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Why Visit St Petersburg

(category: History, Word count: 456)
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Recently when I was in Africa, someone asked me - why should one visit Moscow? I immediately answered - because it is one of the most amazing destinations on in the world! However, then I realized that not everyone would instantly get it and that I need to explain what would travelers find were they to have a trip to Russia.

St. Petersburg has so much to offer the guests. The two greatest cities of Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are some of the most historically rich cities on our planet.

St Petersburg boasts amazing churches, ancient streets and beautiful canals. Some people refer to this city as the Venice of the North. So many great artists, writers and musicians like Pushkin had lived and worked here and loved their every moment. The Mariinsky theatre is home to world famous ballet. If you could only visit the city for a weekend you would remember it for all of your life. There is so much to see here. You could take a boat ride out to the amazing fountains at the Peterhof palace.

Moscow is much bigger than St. Petersburg, but it is equally great place to visit. The Kremlin and Red Square with the glorious quintessentially Russian onion-domed St Basils cathedral. Russia's largest city does not have a concentrated historic centre like St Petersburg, but there are historic treasures spread out across this vast city like the Tetriakov gallery. It is also an incredibly vibrant modern city that is now really buzzing with the new wealth and culture that has sprung up in the last decade. Moscow also has some of the best restaurants and clubs in the world.

Those two cities alone are enough of a reason to explore Russia, the largest country in the world. Yet there is much, much more to Russia than this. Outside Moscow and St Petersburg there is an amazing country that even us, the Russians, just begin to discover. Russia is a enormous country, and features amazing scenery and a wealth of historical monuments. There is nowhere in the world a lake so deep, so mysterious and beautiful, and so blessed by an absolutely unique range of wildlife as Lake Baikal. There is nothing like Siberia.

When in Russia, there are so many things that you could do. You could take a boat trip down the Volga.

These are just some of the reasons why you should visit Russia. Sometimes I wish I could keep Russia all to myself, just like Catherine the Great kept Hermitage closed to everyone. But I know it is time to share Russia to the West. Be among the first to discover the wonders of Russia.

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Who Is Your Attendant

(category: History, Word count: 362)
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Attendants are a joyous part of weddings. Selecting attendants is usually an easy task. Sisters, brothers, best friends are usually on the top of the list when it comes to selecting attendants. Sometimes there may be too many potential attendants to choose from, and it may be difficult to choose. It is especially difficult to exclude family members from your attendants list.

Regardless, of what your relationship is to a potential attendant you should make sure you feel comfortable around them. A lot is riding on your attendants, and you want them to contribute positively to your wedding. If you think an attendant may aggravate you, you should scratch that name from your list quickly.

There is no rule about how many attendants you must have. The average is four-to-six bridesmaids and the same number of ushers. You may decide to have more or less. It is entirely up to you. Usually, the larger the wedding the more attendants you will have. Formal weddings require more attendants than informal weddings. If you have 50 people at your wedding, having 10 attendants may be a bit too much. You should have at least one usher for every 50 guests since they are helping with seating.

There is no need to have an equal number of bridesmaids and ushers; you are not required to pair them up. If you need have one more bridesmaid to prevent resentment by a close friend, go for it. In case you want to simplify things, you may elect to have a made of honor, a matron of honor, and a couple of best men. It is OK, to have pregnant bridesmaids unless there is a religious conflict. Since it can be a long day, it may not be wise to ask a pregnant woman to be your bridesmaid.

Attendants can get expensive since you are responsible for boutonnieres, attendant gifts, and accommodations. The more attendants you have the more expensive your rehearsal dinner will be. Be prepared to feed not only the attendants, but their partners as well. If you have a religious wedding, be sure to discuss the details with your church official.

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Little Known Weapons Of Mass Destruction Threat During Lebanon War

(category: History, Word count: 1230)
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A well informed source in the Israeli intelligence community, who cannot be identified, says the Israeli air force raids, following the July 12 Hezbollah attack on an IDF border patrol, were aimed first of all at "Hezbollah's strategic weapons' secret locations." The source added that this initial goal did not include "ordinary" short and medium range rockets but was specifically aimed against the heavier weapon systems supplied by Iran with the Zalzal rockets topping the list. "Our first aim was to neutralize the heavy ones and their launching systems since we had solid information the Hezbollah had a plan to use chemical war heads.

