Monday, February 28, 2011


Obama tells states they can submit their own health care plans ... where in the 2,000 pages is this written ... this new interpretation doesn't change the legal issues of the Obamacare ... let the Supreme's deal with it! 

Sunday, February 27, 2011








NEW YORK, OMAHA, AND AROUND THE WORLD: Warren Buffett, the 80-year-old "Oracle of Omaha" and billionaire investor, released his closely watched annual letter to shareholders on Saturday.
Following are select quotes from the 26-page letter:
"The railroad will need to invest massively to bring about this growth, but no one is better situated than Berkshire to supply the funds required. However slow the economy, or chaotic the markets, our checks will clear."
"Money will always flow toward opportunity, and there is an abundance of that in America."
"The prophets of doom have overlooked the all-important factor that is certain: Human potential is far from exhausted, and the American system for unleashing that potential - a system that has worked wonders for over two centuries despite frequent interruptions for recessions and even a Civil War - remains alive and effective."
"Now, as in 1776, 1861, 1932 and 1941, America's best days lie ahead."
"Charlie (Munger) and I hope that the per-share earnings of our non-insurance businesses continue to increase at a decent rate. But the job gets tougher as the numbers get larger. We will need both good performance from our current businesses and more major acquisitions. We're prepared. Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy."
"A housing recovery will probably begin within a year or so. In any event, it is certain to occur at some point."
" house can be a nightmare if the buyer's eyes are bigger than his wallet and if a lender - often protected by a government guarantee - facilitates his fantasy. Our country's social goal should not be to put families into the house of their dreams, but rather to put them into a house they can afford."
"At yearend we held $38 billion of cash equivalents that have been earning a pittance throughout 2010. At some point, however, better rates will return. They will add at least $500 million - and perhaps much more - to our investment income. That sort of increase in money-market yields is unlikely to come soon."
"Our goal was to find a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit.
Mr. Buffett defers to Mr. Obama saying such decisions on living arrangements for deposed leaders are beyond his pay grade and besides he doesn't take care of the defunct properties even if they're waterfront.


Some homeowners, who can afford the mortgage, still default as a strategy

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 10:00 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011

