Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest After seeing picture after picture of the devastation that wildfires caused to farmers and ranchers in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, Lykins, Ohio’s Rose Hartschuh and her husband, Greg, both knew they had to do something to help. As Hartschuh tells The Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins, they are spearheading a major effort to make a trip to that part of the country, loaded with supplies and manpower to help rebuild.Click here to find out how you can helpThere has also been a fund set up to help move the donated hay to the affected areas. Checks can be made to Ohio’s Kansas Rancher Wildfire Relief Efforts and mailed to 6348 Parks Rd, Sycamore, Ohio 44882.
SharePrint RelatedGroundspeak Weekly Mailer – February 24, 2011February 24, 2011In “Groundspeak’s Weekly Newsletter”Groundspeak Weekly Newsletter – March 7, 2012March 8, 2012In “Groundspeak’s Weekly Newsletter”A Lackey’s “Thank You” after Attending a Mega-EventApril 1, 2011In “Community” Share with your Friends:More Sometimes a simple match won’t do for a Mega-Event fireGroundspeak Lackeys are traveling thousands of miles from H.Q. throughout the year to share smiles, shake hands, and make geocaching memories at nearly 20 Mega-Events worldwide. Justin Dover aka dova dov, attended the Mega-Event Midwest GeoBash 2012 (GC34GFG) The Mega-Event took place in Wauseon, Ohio. Justin has served as a Lackey since 2009 and is an engineer in IT – basically he’s one of the hamsters. Here’s Justin’s account of his adventure.Justin Dover aka dova dovBy Justin Dover:Working at Groundspeak for nearly three years, I’ve had a few opportunities to travel. My most recent adventure was to the great state of Ohio for the 8th annual MidWest GeoBash. For the fourth year in a row, the event has been held over four days at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in Wauseon, OH. This venue supports several hundred campsites with access to RV hookups and shower facilities.I selected this destination over other options because of the hype for MWGB around the office. Over the years, dozens of Lackeys have attended, and they each have stories that seemed almost too good to be true. Lackey Raine accompanied me on this trip to make it his fifth time attending. His previous experience and knowledge of regular attendees made for a comfortable and unforgettable experience. When we arrived we were immediately whisked away via golf cart to meet up with main organizers, dubbed “the big three”: Mike (Trippy1976), Sonja (-Eleanor-) and Pete (The Moop Along). They explained the history of the event, why themes play an important role and the several venues that had come before the now permanent home at FCF. It’s amazing how successful this non-profit event has become, and it’s all made possible through the hard work of numerous of volunteers and generous donations.Mega-Event sized JengaDuring the day, this event is like most others that I’ve attended. Cachers walk around socializing, filling out geo-bingo cards and getting to know interesting and sometimes random facts about each other. For the past several years, there has been a geocoin Texas Hold-em poker tournament where the buy-in is three unique, unactivated geoicoins and the lot is split among the top three finishers. Other activities include a campfire cook-off, poker run and tons of opportunities to log new finds.Lackeys Raine and Justin at MidWest GeoBashWhat happens when the sun goes down is what separates the event from many others. Each night, at 10pm, Matt (Lord Elwood) comes out wielding a propane ditch burner and captures the attention of the masses located near the front of the encampment. This location holds the moniker of “Area 51”, and is typically better known for pyrotechnics, adults unwinding and rekindling friendships over a drink. With torch still in hand, the rounds are made to each of the fire pits and the wood is engulfed in flame faster than thought possible.There were other activities going on like life-sized Jenga. Either way, you will not leave Area 51 thirsty and you will most certainly not be bored. I felt right at home among Midwesterners. Everyone I encountered was friendly, fun, and knows how to have a great time. As the saying goes at MidWest GeoBash “First of the day!” And I hope I get to say it again next year, especially since the theme of MidWest GeoBash 2013 is Mardi Gras.Closing Ceremonies
Cayetano: Senate, Drilon to be blamed for SEA Games mess UAAP men’s volleyball: Adamson stuns FEU, UST eliminates UP from Final 4 race Folayang said the home crowd also played a factor in the match as it served as a boost for Aoki.“He got his confidence from the Tokyo crowd,” he said.READ: Back to zero as Team Lakay loses all ONE world titlesThe 34-year-old Folayang added his strategy was working as planned until Aoki took him to the ground.“Actually, I had a good game plan. I was baiting him, and I can feel like he was getting comfortable with his striking. However, he immediately went for the takedown when he got clipped,” he said.ADVERTISEMENT “It’s his night. It’s a lesson for me not to be complacent in anything, though we all know that the ground game is his area of expertise.”Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next View comments PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Philippine Arena Interchange inaugurated MANILA, Philippines—One crucial mistake was all it took for Eduard Folayang to lose his ONE lightweight world title to Shinya Aoki.ADVERTISEMENT That lapse resulted in a first round loss to Aoki, who put him to sleep with an arm-triangle choke in the main event of ONE: A New Era in Tokyo, Japan.