Five Outrageous Ways the Federal Government Has Wasted Your Money (Part I)

American families make hard choices about spending every day, carefully budgeting to make ends meet and plan for the future.

Shouldn’t the same rules apply to our federal government?

You would think! Yet the national debt has now hit $21 trillion and Congress keeps on spending.

Sen. James Lankford has documented some of the most ridiculous ways the government has spent YOUR hard-earned tax dollars over the years in his annual report, Federal Fumbles.

In this blog series, we’ll take a close look at some of the most egregious examples of government waste from Sen. Lankford’s reports over the years.

Check out five crazy examples of wasteful government spending from Sen. Lankford’s 2015 report below:

$374,087 Spent Watching Grandma’s Dating Behavior

In 2015, the federal government spent $374,087 in taxpayer dollars observing senior adults’ dating habits.

The National Science Foundation study’s stated objective of obtaining a “more comprehensive understanding of relationship maintenance efforts” was murky at best.

$67.9 Million Spent on Wild Horse Management

Tell the federal government to stop horsin’ around with your tax dollars!

In FY 2014 alone, the Bureau of Land Management spent $67.9 million to manage the growing population of thousands of wild horses that span across 26.9 million acres in the American West.

Instead of making taxpayers pay for the care and feeding of these horses, the government should transfer the management of wild horses and burros to humane, private organizations.

$43 Million Spent on a Gas Station…in Afghanistan

From 2011 to 2014, the Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, tasked with building up Afghanistan’s economy, spent nearly $43 million to build a Compressed Natural Gas filling station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan.

Sadly, someone didn’t do their research, or they would have discovered that there was no natural gas distribution ability in Afghanistan and the cost to convert a vehicle to CNG exceeded the average annual income in the country.

After a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars – spending a total of $766 million during the organization’s lifetime, the DOD closed the failed TFBSO in March 2015.

Millions Spent Marketing U.S. Raisins in Foreign Countries

The Department of Agriculture spends HOW much marketing raisins?

The Foreign Service Market Access Program spends nearly $200 million of your money annually to pay companies and trade groups for advertising, market research and travel costs to promote American products overseas.

Since 1998, the Raisin Administrative Committee – a group of 46 California raisin growers and packers – has received more than $38 million in taxpayer funds from the Market Access Program to promote their raisins abroad.

The catch? The Raisin Administrative Committee already produces 99.5 percent of all American raisins and 45 percent of the world’s raisins.

$2.6 Million to Help Truckers Diet

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is great – but it should not be done on the taxpayers’ dime. From 2011 to 2015, American taxpayers have spent a total of $2.6 million to fund a trucker weight-loss intervention program, sponsored by the National Institute of Health.

The federal government would do well to trim its annual budget in the future by cutting wasteful programs like this one.

As you can see, these programs are not a valuable use of anyone’s tax dollars. The American people have had enough!

Tell Congress to stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars! It’s time for our lawmakers put the American people first, and stop overspending! 

Then, stay tuned to see the next round of wasteful government spending projects!

The post Five Outrageous Ways the Federal Government Has Wasted Your Money (Part I) appeared first on Americans for Prosperity.

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Air Force Base That Lost Grenades Also Lost Machine Gun

Talk about a bad week.

Frankly, I’m really glad I’m not an airman stationed at Minot Air Force Base right about now. You see, last week, we reported about the base losing a case of grenades for the Mark 19 grenade launcher. This, of course, is something we can all agree would be classified as a “bad thing.”

But the problems at Minot go a bit deeper.

You see, in addition to the ammo can full of grenades, they also lost a machine gun. Yes, a real machine gun.

The same Air Force unit that lost grenades is now missing a machine gun.

An M240 machine gun was discovered missing on May 16 during a standard weapons inventory at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, said Lt. Col. Jamie Humphries, a spokesman for the 5th Bomb Wing. The machine gun belongs to the 91st Missile Wing security forces.

