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The holiday season is becoming more expensive as the price of Christmas trees, both real and artificial, sees a significant increase due to inflation. A report from Fox Business, based on data from the National Christmas Tree Association and the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA), highlights that the average cost of Christmas trees has risen by ten percent from last year, now ranging between $80 and $100.

Artificial trees, in particular, have experienced a notable price hike. According to Jami Warner, the executive director of ACTA, the prices for these trees start at around $85 and can escalate to $1,000 or more, with over half of artificial Christmas tree owners having purchased their tree for under $200. Factors such as the tree’s producer, retailer, size, shape, and features like pre-lit options significantly influence the cost.

The primary reason behind this surge is the rising production costs, which are a residual effect of ongoing supply chain issues impacting various industries across the United States. Despite these increased prices and widespread concerns about inflation, the demand for Christmas trees remains robust. The ACTA survey reveals that 94 percent of participants still plan to buy a tree this season, with a majority preferring artificial trees.

To navigate this inflationary trend, Warner advises consumers to shop for their Christmas trees early, noting that many are already purchasing their holiday décor well before the traditional shopping seasons of November and December to avoid the holiday rush and secure the best choices that fit their needs.

This spike in the cost of Christmas trees adds to the overall financial strain consumers are facing due to high inflation rates. An analysis from the Heritage Foundation in October pointed out that inflation is at a 40-year high, with prices rising substantially since President Biden took office. The report emphasized that inflation was well below the Federal Reserve’s two percent target when Biden started his term, but it has since escalated dramatically, reaching an annual rate of 9.1 percent.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

In New York City’s Queensbridge Housing Authority, a recent incident epitomizes the failure of liberal immigration policies. Local low-income residents, many of whom are natural-born citizens, were denied free Thanksgiving dinners because illegal immigrants, who have no right to be in the country in the first place, managed to get ahead in line. This blatant disregard for legal residents is a slap in the face to those who abide by the law and have contributed to their communities.

Georgia Butler, a Queensbridge resident, expressed her rightful indignation to WNYW-TV, detailing how illegal immigrants were prioritized at the food bank, a service that was intended to support American citizens in need. The fact that these illegals got there early and took the resources meant for Americans is a clear indication of how backward our system has become under the current administration’s lax immigration policies.

New York City, once a bastion of opportunity for American citizens, is now overrun with illegal immigrants, creating unsustainable financial burdens. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has reported staggering numbers, with over one million illegal immigrants in the state costing taxpayers millions. These costs include billions in education, police, and corrections budgets, and additional expenses in healthcare and public assistance. This situation is bleeding New York dry, with each household shouldering a hefty price tag due to the city’s sanctuary policies.

Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, has made matters worse by slashing budgets in critical areas to cater to these illegal immigrants. He’s cut $547 million from education and plans to reduce the NYPD force by a significant margin, all to accommodate people who shouldn’t even be here. This is a clear betrayal of American citizens and legal residents who rely on these services.

Furthermore, Adams’ budget cuts to the New York Public Library system are another example of how legal residents are being shortchanged. The mayor’s actions are a blatant pandering to illegal immigrants, putting their needs above those of American citizens.

The cost of housing these illegal immigrants has skyrocketed to $10 million per day, a ludicrous amount of money that could be better spent on improving the lives of legal residents. This situation in New York City is a glaring example of how Democratic leadership is failing its citizens, prioritizing illegal immigrants over the needs of its own people. The incident at the NYCHA food bank is just the tip of the iceberg, a symptom of a much larger problem that stems from a broken immigration system and misguided sanctuary city policies. It’s time for a major overhaul, one that puts American citizens first and enforces immigration laws to protect our communities and resources.

Author: Scott Dowdy

The luxurious superyacht owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, named ‘Koru,’ has raised environmental concerns due to its significant carbon footprint. Indiana University researchers discovered that this $500 million vessel generates a minimum of 7,154 tons of greenhouse gases annually, an amount staggeringly higher than the yearly carbon footprint of an average American. This revelation stands in stark contrast to Bezos’s public commitment to combating climate change, including his pledge to donate billions towards environmental causes.