Information the Israeli intelligence had regarding chemical weapons in Hezbollah hands was validated by friendly intelligence organizations, including a recent DIA memo. The source also said the Iranian manufacturers together with their Syrian allies toyed with the idea of "testing" their CW by letting the Hezbollah launch them on a limited scale while they would remain in the shadows in an attempt to wash their hands of such an attack when, as could be expected, the world community would react with an outcry of fierce criticism. The Iranian CW program centered at Damgahn, some 300 kilometers east of Tehran, manufactures an estimated 1,000 tons a year of various chemical nerve agents.

The Syrians pushed for at least preparing a strategic arsenal to be used if Israel would move on to destroy Hezbollah strongholds, assessing that this time, due to the suddenness of events, the Israeli population would not be properly prepared for that kind of attack. As events unfolded, the Israeli intelligence learned that Sheikh Hassan Nasarallah, who was in Damascus just a few days prior to the July 12 attack, had raised some concerns over the possibility of a massive Israeli reaction if he gave the order to go ahead with the abduction plan.

His Syrian liaison officers and representatives of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Force told him he could then retaliate by launching a chemical war head. They assessed it would be highly effective because the Israeli population would not have been put on high alert as was done during the two Iraq wars when anti-gas attack kits were distributed across the country, and homes, offices and air raid shelters, were sealed with special nylon sheets.

However, when the hostilities erupted the first move Israel undertook was a massive air raid to first and foremost destroy every target which was part of the Zalzal Project. Thus Nasarallah's gamble he could wreak a catastrophic CW blow on Israel was shattered before he had a chance to carry it out.

The air raids were planned in several stages. The first and most vital incursion was to destroy all Zalzal depots, which soon enough were proven highly successful. The second crucial stage came with the total destruction of what became known as the Hezbollah high rise enclave in south Beirut and where their offices and communication centers were situated.

The prime purpose in this instance was to destroy Hezbollah's so-called scientific wing facilities and not, as was widely believed, to catch Sheikh Nasarallah or even anyone of his skilled scientific workforce who have widespread links to Shiite students and teachers in colleges throughout Europe and the U.S., but first and foremost to Iranian WMD experts often housed in these buildings where they had special guest apartments for visiting experts.

Equipment seized by IDF ground forces in small Lebanese towns such as Maise-e-Jabel, where sophisticated listening and monitoring devices were captured, as well as documents revealing that some monitoring devices were programmed to shadow Israeli hospitals and the army's medical corps evacuation network, could have enabled Hezbollah to follow-up on the nature of damages caused. Obviously they were hoping to learn about the overall affect of the chemical warheads as well had they been launched. The discoveries in Maise-e-Jabel left no doubt that the air force had to go on several more rounds to utterly destroy Hezbollah's enclave in Beirut.

The use of Chinese made radar guided C-802 cruise missiles became possible on the fourth day of the fighting when both Iran and Syria agreed the flare-up was a good opportunity to test them. A convoy of Syrian military trucks carrying the system entered Lebanon through Tellkalakh and the Tripoli highway in the north, and Iranian operators arrived directly from Tehran with their Hezbollah trainees to carry out the launch of three such missiles. One of them hit an Israeli missile boat; the others sank two freighters, an Egyptian one and a Cambodian one.

This system is too massive to be smuggled through mountain passages and therefore every bridge, every road and every road junction going from Syria into Lebanon had to be immediately destroyed following the first unanticipated cruise missile attack.

A number of commando raids into the Beqaa Valley were designed to detect and destroy chemical warhead storages. Unsurprisingly such finds, whether verified or not, were not made public. However, Hezbollah militiamen sealed off the entire vicinity after the last raid on Boudai, clearly indicating they were worried over some sort of possible leakages. The same precautions were undertaken in south Beirut where Hezbollah fighters prevented free access to their destroyed enclave.


