Luke 2:1, 4-5

“[The Birth of Jesus] In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Largest share of Americans view ‘race relations’ as nation’s top problem since L.A. riots

The number of Americans who believe “race relations” or “racism” is the most pressing problem facing the United States is the highest it has been since the nation watched Los Angeles burn in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King verdict.

According to the Gallup polling agency, 13 percent of Americans believe that racial tension is the nation’s top problem, up sharply from just 1 percent in November.

For perspective, about 15 percent of Americans cite “government” as the biggest problem in the U.S. today.

Back in 1992 when a jury failed to bring charges against the four Los Angeles police officers involved in King’s beating, 15 percent of Americans cited “race relations” or “racism” as the nation’s No. 1 issue.

Since that high, the number of Americans saying “race relations” or “racism” is the U.S.’s biggest problem has ranged between 0 percent and 5 percent.

“Prior to this month and the spring of 1992, the last time race relations was a significant top-of-mind issue for Americans was in the 1950s and 1960s, when race was front and center of national policy discussions on civil rights,” Gallup reports. “In 1963, more than half of Americans (52%) said race relations was the country’s biggest problem.

Two Pennsylvania Democrats indicted for alleged bribe-for-influence scheme

A pair of Pennsylvania state legislators has been indicted for allegedly accepting cash and gift bribes in return for promising to oppose voter ID legislation.

Pennsylvania State Reps. Vanessa Brown and Jon Waters, both Philadelphia-area Democrats, were indicted Dec. 16 after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams took up local charges that state Attorney General Kathleen Kane had opted not to pursue.

Both Williams and Kane are Democrats, but Williams did not hesitate to blast AG Kane for appearing to coddle her partisan peers, as well as for invoking the unfounded idea that racial motives might have played a role in the indicted lawmakers’ very public embarrassment. Both lawmakers, as well as Williams are black; AG Kane is white.

“As an African-American and as a law enforcement official, I was disgusted that the attorney general would bring racism into this case,” Williams told reporters after the indictment had been handed down. “It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire for no reason, no reason at all.”

You can read much more from Williams at Pennlive.com, including a point-by-point rebuttal of Kane’s explanation for passing on the case.

Sony under fire for canceling ‘The Interview’

What do President Barack Obama, former Gov. Mitt Romney, actor George Clooney, CNN host Fareed Zakaria, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, longtime conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer and Fox News senior producer Justin Craig have in common? They belong to a growing group of critics who say Sony Pictures made the wrong decision to cave to the demands of hackers working on behalf of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and cancel the release of “The Interview.”

Sony released the following statement this week announcing that it would not release “The Interview,” a comedy in which characters played by actors James Franco and Seth Rogan assassinate North Korea’s dictator:

In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

IRS says it’s almost finished with search for Lois Lerner’s ‘missing’ emails

IRS commissioner John Koskinen told the media an Inspector General investigator has nearly finished looking for the missing emails of Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal involving government’s political discrimination against conservative nonprofit groups.

The missing data — which the IRS has alternately denied having ever existed, or denied having destroyed, or denied being able to recover, or denied having any connection to a larger conspiracy against conservatives — came to the attention of the press when Lerner answered a planted question about the brewing scandal at a legal conference in May 2013.

Lerner infamously went on to earn a contempt of Congress vote after refusing to continue testimony she had begun about her alleged role in the scandal.

Koskinen’s revelation that the search for Lerner’s missing emails is “almost” finished doesn’t necessarily mean the public will be laying eyes on the information anytime soon, though. In fact, the way he phrased his explanation of how the IRS is proceeding in its data search makes it difficult to determine what, if any, new information Koskinen was offering.

Obama’s Cuba plan creates rift between Sen. Rand Paul and GOP colleagues

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s notable, yet not unexpected, break from his party on President Obama’s decision to move toward normalizing relations with Cuba has ruffled some Republican feathers and sparked a feud with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the GOP’s go-to man on U.S./Cuba relations.