“The 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing immediately began a search of their weapons inventories and opened an investigation with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations,” Humphries told Task & Purpose in an email. “This investigation is ongoing and more information will be provided as it becomes available.”

This happened about two weeks after the grenades were lost, which is not making the Air Force look good at all.

Air Force Global Strike Command has ordered airmen to do a complete and total weapon inventory, which at this point may find out that the entire base is missing or something. Frankly, not much would surprise me, even if they found Jimmy Hoffa.

The 91st Missile Wing security forces are tasked with protecting at least part of our nuclear arsenal, though right now I think someone with the wing will be doing well to simply protect their posterior.

Unfortunately, problems like this tend to be symptoms of something deeper. Something isn’t right up in Minot, and the Air Force needs to check it out. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff, is already working on that.

Someone is getting relieved with cause. Their career is over, and they’ll be very fortunate if that’s the worst that happens.

A case of explosives and a fully automatic weapon are missing. These are among the most tightly controlled items in the United States military’s inventory for a reason. If someone is lucky, they’re just misplaced somewhere in a warehouse or something, but I somehow doubt anyone is that lucky.

Instead, I suspect that charges will be coming against someone. Military careers are about to be over, and someone will be spending some quality time in a very small room decorated with bars thinking about their life choices. That’s just a hunch, of course, but a somewhat educated one.

Regardless, though, let’s just hope these weapons are recoverable and not in the hands of someone who will use them for horrible purposes. While the Mark 19 ammo might only run in a Mark 19, the M240 uses 7.62. That’s pretty easy to get your hands on, and no one wants to see a weapon like that in the wrong hands.

Here’s hoping.

The post Air Force Base That Lost Grenades Also Lost Machine Gun appeared first on Bearing Arms.

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World War II vet penned poems to put experiences in perspective

Two decades ago, World War II Army veteran Don Weimer began writing poems about the war. Such verse, the bard says, helped him put his military service in perspective and better understand the trials of his fellow soldiers.

One of his poems about a vet who received a “Dear John” letter, Weimer said, represents what sometimes happened when soldiers went off to war: The girlfriend or wife they loved back home ditched them. However, in this poem, “Ken Goes to War,” Weimer provides an ending of practicality and hope.

But first one needs to know a little about Weimer and what he experienced to provide the foundation for his later-in-life poetry.

He arrived in Italy in February 1945 and was assigned to the 313th Combat Engineers. The first thing he says he noticed was how the war had ripped apart a country that was supposed to be known as sunny and romantic.

“The artillery and the bombs had destroyed practically all the bridges and anything in the path of our infantry, as it had moved north through all the little towns and villages where the Germans had dug in and made defensive fortifications,” Weimer said.

His duties included security patrols for the 15th Army Air Force in Foggia, in the southern part of the Italian peninsula.

*******

Don Weimer, 91

Hometown: Buffalo

Residence: Williamsville

Branch: Army

Rank: private 1st class

War zone: World War II, European Theater

Years of service: January 1944 – December 1946

Most prominent honors: European Theater Medal, World War II Victory Medal and Army of Occupation Medal

Specialty: combat engineer

*******

“We were establishing a POW camp and I got to speak with a number of Germans. A lot of them spoke English and I heard their perspective on the war. They all said we should be fighting the Russians and that they would join us. They said Communism was the real enemy,” Weimer recalled.

To be in the midst of history was not lost on the young man. A little more than a year earlier, Weimer had been at the old Williamsville High School learning about the world from textbooks. Now he was experiencing real-time history lessons. And while he witnessed the anguish of other GIs who learned in letters that their gal back home had broken off the relationship, Weimer unexpectedly found love in Italy.

It happened during a chance meeting toward the end of the war. He met a young woman by the name of Nicolina Napolitano, who was from the Naples area.

“I was on patrol driving a Jeep and it was raining cats and dogs. So I pulled into a large garage where there were about a dozen women gathered. They were in that area getting olive oil and they ended up in the garage when it started raining.”