According to the intelligence source it is assumed Hezbollah will attempt in the future to proceed with two basic options as envisioned by the Revolutionary Guards and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. The first would be to launch various types of rockets, including modified Zalzals from aboard medium sized boats or freighters in the Mediterranean. Their success in hitting targets some 75 to 85 kilometers from their launch sites into northern Israel suggests they could, in theory, also launch a rocket from the sea to hit the heavily populated urban area around Tel Aviv. This type of a naval terror attack is an idea al-Qaeda too is known to have been toying with and is a significant threat to Europe and North America as well.

Another preference was to improve the scheme of aerial suicide bombers, al-Qaeda style, by establishing an "air wing" which could "sneak in without the warning sign emitted by a hijacked plane." Already in 2004 Iran equipped the Hezbollah with UAVs of the type Mirsad-1 and the Ababil outfitted with cameras and GPS systems as part of an overall guidance structure monitored by wireless radio and telephone systems all the way from Tehran, just like the U.S. Air Force and the CIA handle UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles from a base in Colorado.

The IDF shared its findings with the U.S. which regards this information as vital for U.S. national security, and because of the importance to show jihadists that their systems, even when highly sophisticated, can and will be destroyed with or without heavy collateral damage. When Sheikh Nasarallah boasted towards the end of the campaign that within hours he would destroy Haifa, and when realizing the Hezbollah and their handlers were ready to take their campaign all the way, Israel had no choice but to react aggressively with an all out assault up and down and across the width of Lebanon to safeguard the lives of hundreds of thousands. Thus Nasarallah's Zalzal depots, his planning offices, communication systems and even vital land routes, had to be totally destroyed by the Israeli air force, navy and commandos.

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History Of Us Consulate In Chiang Mai

(category: History, Word count: 668)
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The U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai is a one of a quickly diminishing number of historic properties serving as diplomatic posts for the United States government overseas. In an era of non-descript office blocks, the Consulate evokes an earlier time of pergolas draped in riotous explosions of bougainvillea, the subtle scent of frangipani, and the gentle breeze of a slowly turning ceiling fan. Once the royal residence of the last prince of Northern Thailand, Chao Kaew Nawarat, the history of the Consulate allows its staff to justifiably say they work in a very special place.

Previously known as the Chedi Ngarm, or Beautiful Pagoda Palace, the Consulate grounds have a number of distinct historic buildings, some over 100 years old. The first royal notable to take up residence was Chao Dara Rasmi, Princess Consort of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, Rama V. In 1914, four years after the death of Rama V, Princess Dara Rasmi returned to her family home of Chiang Mai and resided in a teak house located within the compound. She later moved to another residence in the nearby village of Mae Rim and her brother Major General Chao Kaew Nawarat, the ninth and last Prince of the Northern Thai Lanna Chuen Jet Ton dynasty, moved into the royal compound. Prince Kaew Nawarat built a house on the grounds of the royal compound in 1923 as a wedding gift to his daughter Chao Siriprakai Na Chiengmai. In 1926 Princess Siriprakai's home would host the visit of the ill-fated Majesty King Prapoklao, who was later deposed in 1934, and Queen Ram Pai Panni. Consulate staff and the sections of the consulate's communications center presently occupy that residence.

The happiness of the King and Queen's visit would be soon forgotten in 1933 because of the death of Princess Dara Rasmi. Her coffin lay in state at the Chedi Ngarm Palace from December 1933 to April 1934. Later that same year, Prince Kaew Nawarat would replace the old teak residence with a new home, now the Consul General's residence. The house, designed by an Italian architect, was built in the then popular Anglo-Burmese style. A Chinese-style sala, or pavilion was also built. The sala now serves as the waiting room and offices of the Consular section. Prince Kaew Nawarat was not able to enjoy his new home for long as he died in June 1939. His body lay in state in the sala from June to July 1939, in the same place that today's applicants for visas and citizen services wait.

The death of Prince Kaew Nawarat closed a chapter on the history of the royal residence. The government of Siam no longer recognized the semi-autonomous principality of northern Thailand, once part of the great kingdom of Lanna that had been founded in 1296 by King Mengrai. The central government established direct control from Bangkok and the Chedi Ngam property was sold to the Office of the Royal Crown Properties.

