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What It Feels Like To Be Homeless For The Holidays In America

child-sitting-in-door-and-crying-public-domainCould you imagine spending the holidays in a homeless shelter, in a tent city surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes, or in a sleeping bag on the cold, hard streets of an urban jungle?  Unfortunately, that is what real life looks like for an increasing number of Americans.  Most of the time when we think of “homeless people”, the image that comes into our minds is one of a grizzled old man asking for some spare change, but the truth is that vast numbers of women and children in our country do not have anywhere to live.  In fact, Poverty USA has reported that last year a grand total 1.6 million U.S. children stayed either in a homeless shelter or in some other form of emergency housing.  And you never hear the mainstream media report this number, but the truth is that the number of homeless children in the United States has risen by 60 percent since the “end” of the last recession.   For the moment the wealthy are getting wealthier, but meanwhile things have just continued to get harder and harder for those that are struggling to survive in this economy.

In Wal-Mart parking lots and campgrounds all over America tonight, you will find formerly middle class families that are living in cars, trucks and recreational vehicles during this holiday season.  Most of them will never complain and will try to put on a happy face outwardly, but inside the worry and fear are eating them alive.

As the weather gets cold, many homeless Americans head for warmer climates, and this is one of the factors that is fueling the unprecedented homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.  The following comes from L.A. Weekly

By nearly every metric, Los Angeles has the worst homelessness crisis of any city in America. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more people suffering from chronic homelessness in L.A. than anywhere in the country, and their number is growing at a faster clip than those in New York City.

One homeless man in Los Angeles has decided to do what he can to make the best of his circumstances.  He has transformed a depressingly bleak area underneath a freeway underpass into his own “personal paradise”

A homeless man who turned a freeway underpass into his personal paradise by furnishing it with a make-shift jacuzzi and four-poster bed has become a viral hit and unlikely tourist attraction.

Ceola Waddell Jr, 59, began living in the underpass in L.A.’s  110 freeway near Coliseum six months ago.

He has since foraged two porcelain toilets, discarded refrigerators, couches and two beds to transform the space into his personal refuge.

You can’t help but smile when you read what Mr. Waddell has done, but the truth is that the homelessness crisis in the state is rapidly getting way out of control.  In fact, Los Angeles is swamped by so many homeless people at this point that the L.A. City Council has asked California Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a state of emergency.

On the east coast things are getting really, really bad as well.

You may find this hard to believe, but the number of homeless people in New York City has never been higher

The number of homeless people living in New York City has reached a record-high.

The Department of Homeless Services reported there were 60,252, up 200 in two weeks.

Now, some are saying the city’s current plan to combat homelessness isn’t working.

So why is this happening?

The stock market is at an all-time high and the mainstream media keeps telling us that things are getting better, and yet poverty just continues to rise.

Other than the very wealthy, the truth is that things are not getting any better for virtually everyone else.  In fact, it has been reported that over half of all New Yorkers “are teetering on the brink of homelessness”…

More than half of all New Yorkers are teetering on the brink of homelessness — without enough cash in the bank to cover them in the event of a disaster or lost job, a troubling new study has found.

Nearly 60 percent of all New Yorkers don’t have enough emergency savings to cover at least three months’ worth of household expenses like food, housing and rent, according to a recent report from the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development.

This is one of the reasons why I am always encouraging my readers to build up their emergency funds.  Sadly, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that most of the country is only a couple of paychecks away from losing everything.

To give you an idea of how deep the suffering can be this time of the year for those that have already lost it all, I want to share with you a story of a precious little dog named Ollie

When Ollie was found, his fur was matted and so long you couldn’t see his adorable little eyes. He was clearly in need of dire help.

A woman and her sister saw Ollie outside her apartment, shivering in the freezing cold. They brought him in and quickly called the Michigan Humane Society to help take care of the dog.

Once Ollie was brought in, it was discovered just how sick he is. Had he not been rescued, he would have suffered a very painful death alone in the streets.