“It was not our night. I made a huge mistake on my part. Although I know that when Shinya gets the opportunity for the takedown, he won’t be wasting it,” said Folayang, who scored a third-round TKO over Aoki in their first bout in 2016.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesSPORTSSingapore latest to raise issue on SEA Games food, logisticsREAD: Shinya Aoki puts Eduard Folayang to sleep to take back ONE lightweight belt“I think my main fault was trying to escape his side mount carelessly and that’s when he capitalized and applied the choke,” he recalled. “It was really tight, and he had a good grip in it. He wasn’t going to let it go as he sunk it deep.” MOST READ LATEST STORIES Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Panelo: Duterte ‘angry’ with SEA Games hosting hassles SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Duterte wants probe of SEA Games mess DA eyes importing ‘galunggong’ anew Hontiveros presses for security audit of national power grid
Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth booked his place in the Indonesia Open Super Series Badminton tournament finals after producing a spectacular performance to defeat Son Wan Ho of Korea in an intense semi-final contest here in Jakarta on Saturday.In a gruelling last-four contest that lasted for 73 minutes, Srikanth defeated the second-seed 21-15, 14-21, 24-22 to set up the summit clash against Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai.The Indian shuttler, who had produced a rich vein of form as he swept aside Tzu Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei 21-15, 21-14 in a one-sided quarterfinal clash yesterday, came out with a strong performance as he won the first game rather comfortably 21-15 against Wan Ho.Srikanth continued his form in the second game as well leading 5-2 before the World No. 1 made a comeback to close the gap to a solitary point at the break, Srikanth leading 11-10.The Korean then went along in the second half of the game as he dominated Srikanth, and eventually closed the game 21-14.The third game went on neck and neck as Wan Ho took a slender lead at the break, 11-10 and then a three point lead at 13-10.However, both matched each other point for point as they were tied 15-all and later 18-all.A HawkEye call by Wan Ho was overruled with the 22nd ranked Indian trailing 20-19 at match point and the third game was tied at 20-all.Srikanth then had three match points but the Wan Ho showed why he is the number one ranked player with his grit and class and came back every time to level the match up.advertisementThe 24-year-old from Hyderabad, however, brought an end to what was a marathon match on his fourth match point and entered his second consecutive Super Series final.Earlier, Sakai defeated India’s HS Prannoy 21-17, 26-28, 18-21 in a gruelling last-four contest that lasted for one hour and sixteen minutes to enter the finals.The Indian shuttler, who had stunned World and Olympic Champion Chen Long of China to enter the semifinals, won the first game 21-17 but his Japanese opponent came out with a more aggressive approach in the second game to build an early lead.However, Prannoy stuck to his natural game and clawed his way back to take an 18-17 lead. From then on the lead kept shuttling between the two till the Japanese edged out the mammoth game 28-26.Sakai, who is ranked 20 places lower to Prannoy, came out strong in the final game and built a healthy lead. However, the Indian came back again and took the lead which Sakai, holding on is nerves in the final stages, won the game 21-18 to seal the final berth.Both Prannoy and Sakai were appearing in their first Super Series semi-final. Their only previous meeting was at the Indonesia Open in 2013, where Sakai won 21-13, 14-21, 21-17.
Fredericks: West Ham boost from Bournemouth drawby Paul Vegas25 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveRyan Fredericks says West Ham United have gained plenty of confidence from their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday.The Hammers came back twice to steal a valuable away point which leaves in fourth place on the Premier League table.”Coming back like that gives us a lot of positive feelings,” Fredericks called the club’s website.”We’re a confident bunch anyway and we know we can go anywhere and pick up a result.”We didn’t panic when we went 2-1 down. Obviously it was frustrating to go behind, especially so early in the second half, but we knew we were going to get chances. “We have very good forward players who always create chances so we knew that as long as we didn’t concede a third we’d always have a chance of getting back in the game.”We’re a different beast this season. We don’t want to just be up there and think ‘it’s nice to be here’. We think we’re good enough to stay in and around these positions so we’re going to fight for every point, every goal and I think teams know that when they play against us it’s never going to be an easy game.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say
APTN National NewsA four-year Aboriginal literacy project started by former prime minister Paul Martin is beginning to see results.The project focused on two First Nation schools in southern Ontario.And the test scores are in.APTN’s Delaney Windigo has the story.
