Has California Finally Hit Bottom?


The Golden State has been forced into a sort of economic rehab after years of runaway spending.

Now, California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state may be bottoming, and there is reason to hope.

Californians just passed Prop 30, raising taxes, but the LAO says the state will still have to close a $1.9 billion budget gap over the next two years. However, there could be a budget surplus beginning in 2014.

“We’re not out of the woods,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat. “There’s a lot of desire, pent-up desire, to invest more in research and development and issues of education and the like, and so we’re going to have to hold the line.”

Newsom was speaking at the Milken California Summit in Beverly Hills, where the issue of the state’s economy and notoriously poor business climate were front and center. (Read MoreJob Opening in California—Chief Economist.)

Proposition 30 will raise the top state income tax rate to 13.3 percent for millionaires. “That’s not a great way to encourage folks to come here and stay here,” he said.

Add that to the potential repeal of the Bush tax cuts. “We’re talking about a tax rate of over 50 percent,” for top earners, said Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Partner’s Chief Investment Officer.

Democrats now have a supermajority in Sacramento, meaning they could raise taxes without a single Republican vote. Newsom said that would be a mistake.

“Democrats now own this. We’ve got to lean back in,” he said. “We’ve got to make a case to CEOs across the country that this is not the worst place to do business. It’s not. But we have to demonstrate that.”

Phoenix is the latest city making a play to lure California business to move out, promising 100 CEOs free flights to Arizona to tour the town. While it sounds like a gimmick, most at the Milken summit say the threat is real. (Read MoreTop Destination States for Jobs.)

“You can’t just take business and jobs for granted, you’ve got to have policies that foster economic growth,” said Russ Goldsmith, CEO of Los Angeles-based City National [CYN  48.48    1.18  (+2.49%)   ]. “When you’re 49th in the country in terms of business climate, you’ve got to do something to make it better. Unfortunately the Governor doesn’t seem to understand that.”

Goldsmith believes, though, that the California economy is turning around. Income taxes jumped last month, a sign of improving employment. But he said his business clients are taking out lines of credit … and then just sitting on them, waiting to see what happens in Washington. (Read MoreStates’ Jobs Picture Improves: Behind the Numbers.)

“I don’t know what my tax rate is going to be,” he said they’re telling themselves. “I don’t know what my depreciation schedule is going to be. I don’t know if the government is going to drive us into recession. … I’m just going to wait.”

Scott Minerd of Guggenhiem isn’t pulling money out of California, despite its high cost structure. “It is still a leader in tech, it is still a leader in innovation.”

But does he think the state will return to surpluses in two years as the LAO suggests? “No, and I don’t think anybody who knows anything takes it very seriously,”

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Atheist Displays Prompt End to Santa Monica’s 60-Year Christmas Tradition

Santa Monica, California has decided to end its 60-year Christmas tradition of setting up Nativity scenes along Ocean Avenue because last year atheists took over a majority of the booths. The city didn’t want to be in the position of refereeing religious fights.

Today, a group of churches plans to challenge that decision in court.

According to Peter Johnson, Jr., the “war on Christmas has begun.”

He said, “Santa Monica appears to have succumbed to what’s called the heckler’s veto, meaning that if you heckle something long enough, you can remove from the public square other people who do in fact have a right to have this kind of scene.”

UPDATE 1:30p ET: Trace Gallagher reports that the judge in the case has just handed down a tentative ruling and the injunction application has been denied, meaning the city wins and there will be no nativity displays.

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Is The U.S. Being Cursed Because Of It’s Present Treatment Of Israel?

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12: 1-3

In Genesis 12: 1-3, we are given a glimpse of how the nations of the world should treat Abraham’s descendants, the Jewish people…Israel.  God tells Abraham to leave his family, who lived in the City of Haran.   In faith, God told him to move to a land which he had never been to…the land of Canaan – which is now present day Israel.  Abraham is told by God. that he and his descendants, will be blessed by the Most High  because of his obedience to God.  The promise is that those who blessed Abraham’s descendants would be blessed and those who cursed his descendants would be cursed.

