August 12th, 2011
It is a pocket of rural America that has changed little in a century and is about as far removed from the bustle and marble monuments of Washington DC as one could imagine.
By Toby Harnden
But Paint Creek, where ranches and wooden homes, some now abandoned, are dotted beside cotton and wheat fields, is the place that defines the man who some Republicans believe could unseat President Barack Obama next November.
Governor Rick Perry was part of the fifth generation to work the land at Paint Creek, some 200 miles west of Dallas on the flat expanse of plains known as “the Big Empty”.
It was here that he was imbued with the country values of church, family, neighbourliness, thrift and hard work that now seem part of a bygone America beyond places like West Texas.
“There were three things to do in Paint Creek: school, church, and Boy Scouts,” Mr Perry said last year, looking back on the late 1950s. “That’s it. And it was plenty.” Paint Creek was “one of the most beautiful places or it could be one of the most desolate” depending on the weather. As a child, he ventured, it was the home of “some of the most principled, disciplined people in the world, and faithful”.
Back in the late 1950s, he was known as Ricky Perry, a mischievous boy, always smiling, who lived with his parents and older sister Milla in a rented wooden house that lacked indoor plumbing. He wore a cowboy shirt hand sewn by his mother, a locally renowned quilter, and his highest ambition seemed to be to become an Eagle Scout.
Thus far, Mr Perry’s life has been characterised by uncanny good fortune and an ability to seize an opportunity and capitalise on it.
He left the Democratic Party in 1989 to run as a Republican against a prominent liberal who was the strong favourite to keep his post as Texas Agriculture Commissioner.
In 2000, he was a little-known lieutenant governor who was automatically elevated to the state’s top post when George W. Bush won the presidency.
For 2012, he finds himself almost ideall 2012, he finds himself almost ideay positioned as the photo negative opposite of Mr Obama, a cerebral liberal with an exotic upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia who had no executive experience before the Whi
White House and had spent his adult life in academia and Democratic-controlled cities.
Many believe that changes within the Republican party could also play to his advantage.
Mr Perry was one of the earliest major politicians to embrace the anti-tax, small-government Tea Party movement.
His suspicion, bordering on hostility, of the federal government is in line with the more conservative, populist tilt the party has taken.
A proud Christian who recently held a national prayer event to call for “God’s help” in rescuing Americans “adrift in a sea of moral relativism”, he is unafraid to mix matters of church and he is likely to win over many evangelicals.
And while his slashing of the health and education budgets in Texas as part of a radical austerity programme might alarm swing voters, they fit the mood of Republicans rising up in protest over debt and deficits.
Yet as a big state, established governor many establishment figures and large donors will be comfortable with him.
Another possible advantage is the opponents he needs to beat to capture the Republican nomination.
Mitt Romney, the current front-runner, has switched from being a moderate on key issues like abortion and is regarded with suspicion by the Tea Party and right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.
Michelle Bachmann, a congresswoman for just four years and who has surged in polls, is seen by many senior Republicans as erratic and untested.
In contrast, Mr Perry, who has championed Israel and called for a muscular foreign policy, has the ability to appeal to all five elements of the party – fiscal, social and national security conservatives plus the Tea Party and the Establishment – without alienating any.
That fiscal element should resonate most – his state is experiencing phenomenal growth and job creation at a time when the national economy is slumping amid fears of a double-dip recession.
But critics will be quick to argue Rick Perry’s policies come with a price. Texas has some of the lowest high school graduation rates and highest poverty rates in America. The danger is that he will be seen as too right wing, too religious and too Texan to win a general election.
Texas is much more conservative than most of the US and memories of Mr Bush, the last Texas governor and wearer of cowboy boots to seek the Oval Office, could be a problem.
Mr Perry has publicly mused about the possibility of Texas seceding from the Union and has sanctioned a record 232 executions as governor.
The cotton fields at Paint Creek are empty this year because of the fearsome drought. But amid the dust and searing heat, beneath a vast blue sky, the farmland of Mr Perry’s youth is still being worked. Life here is as hard as ever.
At the school, from which Mr Perry graduated third in a class of 13 in 1968, Don Ballard, the school superintendent, reflected on the place that had made Mr Perry what he is.