Koru’s grandeur and size necessitate a ‘support yacht’ equipped with a helipad to accompany it during its voyages. Bezos, whose net worth is around $200 billion, gained $75 billion in 2020 alone, with Amazon stocks skyrocketing by 75% as the pandemic shifted consumer behavior towards online shopping. This increase in wealth for U.S. billionaires during the pandemic has been a point of contention, especially in the context of their environmental impact.

In 2022, Bezos announced his intention to give away most of his wealth during his lifetime, targeting environmental charities among other causes. Yet, the opulence and environmental impact of his superyacht have sparked criticism. Beatriz Barros, an anthropology PhD candidate at Indiana University, pointed out the contradiction in billionaires like Bezos advocating for reduced carbon emissions while engaging in activities that significantly contribute to them. She suggests that their immense wealth and influence create a sense of entitlement to luxury travel that contradicts their public stance on environmental responsibility.

Bezos’s engagement to Lauren Sanchez and their European tour aboard the Koru further highlight the disparity between his public environmental commitments and his personal lifestyle choices, raising questions about the real-world impact of wealthy individuals on climate change.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

The U.S. economy is showing signs of an impending recession, as indicated by the latest decline in the leading economic index (LEI). The LEI, which forecasts the economy’s direction based on 10 key indicators, fell by 0.8 percent in October, according to the Conference Board’s report released Monday. This drop marks the 19th consecutive month of decline, a pattern last seen during the Great Recession.

Economists had anticipated a decline of 0.8 percent, which aligns with the actual decrease observed. The rate of the LEI’s decline has slowed somewhat recently. Between April and October 2023, the LEI contracted by 3.3 percent, a lesser decline compared to the 4.5 percent contraction seen in the previous six months.

Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, a Senior Manager of Business Cycles at The Conference Board, noted that the negative trajectory of the LEI, along with its six- and twelve-month growth rates remaining in negative territory, is concerning. Key factors contributing to the index’s recent decline include worsening consumer expectations for business conditions, a drop in the ISM Index of New Orders, declining equities, and tighter credit conditions.

The current LEI data is signaling a likely recession in the near term, though it is expected to be mild. The Conference Board anticipates that elevated inflation, high interest rates, and reduced consumer spending — owing to depleted pandemic savings and the resumption of student loan repayments — will nudge the U.S. economy into a brief recession. Their forecast suggests that real GDP will only grow by 0.8 percent in 2024, pointing to a challenging economic period ahead.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

A CNBC report has brought to light the burgeoning global industry of online censorship, now valued at billions of dollars. This industry, known under the guise of “trust & safety” services, is expanding significantly, especially in the context of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip.

Manu Aggarwal, a partner at Everest Group, highlighted that the trust and safety segment is rapidly growing within the business process services market. This market includes outsourcing of IT tasks and call centers. By 2024, it is projected that the overall business process services market will reach about $300 billion, with trust and safety services accounting for approximately $11 billion. Major companies like Accenture and Genpact, specializing in outsourced trust and safety services, are leading this market, mainly because many big tech firms have started developing their own in-house tools.

The industry’s scale and influence are further evidenced by its dedicated annual conference, TrustCon, where tech policy experts and industry leaders convene to discuss the latest trends and societal impacts of this sector. Companies like ActiveFence and Checkstep, which offer solutions to protect online platforms and content moderation services, are key participants in these conferences.

CNBC’s report also indicates that third-party trust & safety companies are thriving as tech giants like Google, Facebook, and X/Twitter scale back their internal departments. Many firms, such as NewsGuard, at the center of recent censorship controversies, are private entities providing services that enhance censorship on social media platforms.