We, at this present time in history, see the United States government doing all that it can to divide the land of Israel and the City of Jerusalem.  The US is doing this as well as supporting the Palestinians’ attempt to wipe Israel off the map, with a false peace.  Do you consider this a true support for the only true ally we have in the Middle East?  The US is still suffering economic hard times, joblessness, droughts, floods, hurricanes (Super Storm Sandy) in the Northeast, earthquakes, declining economic and military power and the horrific behavior of corrupt politicians bringing this country down.

What is there to say?  Are we blessed or cursed, according to God’s Word?  Wake up, America, we have taken our fingers and poked God in His Eye and cursed Israel – instead of blessing her.  God is cursing America for our treatment of the nation of Israel.

Please return tomorrow for Part II of my article.

GOD IS AT WORK ON YOUR BEHALF

GOD IS AT WORK ON YOUR BEHALF
by Gary Wilkerson

The city walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt but Nehemiah saw sin, bondage
and discouragement beginning to captivate the hearts of the people.

“As soon as it began to grow dark . . . I commanded that the doors should be
shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath”
(Nehemiah 13:19, ESV).

In this passage Nehemiah is a type of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God is
saying, “I know your propensity, I know the pulls. I know the temptation will
be to take the Sabbath and make it unholy . . . and you will forget Me.” So
even before it was dark, Nehemiah closed the gates.

Your heavenly Father is on the move in your life to solve your problem even
before you know you have a problem. God is on the move on your behalf even
before the sin sets in, even before it takes hold. God is working! The old
Puritans called this a prevenient grace—grace at work before the temptation
comes. Even before Adam and Eve got out of the Garden, even before sin began to
take hold in the fruit, God said to the serpent, “The Son (He was talking of
His Son, Christ Jesus) will crush your head” (Genesis 3:15, paraphrase mine).
After deceiving Adam and Eve, before Satan slithered out and began to move
throughout the whole world to deceive the sons of Adam and Eve, God said, “I
have a plan in action.”

This is not God standing on the sidelines saying, “If you fall into that sin,
come to Me and repent and I will forgive you again.” Yes, He does that, but it
is so much more than that. God is working on your behalf even before that
temptation ever comes to you, building up a wall in your life. He is building
up grace and maturity in you, leading you through the spiritual process of your
growing to where you are strengthened—line upon line, precept upon precept.

God is already planning for your victory!

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Israeli government websites under mass hacking attack

More than 44 million hacking attempts have been made on Israeli government web sites since Wednesday when Israel began its Gaza air strikes, the government said on Sunday.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said just one hacking attempt was successful on a site he did not want to name, but it was up and running after 10 minutes of downtime.

Typically, there are a few hundred hacking attempts a day on Israeli sites, the ministry said.

Attempts on defence-related sites have been the highest, while 10 million attempts have been made on the site of Israel’s president, 7 million on the Foreign Ministry and 3 million on the site of the prime minister.

A ministry spokesman said while the attacks have come from around the world, most have been from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“The ministry’s computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks,” Steinitz said. “We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerized defence systems.”

Steinitz has instructed his ministry to operate in emergency mode to counter attempts to undermine government sites.

Both sides in the Gaza conflict, but particularly Israel, are embracing the social media as one of their tools of warfare. The Israeli Defense Force has established a presence on nearly every platform available while Palestinian militants are active on Twitter.

“The war is taking place on three fronts. The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber,” said Carmela Avner, Israel’s chief information officer.

Last month, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said cyberspace is the battlefield of the future, with attackers already going after banks and other financial systems. U.S. banks have been under sustained attack by suspected Iranian hackers thought to be responding to economic sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear program.