TORONTO – Wall Street set another record high Tuesday on relatively minor movements as Canada’s largest stock index inched forward and the loonie cleared 80 cents US.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 84.07 points to 22,641.67. The S&P 500 index edged up 5.46 points to 2,534.58 and the Nasdaq composite index added 14.99 points to 6,531.71.North of the border, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index advanced 23.51 points to 15,728.51.“It’s a little sleepy today, pretty slow,” said Cavan Yie, a portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. “All you’re seeing is optimism in the markets being sustained.”“If you look at Canada,” Yie added, “the banks keep chugging along with share prices near all-time highs, with solid fundamentals to support them.”The TSX’s financials subsector was up nearly half a percentage point on Tuesday.Looking ahead to Friday, investors will be eyeing Statistics Canada’s labour force survey for September.RBC Economics Research has said Canadian employment is expected to continue to increase that month, rising 10,000 though this would be down from the 22,000 increase in August.“The slowing largely reflects the expectation that the gain in service-producing jobs drops to just 5,000 after the 35,900 surge in August,” it said in an investor’s note.Meanwhile, some U.S. economic reports may look abnormally weak because of the hurricanes that have recently struck the United States, such as this week’s upcoming report on hiring. But investors are expecting to see temporarily weaker numbers, which would limit the impact.In currency markets, the Canadian dollar was trading at an average price of 80 cents US, up 0.03 of a cent.The November crude contract fell 16 cents to US$50.42 per barrel and the November natural gas contract was down two cents at US$2.90 per mmBTU.The December gold contract gave back $1.20 cents to US$1,274.60 an ounce and the December copper contract was unchanged at US$2.96 a pound.Follow @DaveHTO on Twitter.
BRUSSELS – Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump jolted the NATO summit Wednesday by turning a spotlight on Germany’s ties to Russia and openly questioning the value of the military alliance that has defined American foreign policy for decades.Trump declared that a joint natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel’s government “totally controlled” and “captive to Russia.” So, in a stroke, he shifted attention away from his own ties to the Kremlin just days before he meets one-on-one with Putin.With scorching language, the president questioned the necessity of the alliance that formed a bulwark against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?”German Chancellor Merkel hit back immediately, not only denying Trump’s contention but suggesting that his comfortable upbringing in the U.S. gave him no standing to spout off on the world stage about Germany.Drawing on her own background growing up in communist East Germany behind the Iron Curtain, she said:“I’ve experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that’s very good.”Trump demanded by public tweet that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025” for their military efforts. He then rattled U.S. allies further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 per cent of their gross domestic product on the military — more than even the United States currently pays, according to NATO statistics.It was just the latest in Trump’s demands and insults that critics fear will undermine a decades-old alliance launched to counter-balance Soviet aggression after World War II. And it came just days before Trump planned to sit down with Putin in Finland at the conclusion of what has become a contentious European trip.Trump has spent weeks berating members of the alliance for failing to increase military spending, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and even raising doubts about whether he would come to members’ defence as required if they were ever attacked.Trump’s tongue-lashing accelerated during a pre-summit breakfast, when he traded his usual long-distance Twitter attacks for a face-to-face confrontation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.“We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate,” Trump said, repeatedly describing Germany as “captive to Russia” because of the energy deal. He urged NATO to look into the issue.Trump’s harsh words for Merkel, whose country has hosted tens of thousands of U.S. troops that have been key to post-WWII stability in Europe for seven decades, struck at the core of the alliance. West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a critical factor in the alliance’s success in facing down the Soviet Union until its collapse. Reunified with the East, Germany became the largest European economy in NATO in 1990.The president’s beef was with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe. It’s expected to be online at the end of 2019.Environmental-conscious Germany is trying to reduce its reliance on coal and is phasing out nuclear power by 2022, so it hopes to use natural gas to partially fill the gap until the country’s electricity grid can cope with fluctuating levels provided by renewable energy.Hours after the breakfast, Merkel and Trump appeared to play nice as they met along the summit’s sidelines. Trump told reporters the two had a “very, very good relationship” and congratulated Merkel on her “tremendous success.”While Trump went after Germany for its ties to Russia, he himself has been accused by critics of being too eager to improve relations with Moscow. He’s also dismissed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia tried to undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help him win.Trump also lobbed fresh complaints about allies’ “delinquent” defence spending and suggested at one point that NATO allies commit to spending 4 per cent of their GDP on defence — twice the goal they’ve set for 2024.