The model that is emerging in the industry is characterized by a complex network of smaller service companies developing censorship technologies. These companies tend to escape the scrutiny that larger tech corporations like Meta and Google often face. Subsequently, they sell these technologies to larger entities, including national governments, thereby expanding their role and influence in the global digital landscape.

This development signals a significant shift in the dynamics of online censorship, with implications for digital freedom and expression worldwide. As the industry grows, so does the concern about the increasing reach and sophistication of censorship technologies in the hands of both corporate and governmental entities.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) latest proposal to cap American cars at 100 miles per hour is nothing short of a blatant overreach and a disturbing glimpse into a future where government control tramples individual freedom. This entire scenario, triggered by a tragic accident, is a textbook example of how government agencies exploit isolated incidents to impose broad, overbearing regulations that trample on constitutional rights and personal liberties.

First off, let’s be clear: the NTSB’s audacious move to regulate car speeds is a gross overstep of constitutional boundaries. The U.S. Constitution grants no such power to the federal government to dictate such specific manufacturing standards to the automobile industry. This isn’t just overreach; it’s a flagrant disregard for the constitutional limits of government power.

Putting the constitutional aspect aside, let’s dissect the event that sparked this absurd recommendation. The culprit, Gary Dean Robinson, was already on law enforcement’s radar, having been cited for speeding numerous times. Yet, due to the leniency of the Las Vegas system, most of these citations didn’t even make it to his record. This is the real issue at hand – a failed system that allows repeat offenders to slip through the cracks, not the need for more automotive regulations.

Consider the accident’s specifics: Robinson was driving at 103 mph. Would a cap at 100 mph have made a difference? Absolutely not. This proposed speed limit is nothing more than a foot in the door for future restrictions. Before we know it, they’ll be pushing for lower and lower limits, inching us back to the days of the oppressive 55 mph speed limit. We’ve seen this slippery slope before, and we won’t be fooled again.

Moreover, this feels eerily reminiscent of something you’d expect in a country like China, where government control stifles individual choice. The irony? China is aggressively moving into the electric vehicle market and cozying up to U.S. politicians. This move reeks of outside influence and a step towards curbing American automotive freedom.

The solution isn’t more government meddling but letting the free market reign. If car manufacturers want to self-impose a 100 mph limit, that’s their prerogative. Consumers can then vote with their wallets. That’s how a free market operates; that’s the essence of liberty.

We need to clamp down on repeat offenders and address the real problem – a broken judicial system that fails to hold them accountable. Government, keep your hands off our cars and trucks! This isn’t about safety; it’s about control. And as Americans, we must resist every attempt to erode our freedoms under the guise of safety. Enough is enough!

Author: Scott Dowdy

Amazon’s decision to shift its focus towards artificial intelligence (AI) has led to a significant restructuring within the company, resulting in numerous job cuts across its Alexa unit. This move, as explained by Amazon’s Vice President of Alexa and Fire TV, Daniel Rausch, is a strategic realignment to prioritize AI development over certain existing initiatives.

As Rausch stated, “In our ongoing quest to innovate, we’re reorienting some of our efforts to more closely align with our business objectives and what we know is most valuable to customers. This includes focusing our resources and efforts more on generative AI.”

The layoffs will impact employees not just in the United States but also in Canada and India, marking a considerable change in the workforce composition for Amazon.

The timing of this announcement coincides with reports that Amazon is developing its own AI system, known as Olympus. This project is seen as a direct competitor to existing AI platforms, and it’s reported to be a significantly advanced model with two trillion parameters, double the size of OpenAI’s GPT-4 model.

The move towards a more AI-centric approach is seen as a means to enhance customer experience on Amazon’s platforms. For instance, the Olympus model could potentially power sophisticated chatbots on Amazon’s shopping site, aiding customers in product selection and queries.

This focus on AI and the subsequent job cuts reflect a broader trend within the tech industry, where companies are increasingly leaning towards AI and machine learning technologies. As the chair of the marketing department at the Albers School of Business at Seattle University commented, “Almost every business is likely to be impacted or influenced in some way by the emergence of AI.”