By the end of the day Thursday, a spate of Republican lawmakers, including sometimes Paul ally Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), had issued harshly worded statements denouncing Obama’s decision to lift portions of the half-century U.S. embargo on Cuba.

Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, said of Obama’s decision during a Thursday interview with CNN:

It is the latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy. What we’ve seen for six years is we’ve consistently been abandoning our friends and allies and at the same time appeasing and coddling our enemies. First it was Russia; then it was Iran; today it’s Cuba. That only makes America and the world more dangerous. This was a mistake. This is throwing an economic lifeline to the Castros at a moment when their regime was vulnerable, and it was a serious mistake.

Normalizing Cuba

After 56 years, America has moved to remove the economic embargo on Cuba. It’s a move steeped in American foreign policy hypocrisy.

In making the announcement about normalizing relations, President Barack Obama said: “It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba.” The announcement came less than week after Obama announced plans to sign into law a bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuela and said that he supported even more sanctions on already-sanctioned Russia.

If it’s clear that isolation didn’t work, why is America moving to implement a clearly failed policy on Venezuela and Russia — a policy that is an act of war? And if it failed in Cuba, why continue it in regard to Iran and North Korea? And finally, why did the American embargo on Cuba last so long?

Was it because Cuba was run by a Communist regime? No. The U.S. has traded and had diplomatic relations with Communist China for years. Normal diplomatic and economic relations with Communist Vietnam were established in 1995.

Obama’s Cuba gambit will fail

TNS/Abdel Rodriguez protests at Versaille’s Restaurant in Miami after President Obama’s decision to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States.

In 1989, I was just a bright-eyed young American lad who had decided to put the time between high school and college to better use than simply learning how many beers he could successfully “funnel” before introducing his face to the floor. So I set off for southern Africa.

By the late 1980s, South Africa had long been cut off from much of the world, the subject of an increasingly comprehensive international economic embargo. As a result, the countries surrounding South Africa, writhing in post-colonial chaos and already inextricably linked to their southernmost neighbor, were forced by geography, history and demographics to share South Africa’s enforced solitude. And that solitude produced the land that greeted me. What I discovered upon my arrival was a place far uglier — and stranger — than I had imagined.

Get Prepared: 122 Of The Best Prepper Websites On The Internet

Prepper - Photo by Nomadic Lass on FlickrGetting prepared for the chaos that is coming to America in the years ahead is not that complicated.  Help is out there – if you know where to look.  And it doesn’t have to be expensive either.  In this article, I have put together a list of 122 of the best prepper websites on the Internet that will teach you how to prep for free.  The great thing about the prepper community is that there are always highly skilled people that are willing to freely share their knowledge and experience with the general public.  As the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, I am constantly being asked about what people need to do in order to get prepared for the hard times that are coming to this country.  And when I am asked, I do my best to encourage people to build up their emergency funds, to store food and supplies, to put together bug out bags and to do everything that they can to become more independent of the system.  But sometimes people need a lot more than that.  Sometimes people need to have someone give them some real hands on practical advice about things like canning food or setting up home defense systems.  So in this article my goal is to connect you with some of the top experts from all over the nation for free.  I think that this list is going to be a great resource for people that they can reference again and again, so don’t forget to bookmark it.

Luke 1:76-78

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven”

Junk Bonds Are Going To Tell Us Where The Stock Market Is Heading In 2015

Dominoes - Public DomainDo you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year?  Just keep an eye on junk bonds.  Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first.  And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again.  The primary reason for this is the price of oil.  The energy sector accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the entire junk bond market, and those energy bonds are taking a tremendous beating right now.  This panic in energy bonds is infecting the broader high yield debt market, and investors have been pulling money out at a frightening pace.  And as I have written about previously, almost every single time junk bonds decline substantially, stocks end up following suit.  So don’t be fooled by the fact that some comforting words from Janet Yellen caused stock prices to jump over the past couple of days.  If you really want to know where the stock market is heading in 2015, keep a close eye on the market for high yield debt.