“I have great confidence they’ll be spending more,” he said.However, a formal summit declaration issued by the NATO leaders Wednesday reaffirmed their “unwavering commitment” to the 2 per cent pledge set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to go higher.Trump has repeatedly mischaracterized the spending target, wrongly describing it as a fee that countries pay to NATO or the U.S. rather than their own military. NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.Back in the U.S., Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement describing Trump’s “brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany,” as “an embarrassment.”“His behaviour this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies,” they wrote.Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, also criticized Trump’s rhetoric.“I do believe everybody should get to 2 per cent quickly, but the NATO alliance is something that’s very important to the United States and our citizenry, and things that are said to try and create instability, all that it does is strengthen Putin,” Corker said, describing concerns “about conciliatory things that could occur in Helsinki” when Trump sits down with the Russian president.But Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, a strong supporter of the president, said the pipeline issue strikes at the “heart of NATO unity.”“The pipeline gets cheap Russian gas to Germany while bypassing smaller Eastern European nations, allowing Russia to pressure them while Germany is held harmless,” he tweeted, adding: “No amount of preening in Berlin will cover this nakedly selfish policy.”___Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Washington, Matthew Lee in Brussels and Maria Danilova in Moscow contributed to this report.___Follow Colvin and Lemire on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj and https://twitter.com/JonLemirePresident Donald Trump barrelled into a NATO summit Wednesday with claims that a natural gas pipeline deal has left Germany “totally controlled” and “captive to Russia” as he lobbed fresh complaints about allies’ “delinquent” defence spending during the opening of what was expected to be a fraught two-day meeting.Trump also suggested that NATO allies commit to spending 4 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence — double the current goal of 2 per cent by 2024.The president, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that kicked off his visit, took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany as it strikes deals with Russia.“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia,” Trump said at a breakfast with Stoltenberg. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”Trump repeatedly described Germany as “captive to Russia” because of the energy deal and urged NATO to look into the issue.German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed back firmly, insisting that Germany makes its own decisions and drawing on her own background growing up in communist East Germany behind the Iron Curtain.“I’ve experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union and I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that’s very good,” she said.The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe. It’s expected to be online at the end of 2019.Environmental-conscious Germany is trying to reduce its reliance on coal and is phasing out nuclear power by 2022, so it hopes to use natural gas to partially fill the gap until the country’s electricity grid can cope with fluctuating levels provided by renewable energy. The alternatives, including U.S. supplies, are more expensive.In their back-and-forth, Stoltenberg stressed to Trump that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences. “I think that two world wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart,” he told the president, trying to calm tensions.Trump’s dramatic exchange with Stoltenberg set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance as Trump presses jittery NATO allies about their military spending ahead of his meeting next week with Putin.“The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some. So we’re going to have a meeting on that,” Trump said, describing the situation as “disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States.”“They will spend more,” he later predicted. “I have great confidence they’ll be spending more.”And with that, he went on to push allies at the summit to double their commitment on defence spending.“During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit, he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 per cent of their GDP on defence spending, but that they increase it to 4 per cent,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She said the president raised the same issue at NATO last year and that, “Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”However, a formal summit declaration issued by the NATO leaders Wednesday reaffirmed their “unwavering commitment” to the 2 per cent pledge set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to get to 4 per cent.Trump’s pipeline criticism was an unusual line of attack for a president who has proclaimed himself eager to improve relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and dismissed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia tried to undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Trump win. Trump has long argued that improving relaxations with Russia would be good for both nations.Back in the U.S., Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement describing Trump’s “brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany,” as “an embarrassment.”“His behaviour this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies,” they wrote.Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch also took issue with Trump, saying “I don’t agree with that. Germans wouldn’t agree with that. They are a very strong people.”But Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, a strong supporter of the president, said the pipeline issue strikes at the “heart of NATO unity.”