In September 1, 1950, a new chapter of the history began with the signing by U.S. Ambassador Edwin F. Stanton and Thai Deputy Minister of Finance Sawet Piamphongsarn of a lease for Chedi Ngarm Palace and grounds. The Consulate still maintains its lease with the Office of Royal Crown Properties.

Through the diligent efforts of Consul Harlen Y.M. Lee (in office from 1982-1985), the Consulate became a Consulate General in 1986 and it continued its close association with Thai royalty. In January 2003, the Consulate had the privilege to host the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn.

With Foreign Service life requiring constant moving from post to post and the growing homogeneity of the mission buildings, few Foreign Service officers gain any sense of attachment to or appreciation for the offices in which they work. At the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, the beauty and history of the classic teak buildings serve as a reminder of how fortunate the Consulate staff is to work in a former royal residence.

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Who Created The First Us Flag Of 50 Stars

(category: History, Word count: 614)
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Who designed our current US Flag with 50 stars?

Robert Heft, a then 17 year-old high school sophomore from Ohio created our current American Flag of 50 stars.

When was this flag created?

Robert Heft created his 50 star, hand sewn, US flag in 1958 prior to Alaska and Hawaii being admitted to the Union.

What drove Robert to create this new flag?

It all began as a high school project assigned in 1958 in Lancaster, Ohio, for his teacher, Mr. Stanley Pratt. Each student's assignment was to create a project of their own choosing that would be graded for creativity.

What prompted Robert to create a flag as his project?

Robert was always interested in government and politics and was aware of the possibility of Alaska and Hawaii becoming the next new states. While other kids at his high school struggled with ideas on what to create for their projects, Robert knew right away that he wanted to create the first 50 star flag.

How did Robert go about designing this one-of-a-kind flag?

Being an astute student of history, Robert knew that the design of the US Flag had not changed in since 1912. He wanted to change the design of the flag so carefully that it would be almost unnoticeable.

How did Robert go about creating this one-of-a-kind flag?

Unbeknownst to his family, Robert took his parent's 48 star US Flag and began cutting the flag apart and rearranging the stars and adding 2 stars so that there would be 50 stars in total. His design featured five rows of 6 stars (30 stars) alternating with four rows of 5 stars (20 stars). Robert spent over 12 hours one weekend arranging and sewing this new combination of stars.

Was his teacher, Mr. Pratt amazed and impressed by Robert's newly created 50 star US Flag?

No, Mr. Pratt told Robert that his project lacked creativity and told him, "anybody can make a flag". Mr. Pratt gave Robert a B minus for his project but told him that he would raise his grade if Robert could get Congress to adopt this new American Flag design.

Was Robert discouraged by this challenge from his teacher?

No, Robert accepted this challenge and took his flag to his congressman, Rep. Walter Moeller, who worked to get the new 50 star design accepted after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union.

Was this original, hand sewn, 50 star US Flag ever used or was it just used as a model?

Yes, it was first flown on July 4, 1960 at the US Capitol dome with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congressman Moeller and Robert Heft in attendance. It has flown over every US state capital building and has flown over the White House under five administrations.

Where is Robert's original US Flag of 50 stars?

Robert Heft still owns this original first flag of 50 stars and has turned down offers of up to $350,000 to sell it.

Is that the end of Robert Heft's story?

No, shortly after he completed his 50 star high school project, he went on to create a 51 star US Flag in the event that Puerto Rico ever joined the Union. The 51 star flag has six rows of stars, starting with a row of nine and alternated by rows of eight to total 51 stars.

What is the moral of this story?

If your child comes to you with a wacky, seemingly crazy, creative idea - let them run with it. It may turn out to launch their life long career, as it did for Robert Heft.

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Ar15 Rifle

(category: History, Word count: 338)
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The M16/AR15 has been the firearm of choice for the U.S. military for a long time. It is lightweight, accurate and reliable. The military uses the 5.56mm NATO round; the civilian version uses a .223 round. A lot of the civilian AR15s will shoot both rounds. The original manufacturer of the AR15 for the military was Armalite which later sold all of the rights to the AR15 to Colt.