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Study: U.S. power grid vulnerable to terrorist attack

As if Hurricane Sandy’s blackouts weren’t worrisome enough, a new federal study warns the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attack. Yet it says fixing the problem won’t be easy.

6:46PM EST November 14. 2012 – After Hurricane Sandy left millions in the dark, a long-delayed federal study Wednesday says the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attacks that could cause months of blackouts and billions in economic damages.

The nation’s grid is spread out across hundreds of miles, and many key pieces of equipment are either unguarded or so old they lack the sensors to limit outages from cascading, according to the study by the National Research Council (NRC), a private independent agency operating under a congressional charter.

“We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don’t have many spare transformers,” says M. Granger Morgan, engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chairman of the NRC committee that wrote the report. He says a terrorist attack could cause disruptions worse than Sandy and rack up “hundreds of billions of dollars” in damages.

“Most of the report is as relevant today as when we wrote it,” he says, adding the power industry changes slowly. The NRC completed the report in 2007, but the sponsoring agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), decided to classify it entirely. In August 2010, the NRC requested an updated classification, and in August 2012, all but a few pages of the report were cleared for publication.

“It was very frustrating,” Morgan says of the delay. He says the committee understood the need to protect national security and was careful not to provide a “cookbook” for terrorists, relying instead on widely available data. He says the authors are now “pleased” the report is public.

The report focuses partly on high-voltage transformers, saying they’re vulnerable both from within and from outside the substations where they’re located. It says they’re huge, difficult to move, often custom-built, and hard to replace, because most are no longer made in the United States. It recommends developing smaller portable ones for temporary use to reduce delays in restoring disabled power systems.

Morgan says DHS has “done a little” to develop and test spare low-voltage transformers but says “there’s a long way to go.”

DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard acknowledged threats to the grid, but added that the agency”continues to work every day with private sector and government counterparts to adapt and strengthen our security and resilience against an ever changing threat.”

The report says the federal government faces difficulty in addressing weaknesses in the nation’s power grid, because more than 90% of the grid is privately owned and regulated by the states. Still, it calls on DHS or the Department of Energy to study where the U.S. is most vulnerable to extended blackouts and to develop cost-effective strategies for reducing their length and their impact on critical services.

“The NRC is right to call for more investment in making our grid both more secure and more resilient in the face of attacks,” says Richard Caperton, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. He says a terrorist attack is unlikely but, as Hurricane Sandy shows, “Anything that disrupts power supply can have catastrophic consequences.”

Morgan says many of the steps that could protect the grid from terrorism would also protect it from extreme weather. He points to smart meters, saying they disconnect damaged properties so power can be restored more quickly to the rest of a neighborhood without fear of explosions. He says much of Long Island and New Jersey lacks such technology.

DOE estimated Wednesday that 6,000 homes and businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region remained without power because of Hurricane Sandy or the Nor’easter storm. The number, which reached nearly 9 million, was down from 25,061 on Tuesday and 63,821 on Monday.

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Report: Majority Of Americans Still Not Prepared For A Major Disaster

According to a report by YouGov.com, a research and consulting organization, 64 percent of Americans are woefully unprepared for a major natural disaster, even after the events of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and a series of other major natural disasters smacking us around in recent years.

The report finds that people making disaster-readiness plans has slightly increased from 31 percent to 36 percent since 2011, showing that the majority of Americans have failed to adequately prepare themselves in the event of another major disaster. This is the breakdown of YouGov’s numbers,

Of the 36 percent who said they were equipped for natural disasters, their preparations included the following:

  • Emergency supplies (for example, flashlights or first-aid kits): 89 percent
  • Food stocks: 74 percent
  • Creating an evacuation or an emergency plan: 50 percent
  • Disaster insurance: 22 percent

Of the 89 percent who had emergency supplies, their supplies included the following:

  • Flashlights:  97 percent
  • Water:  92 percent
  • First-aid kits or medicine:  92 percent
  • Sleeping bags or blankets:  83 percent
  • Face masks: 18 percent
  • Iodine pills:  15 percent

While general preparedness is low, concern and fear over another natural disaster has increased, especially across the Northeast, where 31 percent report that they are “very concerned” following Hurricane Sand, doubled from the previous year’s report of 17 percent concern in polling done after Tropical Storm Irene, the highest percentage in the country.