The reorganization within Amazon, especially the downsizing of the Alexa team, has been met with critical opinions. A former worker labeled Alexa as a “colossal failure of imagination,” underscoring the challenges faced by the company in its AI ventures.

Amazon’s foray into AI and the decision to cut jobs in its Alexa unit signify a significant shift in the company’s strategic direction, emphasizing the growing importance and influence of AI technology in the current business landscape.

Author: Scott Dowdy
When it comes to laws passed in the swamp that is Washington, DC, the devil is always in the details.

The “Infrastructure Investment Act” was enacted by President Joe Biden back in 2021. This law should worry any self-respecting liberty lover since it is over a thousand pages lengthy and contains a confusing array of clauses.

This law’s apparent drunk driving clause has become the focus of a significant controversy in Washington, DC. Initially, the measure aimed to prevent alcohol connected driving fatalities by requiring all new cars to have “drunk driving prevention tech” fitted.

To do this, it would be government compulsory that all new cars sold after the year 2026 have an automatic “kill switch” installed. This would cause the car to shut down if the system sensed that the driver was operating the vehicle erratically, possibly indicating that they were intoxicated.

As per the “Fact Check” published by USA Today, Section 24220 of the bill mandates that the Highway Safety Administration formulate regulations mandating the inclusion of technology in new cars that “passively watches a driver,” identifies potential impairments, and either prevents or limits vehicle operation “if impairment is detected.”

It is effectively within the government’s jurisdiction to compel private corporations to equip their cars with this technology. This is blatantly against company owners’ economic liberty. Furthermore, it will be expensive to install and implement these devices, which will eventually be passed on to customers in the form of higher pricing.

Congressman Thomas Massie, a Republican, showed courage at the beginning of November by offering an amendment that would certainly defund the kill-switch mandate. November 6, Massie shared a post on X:

If my “kill switch” amendment is approved, it will nullify the impending law requiring all new cars produced after 2026 to have technology capable of turning them off automatically.

Massie indicated that his mandate would be voted on that evening in a follow-up post on November 7:

Although having the freedom to roam is essential, new cars sold after 2026 must have a kill switch installed by the government. Based on data collected, the kill-switch will disable cars and monitor driver performance. My amendment to now defund this mandate will be put to a vote tonight.

Unfortunately, on November 7th, the change was not approved, as Massie noted in a post on X:

All cars sold after 2026 are required by federal law to feature a kill switch that has the ability to disable your car based on how well you drive.

Sadly, Massie’s proposal was thwarted by a group of Republicans and Democrats. Based Politics’ Hannah Cox outlined some of the risky ramifications of this mandate provision:

Yes, the purpose of Massie’s amendment is ostensibly to prevent drunk driving. However, once it’s in place, that brings us one big step closer to being able to utilize it for other purposes. It would be incredibly stupid to believe that the government won’t eventually take that power in ways that will violate fundamental civil rights and do harm to innocent Americans.

Cox went on to emphasize that the fact that Washington, DC, approved such a mandate shows that there is no regard for capitalism in the corridors of Congress:

The kill switch is thus merely the most recent in a long line of violations of this right, and according to Massie’s vote total, the only free movement we’re witnessing at the moment is in Congress—away from capitalism and the Constitution.

All told, if we want any kind of free market ideas to be enacted at the federal level, we’re going to need at least 100 Thomas Massies in Congress. The current DC uniparty is just too dependent on large government.

Author: Scott Dowdy

Internal documents have surfaced as part of a legal battle against Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, revealing that CEO Mark Zuckerberg often rejected senior executives’ recommendations to prioritize the mental health of young users on its platforms, Facebook and Instagram.

CNN has reported on Zuckerberg’s consistent refusal to implement changes aimed at bettering the mental welfare of teenage users, despite proposals by top executives within the company. This has brought Meta’s dedication to its users’ health into question.