Kerry says long-standing Cuba policy has only served to ‘isolate the United States’

Secretary of State John Kerry did his part to help explain the Obama Administration’s pivot toward “normalized” U.S.-Cuba relations Wednesday by saying the only party the U.S. was hurting, as it turns out, was itself.

In a statement Wednesday, Kerry offered this:

I was a seventeen year old kid watching on a black and white television set when I first heard an American President talk of Cuba as an “imprisoned island.”

For five and a half decades since, our policy toward Cuba has remained virtually frozen, and done little to promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba. Not only has this policy failed to advance America’s goals, it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba.

Since 2009, President Obama has taken steps forward to change our relationship and improve the lives of the Cuban people by easing restrictions on remittances and family travel. With this new opening, the President has committed the United States to begin to chart an even more ambitious course forward.

Aside from repudiating more than 50 years of U.S. policy, Kerry also may have forgotten his own past, as The Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier observed Thursday.

Vermont ditches dream of single-payer health coverage

Saying the plan would simply be too expensive to implement and operate, Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin, a Democrat who very much wanted to see it succeed, has announced the state will not attempt to implement a hybrid form of state-controlled, single-payer health insurance.

Shumlin, who had promoted a single-payer system in principle, never could reconcile his ideal with his reality. He had planned to steer his proposal to a 2017 start date, but was continually cowed by financial exigencies. He even called his own plan, once the numbers had been crunched, “detrimental to Vermonters” and said it would have imposed unacceptable tax increases on small business and individuals.

“The model called for businesses to take on a double-digit payroll tax, while individuals would face up to a 9.5 percent premium assessment,” POLITICO reported Wednesday. “Big businesses, in particular, didn’t want to pay for Shumlin’s plan while maintaining their own employee health plans.”

Abandoning the single-payer plan was a rueful but realistic decision for Shumlin. Single-payer had been “the centerpiece of the Democratic governor’s agenda,” according to the Burlington Free Press, “and was watched and rooted for by single-payer health care supporters around the country.”

Texas plumber’s work truck turns up in Syria, used as mount for Islamist weaponry

Plumber Mark Oberholtzer of Texas City, Texas was surprised to learn that a work truck he sold three years ago had become the center of attention on the viral Internet. Yet Oberholtz himself confirms that the truck in the photo that’s been making the rounds on Twitter is, somehow, the one he used to own. Its new owners are Islamist militants, and they’re using the truck as a mobile gun mount in Syria.

Oberholtzer, who owns Mark-1 Plumbing, told local news outlets in the Galveston area that the truck was his at one time, but that he had traded it at the AutoNation Ford dealership in Houston three years ago. No one at his business has any idea how it ended up being used as a war machine.

“We had no intentions or no idea that this would even happen,” his son, Jeff, told KHOU News. “To think something we would use to pull trailers, now is being used for terror, it’s crazy. Never in my lifetime would [I] think something like that.”

Tolerant academic suggests ‘It’s Okay To Hate Republicans’

American academia has provided an especially safe harbor for progressive intolerance of late, what with the proliferation of campus rape tribunals, gun-free zones and social injustice-fueled pleas to overlook subpar student performance. So it’s natural that one University of Michigan professor should feel emboldened to invite others to literally “hate” Republicans in a recent opinion piece.

“I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood,’” communications professor Susan Douglas wrote for These Times magazine, in a column originally headlined “It’s Okay To Hate Republicans” (it’s since been changed to the less-inflammatory “We Can’t All Just Get Along.”)

The article has been updated online with and editor’s note distancing the “hate” version of that headline from Douglas. Yet the very first line of the piece Douglas herself penned begins with this flat declaration: “I hate Republicans.”

Free speech is free speech; it’s fine that Douglas hates Republicans and wants you to hate them, too.

Yet contrast the free-speech liberties she’s able to enjoy with those of another, presumably conservative, professor: now-suspended Marquette University professor John McAdams.

