Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FBI Warns of Terror Plot Against NYC Subways During Holidays

The FBI is warning law enforcement authorities of a possible terror plot by al Qaeda directed against the New York City subways (which I ride every day) during the Christmas Holiday season. You can't dismiss this as another Bush scaremongering. The election is over and the Republicans lost. So maybe we should be concerned. And the administration wouldn't want to frighten shoppers during the holiday season. It could be just an al Qaeda scare tactic to hurt an already damaged economy. Then again we had plenty of warnings prior to 9-11. They just weren't made public or taken seriously. Bin Laden's organization would like to make itself relevant at a time when they are on the defensive.

Federal authorities are warning law enforcement personnel of a possible terror plot against the New York City subway system during the holiday season.

An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press says the FBI has received a "plausible but unsubstantiated" report that al-Qaida terrorists in late September may have discussed attacking the subway system.

Anti-terror agencies say they have no specific details to confirm the plot has moved "beyond aspirational planning," but are issuing the alert out of concern that an attack could come during the holiday season," warns the memo, which is dated Tuesday.

While federal agencies often issue all sorts of advisory warnings, the language of this one is particularly forceful.

President Obama Press Conference Transcript (11-25-08)

This was President elect Barack Obama's third press conference (11-25-08). Read the complete transcript.

PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Please be seated. Good morning, everybody.

Yesterday, we talked about the need to jumpstart our economy. I speak to you today mindful that we meet at a moment of great challenge for America, as our credit markets are stressed and our families are struggling.

But as difficult as these times are, I'm confident that we're going to rise to meet this challenge, if we're willing to band together and recognize that Wall Street cannot thrive so long as Main Street is struggling, if we're willing to summon a new spirit of ingenuity and determination and if Americans of great intellect, broad experience and good character are willing to serve in our government at its hour of need.

Yesterday, I announced four such Americans to help lead the economic team that will advise me as we seek to climb out of this crisis. Today, I'm pleased to announce two other key members of our team: Peter Orszag as director and Robert Nabors as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Now, before I explain why I selected these outstanding public servants, let me say a few words about the work that I'm asking them to undertake. As I said yesterday, the economic crisis we face demands that we invest immediately in a series of measures that will help save or create 2.5 million jobs and put tax cuts in the pockets of the hard-pressed middle class.

Many of those new jobs will come in areas -- such as energy independence, technology and health care modernization -- that will strengthen our economy over the long term. But if we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don't need.

In these challenging times, when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It's a necessity. We can't sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars, on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists or interest groups. We simply can't afford it.

This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. And that's why I will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.

We are going to go through our federal budget, as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line, eliminating those programs we don't need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost-effective way.

Let me just give you one example of what I'm talking about. There's a report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. If this is true -- and this was just a report this morning, but if it's true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste that I intend to end as president.

We're also going to focus on one of the biggest long-run challenges that our budget faces -- namely, the rising cost of health care in both the public and private sectors. This is not just a challenge, but also an opportunity to improve the health care that Americans rely on and to bring down the costs that taxpayers, businesses and families have to pay.

Now, that's what the Office of Management and Budget will do in my administration. It will not only help design a budget and manage its implementation, but it's also going to make sure that our government -- your government -- is more efficient and more effective at serving the American people.

There's no better person to help lead this effort as director of the OMB than my friend Peter Orszag. Peter's been one of our nation's leading voices on budgetary issues. It's said that a nation's budget reflects its values and its priorities. I believe that's true. And I know that Peter will bring to his work at the OMB a set of priorities that I and the American people share.

Throughout his career, he's made significant contributions in our understanding of all the major economic challenges that we're now confronting -- from reducing medical costs, to saving Social Security, to fighting global climate change, to helping put the dream of a college degree within the reach of more students.

As director of the Congressional Budget Office, he reenergized and reinvigorated the agency, while shifting its focus to confront the health care crisis that is not only a cause of so much suffering for so many families, but a rapidly growing portion of our budget and a drag on our entire economy.

U.S. Food Banks Can't Keep up with Demand

With stories that U.S. food banks can't keep up with the increase in people whom are going hungry, it's starting to look a lot like the Great Depression. And it will only get worse if something isn't done soon. Maybe some of those hundreds of billions could go towards feeding the needy. How about the wealthy chipping in? After all, many of the rich are responsible for the economic mess we're currently in.

Donations to many of the USA's food banks are not keeping pace with growing demand as the sour economy forces more people to seek help, charitable organizations say.

"We have seen a 100% increase in demand in the last year … and food donations have dropped precipitously," says Dana Wilkie, CEO of the Community Food Bank in Fresno, Calif.

The group, which distributes food to 200 food pantries and feeding centers, is supplying cheaper chickens instead of turkeys for Thanksgiving, she says.

Nationally, donations are up about 18%, but demand has grown 25%-40%, says Vicki Escarra of Feeding America, the USA's largest hunger-relief charity. Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest, has a network of 206 food banks.

About 70% of new clients are making their first visit to a food bank, Escarra says.