“We had farm values,” he said “We got up, we worked and we knew what the dollar meant. There was no squandering money here there and yonder. Everybody struggled.
“You’d have a good crop one year and maybe a bad crop the next. Rick Perry understands being up and being down and that if you’re down you’ve got to work to get back up. Most of the families round here want their kids to be better and have more than what they had growing up.” Mr Perry is descended from Confederate veterans of the Civil War on both sides. In an old interview, his grandfather Hoyt Perry, who died in 1992, recalled how his father arrived at Paint Creek in 1887.
“The whole country was covered with prairie dogs. The buffaloes were killed in about the 1870s. I did a lot of farming with the mules. We made our own toys. We made a wheel with an axle and rolled it around.” The future Texas governor spent his teens living in a brick bungalow that his father built a field away from the wooden frame home. J.R. “Ray” Perry and his wife Amelia, now in their mid-80s, still reside there.
Outside the house, beside a dusty farm road, the elder Mr Perry, who was out fixing his irrigation system, describes how he took a bus from Paint Creek after graduating from the school in 1943 and joined the US Air Force.
He was subsequently stationed at RAF Horham in Suffolk, from which he flew missions over Germany in B-17 bombers.
“Rick took us back there four or five years ago and we went to the old base. Of course there was nothing there, just a little strip of runway that they didn’t destroy. The rest they turned back into fields.
“I flew 35 missions as a tail gunner and never got a scratch. We had one gunner killed and one wounded. They got damn close to me but they missed me.” His son followed him into the Air Force in 1972 and became a transport pilot, flying C-130s in Europe and the Middle East.
Bob Earles went to Paint Creek School with Mr Perry and was a fellow Boy Scout. They both went to Valley Pennsylvania for the Boys Scouts of America Jamboree of 1964 and visited Washington, where they were given a tour of the Capitol.
“It was different world,” he says. “Back here we’d water ski on the lake in summer and camp out. If we did something wrong and got in trouble, the scoutmaster would call a board of education â “ a wooden paddle. It was a real Christian place. Baptist or Methodist, everyone was one or the other.” In the summer of 1966, Bob Earles introduced Ricky Perry to a girl called Anita Thigpen, who lived in the town of Haskell about 10 miles away and was staying at a lake cabin. “I saw a lot less of him after that,” Mr Earles joked. After a 16-year courtship, the two married and today Anita Perry is First Lady of Texas.
At the Double A Drive-In restaurant and the Rodriquez Inn, where the Texas governor still dines when he visits, there is still talk of Mr Perry’s antics as a youngster.
Bob Earles remembers the time when the two of them climbed on the school roof and built a snowman, intending to push it off on top of the girls’ basketball team. Unfortunately, the snowman landed on the head of the school superintendent.
Rick Perry's school yearbook
Phil Coleman, one of Mr Perry’s class of 13 and another scout, climbed up a small canvas tower next to his tent to come face to face with a dead bull snake that had been placed there by his friend. “It scared the pants off me,” he says, laughing. “I jumped right off that tower. I guess he thought it was funny. I didn’t at the time.” After the Air Force, Mr Perry returned home to become a rancher, going into business with his father, a Democrat who served as an elected County Commissioner. In 1984, after considering becoming a commercial pilot, he decided to enter politics and run for state representative.
His friend Don Comedy, married to a girl from Mr Perry’s high school class, was his campaign manager. The district was so big that the pair used Mr Perry’s 1952 Piper Super Cub plane, decorating its cloth-covered fuselage with campaign stickers.
The population was so sparse that when they spotted a farmer on a tractor in his fields they would swoop down to land so they could canvas him.
“Once we had to land in a pasture due to fog,” he recalls. “A rancher came by in his pickup. We were both wearing coats and ties. Rick says 'Howdy’ and reaches into his jacket for a leaflet. I hear this lever action of a rifle – a very distinctive sound.
“This guy thinks we were drug dealers. Rick is looking down a rifle but he keeps talking.” By the time the conversation had finished, the rancher had written a cheque for the Perry campaign.