Colt Manufacturing is one of the highest quality AR15's on the market. They have been building the assault rifle for a long time and perfected this gun. They ran into some trouble with labor strikes and suffered from some quality issues in the 1980's. They lost the U.S. military contract and had to refocus its efforts. Since the restructuring Colt came back on the market with the 1911 pistol and the AR15.

Heavy competition has sprung up in the AR15 market. There are many manufacturers such as Bushmaster AR15, DPMS, Rock River Arms AR15, Stag and Olympic. Bushmaster surpassed Colt for AR15 sales in the civilian market. They have cheaper AR15s offered in there line, but Colt has still sold its quality line of AR15s.

The AR15 is much like the First model T's Ford produced. It has uniform parts and can easily be broken down and rebuilt. Many different types of 'uppers' can be installed quickly and easily with just 2 pins. They range from .22 uppers to .50 cal uppers. Many of the favorite conversion are the 9mm and .45 caliber uppers.

Along with many different calibers you can get just about any length barrel you want. Some stats allow super short barrels. The most common size is 16? with a 1/9 twist rate, but there are many 20? and 24? long range barrels for varmint hunting. With the modular design, grips, rails, sights, handles and stocks can be customized for the owner. Depending on what you want to do, from target plinking to coyote hunting, you can deck out the AR15 to your needs.

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The Past Of Ancient Egypt In A Nutshell

(category: History, Word count: 329)
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The long past Egyptian civilization is a great one, and you will be hard pressed to find someone to who will think otherwise. Ancient Egypt in modern terminology is situated in Africa, at the northwest area.

The Nile River, in most cases just called the 'Nile', passed through the center of the civilization. The northern part was known as Lower Egypt, and the southern part as Upper Egypt - a fact which has lead to some misunderstanding among tourists. The Nile is understood as the longest river in the world, but recent scientists find that there is a possibility that the Amazon River situated in South America may be a short distance longer.

Specifically there are three separate sections, or periods of time that Egyptian history can be divded up into. These are known as the Old Kingdom, the Central Kingdom, and the Modern Kingdom. Each period has specific facts which are unique to it, and are best learned and studied independently.

The kingdoms of ancient Egypt were under the leadership of the Pharaoh at the time, and in fact the ancient Egyptian individuals themselves held the strong expectation that somehow their gods were responsible for choosing each Pharaoh, thus the inhabitants could rest soundly at night, knowing that all was under control. In fact, the government of ancient Egypt can be described as the first national government in the world, and people referred to as viziers, who were officials assigned to the Pharaoh, also helped to rule.

The Egyptian culture, like the Sumerian culture, had a language and writing system of their own. A Papyrus plant was used to make paper - thus defining the origin of the word, paper!

A lot of people find the ancient cultures, Egyptian significantly, to be profoundly mysterious as a result of the incredible massive monuments, most significantly the Great Pyramid at Giza, very close to Cairo, that remain to this day.

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Viewing American Politics From The Perspective Of Martians

(category: History, Word count: 678)
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I'm being silly, but indulge me here as I veer off into the realm of fantasy. Not *that* kind of fantasy, but the world from a Martian's perspective.

Say we're explorers from Mars sent to Washington D.C., in human form, in the year 2007.

What would be our conclusions about American politics were we to come down fresh, understanding very little of the political system?

We would understand immediately that there are purported to be 'two sides' (the validity of which is up for debate), and the two sides are represented by colors and animals-red or blue, elephant or donkey.

There are also a few fringe sects, marginalized by the craziness of their philosophies, who angrily disagree with both the reds and the blues.

So these are the two realistic options. Third or fourth candidates are not allowed to compete, really. They have "no chance of winning" or there's the fear that the third party will take votes away from "real" candidates.

So the red and the blue appear to really dislike each other, but they're two sides of the same coin, always in line to keep out the fringe and so they have some common interests.

Then things start to get good. . .

They have an even bigger common enemy: the media. The media supposedly reports the activities of both sides so they make more money from advertisers.

'The Media' claims to be unbiased, but it isn't true. They are loyal to whomever is in power and whomever owns the media outlet.

What's even more exciting for us explorers to discover is that there are even more enemies these two sides have.

