the militants. The French jets did not drop bombs because the battlespace was so confused and they were not in radio contact with the Americans, the U.S. officials said. But the arrival of the jets did disperse the attackers, the officials said.

The mayor of the village told Voice of America, a U.S. government-sponsored news organization, that residents of the village sympathetic to militants delayed the Green Berets while the attackers assembled.

“The attackers, the bandits, the terrorists have never lacked accomplices among local populations,” said Almou Hassane, the mayor of Tongo Tongo, in what the VOA said was his first interview with a Western news organization.

A map showing the location of Tongo Tongo, Niger. Google Maps

The village chief in Tongo Tongo, a man named Mounkaila Alassane, was arrested after the attack, Hassane said.

The latest information raises a fundamental set of questions, analysts said: Why would a small, lightly armed U.S. unit go into a village sympathetic to terrorists without drones overhead and a rescue force available if things went wrong?

“We know the proper way to do these missions so we can control risk,” said one former special operator who works as a military contractor. “Every time you skip a step or use less resources, you incur more risk. They clearly skipped steps and had less resources than would be proper to see if they were walking into an ambush. At what level did someone accept the extra risk?”

Dunford spoke to the issue of too much risk, calling it “speculation,” and said the investigation would get to the bottom of that question.

“Are they taking risks? They are,” he said. “Are they taking risks that are unreasonable?…I don’t have any reason to believe that.”


 Niger Ambush: Pentagon Updates Why Americans Were in Africa

In some ways the incident recalls what happened in December 2009 in Khost, Afghanistan, when an al Qaeda militant whom the CIA thought was going to give officers information instead detonated a suicide bomb, killing seven CIA officers and two other Americans. The CIA allowed the militant into its base without searching him because officers were trying to win his trust.

In this case, the Green Berets put themselves as risk seeking to win the trust of local residents, officials said.

There was no drone or other surveillance overhead when the attack commenced, but one official said there had been some overhead surveillance of the militants’ preparation of the ambush — including men pushing motorcycles out of the village and then starting them out of earshot and driving them to the ambush site.

But those images were seen after the fact, the officials said, suggesting they may have been gathered by a sensor on a satellite.

Dunford said a drone was rushed to the area once the troops called for help, and it recorded video of some of the engagement. He has not seen the video, he said.

The Green Berets do not appear to have had any warning of a possible attack.

Source: Will County News

Government is Taking Your Home. Will You Take It Back?

Government is Taking Your Home. Will You Take It Back?


Illinois is becoming a home equity desert.

The highest property taxes in the nation are stripping families of both their home’s value and their ability to get a return on the largest investment most will make in their lifetime.

Breaking: Illinois’ property tax system is inequitable, inefficient, and indecipherable.

In nearly every other state and municipality, the property tax system is simple:  A tax assessor produces a value for your home (X), which is then multiplied by a standard rate (Y), to give you your annual tax bill.

For example: A house valued at (X) $500,000 multiplied by the rate of (Y) 1% gives a homeowner an annual tax bill of $5,000.  In this system, there are only two possible reasons for a larger bill:

  • If (X) goes up, it’s because your property value went up, which may not necessarily be a bad thing.
  • If (Y) goes up, blame your local politician for raising the rate.

Unlike the rest of the country, Illinois’ property tax system is deliberately convoluted and involves a variety of assessed values and multiplier rates. Deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphics may have been less complicated, and state politicians are not eager to provide residents with their own Rosetta Stone.

As a result, Illinois families and businesses are faced with the highest property tax rates in the nation. Many have been forced out of their homes. Others have seen the most significant investment of their lives become a liability.

Nationally, the average property tax rate as a percentage of home value is .9%.

In Illinois, the average property tax rate as a percentage of home values is 2.3%. Nearly two and a half times higher than the national average. And families in Illinois are certainly not getting two and a half times better services than families in Indiana or Wisconsin. Many cannot get the services they need at all.

On the West Side of Chicago, one of the city’s most economically depressed areas, a four-bedroom, red brick bungalow at 12252 S. State Street that sold for $39,000 on April 4 had a property tax bill of $2,219, or an effective property tax rate of 5.7 percent, nearly six times the national average.

Cook County’s Assessor says the home is worth several times more: $147,070. 
On the south side of the West Pullman neighborhood, according to a report in Chicago City Wirea three-bedroom home at 12912 W. Peoria St. sold for $60,000 on April 11. The assessor says that home is worth almost twice that amount: $108,210.

Thirteen blocks north, another home sold the same day for $9,000; the assessor says it is worth ten times that, or $95,660.

This practice can hardly be described as “making the wealthy pay their fair share.” Very simply, bureaucrats in state and city government are preying on those without political clout to protect the schemes and systems that keep them in power. They are intentionally hurting those they claim to protect.

As much as we would like to write this immoral practice off as just being part of “The Chicago Way,” it extends far beyond Chicago. Across the state, home values are being eroded as property taxes soar. A report in the DuPage Policy Journal reveals that every community in DuPage County, including its most-affluent areas, saw home values plummet over the past decade.

Glen Ellyn, Oakbrook Terrace and Naperville each saw home values fall 19%. Wheaton has sustained a 22% decline. And in Downers Grove home values dropped by 23%.

Illinois state and municipal bureaucrats prey on families from all walks of life to protect the power they hold in government.

Illinois residents have a choice: either put restraints on government or continue allowing the government to force people out of their homes. Revolt or Bolt.

At the Illinois Opportunity Project, we have relentlessly pursued a small-government Policy Revolution. For that reason, we are actively supporting the Homeowners Defense Association’s (HDA) effort to get a 1% Property Tax Cap Advisory Referendum on the 2018 Ballot. This measure has the dual benefit of protecting the largest investment most people make in their lifetimes, while forcing spending discipline and prioritization at local and state level.

A 1% hard cap will force state government to remove itself from initiatives it has proven poor at managing, and to properly fund K-12 education. The same policy has seen demonstrable success in the red state of Indiana and blue state of California.

The measure is an unequivocal opportunity for the people of Illinois to protect their investments, as well as their families, neighbors and businesses from predatory government officials who have failed them for decades.

We invite you to join us in defending your home and revolutionizing Illinois government through a 1 percent property tax cap. Learn more about the Homeowners Defense Association. Then print and circulate a petition.

Illinois politicians from both parties have proven that they either can’t or won’t be responsible with your money. In 2018, don’t reward them. Restrain them.

Source: Will County News