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Froma Harrop - Good time for U.S. to lead from behind

"Leading from behind" would seem the right place for America to be in the complex crisis engulfing Egypt. But critics want President Obama up front, telling the Egyptians what's what.
Sen. John McCain complains on a Sunday talk show that Egypt's second coup in 2 1/2 years is "a strong indicator of the lack of American leadership, and influence, since we urged the military not to do that." The Arizona Republican goes on to insist that the leadership deficit is wrecking the whole Mideast. Citing the troubles in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain says, "When American doesn't lead, bad things happen."
Now, can we seriously believe that a call from the president, even a stern call, would stop the whirlwind of conflict in Egypt? Sure we could threaten the $1.5 billion we give them in annual aid, but the new people in charge say they intend to reset the democracy and are friendlier to the United States. That's not going to happen.
In Egypt we saw a democratically elected president deposed for undemocratic behavior (and incompetent governing). A tough call for us, but must the United States publicly pick sides in a struggle that (a) we cannot control and (b) U.S. participation only complicates?
Naturally, both sides blame America, insisting that U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson is plotting with their foes. The following quotes from The New York Times show our dilemma:
Mona Mohammed, a bank clerk supporting the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi: "The ambassador is part of a conspiracy against Egypt and its people."
Mohammed Amr-All, a professor at a pro-Morsi demonstration: "The ambassador meets with the opposition and supports them."
Back in the United States, Patterson's to blame, as well. Conservative David Brooks writes: "She tried to build relationships with whoever is in power. This created the appearance that she is subservient to the Brotherhood. It alienated the Egyptian masses."
Of course, building relationships with whoever is in power is an ambassador's job, and Morsi was elected. And what about the pro-Muslim Brotherhood masses now protesting the Morsi ouster? Clearly, there are masses for every viewpoint.
Writing in The New Republic, Marc Tracy offers an "appropriate liberal response." That would be "making clear that we value democracy," while using the tools of diplomacy "to put ourselves and our allies in more certain positions when democracy, as it inevitably does, winds up giving us unwelcome surprises."
You wonder what "more certain positions" would be in the case of Egypt's unfolding chaos. Perhaps they don't exist — or put another way, the position we should have taken will be revealed by history, long after the dust settles on the tragic convulsions in Egypt.
The European Union is quietly talking to all sides, as is the Obama administration. But Obama's cautionary approach is not the American way, says a punditry frustrated that we aren't using our power to do whatever. Perhaps it should be in certain disordered situations, which describes almost every Mideast crisis. To do otherwise means choosing from equally unattractive options and taking the inevitable blowback from the side we don't seem to be supporting — which, as we see in Egypt, tends to be both sides.
More McCain: "Morsi was a terrible president. Their economy is in terrible shape thanks to their policies. But the fact is, the United States should not be supporting this coup."
The fact is, we are not supporting the coup. As Obama told a National Security Council meeting over the weekend, "The United States is not aligned with, and does not support, any particular Egyptian political party or group." Lack of leadership? No, the only sensible response at this time.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Bob Meade - Help paying for Rx - Part 2