“The pipeline gets cheap Russian gas to Germany while bypassing smaller Eastern European nations, allowing Russia to pressure them while Germany is held harmless,” he tweeted, adding: “No amount of preening in Berlin will cover this nakedly selfish policy.”Despite Trump’s claims about Germany, Merkel served as a forceful advocate for imposing — and maintaining — sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014, arguing that it violated the principles of the international order established after World War II. The president is also not the first leader to point to the impact of Nord Stream 2 on Europe, echoing complaints from Eastern European allies who note it would cut out transit countries such as Poland and Ukraine.Trump and Merkel met later Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit and kept their remarks polite during a photo opportunity with the press.Trump told reporters the two had a “very, very good relationship” and congratulated Merkel on her “tremendous success.” Asked if they had discussed the pipeline, he said they had, but declined to elaborate.Merkel, for her part, called the two nations “good partners” and said “we wish to continue to co-operate in the future.”Trump then met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he disagreed with Trump’s pipeline assessment. But the two appeared on good terms, with Trump joking about the fact that Macron had been asked about it.Trump has long pushed NATO members to meet their agreed-to target of 2 per cent by 2024 and has accused those who don’t of freeloading off the U.S.He tweeted from the summit: “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are their only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.Brussels is the first leg of a weeklong European tour that will include stops in London and Scotland, as well as a highly anticipated meeting next week with Putin.__Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Washington and Maria Danilova in Moscow contributed to this report.__Follow Colvin and Lemire on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj and https://twitter.com/JonLemire
Americans’ path to homeownership is likely to get more expensive this year, even as a severe shortage of homes for sale shows signs of easing.Mortgage rates, which climbed through much of last year, will continue to rise in 2019, driving up homebuyers’ borrowing costs and shutting others out of the market entirely. The projected result: a cooling housing market and falling home sales nationally.“On the whole, it’s going to be more expensive for buyers next year, despite the fact that they’ll have more options,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.The U.S housing market stalled in 2018 after a long period during which price increases outpaced income growth. That had been offset by historically low mortgage rates, until rates began rising steadily a year ago.While still low by historical standards, the average rate on a 30-year home loan was 4.55 per cent last week, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. That’s up from 3.99 per cent a year earlier.Realtor.com and Redfin forecast the rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage will rise to 5.5 per cent by the end of 2019. Zillow expects rates will reach 5.8 per cent. That would be rates’ highest level since the last recession.A mere extra half percentage point can boost monthly payments and add tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the typical 30-year loan.“Rising mortgage rates will take a bite out of affordability on top of an already supply- constrained and high-priced housing market,” Trulia senior economist Cheryl Young wrote in her forecast.As mortgage rates increase, so does the pressure on would-be buyers to lock in a rate and close a deal.Nate Vogel, a homebuyer in the Denver suburb of Lafayette, has felt some of that pressure after about a year looking for a home without success.Because of the limited number of homes for sale, especially under $500,000, the software engineering manager recently decided to look at homes at the top of his budget, $650,000. But that could be a problem if mortgage rates continue climbing.“If that interest rate goes up another per cent, that would make things much more uncomfortable,” said Vogel, 37. “At this point, no matter what house I buy, I’m sure the interest rate will probably be higher and the payment will be more.”Higher mortgage rates have already started dampening home sales. As of November, sales of previously occupied U.S. homes were down 7 per cent from a year earlier, the steepest decline since May 2011, when the housing market had yet to bounce back from the bust.Realtor.com predicts U.S. home sales will fall another 2 per cent in 2019.It’s not all bad news for would-be buyers, though. Economists project home prices will rise more slowly in 2019. Zillow’s forecast calls for prices to increase nationally by about 3.8 per cent. Realtor.com has them rising at just 2.2 per cent.Another plus for buyers: The number of homes on the market is expected to continue rising, albeit from historic low levels. The inventory of U.S. homes for sale was up 4.2 per cent as of November to 1.74 million units.Alex Veiga, The Associated Press
The General Election this time has been marked by a significant amount of violence in the run-up to the polls in several parts of the country. The bitterness amongst the contesting parties in states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra precipitated clashes between rival workers testing the efficacy and impartiality of the local police. The institution of the State Electoral Officer did not seem to be strong enough in monitoring the performance of the district police officials and taking action against those who showed serious dereliction of duty. Violence around polling booths is a negation of democratic rights of the voters and by now India should have been able to practice zero tolerance towards this malaise. It is high time a commission examined the ways and means of ensuring peace during elections and defined specific policy measures in this regard for the future. It is highly regrettable that the largest democracy in the world cannot liberate the election process of street-level violence. Clearly, in the federal scheme of things, it is the state police chief who has to take direct responsibility for it and demonstrate his or her apolitical credentials while handling law and order during elections with an iron fist. There should be no delay in the implementation of the Supreme Court order issued last year against the practice of appointing officiating DGPs – that also clearly laid down that the UPSC will draw up a panel of three