Very few people could come across a hurting dog like Ollie without helping him out, but what about the countless numbers of our fellow Americans that no longer have a warm home and will spend the night shivering in the cold?

Look, the truth is that you don’t have to have a whole lot of resources in order to make a difference.  In Tennessee, there is a group of elderly women that refer to themselves as “the bag ladies” that are turning old plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless

It all starts with cutting plastic bags into strips, tying those strips together, and rolling them into a ball.

The Bag Ladies call it “plarn,” instead of yarn. They then crochet the “plarn” into mats.

It takes 600 bags to make an 18 square foot mat. So far, this year, they have used 52,000 bags to make 88 mats.

“This is not young ladies doing this. This is older ladies with the arthritis,” said Akin.

How marvelous is that?

A single act of kindness can make a world of difference.

In the months ahead, temperatures are only going to get colder and economic conditions are only going to get tougher for those that are already living in poverty.

I would encourage all of us to think about what we can do to make a difference for those that are deeply hurting this time of the year.

Eurobonds: The Issue That Could Shatter Europe

Would you pool your debt with a bunch of debt addicts that have no intention of reducing their wild spending habits?  Of course you wouldn’t.  But that is exactly what Germany is being asked to do.  Increasingly, “eurobonds” are being touted as the best long-term solution to the financial crisis in Europe.  These eurobonds would represent jointly issued debt by all 17 members of the eurozone.  This debt would also be guaranteed by all 17 members of the eurozone.  This would allow all countries in the eurozone to enjoy the same credit rating that Germany does, and borrowing costs for nations such as Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain would plummet.  But borrowing costs for Germany would rise substantially.  In fact, it is being estimated that Germany could be facing an extra 50 billion euros a year in interest expenses.  So over ten years that would come to about 500 billion euros.  Needless to say, Germany is not thrilled about this idea.  But new French President Francois Hollande is pushing eurobonds very hard, and he has the support of the OECD, the IMF and many top Italian politicians.  In the end, this could be the key to the future of the eurozone.  If the Germans give in and decide that they are willing to deeply subsidize their profligate neighbors indefinitely, then the euro could potentially be saved.  If not, then this issue could end up shattering Europe.

It is easy to try to portray the Germans as the “bad guys” in all this, but try to step into their shoes for a minute.

If you had some relatives that were spending wildly and that had already run up $100,000 in credit card debt, would you be a co-signer on their next credit card application?

Of course not.

The recent elections in France and Greece made it abundantly clear that the populations of those two countries are rejecting austerity.

Instead, they want a return to the debt-fueled prosperity that they have always enjoyed in the past.

Unfortunately, they need German help to be able to do that.

That is why new French President Francois Hollande is pushing so hard for eurobonds.  He wants the rest of the eurozone to be able to “piggyback” on Germany’s sterling credit rating so that everyone can return to the days of wild borrowing and spending.

But Germans greatly fear what a co-mingling of eurozone debt could eventually mean.  Not only would Germany’s borrowing costs rise dramatically, but there is also a concern that the rest of the eurozone could eventually pull Germany down with them.

Austria, Finland and the Netherlands are also against eurobonds, but the key is Germany.

For now, Germany is not budging on the issue of eurobonds at all.  The following is a statement that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made during a recent speech in Berlin….

“It’s just about not spending more than you collect. It’s astonishing that this simple fact leads to such debates”

And she is right.

Why is it so controversial to insist that people not spend more than they bring in?

But this is the problem that is created when you create a false lifestyle fueled by debt that goes on for decades.  People become accustomed to that false standard of living and they throw hissy fits when that false standard of living begins to disappear.

The Germans don’t want to make great sacrifices just so the Greeks, the French and the Italians can go back to borrowing and spending wildly.

Why would the Germans want to do that?

And as a recent CNN article noted, German politicians believe that eurobonds are explicitly banned under existing EU treaties anyway….

“There is no way of introducing them under the current [EU] treaties. Indeed, there is an explicit ban on them,” one senior German official said, adding Berlin would not drop its opposition in the foreseeable future. “That’s a firm conviction which will not change in June.”