For those people who are on Medicare, "Part D" offers the ability to select a drug insurance plan from any one of a number of providers. The options, or variables, are many. Some plans offer relatively low monthly premiums, but others are quite expensive. Some offer lower premiums but have higher deductibles. Co-pays vary as well. For these reasons, Medicare has developed an excellent website (http://www.medicare.gov/part-d/index.html) where individuals can compare insurance company coverage and cost, based on the medicines the individual is taking.
Most people have heard about the coverage gap, commonly called the "donut hole" in Medicare Part D. When a person has incurred $2,970 in drug costs during the year (which is the combined cost paid by the insurance company and the policy holder), they then go into the coverage gap. While in the gap, their co-pay for brand name drugs will be 47.5 percent of the drugs retail cost, and 79 percent of the price for generic drugs. This continues until a total value of the drugs purchased amounts to $4,750. At that time, what is called "catastrophic" coverage takes over and co-pays are reduced dramatically . . . until the new year, when the whole process starts anew.
For those people with limited resources, Social Security offers what is called "Extra Help", or low income support for the individual's Part D insurance. To qualify, an individual's income must be $17,235 or less, $23,265 if married and living together. If qualified, a modest monthly premium is provided, co-pays are reduced, and the coverage gap is eliminated. Social Security indicates that the "Extra Help" provision can save a person an average of about $4,000 per year. For more information about this program you can access this website, http://www.ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp/ .
The statewide Service Link organization has an office in Laconia. They are an excellent resource serving the Belknap County area, and they have assisted countless citizens in their Medicare Part D search process. They may be reached at 528-6945. As a side note, while Medicare Part D has a defined enrollment period at the end of the year, there are some situations that allow individuals to enroll in a plan beyond the open enrollment period. For more information you may contact Service Link or access the following website, http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/11219.pdf
Medicaid, also called Title XIX, provides health coverage to children, pregnant women, parents, seniors and people with disabilities. The minimum income level for eligibility is 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). However, in calculating eligibility the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) takes into account all income and assets, and a series of deductibles, to arrive at individual or household eligibility. If approved, the person/family may be eligible for doctor, hospital, dentist, vision, and other medical benefits, including prescription medicines. Those who think they may qualify for Medicaid benefits, may call New Hampshire's DHHS office at 1-800-852-3345 X5254. For those who are internet savvy, there are a number of internet links. However, the most direct link, and the quickest to determining possible eligibility is https://nheasy.nh.gov/ . This site is very user friendly and can provide you with an answer as to whether or not there's a possibility you may qualify for cash assistance, medical services, food stamps, or Medicare.
It is recommended that families with children under the age of 19, who do not have health insurance, either call DHHS at the above number, or access the Internet link to determine if, based on their income, they might be eligible to qualify for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Depending on household income, insurance may be provided at partial or no cost for children's coverage.
Those who qualify for Medicaid may receive their prescription medicines as part of that program. This website will link the reader to more information on eligibility and benefits. http://medicaid.gov/medicaid-chip-program-information/by-topics/eligibility/eligibility.html
Another very useful discount program is called RX Outreach. It is a non profit organization, a fully licensed mail order pharmacy, that offers prescription medicines to uninsured and underinsured individuals and families, as well as those who have limited prescription drug coverage. They are often used by those who either fail to qualify for direct help from a drug company, or the medicines they need are not part of a drug company's patient assistance program. The reader may access this website, http://www.rxoutreach.org/ .
Walmart gained some recognition for their pharmacies when they came out with their program to provide a large number of generic medicines, charging $4 for a one month supply, $10 for three months. Once a drug company's patent expires on its brand name drug, other companies can provide their generic version of that medicine. Walmart's list of available generic medicines can be viewed by connecting to their internet website, http://i.walmartimages.com/i/if/hmp/fusion/customer_list.pdf Some other companies are offering prescription discount plans similar to Walmart's. You may access the Kroeger, Target, and Hannaford's drug plans via this website, http://www.ehow.com/info_8078094_stores-4-drug-plan.html.
In summary, there are some excellent resources available to the people in Belknap County. Service Link, at 528-6945, is a good place to call when you don't know who to call. The need for medicines can be addressed in any number of ways but the first one to talk to should be your Primary Care Provider. She or he can often determine the path you need to take in obtaining your medicines. The Department of Health and Human Services covers a wide range of support services for those with limited income and resources.
A following column will deal solely with a variety of benefits veterans have earned.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 08 July 2013 09:00

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Roy Sanborn - Zesty estimates (July Currents)