Before long, Weimer said he spotted “this raven-haired beauty.” The rest is history. They married here on July 26, 1947, and raised three children. Weimer’s management position at Bell Aerospace Textron provided them with a comfortable living.

Twenty years ago, he discovered satisfaction in penning poems, though he always had a flare for writing, having served in Italy for a time as the editor-in-chief of the battalion newspaper.

Sadly, four years ago, his marriage of 67 years ended when Nicolina passed away.

But what about Ken, the fictional GI whose experiences represent what sometimes really happened to those overseas in the trenches? Read on:

“It was nineteen-forty-two and the news quite blue,

For Japan had just declared war.

The bombs that fell created a hell that promised there’d only be more.

For all the the young men and a guy named Ken,

The war would become a way of life.

He packed his grip for the dreaded trip,

And bid farewell to his wife.

He was sent to camp, it was hot and damp,

The mosquitoes were larger than flies.

The captain was mean if things weren’t clean,

And the cook made the awfullest pies.

Each morning at five the barracks came alive,

As reveille played over the speaker.

It was shower and shave like some poor knave

Whose life couldn’t be any bleaker.

To the mess hall Ken marched, his throat was parched,

From the heat of the night before.

A breakfast of grits and prunes to fill the pits,

With powdered eggs and spam by the score.

It was drill, drill, drill and men became ill,

the day seemed it would never end.

By the time Ken was done there was no time for fun,

Even a letter Ken could not send.

As the weeks went by, Ken felt he would die

From the food, the marching and drills.

But a furlough at home was one small bone,

That helped to make up for his ills.

He returned to his base which is usually the case,

For soon he’d be off to the war.

His orders came through and before long he knew,

The horrors that would be in store.

He was assigned a division by a Colonel’s decision,

To a company of Combat Engineers.

Building bridges under fire, laying concertina wire,

soon filled him with doubts and fears.

All seemed to go well though it seemed like hell,

With shells that kept bursting quite near.

One day a shell came, it was marked with his name,

And gave proof for his reason to fear.

His sergeant was struck and with a stroke of luck,

Ken was just dazed and covered with grime.

A buddy turned about and soon dug him out,

And it seemed that all would be fine.

Ken remained in a daze, his arm wouldn’t raise,

It just limply hung by his side.

He was checked for a wound, none could be found,

It seemed all that got hurt was his pride.

Ken asked about Sarge whose wound was quite large,

And was told he probably would die.

Ken let out a moan along with a groan,

And said it could have been I.

Soon a letter came from his wife named Jane,

That she now was expecting a babe.

He said it’s not mine, I’ve been gone over nine.

It must be from some Four-F knave.

The war soon did end, home they did send Poor Ken to look after his wife.

But the babe was so fine and Ken changed his mind,

And said it’s all part of life.

So the story will end with wife Jane and Ken,

Both resolved to be a good father and mother.

Ken regained his pride and felt good inside,

And they had children one after another.

 

———

© 2018 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The next big discovery in astronomy? Scientists probably found it years ago — but they don’t know it

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This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Earlier this year, astronomers stumbled upon a fascinating finding: Thousands of black holes likely exist near the center of our galaxy.

The X-ray images that enabled this discovery weren’t from some state-of-the-art new telescope. Nor were they even recently taken – some of the data was collected nearly 20 years ago.

No, the researchers discovered the black holes by digging through old, long-archived data.

Discoveries like this will only become more common, as the era of “big data” changes how science is done. Astronomers are gathering an exponentially greater amount of data every day — so much that it will take years to uncover all the hidden signals buried in the archives.

The evolution of astronomy

Sixty years ago, the typical astronomer worked largely alone or in a small team. They likely had access to a respectably large ground-based optical telescope at their home institution.