She has a sales job with a six-figure salary. He owns a successful tech company. And they are in foreclosure.
But unlike countless other Americans faced with losing their homes, this couple could make the $5,200 monthly mortgage on the waterfront property in Pompano Beach that they bought for $585,000 in 2004. Foreclosure was their decision - not the bank's.
They crunched the numbers: $525,000 outstanding on their first mortgage and a $245,000 second mortgage on a home now worth about $319,000. His business was way down, her company was laying off workers and other investments had tanked. It made no sense to hang on to their underwater home. So they stopped paying their mortgage and waited for the foreclosure notice. It came in October.
It is called strategic default - borrowers who have enough money to make their mortgage payments but do not. They owe so much on a home that is now worth so little, that they decide to walk away.
It is not an easy decision. But it is not the inevitable blow to their credit score that troubles some strategic defaulters. It is the ethical dilemma of refusing to repay a loan when they are able to and worrying about what the neighbors will think.
"It felt like such an awful thing to do," the woman said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I got a car loan at 14 and paid $35 a week until I paid it off when I was 16. "
Ethicist OK with decision
How prevalent are strategic defaults?
Although the exact number is unknown, half the homeowners in a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Board walked away when they owed twice what their home was worth. A Palm Beach Post analysis of foreclosed homes purchased since 2006 found 72 percent - about 4,124 homes - are worth less than half of the original loan.
In the business world, strategic default is a common tactic - considered a savvy move for financially troubled companies. However, "consumers have been browbeaten and trained to believe that it's not honorable to not pay your debts," said Margery Golant, a Boca Raton attorney who represents the Pompano Beach couple in default. "Why should it be any different for consumers?"
Last year, Morgan Stanley walked away from a $1.5 billion mortgage on five buildings in San Francisco despite record-breaking profits in 2009. Real estate giant Tishman Speyer Properties strategically defaulted on $4.4 billion in loans on two housing developments in New York after the properties lost $2.2 billion in value. The company had billions of dollars in assets, including Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building, which it could have leveraged to meet its loan obligations.
Even the Mortgage Bankers Association, whose president chastised homeowners who strategically default for the "message" it would send to their "family, kids and friends," dumped its Washington headquarters in a short sale. After working out a deal with its lender, the MBA sold the building for $41.3 million last year. In 2007, the group purchased it for $79 million .
"No, it's not wrong," said Randy Cohen, author of the weekly Ethicist column in The New York Times. Although homeowners are emotionally attached to their property, a house is still an investment.
"I don't understand why you would be asked to make a decision on this investment any differently than you would on any other," Cohen said. "Why should homeowners be held to a higher ethical standard?"
In many strategic default cases, the moral imperative is self-imposed. Among the arguments: Walking away from a mortgage will depreciate your neighbors' property values. If all underwater homeowners walked away, the housing market would crash.
"Most people considering strategic default come to me and want my permission," said Ronald Kaniuk, a Boca Raton foreclosure defense lawyer. "People who cannot pay their mortgage are apologetic. For people who can afford their mortgage or can just barely afford their mortgage and see it as a losing investment, they want absolution."
They should not get it, according to Luigi Zingales, an economist and professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, who became embroiled last year in a debate over the morality of strategic default.
"When you borrow money you make a commitment to pay it back," Zingales said. "If you walk away because it's in your interest to do so, you are violating the letter and the spirit of the law."
Zingales wanted to know why it had become so easy for upside down homeowners to walk away. The answer was simple.
"The stigma is very much a function of how many people do it," Zingales said. "Once you think it's socially acceptable, it becomes easier to do."
Expect more defaults
But there are consequences, including the long-term health of the housing market, Zingales said. Zingales predicts we will reach a tipping point where getting rid of a bad investment outweighs the damage to neighbors' property values and the borrower's reputation. In other words, expect more defaults.
"We're not there yet," Zingales said. "Clearly this creates a tension in society."
On one side are homeowners who did not lose their jobs or live beyond their means and are now struggling to make their mortgage payment. Next door are neighbors who have stopped paying their mortgages and are living largely free until they are booted from their homes. "It's a legitimate resentment," Zingales said.
"We never bought cars or jewelry," the Pompano Beach woman said. The second mortgage they took out on their home went toward purchasing and renovating a condominium as an investment rental property. When her husband's business lost its best client and her company began layoffs, they decided to get out from under all their debt.
There will be consequences. They will lose the $65,000 in loan payments. The lender could get a "deficiency judgment" to go after the couple for repayment of the defaulted loan.  {WHAT ABOUT THE IRS ... ???}
Their credit score will take a hit, but at least with a strategic default they won't be homeless.
After liquidating some assets and scraping together what they could, the couple bought a new house - down the street and nearly identical to the old house - for $353,000. They walked away from $770,000 in debt.
"It felt like such an awful thing to do," she said. "When this is all over I'll feel like I made a good choice."

Friday, February 25, 2011



If Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi falls, his nation's ability to return to normal will depend in no small part on who controls its production of oil, which is synonymous with the Libyan economy.

Oil accounts for anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent of Libya's earnings from exports, and the shutdown of oil deliveries amid a widening conflict has sent global prices soaring.

Though it has Africa's largest reserves, Libya isn't a major oil producer. It exports only about 1.2 million barrels a day, largely to Europe, while daily world demand totals about 88 million barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency

At just a little over 1% of the daily world requirements for oil ... why then is the price at the pump so sensitive? Could it be 'speculation', 'fear', 'greed' ... 


Calpers, the biggest U.S. public pension fund, last month said it earned a 12.5 percent return last year, lifting the value of its assets by more than $65 billion from a March 2009 low of $160 billion in the wake of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy. Its assets had been valued at a peak of $260 billion in 2007.
As Calpers struggled with the dive in financial markets, Californians become increasingly aware of financial details about public pensions -- in no small part because a group of activists calling for an overhaul of public pensions had created a website disclosing retired public employees with six-figure pensions.
A study overseen by a former California lawmaker at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research also put the state's public pensions under public scrutiny.
The study last year by graduate students under Joe Nation's wing estimated that Calpers, the California State Teachers' Retirement System and the University of California Retirement System faced unfunded liabilities of more than $425 billion.
Calpers alone faces unfunded liabilities of nearly $240 billion, according the study.
The Little Hoover Commission idea echoes a similar plan that the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility has said it hopes to put to a public statewide vote next year.
Such a measure, if approved by voters, would undoubtedly trigger lawsuits that would test government's ability to alter pension promises prospectively. The foundation believes that its ballot measure would hold up in court.