But politicians such as Hollande are complaining that austerity could seriously damage living standards throughout Europe.

And Hollande is right about that.

When you inflate your standard of living with borrowed money for many years, eventually there comes a time when you must pay a great price.

Anyone that has ever been in trouble with credit card debt knows how painful that can be.

It is shameful for the rest of Europe to be pleading and begging Germany to help them.

They should take care of themselves.

As I wrote about the other day, Greece would be much better off in the long run if it left the euro and created a new financial system based on sound financial principles.

But in the financial press all over the world there are calls for someone to come up with a “plan” to “rescue” Europe.  For example, the following is from a recent Wall Street Journal article….

There have been two main responses to the crisis: austerity, and kicking cans down roads. Austerity, in case you haven’t noticed, is so last year. It’s out. Which means that unless something else is found, some other comprehensive plan, the other main response, can kicking, is going to run out of road.

Just about everybody backed the idea of eurobonds, except for the Germans, and since they’re the ones with all the money, they’re kind of the only ones whose vote counts anyway. So, it’s time to go to plan B. Only there’s no Plan B, and there’s no time, either.

If Germany does not agree to subsidize the rest of the eurozone, will that ultimately mean that the eurozone will be forced to break up?

Probably.

And that would cause a huge amount of pain in the short-term.

But the euro never was a good idea in the first place.  It was foolish to expect a monetary union to work smoothly in the absence of fiscal and political union.

And to be honest, the entire world would be a better place with less European integration.  The EU has become a horrifying bureaucratic nightmare and it would be wonderful if the entire thing broke up.

But for now, the only thing that is in danger is the euro.

Increasingly, it is looking like Greece may be the first country to exit the euro.

This week, former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos admitted that the Greek government is considering making preparations for Greece to leave the euro.

Not only that, Reuters is reporting that top officials in the eurozone are now working on “contingency plans” for a Greek exit from the euro….

Each euro zone country will have to prepare a contingency plan for the eventuality of Greece leaving the single currency, euro zone sources said on Wednesday.

Officials reached the consensus on Monday afternoon during an hour-long teleconference of the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG).

As well as confirmation from three euro zone officials, Reuters has seen a memo drawn up by one member state detailing some of the elements that euro zone countries should consider.

So obviously a Greek exit from the euro has become a very real possibility.

A recent Bloomberg article detailed how a Greek exit from the euro could play out during the 46 hours that global financial markets are closed over the weekend….

Greece may have only a 46-hour window of opportunity should it need to plot a route out of the euro.

That’s how much time the country’s leaders would probably have to enact any departure from the single currency while global markets are largely closed, from the end of trading in New York on a Friday to Monday’s market opening in Wellington, New Zealand, based on a synthesis of euro-exit scenarios from 21 economists, analysts and academics.

Over the two days, leaders would have to calm civil unrest while managing a potential sovereign default, planning a new currency, recapitalizing the banks, stemming the outflow of capital and seeking a way to pay bills once the bailout lifeline is cut. The risk is that the task would overwhelm any new government in a country that has had to be rescued twice since 2010 because it couldn’t manage its public finances.

Right now, nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next and panic is spreading throughout the European financial system.

At this point, everyone is afraid of what is going to happen if Greece is forced to start issuing drachmas again.  As CNBC is reporting, some big European corporations are already beginning to implement their own “contingency plans”….

Big tourism operators like TUI of Germany and Kuoni of Britain are demanding the addition of so-called drachma clauses to contracts with Greek hoteliers should the euro no longer be in use here. British newspapers are filled with advice columns for travelers worried about the wisdom of planning a vacation in Greece, or even Portugal and Spain, should the euro crisis worsen. Large multinational companies like Vodafone Group, Reckitt Benckiser and Diageo have taken to sweeping cash every day from euro accounts back to Britain to limit their exposure.

Sadly, this is probably only a small taste of the financial anarchy that is coming.