“I decided right then,” says Mr Comedy, “that anyone who can go in a matter of minutes from the first impression of being a drug dealer to getting a campaign contribution would go far.” It was the first of nine Texas elections that Mr Perry would win.
Mr Coleman’s wife Phyllis, who also went to Paint Creek School and was a neighbour of the Perrys, says Rick Perry has not changed from the boy who would be sent over to get firewood or iced tea for his father and would play Cowboys and Indians (the girls were the Indians).
“He came to speak at Homecoming over at the school last year. He was the same boy. You don’t change country people. When he speaks, he gets the point across plain and simple.”
Mr Perry’s friends believe he never intended to run for president but now feels he has to move beyond his beloved Texas because his country is in peril. The coming months will tell whether the boy from Paint Creek could be hailed by voters as a potential national saviour.
August 11th, 2011
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Hundreds of thousands of postal workers could soon lose their jobs, or face drastic changes to their benefits.
According to documents obtained by CNNMoney, the United States Postal Service is appealing to Congress to remove collective bargaining restrictions in order to lay off 120,000 workers. It also wants congressional approval to replace existing government health care and retirement plans.
The post office claims it needs to eliminate 220,000 positions, or more than 30% of its staff by 2015, but only 100,000 of those positions can be made through attrition. The other 120,000 must come from lay offs, according to the documents.
"To restore the Postal Service to financial viability, it is imperative that we have the ability to reduce our workforce rapidly," the USPS wrote.
The USPS is also asking Congress to change legislation that requires postal workers to get federal health care and retirement benefits. Instead, the Postal Service would replace them with its own benefit plans.
Currently, postal employees participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System. If given congressional approval, the Post Office would replace those with new plans that would save money, while offering comparable benefits to employees, according to the documents.
In the documents, the USPS lays out the harsh reality of the situation: mounting losses, declining mail volume due both to the recession and the shift toward digital alternatives, and the need for drastic measures to cut costs.
"The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence and, therefore, threaten the livelihoods of our employees and the businesses and employees in the broader postal industry and overall economy" a document on workforce reduction said.
It's no secret the USPS has been struggling, but it's a move that's likely to put Postal Service unions up in arms. USPS mail volume declined 20% in the four year period through the Fiscal Year 2010 resulting in net losses of over $20 billion.
In fiscal year 2010, the Postal Service suffered a $8.5 billion net loss, compared $3.8 billion the prior year. Last quarter, the U.S. Postal Service posted a loss of $2.2 billion. Its fiscal year ends in September.
In July, the Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe released a long-awaited "post office study" of nearly 3,700 potential closings in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. In its appeal to Congress, the USPS warns of an increasingly difficult situation -- one that has the long standing organization "facing the equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy." In the document, the Postal Service warns it will be insolvent next month.
August 11th, 2011
by Charles Q. Choi, SPACE.com Contributor
An alien world blacker than coal, the darkest planet known, has been discovered in the galaxy.
The world in question is a giant the size of Jupiter known as TrES-2b. NASA's Kepler spacecraft detected it lurking around the yellow sun-like star GSC 03549-02811 some 750 light years away in the direction of the constellation Draco.
The researchers found this gas giant reflects less than 1 percent of the sunlight falling on it, making it darker than any planet or moon seen up to now. [The Strangest Alien Planets]
"It's just ridiculous how dark this planet is, how alien it is compared to anything we have in our solar system," study lead-author David Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told SPACE.com. "It's darker than the blackest lump of coal, than dark acrylic paint you might paint with. It's bizarre how this huge planet became so absorbent of all the light that hits it."
Whereas Jupiter has clouds streaking it white and red, reflecting more than a third of the sunlight reaching it, TrES-2b apparently lacks reflective clouds, super-heated as its atmosphere is to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius) by a star just 3.1 million miles (5 million kilometers) away from it.
"However, it's not completely pitch black," co-author David Spiegel of Princeton University said in a statement. "It's so hot that it emits a faint red glow, much like a burning ember or the coils on an electric stove."
The researchers propose that light-absorbing chemicals such as vaporized sodium and potassium or gaseous titanium oxide in the planet's atmosphere could help explain why it is so dark. Still, none of these can fully explain why the world is as stealthily cloaked as it is.