Other Hoover proposals in today's report include:
  • Move public pension from the current defined benefit model that guarantees retirement payouts, to a three-legged hybrid system that includes a small defined benefit pension, Social Security and an employer-matched 401(k) component that is professionally managed.
  • Establish uniform rules to prevent "pension spiking."
  • Establish an annual salary cap of no more than $90,000 for purposes of figuring out pension benefits.
  • Prohibit "pension holidays" that allow government to skip contributions when pension funds are flush.
  • Prohibit retroactive pension benefit hikes.
  • Split pension contributions between employer and employee.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Commentary: Immigration budget is good place to cut wasteful spending

Andres Oppenheimer | The Miami Herald

last updated: February 24, 2011 07:55:27 AM
As the Obama administration and Congress battle on how to reduce the $1.6 trillion U.S. budget deficit, here’s a politically incorrect idea that could save billions of dollars — cut the waste in the government’s spending on immigration enforcement.
I know, I know, the mere idea of cutting immigration enforcement funds is anathema to most conservatives — and many other Americans — who think that the United States is being invaded by undocumented Latin American aliens who take away jobs, bring deadly diseases and often commit crimes.
But there is fat to be cut in immigration enforcement programs. There is growing evidence that the arrest and deportation of undocumented migrants along the U.S. border has become a big business for private detention companies, and that in many cases it hasn’t helped reduce the flow of undocumented migrants.
“Billions of dollars could be saved if government agencies better used the resources they have been allocated, and if Congress terminated wasteful or duplicative programs,” says a new study by the National Immigration Forum, a Washington, D.C., group advocating for a comprehensive immigration reform. Among the study’s conclusions:
• The U.S. government deported 197,000 immigrants with no criminal records last year, at a cost of $23,000 each, or $4.5 billion a year. Instead of deporting agricultural workers and other laborers that the U.S. labor market is requiring, the U.S. government should focus on deporting migrants who have committed violent crimes, it says. [EXPENSIVE VACATION AND TICKET, MUST BE PRIVATE JET]
• The U.S. government spends $7,500 for every apprehension on the southern border, a 500 percent increase from what it spent six years ago. Yet despite this huge spending increase, the number of border detentions has not changed much, it says.
• The U.S. government has been increasing its border patrol budget by an average of $300 million a year since 2005, despite a drop in the number of people crossing the border illegally. Simply stopping the border patrol budget increases would save hundreds of millions of dollars a year, it says.
Critics of the current immigration system say that, instead of wasting money on dubious enforcement programs, we should go to the source of the problem: a system that doesn’t grant enough legal visas to match the labor market’s demand, forcing hardworking immigrants to enter the country illegally.
“We should have an immigration system that is flexible, so that when the economy grows, we can expand the number of legal immigration visas for workers,” NIF spokeswoman Katherine Vargas says.
Interestingly, growing numbers of undocumented immigrants are being held in prisons run by private detention companies, which have become a powerful lobbying group for large-scale detention of undocumented immigrants. Much like there is a U.S. “military-industrial complex,” there is an “immigration enforcement complex” that is influencing Washington’s immigration policies, critics say.
In an Oct. 28 report, National Public Radio journalist Laura Sullivan concluded after several months of researching campaign documents that the “private prison industry” helped drive Arizona’s anti-immigration laws. The NPR report cited the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the country, as a key player in promoting large-scale immigrant detention bills. CCA denied any wrongdoing.
Should we keep spending increasingly more on doubtful immigration enforcement programs?, I asked Ira Mehlman, the spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, a group that wants to reduce immigration levels.
“We should spend more on enforcement, especially on worksite enforcement,” Mehlman said. “In 2007, New York City collected $554 million in fines for parking violations, while the federal government last year collected only $7 million from employers who were caught hiring illegal aliens. That tells you that we are not really making a serious effort to deter employment of illegal immigrants.”
My opinion: If President Barack Obama and Congress are seriously considering drastic cuts in public spending — including funds for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies — they should definitely cut waste in immigration enforcement spending. [EVERYONE HAS ONE - OPINION THAT IS!]
At the very least, they should have a serious discussion on whether it makes sense to spend $4.5 billion in deporting people who have not committed serious crimes and do jobs that Americans don’t want to do, while slashing funds for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies whose job is to put serious criminals behind bars.
Andres Oppenheimer is a Miami Herald syndicated columnist and a member of The Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1999 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the 2001 King of Spain prize, and the 2005 Emmy Suncoast award. He is the author of Castro's Final Hour; Bordering on Chaos, on Mexico's crisis; Cronicas de heroes y bandidos, Ojos vendados, Cuentos Chinos and most recently ofSaving the Americas. E-mail Andres at Live chat with Oppenheimer every Thursday at 1 p.m. at The Miami Herald.