France is likely to keep pushing hard for the creation of eurobonds.

Germany is likely to keep fiercely resisting this.

At some point, a moment of crisis will arrive and a call will have to be made.

Will Germany give in or will political turmoil end up shattering Europe?

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

America After Dark: Desperate Meth Heads, Rampant Human Trafficking And Millions Of Criminal Predators Searching For A New Victim

When the sun goes down every night, America becomes a very frightening place.  There are communities all over the country where drug dealing, human trafficking and gang violence have gotten so out of control that authorities don’t really know what to do about it.  In America tonight, thousands of meth heads will break into homes as they desperately search for enough money for another hit.  In America tonight, thousands of children will be sold for sex at truck stops and on street corners.  In America tonight, millions of criminal predators will be searching for a new victim.  From the top levels of the federal government all the way down to the most depraved criminals on the street, America is rotting.  Once upon a time our tremendous affluence masked the moral decay that was happening in this nation, but now that the economy is falling apart the damage to the fabric of our society is being revealed.  We have become a nation of addicts, junkies, thrill seekers and predators.  When we finally see the U.S. economy fully collapse, millions of desperate, angry and depraved monsters will take out their sick frustrations on all the rest of us.

It isn’t talked a lot about anymore, but the meth epidemic in America is getting worse.  According to PBS, there are approximately 1.4 million meth users in America.  Meth is unbelievable addictive and it can absolutely destroy your life.  If you doubt this, just check out these before and after pictures.

Sadly, there are indications that meth use is on the rise once again.  According to the DEA, meth seizures increased from 2,839 in 2007 to 6,168 in 2010.

When you take meth, it can literally make you crazy.  The following is from a recent USA Today article….

A mother in Bakersfield, California, was sentenced Tuesday for stabbing her newborn while in a meth rage. An Oklahoma woman drowned her baby in a washing machine in November. A New Mexico woman claiming to be God stabbed her son with a screwdriver last month, saying, “God wants him dead.”

Large numbers of meth addicts turn into thieves when they run out of money.  Often, they will steal just about anything they can in order to get money for their next hit.  Some things that meth addicts have stolen recently include agricultural plumbing, copper wiring and lawn sprinklers.

And making meth can be extremely dangerous as well.  U.S. hospitals are filled with thousands and thousands of uninsured burn patients that were horribly burned while trying to make “shake and bake” meth.

The following comes from a recent Daily Mail article….

It is filling hospitals with thousands of uninsured burn patients requiring millions of dollars in advanced treatment – a burden so costly that it is contributing to the closure of some burns units.

So-called ‘shake-and-bake’ meth is produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a two-litre bottle.

But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.

A survey of key hospitals in America’s most-active meth states showed that up to a third of patients in some burns units were hurt while making meth, and most were uninsured.

But of course meth is just one of the highly addictive drugs that are plaguing our youth.  There are many other nightmarish drugs that could also be discussed.  Nearly every community in America is dealing with some sort of a drug problem, and despite the “war on drugs” this crisis just seems to keep getting worse every single year.

Perhaps even more alarming is the rise of human trafficking in America.

When I was going through school, I was taught that slavery had been abolished in the United States.

But that was a lie.

Right now, thousands upon thousands of Americans are living as slaves.  Most of them are sex slaves.  As you read this, there are women all over America that are literally chained to beds in dark rooms where men pay their “owners” to have sex with them.

The following stats about human trafficking come from a recent Detroit Free Press article….

• Human trafficking is a $32-billion industry worldwide.

• Up to 2 million people are trafficked worldwide every year. Of those, 15,000-18,000 are in the U.S.

• Eight in 10 human trafficking cases involve the sex industry; the others involve labor trafficking.

• In 2010, 2,515 human trafficking cases were under investigation in the U.S.

• Eighty-three percent of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases in the U.S. in 2010 were American citizens

Many Americans would be absolutely horrified to learn what goes on behind closed doors in America.