"It's a mystery as to what's causing it to be so dark," Kipping said. "There's a good chance it's a chemical we haven't even thought of yet."
The astronomers think TrES-2b is tidally locked like our moon, such that one side of the planet always faces the star. This would lead it to change phases as it orbits its star just as our moon waxes and wanes from new to crescent to full, causing the total brightness of the star plus the planet to vary slightly over time.
"By combining the impressive precision from Kepler with observations of over 50 orbits, we detected the smallest-ever change in brightness from an exoplanet — just 6 parts per million," said Kipping. "In other words, Kepler was able to directly detect visible light coming from the planet itself."
These extremely small fluctuations in light proved that TrES-2b is incredibly dark. A more reflective world would have shown larger brightness variations as its phase changed.
Although TrES-2b currently is the darkest known planet, similar worlds around other stars undoubtedly await discovery, the researchers said. For now, it reinforces the idea that our solar system may not be as typical as we once thought, with an extraordinary variety of worlds potentially filling our galaxy.
Additional investigation of the more than 1,200 prospective worlds that Kepler has detected could turn up other unusually dark planets. The spacecraft, which launched in March 2009, is planned to run until at least November 2012.
"If Kepler gets an extended mission as we're hoping, it would be a huge boost to this kind of research," Kipping said.
Kipping and Spiegel detailed their findings in a study accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
August 11th, 2011
The Washington Times / By Ralph Z. Hallow
AMES, Iowa ¡ª Texas Gov. Rick Perry will announce Saturday that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination in a move expected to fundamentally reshape the race and divert attention from other contenders, many of whom will be competing this weekend in the Iowa Straw Poll.
¡°This is about electing a true conservative leader with a real record of job creation as our next president,¡± said Scott Rials, executive director of Make Us Great Again, one of the several pro-Perry political action committees that have formed to raise and spend money independently of his campaign.
Mr. Perry will make his formal announcement in Charleston, S.C., where he is scheduled to speak at an annual conference of conservative bloggers. He then will travel to New Hampshire and on to Iowa Sunday ¡ª hitting three of the first four states to hold nominating contests next year.
¡°Contrary to written reports that Gov. Perry would use his Charleston speech on Saturday to announce his intention to run, he will tell the influential red state gathering ¡ that he has entered the contest,¡± Perry campaign strategist David Carney told The Washington Times on Thursday.
In a preview of the Perry campaign¡¯s emphasis, Mr. Carney hailed the three-term governor as someone ¡°known by many as America¡¯s jobs governor.¡±
Mr. Carney, who was chief strategist for Mr. Perry last year when he defeated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas¡¯ gubernatorial primary, said the Perry record stands ¡°in perfect contrast to the current occupant of the White House, whose administration has appeared to be flailing around, trying to deal with economic woes for months.¡±
The move also adds another target for President Obama and the Democratic National Committee, which had invested time in trying to discredit former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who polls show is the front-runner in the field.
Democrats wasted no time in targeting the Texan.
¡°Not surprising Rick Perry is making his announcement in South Carolina instead of Texas ¡ª there¡¯s nowhere in the Lone Star State he could announce without an angry mob showing up,¡± said Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray, who disputed Mr. Perry¡¯s job claims by saying he fought for a budget that would lay off thousands of state workers.
According to the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls, Mr. Romney leads Mr. Perry 20.4 percent to 15.4 percent. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has not announced a candidacy, places third, in a near-tie with Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, an announced candidate who polls fourth.
Mr. Perry will make his entrance about six months to go before the Iowa caucuses, the traditional kickoff of the nominating season. Iowa is scheduled to be followed by New Hampshire¡¯s primary, Nevada¡¯s caucuses and South Carolina¡¯s primary, though several other states are considering moves to jump in the line.
The rest of the field has been assembled in Iowa for Thursday night¡¯s nationally televised debate, Saturday¡¯s straw poll, the Iowa State Fair, which runs for 11 days and is a traditional hot spot for meeting voters and mugging for cameras.
Mr. Perry did not seek space at the straw poll, though his announcement Saturday could fuel a write-in campaign there.
August 11th, 2011
From The Alex Jones Channel