Saudi’s $36bn bid to beat unrest

By Abeer Allam in Washington, Heba Saleh in Cairo and Jack Farchy and Javier Blas in London
Published: February 23 2011 16:21 | Last updated: February 23 2011 18:37
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced financial support measures, worth an estimated SR135bn ($36bn), in a bid to avert the kind of popular unrest that has toppled leaders across the region and is now closing in on Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi.
The measures include a 15 per cent salary rise for public employees to offset inflation, reprieves for imprisoned debtors, and financial aid for students and the unemployed.
Saudi Arabia’s ruling family has thus far been spared the type of popular discontent that has toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt and brought Libya to the brink of civil war.
The announcement of the Saudi relief measures coincided with King Abdullah’s return to the country after three months. He had been abroad for medical treatment. Among those on hand to greet him was King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of neighbouring Bahrain, which is struggling to contain a surging opposition movement.
The cash-rich Saudi government has pledged to spend $400bn by the end of 2014 to improve education, infrastructure and healthcare. “The king is trying to create wider trickle- down of wealth in the shape of social welfare,’’ said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi. “The budget can handle that, but it is an aspirin to ease medium-term pain, not a solution for the long-term housing, and unemployment issue.”
Half country’s oil output shut down
The loss on Wednesday of Misurata to his opponents meant that Colonel Gaddafi no longer controlled the majority of his country’s Mediterranean coastline. In cities in the east, opponents set about forming their own local administrations.
Mass evacuations of workers by foreign oil companies have caused production in Libya, the world’s 12th-largest exporter and an important supplier to Europe, to slow.
Despite a prolonged economic surge, unemployment has remained above 10 per cent and is cited by government officials as one of their primary concerns.
Critics said the sweeteners did not address the Saudi public’s political aspirations. Protests, political parties and labour unions are banned in the conservative kingdom. “We need a new higher education minister, a new health minister, reform of the judiciary and codified laws - not hand-outs,’’ said Turki Al-Balaa, a 34 year-old businessmen.
“We want real change. This will be the only guarantee of security of the kingdom,’’ added Hassan al-Mustafa, one of 40 Saudi rights activists and journalists who signed an open letter requesting an elected parliament, more rights for women and enhanced anti-corruption measures.“A constitutional monarchy closer to the Kuwaiti model is not an impossible target to achieve right now.”
Reformists including Prince Talal bin Abdelaziz, the king’s half brother, have called for similar reforms. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy ruled by consensus among the royal family and in alliance with an austere religious establishment that preaches obedience to the king. The country’s leading clerics have warned against the “evils” of the regional unrest which they say were incited by foreigners to foment instability in Muslim countries.
Hundreds of people have signed up to a Facebook campaign calling for a “day of rage” across Saudi Arabia on March 11, although it is not clear if any protests will materialise. Analysts said the late date suggested that activists wanted to give the government time to introduce reforms, and not a real desire to take to the streets.
“We don’t want money,” a female student from Jeddah said on her Twitter feed. “I want to know that I’ll be protected under a written constitution for the rest of my short life.”
A lawyer wrote that the Saudi people seek “dignity, reform, freedom of expression, transparency, justice, respect, wise governance, not grants’’.
More Saudis are pressing their demands online
Saudis have been venting their frustration on Twitter under hashtag #feb23sa and #saudimataleb (“Saudi demands”) saying the days when royal grants bought people’s support were over.
“We don’t want ... money, I want to know that I’ll be protected under a written constitution for the rest of my short life,” a female student from Jeddah wrote on her Twitter feed.
Others, however, pointed out that the vast numbers who lack basic requirements will be satisfied with the economic benefits.
Saudi-based analysts and western diplomats suggest that the country can afford to fend off anger in the short term by deploying part of the $440bn in assets the kingdom has accumulated during the years of record oil prices.
Saudi officials have often warned that unemployment and a struggling middle class are their main concerns. Unemployment has remained at around 10 to 12 per cent for the past few years, in spite of an economic boom that has created thousands of jobs. Only 1 in 10 employees in the private sector is Saudi, according to a report by Banque Saudi Fransi.
Critics say that ignoring demands for political change, focusing only on economic issues, reflects a lack of understanding on the part of the leadership of what Saudis actually want.
A slow response could fuel frustration and raise the ceiling of their demands as people in the kingdom see themselves lagging behind even their Gulf neighbours in terms of political reforms, Saudi activists warn.
While it is impossible to detect wider public opinion because of lack of scientific polls, more Saudis are pressing for demands online. While they might remain an affluent minority, their determination might inspire and teach those who are more apathetic, analysts said. After all, Saudis were glued to their TV and computer screens watching Egyptian, Tunisians and now Libyan protesters brave bullets to remove their regimes.
One Saudi observer said the demands were discussed with a senior official close to the king, who assured them the ruler was thinking the same and was determined to push political reforms forward
With Libya, a major oil producer, in turmoil, political stability in Saudi Arabia is key for the stability of the world oil market. Saudi Arabia sits on one-fifth of global oil reserves and holds most of its $440bn foreign reserve assets in US Treasury bills.
The king’s return has calmed fears of a political vacuum. During his absence the ailing Crown Prince Sultan and the powerful interior minister Prince Naif were in charge of the kingdom.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WATCH THE NUMBERS IN REAL TIME ... provides the key numbers and events of illegal immigration in the United States. Using the latest government and private sources, research and analysis trending data is factored at their individual rates of increase. For information about the research behind the individual counters, click here Data Sources supports legalimmigration and respect for all humanity, yet highlights the significant impact ofillegal immigration. Knowledge is power, welcome to your power.
Live Numbers