Their observations were largely confined to optical wavelengths — more or less what the eye can see. That meant they missed signals from a host of astrophysical sources, which can emit non-visible radiation from very low-frequency radio all the way up to high-energy gamma rays. For the most part, if you wanted to do astronomy, you had to be an academic or eccentric rich person with access to a good telescope.

Old data was stored in the form of photographic plates or published catalogs. But accessing archives from other observatories could be difficult — and it was virtually impossible for amateur astronomers.

Today, there are observatories that cover the entire electromagnetic spectrum. No longer operated by single institutions, these state-of-the-art observatories are usually launched by space agencies and are often joint efforts involving many countries.

With the coming of the digital age, almost all data are publicly available shortly after they are obtained. This makes astronomy very democratic — anyone who wants to can reanalyze almost any data set that makes the news. (You too can look at the Chandra data that led to the discovery of thousands of black holes!)

These observatories generate a staggering amount of data. For example, the Hubble Space Telescope, operating since 1990, has made over 1.3 million observations and transmits around 20 GB of raw data every week, which is impressive for a telescope first designed in the 1970s. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile now anticipates adding 2 TB of data to its archives every day.

Data firehose

The archives of astronomical data are already impressively large. But things are about to explode.

Each generation of observatories are usually at least 10 times more sensitive than the previous, either because of improved technology or because the mission is simply larger. Depending on how long a new mission runs, it can detect hundreds of times more astronomical sources than previous missions at that wavelength.

For example, compare the early EGRET gamma ray observatory, which flew in the 1990s, to NASA’s flagship mission Fermi, which turns 10 this year. EGRET detected only about 190 gamma ray sources in the sky. Fermi has seen over 5,000.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, an optical telescope currently under construction in Chile, will image the entire sky every few nights. It will be so sensitive that it will generate 10 million alerts per night on new or transient sources, leading to a catalog of over 15 petabytes after 10 years.

The Square Kilometre Array, when completed in 2020, will be the most sensitive telescope in the world, capable of detecting airport radar stations of alien civilizations up to 50 light-years away. In just one year of activity, it will generate more data than the entire internet.

These ambitious projects will test scientists’ ability to handle data. Images will need to be automatically processed — meaning that the data will need to be reduced down to a manageable size or transformed into a finished product. The new observatories are pushing the envelope of computational power, requiring facilities capable of processing hundreds of terabytes per day.

The resulting archives — all publicly searchable — will contain 1 million times more information that what can be stored on your typical 1 TB backup disk.

Unlocking new science

The data deluge will make astronomy become a more collaborative and open science than ever before. Thanks to internet archives, robust learning communities and new outreach initiatives, citizens can now participate in science. For example, with the computer program Einstein[email protected], anyone can use their computer’s idle time to help search for gravitational waves from colliding black holes.

It’s an exciting time for scientists, too. Astronomers like myself often study physical phenomena on timescales so wildly beyond the typical human lifetime that watching them in real-time just isn’t going to happen. Events like a typical galaxy merger – which is exactly what it sounds like — can take hundreds of millions of years. All we can capture is a snapshot, like a single still frame from a video of a car accident.

However, there are some phenomena that occur on shorter timescales, taking just a few decades, years or even seconds. That’s how scientists discovered those thousands of black holes in the new study. It’s also how they recently realized that the X-ray emission from the center of a nearby dwarf galaxy has been fading since first detected in the 1990s. These new discoveries suggest that more will be found in archival data spanning decades.

In my own work, I use Hubble archives to make movies of “jets,” high-speed plasma ejected in beams from black holes. I used over 400 raw images spanning 13 years to make a movie of the jet in nearby galaxy M87. That movie showed, for the first time, the twisting motions of the plasma, suggesting that the jet has a helical structure.

This kind of work was only possible because other observers, for other purposes, just happened to capture images of the source I was interested in, back when I was in kindergarten. As astronomical images become larger, higher resolution and ever more sensitive, this kind of research will become the norm.

Eileen Meyer, Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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