The illegal immigration story Obama doesn’t want you to hear

Hello. I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. And I’ve got good news! A federal judge has just ruled that Barack Obama’s executive action on amnesty for illegal immigrants violates the separation of powers and is, therefore, unconstitutional. Glory hallelujah! We’ve finally found one judge in all of America who actually recognizes the law and is brave enough to enforce it.

But in our country and our republic it’s not just the legal court that matters; it’s the court of public opinion that finally determines winners and losers. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion is Obama’s “home court” because he is a master salesman who understands that “facts tell, but stories sell.” Emotional personal stories are always necessary to close the sale. If you want to sell anything from a used car to stocks to a dishwasher to public policy, there is no better way than telling a great, emotional and compelling personal story, preferably a tear-jerker.

Is waterboarding torture?

Is waterboarding torture? The truth is most Americans don’t care how you define the word. What they care about are the results from it.

When the Pew Research Center took a poll of Americans asking whether CIA interrogation methods following 9/11 were justified, only 29 percent said they were not. More than half, 51 percent, said they were. The other 20 percent, or 1 in 5, said they didn’t know.

The Pew survey was taken just days before we learned about the Taliban’s slaughter of more than 130 schoolchildren in Pakistan. I bet if that same survey were taken today, the number approving those “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be substantially higher. It’s hard to argue that we can’t support aggressive interrogation when jihadist crazies will gloat about shooting children in the head at point-blank range and burning teachers to death in front of them.

The news out of Peshawar, Pakistan, is indeed disgusting. One of the more incredible headlines I read was this one on CNN’s website: “Taliban try to justify slaughter of children.” The Taliban said the children were fair game because most of them were the sons and daughters of military personnel. There’s no way to reason with fanatics like this; the only way to be safe from them is to kill them or imprison them.

The harsh winter at Valley Forge

In December 1777, Gen. George Washington and his Patriot forces were smarting from recent defeats at Germantown and Brandywine, and lamenting the fact that Philadelphia — the new nation’s capital — had subsequently fallen into British hands. While British Gen. William Howe and his troops were preparing for the winter in relative comfort in and around Philadelphia, 20 to 30 miles away the Patriot forces were stamping about in the wilderness, shifting positions in the area around the city.

The week before Christmas, Washington informed his troops that they would be building their camp in the wilderness and would not be going home for the winter. The commander of the Pennsylvania militia, John Cadwalader, had recommended the troops not be allowed furlough because they — and the people of Pennsylvania — “were disappointed” that Washington had not been able to keep Howe out of Philadelphia. Removing the American army from Pennsylvania would be seen as a sign of fatal weakness, Cadwalader told Washington. Plus there was a danger that if the troops left they would not return in the spring.

There Is Hope In Understanding That A Great Economic Collapse Is Coming

Hope Despair - Public DomainIf you were about to take a final exam, would you have more hope or more fear if you didn’t understand any of the questions and you had not prepared for the test at all?  I think that virtually all of us have had dreams where we show up for an exam that we have not studied for.  Those dreams can be pretty terrifying.  And of course if you were ever in such a situation in real life, you probably did very, very poorly on that test.  The reason I have brought up this hypothetical is to make a point.  My point is that there is hope in understanding what is ahead of us, and there is hope in getting prepared.  Since I started The Economic Collapse Blog back in 2009, there have always been a few people that have accused me of spreading fear.  That frustrates me, because what I am actually doing is the exact opposite of that.  When a hurricane is approaching, is it “spreading fear” to tell people to board up their windows?  Of course not.  In fact, you just might save someone’s life.  Or if you were walking down the street one day and you saw someone that wasn’t looking and was about to step out into the road in front of a bus, what would the rational thing to do be?  Anyone that has any sense of compassion would yell out and warn that other person to stay back.  Yes, that other individual may be startled for a moment, but in the end you will be thanked warmly for saving that person from major injury or worse.  Well, as a nation we are about to be slammed by the hardest times that any of us have ever experienced.  If we care about those around us, we should be sounding the alarm.