Illegal Aliens in Country
Other Than Mexican Illegals in Country
Money Wired to Mexico Since Jan 2006
Money Wired to Latin America Since 2001
Cost of Social Services Since 1996
Children of Illegals in Public Schools
Cost of Illegals in K-12 Since 1996
Illegal Aliens Incarcerated
Cost of Incarcerations Since 2008
Illegal Alien Fugitives
Anchor Babies Since 2002
Skilled Jobs Provided to Illegal Aliens
Counter Data Sources - click here
Numbers Video -here
What is Aztlan? Bigger than many realize. here
Open Border Photos, Videos & News - here
Employ Right - American Certified Workforce. For businesses who hire legally. here


PHOENIX -- An Arizona Senate committee late Tuesday narrowly approved a sweeping bill that would target illegal immigrants in public housing, public benefits and the workplace.
The committee earlier Tuesday also approved a bill that would deny automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants in a measure designed to set up a possible U.S. Supreme Court case on the issue.

Feb. 22: A supporter and opponent of illegal immigrant birthrights debate at the State Capitol in Phoenix.
Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, who authored Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law last year that touched off a nationwide debate on whether states can enforce federal immigration laws, sponsored Tuesday's more sweeping measure.

"If you're in the country illegally, you don't have a right to public benefits, period," he said.

The bill toughens requirements that employers check work eligibility of new hires, allowing for their business licenses to be suspended if they don't use the federal E-Verify system. Workers caught using a false identity to get a job would face mandatory six-month jail sentences.

It also requires schools to collect information on the legal status of students and report them to law enforcement if their parents don't provide the necessary documents or the documents appear false.

The bill also makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to drive in the state, providing for a 30-day minimum jail sentence and the seizure of their vehicles if they are convicted.

In housing, it requires public agencies to verify the immigration status of renters and to evict everyone living in a unit if one was found to be an illegal immigrant. For health care, the bill changes some of the document requirements for the state's Medicaid program.

The bill turns public officials into immigration officers and "launches an unprecedented attack on minorities and people of color," said Jaime Farrant of the Border Action Network, an advocacy group.

Passing the bill would place a "dark cloud over Arizona that will make SB1070 tame in comparison," Farrant said, referring to last year's controversial law.

But the Appropriations Committee's chairman, Republican Sen. Andy Biggs, said the bill was a response "to economic and social costs that we face with the onslaught of illegal aliens in our state."

"We need to have the moral courage to deal with this issue when there is a vacuum at the federal," he said.