names in consultation with the state government and that the state government will make one of them the DGP of the state on the basis of merit-cum-seniority. This is the single most important Police reform that the Centre must put in place at once. Another area of political violence that showed up during and outside of elections, concerns the injurious fallout from public speeches that tended to instigate caste, communal or regional conflicts. Pungent wit and some name-calling without violating the law of defamation could be a legit part of electioneering but deliberately indulging in identity politics and questioning the symbols of nationalism became much too obvious in the poll fray this time. India is vulnerable to communal and caste tensions and freedom of expression cannot be allowed to cross the legal limits put on it by the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1972 that created Sections 153A & 153B to define cognizable and non-bailable offences pertaining to sectarian speeches. The police machinery of the districts has to be strengthened a great deal with manpower and technological equipment to enable it to handle this rampant criminality committed by the people in public life today. Follow up on the blatant violations of law noticed in this General Election should continue even after the poll process is over. The most dangerous form of political violence that is steadily permeating our nation, however, is the rise of new terror emanating from faith-based motivation. Terrorism by definition is the resort to ‘covert violence for a perceived political cause’. In the absence of such a ’cause’, the violence will just be sheer criminality; and terrorism is not that, certainly. A cause demands ‘commitment’ which in turn is rooted in ‘motivation’. India has seen diverse motivations behind terror movements and insurgencies – ‘ideological’ that sustained Maoism or assertion of ‘ethnic identity’ that was the case with North-East insurgent groups – but the new global terror that is now afflicting the world and becoming a prime security threat to India is a class apart since it is linked to the call of ‘defence of Islam’ or Jihad. This is an outcome of the complications connected with the ‘war on terror’ launched against the Islamic radicals by the US-led West post 9/11 on the one hand and the cross border terrorism started by Pakistan to settle scores with India using India- specific terror outfits under the ISI control, on the other. Developments in recent times have made Pakistan the world repository of Islamic militancy and the agencies in that country are now manoeuvring the entire spectrum of militants from Al Qaeda-Taliban combine and ISIS at one end to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen at the other. The keenness of the US to work for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan has given a lot of residual advantage to Pakistan in terms of its plans to use Islamic militants as a strategic resource for furthering its foreign policy objectives. India has much to feel concerned about the way the US was relying on Pakistan to reach a settlement with the Taliban. While this is the scene in Afghanistan, the recent terror bombings against Christians and Western tourists in and around Colombo have been claimed by ISIS. What is more significant, the local radical outfit, the National Towheed Jamaat, complicit in this covert offensive in Sri Lanka is found to have links with Pakistan and South India. It is already known that Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) operating out of Pakistan with patronage from ISI has the avowed aim of establishing Islamic State in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. India, unlike the US, is directly in the arc of Islamic militancy and needs to strategise for national security against this new threat of faith-based terror. It is extremely disquieting that political discourse in India – and this became sharper in the election campaign – has tended to drag Pakistan into the discussions on minorities here. This trend has started from Jammu and Kashmir where the regional parties have openly advocated a communally-based ‘solution’ by talking of the Valley and not about the integral state of J&K that is home to many religions. They have strengthened the hands of Pakistan which finds it convenient to project Kashmir as a Muslim issue and create a communal divide in the domestic politics of India. The same effect is produced by some opposition leaders at the national level who criticised the ‘muscular’ policy of the Modi government towards Pakistan but maintained deliberate silence on the infiltration of terrorists by Pakistan’s ISI across the LOC to create violence in the state. The campaign for General Election this time has deepened the communal antagonism on majority-minority line and left the country vulnerable to Pak machinations to generate militancy as a byproduct of communal disharmony. In the initial decades after Independence, India witnessed communal riots primarily because of the legacy of Partition but these subsided as the democratic processes took firm root and equality of rights played out for everybody. The rise of new global terror that invokes the cause of Islam has made it possible – particularly because of the mischief of Pak agencies – for radicalisation to seep into India, howsoever small may be its spread in the country so far. The events at Colombo come as a wake-up call for our security set-up. Various communities of India at the level of average citizens want to lead a peaceful life and make use of whatever opportunities of economic advancement that would become available to them. It should not be difficult to achieve a convergence amongst all communities on the external threats to national security if the leaders of the communities did not seek political power by dividing the people. Our laws and security policy should provide for quick punishment for those who tried to gain from the advocacy of violence in course of projection of religion into politics. Our ruling dispensation should be upfront about it – this seems to be the major learning from the 2019 national election. (The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. Views expressed are strictly personal)