A lot of people have prognosticated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that this was finally the storm that got everyone’s attention, and that in the future, people will be more prepared for the advent of another natural catastrophe. I’m not so sure. While Sandy’s devastation was massive and destabilizing, only time will tell how New Yorkers will prepare and respond, both personally, and politically, should another superstorm come to wreck our city.

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Thousands march against same-sex marriage bill

Thousands of people rallied in Paris and across France on Saturday to protest a government bill that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. March organisers said marriage required “one dad and one mom for every child.”

Opponents of a bill that would open up civil marriages and adoption to same-sex couples in France marched in the country’s main cities on Saturday to protest what they call a “major and dangerous upheaval”.

Protesters took to the streets of Rennes, Nantes, Dijon, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse to participate in the so-called “Demonstration for All” rally organized by conservative Catholic groups and which counted on the support of right-wing parties.

Their stated goal was to persuade French lawmakers to abandonplans to pass the new law called “Marriage and Adoption for All”, which is being championed by France’s ruling Socialist Party.

In Paris thousands of people gathered in the Denfert-Rochereau square, many brandishing signs that read “one mom and one dad for one child”. The crowds largely respected requests by organisers to wear blue, white and pink clothes and abstain from brandishing the names or colours of their own organizations or political parties.

Organisers said there was between 15,000 and 20,000 people at the protest in the French capital.

Marc, a 60-year-old Parisian who said he was a fervent Catholic, called the government hypocritical. “They all have wives and children. So they understand perfectly well what kind of deviations would result from the approval of gay marriages.”

He was holding a sign that read “No to genitally modified marriage”.

Despite an overcast sky and heckles from pro-gay marriage activists, there was a lively atmosphere throughout the march, with many young people present.

Students Victoria, Dauphine, Eléonore, Flore and Marie were five friends volunteering at the event together. “We defend our vision of what society should be like. Our first concern is the child’s well being and balance,” said Flora. “If the law passes, it would be z deep injustice to the child, who is not given a choice.”

Gay rights activists and supporters of the government’s initiative also staged counter-rallies in the French capital. Around 100 people in favour of gay marriage met the rally at its starting point in southern Paris.

Mathias, a student from Paris in favour of gay marriage, debated the issue with anti-gay marriage participants on the sidelines of the march. Making little progress in convincing protesters, Mathias and a friend provocatively proceeded to lock lips.

Alice Coffin, a 34-year-old gay rights activist, greeted protesters with a sign that read “Homophobes, we are not interested in your opinion, only the same rights as you.” She and a group of around 50 people threw confetti and rice –used for its link to weddings– when the march passed near the Montparnasse train station.

“I think the government is firm on this law,” Coffin said, adding she did not think the anti-gay marriage march would change the government’s course. “But the fight is not over yet and it’s important to be out here today.”

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Giant Sun Eruption Captured in NASA Video

The sun unleashed a monster eruption of super-hot plasma Friday (Nov. 16) in back-to-back solar storms captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.

The giant sun eruption, called a solar prominence, occurred at 1 a.m. EST (0600 GMT), with another event flaring up four hours later. The prominences was so large, it expanded beyond the camera view of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which captured high-definition video of the solar eruption.

In the video, a colossal loop of glowing red plasma erupts from the lower left of the sun, arcing up and out of frame as it blasts away from the star.

“The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission, explained in a description. “The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.”

Friday’s solar eruption does not appear to be aimed at Earth, so will likely have little effect on our planet. But that was not the case earlier this week when a powerful solar flare erupted on Monday (Nov. 12). That flare registered as an M6-class eruption, a moderate but still intense solar event.

On Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 13 and 14), space weather conditions sparked a geomagnetic storm that supercharged the Earth’s auroras, creating spectacular northern lights displays for observers at high latitudes.

When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful solar flares and eruptions can pose a threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, and also interfere with communication, navigation and power systems on the ground.

The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24 and is expected to peak in 2013.

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Israel ready to ‘significantly expand’ Gaza offensive

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stern warning to Hamas on Sunday, declaring that the Israeli army was prepared to significantly widen its Gaza offensive. Netanyahu’s threat came as Hamas launched a fresh rocket attack on Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army is ready to “significantly expand” its operation in Gaza, the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday as Hamas launched fresh rocket attacks on Tel Aviv.
Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said “The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place”.
Netanyahu issued the warning as Israel’s “Iron Dome” system intercepted two rockets aimed at Tel Aviv. Hamas militants admitted responsibility for the latest rocket attack on Israel’s commercial capital.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry told FRANCE24 that a ground offensive into Gaza was likely if the rocket attacks continued.
“Our sole aim of this offensive is to make Hamas stop firing rockets. We have used air strikes but if that’s not enough then we may contemplate ground operations as well,” Ygal Palmor from the Israeli foreign ministry told FRANCE 24 on Sunday.
“If rockets are being fired then that will bring the ground operation forward,” he added.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also said on Sunday that Israel would not negotiate a truce with the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers as long as rocket fire continues from the Palestinian enclave.
Israel’s operation has drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called Israel’s right to self-defence, but there have also been a growing number of calls from world leaders to seek an end to the violence.On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip “would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation.”

Hague told Sky News television it was much more difficult to limit civilian casualties in a ground assault and said it would threaten to prolong the conflict.

Air and sea raids continue

Fifty Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Palestinian officials said. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians.

Since Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, the Jewish state has launched more than 950 air strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry and flattening militant homes and headquarters.
The raids continued past midnight on Sunday, with warships bombarding targets from the sea. An air raid targeted a building in Gaza City housing the offices of local Arab media, wounding three journalists from al Quds television, a station Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.
The TV building also housed journalists from Britain’s ITN news and Sky News networks.
Three other attacks killed three children and wounded 14 other people, medical officials said.
Violence ‘shatters’ hopes of peace
The night of violence represents a blow to peace efforts, which have been lead by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, who on Saturday said there were indications a truce could “soon” be reached.
FRANCE 24’s correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, reporting from Gaza, witnessed the latest night of violence.
“Throughout the night we heard very heavy shelling, most of it coming from Israeli warships stationed off the coast. The sound of Apache helicopters and drones flying low overhead could also be heard,” Fenwick said on Sunday.
“The Israeli Air Force has published a statement saying it had hit what it called ‘terrorist targets’ across the Gaza Strip, including rocket-launching facilities and other Hamas infrastructure. For their part, the Palestinian factions are claiming responsibility for rockets being fired towards Israel,” said Fenwick.
“It has really shattered the hopes that were raised on Saturday night when rumours came out of Cairo that a truce might be brokered between the two sides,” he continued. “Considering the night we have just had, it appears we are heading in the opposite direction.”
On Sunday, France also became involved in attempts to bring peace to the region with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius travelling to Israel to try and broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
During his one-day visit Fabius is due to meet with Israeli leaders as well as with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will head to Cairo on Monday for talks with the president and other officials on the crisis in Gaza.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview with Britain’s Sky News on Sunday he welcomed efforts by his Egyptian counterpart to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but accused Hamas of rejecting the proposals.
A delegation of ministers from the Arab League are due to visit the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in what a league official described as a “show of support for the territory”.
Israel said it would keep schools in its southern region shut on Sunday as a precaution to avoid casualties from rockets.
On Saturday, in the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashdod, a rocket ripped into several balconies. Police said five people were hurt.