The bill, approved on a 7-6 vote, advances to consideration by the full Senate after a legal review and discussions by party caucuses. It drew vocal opposition from Democrats who said Pearce -- the Senate's president -- isn't focused on Republicans' stated top priority, the economy.

"This is totally the wrong time for the leader of our Senate to throw our state into another state of chaos," said Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud of Tucson.

Democrats by themselves don't have the votes to block Pearce's bill, but the topic brought out supporters on both sides and security at the Senate was heightened, with about a dozen uniformed police officers deployed in and around the building. Some of the officers outside the building stood between small groups of people as they exchanged catcalls and jeers.

Police said four people were arrested and cited for disorderly conduct after disrupting a Democratic senator's news conference about her bill stiffening penalties for a human smuggling crime.

Sponsors of the automatic citizenship bill approved by the Senate panel earlier Tuesday hope it will prompt a court interpretation on an element of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the country or who are "subject to the jurisdiction" of the U.S.

Bill proponents said the amendment doesn't apply to the children of illegal immigrants because such families don't owe sole allegiance to the U.S.

An hours-long debate centered on whether the measure would save Arizona money by keeping children of illegal immigrants from potentially burdening the state with the costs of benefits that go to citizens.

"Constantly I'm asked by my constituents, `Why is it that when illegal aliens sneak into this country their children are automatically citizens?"' said the bill's Republican sponsor, Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City.

But the leader of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce said lawmakers should focus their efforts on measures similar to the jobs bill they recently approved.

"We believe this case is one which would not get very far, and we are very, very, concerned about the economic consequences of this measure," said Glenn Hamer, the Chamber's chief executive.

An accompanying proposal was also approved by the committee that would establish an interstate compact that defines who is a U.S. citizen and asks states to issue separate birth certificates for those who are citizens and those who are designated as not citizens.

Similar proposals defining who would get automatic citizenship have been introduced by lawmakers in Indiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Backers expect another dozen states will take up the issue this year.


While the Ground Zero mosque controversy continues to swirl it turns out that the State Department has been using federal funds for years to renovate and rehabilitate mosques around the world.

While much attention has been focused on questions surrounding the Ground Zero mosque and the appropriateness of the State Department funding Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s trip to the Middle East, little attention has been given to the fact that U.S. taxpayer money is funding mosque development around the world.
Just a cursory search of the term “mosque” on the State Department’s list of “projects” reveals 26 examples of federal funds going to fund construction, renovation, and rehabilitation of various mosques abroad. The benefiting countries include Bulgaria, Pakistan, Mali, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Egypt, Tunisia, the Maldives, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Serbia and Montenegro.
The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) — which is putting millions toward “heritage preservation” projects in the developing world — financed mosque-related projects in all the aforementioned countries.
In Montenegro, for example, the State Department has funded an effort to restore and conserve the Shadrvan (Fountain) of the Old Mosque in Pljevlja. According to the State Department’s website, without needed repairs there would not be a sufficient place for ritual washing before prayer.
“To support the restoration of a fountain at a 16th-century mosque concurrent with the restoration of the mosque itself. Used for ritual ablutions before prayer, the fountain has deteriorated over time and needs a new wooden octagonal roof, pipes, water-taps, and pavement,” the description of the project reads.
Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, told The Daily Caller that the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is a type of diplomatic effort and outreach, what she says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “soft power.”
“It is helping to preserve our cultural heritage. It is not just to preserve religious structures,” Thompson said. “It is not to preserve a religion. It is to help us as global inhabitants preserve cultures.”
In a document provided on Monday to Indiana Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the State Department explained that the practice of funding such projects became acceptable in 2003 when the Justice Department declared that the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause did not preclude federal funds from going to preserve religious structures if they had cultural importance.
The DOJ wrote: “That advice is provided in the following paragraph that appears in every AFCP request for grant proposals… ‘The establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution permits the government to include religious objects and sites within an aid program under certain conditions. For example, an item with a religious connection (including a place of worship) may be the subject of a cultural preservation grant if the item derives its primary significance and is nominated solely on the basis of architectural, artistic, historical or other cultural (not religious) criteria.’”
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also spent millions reconstructing and financing multiple mosques in Cairo and Cyprus, as well as providing computers for imams in Tajikistan and Mali.
Interestingly, however, according to the Code of Federal Regulations, “USAID funds may not be used for the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of structures to the extent that those structures are used for inherently religious activities.”