There were 1208 residential single family homes for sale in the 12 area towns covered by this report as of July 1. The average asking price was $496,188 with a median asking price point of $259,948. That means that there are slightly over 600 homes available under $260K so there are plenty of affordable homes out there as the summer sales season kicks into gear. Our current inventory level represents a 15.4 month supply of homes available compared to the 18 month supply we had last July.
In the wonderful world of real estate, the website with the most amount of traffic is Zillow. It has over 15 million unique monthly visitors per month! Zillow lists not only homes for sale by real estate agents, but also homes for sale by owner, foreclosures, and rentals. It claims to have over a million listings on the site but I didn't count them.
Like most real estate websites, Zillow has a lot of information on it including area demographics, school information, home buying and selling advice, and mortgage information. It can help you find a real estate agent and even lists home service providers in your area. One feature I liked was that the site shows pictures of remodeled rooms and provides estimated costs to construct. It's a good place to get some remodeling ideas if you are looking to improve your property...
The site also provides "Zestimates" which immediately made me think of an advertisement for as zesty ranch salad dressing. But no, it is a "zesty estimate" of your home's value in todays marketplace. That's pretty amazing considering Zillow has never seen your home. Zillow relies on tax information as being correct which we know isn't always the case. And the tax information doesn't necessarily give a true picture of the quality and condition of a home. Therein lies the problem. Sometime buyers and sellers rely on this information as being gospel, true, and accurate. I think most people would agree that it is pretty hard to give the true value of a home without seeing it in person. Heck, it is even difficult for agents and appraisers that have actually been to a home to value it when there have been very few sales in an area to utilize as comparable properties.
Zillow bases its Zestimates on information it has electronically gathered and compares it to other properties that have sold in the area. I guess there is a secret algorithm or two involved as well, but it is mostly utilizing averages. The accuracy of these Zestimates is actually scored on the website if you look far enough to find it. In areas where there is a lot of data, sales, and where homes might be a little more cookie cutter (not sure where that is, though) the accuracy improves. In places like good old N.H. the accuracy is a little less.
Zillow has a four star rating system to denote the accuracy of the Zestimates. The best, or four stars, denotes that a high percentage of the Zestimates done for the transactions in any given area were within 5 percent of the sales price. Three stars would mean they were within 10 percent of the sales price and two stars means within 20 percent. No star means they couldn't do an area due to lack of info.
Belknap County has a two star rating. The Zestimates here were within 5 percent of the actual sales price only 21 percent of the time. They were within 10 percent of the correct sales price 40.6 percent of the time and within 20 percent of the correct price 69 percent of the time. Conversely this means that 79 percent of the time they were more that 5 percent off the correct price, 60 percent of the time they were off by more 10 percent, and 31 percent of the time they were off by more than 20 percent.
The accuracy of the Zestimates was better in Southern N.H., with Sullivan County doing the best with a four star rating where 35 percent of the time the estimates came in with 5 percent of the sales prices. Strafford, Rockingham, and Hillsboro Counties all rated three stars.
So what does this all mean? Don't rely too heavily on the price estimates in Zillow, particularly if you are buying a property. Rely on the advice of a zesty real estate agent that knows the market and can advise you on the property based on his knowledge of the comparable properties he has seen. Also, if you are selling your home you should go in and check the value listed for your property. You can claim your listing so that you can correct errors, add info about improvements, and comments about your property to perhaps improve the value shown for your home. Now that's really kinda zesty isn't it?
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 7/1/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Saturday, 06 July 2013 12:02

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Susan Estrich - We celebrate our streak of independence

"I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe. So put that in your pipe and smoke it."
That's how Sen. Dianne Feinstein explained her view, which is winning her buckets of liberal criticism, as a defender of the NSA program.
Edward Snowden's leaks? "An act of treason."
She is 80 years old, and she is not pulling her punches. Right on.
This is what politics should be about. She is not doing what most of her friends want her to do. She isn't even playing around with some kind of middle ground — some yes, I'm for security, and yes, I'm for privacy, and of course there doesn't have to be a tradeoff between the two.
Actually, there does.
I can't really say I agree with Feinstein. How could I? She chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. She knows as much about this program — how it works, what we've learned, plots that have been thwarted — as anyone.
I don't. I know there are tradeoffs. I know the threats are real. But as for evaluating the effectiveness of this program, how can anyone who doesn't know the details do that? As for specific abuses of privacy, we don't know about that, either, with the exception of the most egregious, which is of course Snowden's abuse.
What I find so admirable about Feinstein's stand is just how nonpolitical it is. It isn't based on a poll. A poll would never tell her to go so hard on this one. And why would she need a poll, anyway?
It has nothing to do with who has given her money in past campaigns. Liberals give her money. I'm sure she's hearing from them. But so what?
It isn't intended to win friends. She'll still be reviled for her ardent support of gun control by many of those who agree with her on this. She's a longtime supporter of gay marriage. Feinstein is never going to be the darling of the right, and I don't think she cares two whits about that.
She is doing what she thinks is right. She is standing up because she thinks it's what's needed to protect our country.
Agree with her or disagree with her, I defy you not to smile a little on this July 4th weekend and remember that standing on principle for what a leader believes is right — throwing the usual rules of "politics" to the wind — is the essence of the miracle we call America.
That's why we want "great" men and women in public office and on the bench. Most of the time, in the run-of-the-mill vote or decision or dispute, you may not need "greatness" to pick a side. "Greatness" is not a very good predictor of how someone will do at fundraising or whether they can endure months or years of canned speeches and town halls without making a ridiculous mistake. "Greatness" is not necessarily the same thing as never having done anything in your life that you wouldn't want to go viral.
We need great men and women for important moments, when what counts is courage and conviction, when you need to risk the wrath of your friends in order to seek what you believe to be the larger good.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has always been known for a streak of independence. It's what makes a great senator.
It's what we celebrate with joy on the Fourth of July.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 July 2013 10:01