The legal action against Meta involves a multitude of states; 33 states allege that Meta intentionally crafted addictive features on Facebook and Instagram to hook children and teens. Additionally, nine other attorneys general have launched separate lawsuits, making a total of 42 states challenging Meta on these grounds. The suits also claim that Meta has been unlawfully collecting data from children under the age of 13 and implicating the tech giant in exacerbating the youth mental health crisis.

One key example of Zuckerberg’s controversial decisions was his choice to block a move to disable the “beauty filters” on Instagram in 2019. These filters have been scrutinized for promoting unrealistic beauty standards and exacerbating mental health issues among teenagers. Despite support for the measure from significant figures like Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri and the company’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, Zuckerberg decided against the move, citing both user demand and a supposed lack of data on negative impacts.

Contrary to Zuckerberg’s assertions of insufficient evidence, internal research highlighted by The Wall Street Journal indicates that Instagram’s impact on young girls’ self-image is notably detrimental. The internal findings revealed that 32% of teen girls felt worse about their body image due to Instagram, with one in three teen girls reporting that Instagram worsened their body image issues. Furthermore, the research linked a percentage of British and American teen users’ suicidal thoughts directly to their use of Instagram.

Meta has responded to these alarming revelations. Spokesperson Andy Stone defended the company, noting the widespread use of such filters across social media and on smartphones. Stone also drew attention to Meta’s policies against filters that promote plastic surgery, skin color alteration, or extreme weight loss, and pointed to initiatives aimed at aiding teens and their families, including screen-time management tools and the ability to hide like counts on posts. Despite these defenses, the lawsuit and the unsealed documents have cast a spotlight on Meta’s internal conflicts and the ongoing debate over social media’s responsibility for user mental health.

Author: Scott Dowdy

In Mecosta County, Michigan, voters successfully deposed six local elected Republicans who had backed taxpayer-funded subsidies for the construction of an EV battery plant in the county by a Chinese corporation having close ties to the CCP.

Voters in Green Charter Township and Big Rapids Township on Tuesday night recalled six local elected officials in total, all of whom are Republicans, for supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) proposal to allow CCP-affiliated Gotion Inc. to construct a $2.4 billion electric vehicle battery plant in the region.

The recall movement and demonstrations against the CCP-affiliated project have been spearheaded by local activist Lori Brock, who told the Detroit News that she is “thrilled beyond belief” that the Republican slate was removed and replaced by new authorities.

According to Brock, “this recall demonstrates how the community did not want this.” It just means that we can speak up once more. Despite our diminutive size, we are strong.

Local Michiganders have been opposing Whitmer’s ideas for almost a year now, and the administration of President Joe Biden later endorsed them. Through subsidies, the project would potentially bring in billions of dollars for American taxpayers.

Biden’s Treasury Department gave the Gotion battery factory project, located outside of Big Rapids, approval in June. Just 100 miles from Camp Grayling, the biggest US National Guard training facility, Gotion bought roughly 300 acres of land in Green Charter Township, where the plant will eventually be located, at the beginning of this month.

Despite repeated claims from executives that the company is under the party’s control, the Daily Caller disclosed in August that Gotion’s parent company is run by a CCP member and includes hundreds of party members.

Gotion High-Tech’s 2022 ESG Report states, “Gotion High-Tech founded a CCP branch back in 2010 that was then upgraded to an official CCP committee in 2014.” “The CCP committee consists of 11 party branches and two general branches. There are currently 923 CCP members, more than half of whom have master’s degrees or above.”

This information was made public following the discovery that Gotion was listed as a Chinese foreign principal in a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing, which was initially brought to light by Fox News.

Gotion’s FARA registration was handled by the legal firm Warner Norcross & Judd; according to the filing, Gotion “is not supervised or financed by any foreign government or political party.”

Author: Blake Ambrose

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