All over the nation tonight, vicious monsters will be selling or “renting” young children to other vicious monsters for sex.

The following story of one human trafficking victim comes from a recent Fox News article….

Today, Keisha Head is a wife and mother of three. But more than decade ago, she was the victim of a notorious human trafficker.

At 16-years old, Head says she was being sold on the streets of Atlanta for sex.

“I did not know that a normal, average man who was a preacher, who was a lawyer, who was a senator – could turn into this monster,” Head said. “That is the scariest moment when you are amongst people who claim to be normal yet they purchase you and they turn into these monsters. They rape you. They beat you. And then act as if they’re normal. These are not your normal pedophiles.”

When you push morality out of the schools and out of public life, this is the kind of thing that starts happening.

Thousands upon thousands of other women “work for themselves” on the streets of America.  Some are willing to let strangers have sex with them for next to nothing.

For example, one woman in Los Angeles was recently arrested for approaching customers at one McDonald’s and offering sexual favors in exchange for Chicken McNuggets.

A lot of really weird stuff happens in America after dark.

As the economy has crumbled, thieves all over the country have become increasingly bold and increasingly desperate.

The following are just a few recent examples….

*In Fresno, California the damage caused by thieves stealing copper wire from city street lights is costing the city approximately $50,000 a month.  So far, about 2,500 street lights have been stripped of their wiring.

*In northern Alabama, one group of crooks has been using a forklift to pull entire ATM machines out of the ground.

*A while back, a team of ambitious thieves in Pennsylvania actually stole an entire 50 foot long bridge.

Other crimes are committed by members of the government.  In Chicago, the bodies of poor people that don’t have enough money to bury themselves are being treated with absolutely no respect at all by government officials.  Just check out what Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says that he found….

“Babies are buried 10, 15 to a box.  They’re buried in there with animal remains.  They’re buried in there with arms and legs from body parts they found during the course of the year.  It is not anything that our county or society should ever sit there and say is acceptable”

Can you imagine that?

What kind of a monster would do such a thing?

Of course I could go on for ages about the sick corruption of our government officials, but that will have to be left for another day.

For now, I want to focus on another rising problem in our society.  As I wrote about the other day, the FBI says that there are now 1.4 million gang members living inside the United States.  That number has risen by an astounding 40 percent since 2009.

Nearly every major U.S. city has areas that are essentially “owned” by gangs.  Some of these gangs are the size of small armies.  For example, it is estimated that the Latin Kings have 18,000 members in the city of Chicago alone.

When civil unrest erupts in America, these organized groups of criminal predators will have a field day.  Even now, law enforcement authorities in many areas of the country are having an incredibly difficult time trying to contain them.

As things fall apart all around us, an increasing number of Americans are coming to the realization that they are not going to be able to depend on someone else to defend themselves and their families.

Perhaps that is why the American people stocked up on firearms at an astounding rate during 2011.

In some areas of the country, a firefight can potentially erupt just about at any time.  The following is from an article that was recently posted on standwitharizona.com….

Barbed wire fencing doesn’t keep illegal aliens off the property anymore. One Starr County, TX rancher doesn’t have time to worry about the illegals these days. He now worries about the smugglers protecting their loads.

“I don’t think they would have any conscience of taking someone’s life,” the rancher says.

He saw that will to kill firsthand. A smuggler shot at him on his own land.

“One round was fired at me, and it missed my head by about two feet,” says the rancher.

He says there’s only way to react.

“Fire all the rounds you have, reload, and do it again,” says the rancher.

We don’t do ourselves any favors by pretending that America is going to somehow turn around and become the safe, friendly place that it used to be.

There are millions of criminal predators in this country today that have little or no conscience.  They don’t care about you, your spouse or your children.  All they care about is feeding their addictions.

In the months and years to come, the economy is going to get worse.  As it does, all of those predators are going to become even more desperate.

Desperate people do desperate things.

America is going to become a very frightening place.  But instead of curling up into a ball and crying about it, the better response is to be strong and courageous and to get prepared the best that you can.

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