Prostitutes. Most recently Louisiana Senator David Vitters who gives an awful lot of lip service to abstinence only sex ed, was identified by the DC madam and the Canal Street Madam as being a client.

Under aged boys. Uh oh. US Representative Mark Foley, crusader against child abuse and exploitation, became child abuser and exploiter when it came to light that he had a bit of a taste for Congressional pages.

Women. Specifically wanton women. There was this one time, the woman was wearing a blue dress. He liked cigars. . . . At least Bill Clinton had the sense to make sure the woman was over the age of consent.

Other noteworthy enemies include. . .

Closeted homosexuality. This has turned out to plague a number of people lately. There's Larry Craig and the foot tapping incident ("misunderstanding"). And Democratic Governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey. At least he's no longer in the closet.

Extramarital affairs. The list is too long. And really, is this even an issue people care about anymore?

Women who don't want to be groped. (CA Gov. Terminator).

There are plenty of other enemies. Crack cocaine (Marion Barry), voter fraud, blah, blah, blah. Actually, voter fraud is only a problem for the big loser, not the fake winner.

Blue, red, elephant, donkey, they seem to want to make all the laws and then break them.

In our research as Martian anthropologists, we'd have to conclude that some form of perversion or criminal record is mandatory for political candidates.

We'd also have to conclude that the non-politicians, the ones who vote (or don't vote), have such a short attention span that really, it doesn't much matter. It's football season and there's a new season of "The Biggest Loser" and it's back to school time and the kids need new backpacks. And before you know it, it's the holidays again.

Jumping into this little fantasy world sometimes gives us a fresh perspective. It's all about framing. Putting a new lens on life.

Try it with your life and your persuasion. See how it goes. Tell others about it, tell me about it on this blog. Create a discussion, invite your friends and colleagues to join the discussion here. Lord knows we need to step back from the craziness every once in a while and talk to each other intelligently about what we observe.

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George Bush S Deception

(category: History, Word count: 505)
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Yesterday, I watched in disbelief George W. Bush's convoluted speech to the House of Representatives. It was rather telling that this speech wasn't in primetime but rather at 9 a.m. (6 a.m. in the West). I know a lot about politics since I write political thrillers ( and I am constantly doing research for my books and articles. But it doesn't take a writer of politics, or even one who doesn't follow politics, to realize that what George Bush said yesterday made absolutely no sense. With all the (major) problems he and the Republican party are in, it is no wonder he has suddenly chosen to speak (or deceive) the American people about America's economics: November is coming.

In essence, Bush said that the state of our economy is in good shape and is getting stronger everyday. Am I crazy, or has George Bush tripled the deficit since he took office (and doubled his salary immediately after being sworn in)?

We now, for the first time in history, owe more to foreign countries than they owe us (weakening our position as the world's super power and endangering our defenses).

The Iraqi War is going to cost close to a trillion dollars by the time it ends and we rebuild what we destroyed over there, destroying our economy over here.

There is still the rebuilding of New Orleans and other cities, not to mention what disasters are coming in the probable near future.

How about the billions of dollars a day in interest our country is accruing?

Bush wants to spend a fortune guarding our borders, not from terrorists, but from poor Mexican families who have no jobs and need to feed their families. The terrorists are coming in from Canada and other cities, not from Mexico.

Interest rates rise every month, forcing Americans to pay more on their credit cards and their mortgages and their college loans, etc. Because of that, housing prices have begun to decrease because people can't afford a home AND a huge interest rate, besides rising property taxes each year, to pay for it. Isn't this raising taxes by a different name.

George Bush still believes, and plans to continue the ridiculous tax rebate (millions to the rich, a pittance to the poor).

The price of buying gas is increasing the cost of everything we buy, although the oil companies are enjoying tremendous profits (Exxon/Mobil earned $340 BILLION last year). This residual effect has raised the prices on food, medication, clothes, everything. And it is not going to end, as I watch my gas station raise their prices almost everyday. How much poorer can we get?

The American people have less and less and George Bush says the state of our economy is good and is growing. It sure seems to me and most Americans that it's our personal debt that is growing. How many people are better off today than they were five years ago? Not me, or anyone I know.

It's all smoke and mirrors.

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