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Pat Buchanan - Why Reagan Democrats drifted back home

On Nov. 3, 1969, Richard Nixon, his presidency about to be broken by massive antiwar demonstrations, called on "the great silent majority" to stand by him for peace with honor in Vietnam. They did. Within days Nixon's approval surged to 68 percent. The ferocious Republican partisan of the 1950s had won over millions of Democrats.
Why? Because sons and brothers of those Democrats were doing much of the fighting in Vietnam. If Nixon was standing by them, they would stand by him.
In 1972 Nixon would win 49 states. Ronald Reagan, backed by his "Reagan Democrats," would win 44- and 49-state landslides.
Yet since Reagan went home, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of six presidential elections. The New Majority is history. The Reagan Democrats have departed. What happened?
Answer: For a generation, when forced to choose between Middle America and corporate America, on NAFTA, most-favored nation for China, and free trade, the GOP establishment opted to go with the Fortune 500. In the GOP the corporate conservative rides up front; the social, cultural and patriotic conservatives in the back of the bus.
Consider who has benefited most from Republican-backed globalization. Was it not corporate executives and transnational companies liberated from the land of their birth and the call of patriotism? Under the rules of globalization, U.S. corporations could, without penalty or opprobrium, shut their factories, lay off their U.S. workers, erect new plants in Asia, produce their goods there, and bring them back free of any tariff to sell to consumers and kill the U.S. companies that elected to stay loyal to the U.S.A.
They then used the profits from abandoning America to raise executive salaries to seven and eight figures.
And how did the Reagan Democrats make out?
Real wages of U.S. workers have not risen for 40 years. One in three U.S. manufacturing jobs vanished between 2000 and 2010. The nation that used to produce 96 percent of all it consumed depends now on foreigners for the clothes and shoes we wear, the TV sets we watch, the radios we listen to, the computers we use, the cars we drive. A nation that used to export twice what it imported has been running huge trade deficits for decades. China now holds $1 trillion in U.S. debt and can buy Smithfield hams out of the petty cash drawer.
With 50,000 U.S. factories closing in this new century, the greatest manufacturing power in history has been hollowed out, as Beijing booms at our expense. Corporate America is building the new China that is pushing Uncle Sam out of the western Pacific.
"Where did the 'America' in corporate America go?" asks Robert Patterson in National Review.
The Bush aide hearkens back to "Engine Charlie" Wilson, Ike's first secretary of defense, who said, "For years I have thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa." Wilson's words were twisted by a capitalist-baiting press, but he saw GM as first and foremost an American company.
Before Wilson there was William Knudson, the dollar-a-year man of FDR's war effort who converted GM and Detroit into the great arsenal of democracy, a story movingly told by Arthur Herman in "Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II."
"In the good old days," writes Patterson, "Americans could at least count on business leaders being pro-American. Beloved or not, major corporations functioned as true stakeholders of America: fortifying American industry and building American factories, spreading American innovation, paying billions of dollars in American taxes and creating millions of high paying 'family-wage' jobs that helped create and sustain an expanding middle class."
And today?
"No longer committed to a particular place, people, country or culture, our largest public companies have turned globalist, while abdicating the responsibility they once assumed to America and its workers." Citing Joel Kotkin's work, Patterson adds, "the worst offenders are Apple, Facebook, Google, the high-tech firms secluded in Silicon Valley, a dreamland where the information age glitterati make Gilded Age plutocrats look bourgeois."
Google has five times GM's market capitalization but employs only one-fourth the number of GM's American workers. Steve Jobs' Apple has "700,000 industrial serfs" working overseas.
Since we bailed it out, GM has become "General Tso's Motors," creating 6,000 new jobs in China while shedding 78,000 U.S. jobs here.
Marco Rubio today leads Senate Republicans in doing the bidding of corporate America, which, in payback for its campaign contributions, wants amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens.
Agribusinesses need more peons. Restaurant chains want more waitresses, dishwashers, busboys. Construction companies want more ditch-diggers. Silicon Valley demands hundreds of thousands more H-1Bs — foreign graduate students who can be hired for half what an American engineer might need to support his family.
"Merchants have no country," said Thomas Jefferson. "The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains."
Amen to that.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 July 2013 08:38

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