Daily Archives: October 7, 2010

NATO contractors attacking own trucks in Pakistan?

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tanker truck bombing

Nato supply convoys travelling through Pakistan to Afghanistan have regularly come under attack in the past, but following Pakistan's decision to block their route through the Khyber Pass, they now face an even bigger security threat.

Hundreds of tankers and trucks have been left stranded on highways and depots across Pakistan, with little or no security.

Taliban militants have regularly been targeting the convoys, even when they are heavily protected.

But many believe it is not just the militants who pose a security threat to the convoys.

The owners of oil tankers being used to supply fuel to Nato in Afghanistan say some of the attacks on their convoys are suspicious.

They say there is evidence to suggest that bombs have been planted in many of vehicles by the “Nato contractors” – individuals or companies who have been contracted by Nato to supply fuel and goods to forces in Afghanistan.

The contractors subsequently hire the transporters who then carry the goods.

Selling fuel

tankers sitting on roadside

Contractors say there is little of no security for the supply convoys

Dost Mohammad, an oil tanker owner from Nowshera district, said a Nato contractor had recently been caught trying to plant a bomb in an oil tanker.

Contractors say there is little of no security for the supply convoys
“This happened in the area of Paiyee, when he was putting the bomb under the vehicle.”

“At that time, a few men also opened fire on the tankers. The deputy later told the police that he had been told to plant the bomb by the contractor.”

Dost Mohammad said the contractor had apparently sold off the fuel first.

“Only 2,000 litres from the original 50,000 litres had been left in the tanker to cover up the crime,” he said.

Dost Mohammad said it is a win-win situation for the contractors.

“If an old vehicle is burnt, Nato gives them money for a new vehicle. In addition, they receive compensation for all the fuel lost as well.”

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We are very scared at the moment – we are an open target for the militants”

Israrullah Shinwari
All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association
But the Deputy Minister for Interior, Tasneem Ahmed, dismissed the transporters’ claims.

“We have no such information that the Nato contractors are themselves setting the tankers on fire,” he told the BBC.

“No such complaints have been lodged, to my knowledge.”

The BBC also spoke to a Nato contractor, who was similarly dismissive of the allegations.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said Nato insured all the goods being transported and the vehicles carrying them.

“Nato pays the premium and bears the relevant charges with the local companies who provide the schemes. The transporters are then reimbursed on the basis of their actual losses,” he said.

But he said the policies were only valid within Pakistan.

Driver arrests
But Nowshera’s police chief, Nisar Tanoli, had a different account of events.

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Khyber Pass

• Up to 80% of Nato supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan

• Majority are driven 1,200 miles (1,931km) from port of Karachi to Kabul via Khyber Pass

• 1,000 container lorries and tankers travel daily through the pass to Kabul

• Khyber Pass is 53km long (33 miles) and up to a height of 1,070m (3,444ft)

• About 150 lorries go via the southern supply route through Chaman to Kandahar.

Talking to the BBC, he confirmed that at least two attempts to blow up oil tankers had taken place in the district.

“One took place in Paiyee, and the other in the area of Watak near Akora Khattak,” he said.

“In both incidents the tankers were parked in the area for a couple of days. During this time, bombs were made in nearby houses and then used on the tankers.”

He said the contractors were “in a hurry” to get a copy of the initial police reports into the incident and were “not interest in prolonging the investigations”.

“The insurance agents also showed up a few days later,” he said.

Mr Tanoli says the police carried on their investigations and the facts eventually came to light.

“We have now arrested some drivers and their helpers,” he said.

“The people behind them are not residents in the district, but we have issued warrants for their arrest.”

He added that there have been incidents in which fuel for aircraft has been sold off.

“The contractors later said it had leaked, or the tanker caught fire.”

‘Open target’
All, then, is not as straight forward as it seems, as far as the threat to the Nato supply route is concerned.

Continue reading the main story

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Pakistan’s intelligence and security apparatus may be encouraging the attacks by looking the other way”

Security analyst
But despite these additional concerns, the main danger continues to come from the Taliban.

“We are very scared at the moment – we are an open target for the militants,” said Israrullah Shinwari, a spokesman for the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association.

“Since the blockade was enforced, we have 3,000 tankers stranded across Pakistan.”

“The blockade itself has cost us tens of millions of rupees in losses. This does not include the damages suffered in the attacks.

“The Taliban have openly declared they will target the tankers, but we have been provided with no security.”

Since 2007, the militants have destroyed or captured dozens of Nato transport vehicles, especially in the Khyber tribal region.

But a security analyst said the latest move was “tantamount to encouraging the militants to have a real go at the convoys”.

“The fact that government ministers are calling the attack an expression of public anger shows that some may just be payback,” he said.

“Pakistan’s intelligence and security apparatus may be encouraging the attacks by looking the other way. In fact, there are suggestions that agencies may themselves be behind some themselves.”

Additional reporting by Riffatullah Orakzai, BBC News, Peshawar

map showing supply routes and points of attacks

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Expiration of Bush Tax Cuts Likely to Effect The Poor Most

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Low-income workers stand to lose the most if lawmakers fail to reach a consensus on the Bush-era tax cuts, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation.

The report states that on Jan. 1 the doubling of the child tax credit, increased standard deductions and income credits and the creation of the 10 percent tax bracket — all of which primarily aimed at non-wealthy taxpayers — will vanish if gridlock persists in Washington.

While wealthier taxpayers pay more in taxes and stand to lose more money if the tax cuts expire, the impact on low-income taxpayers will be far greater because they live on slimmer margins.

Democratic leaders have repeatedly vowed that tax cuts benefiting these taxpayers will be extended beyond their Dec. 31 expiration date. But a similar promise was made last year on the estate tax, and ten months have passed without Democratic leaders following through on that promise.

“The various tax proposals made by the parties in Washington all extend most of these low-income tax cuts,” said the report’s author, Nick Kasprak, in prepared remarks. “But the current Congress has shown itself to be unusually susceptible to gridlock, so the threat of automatic, full expiration of all these cuts is quite real.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has often stated that gridlock prevents the Senate from taking up the nearly 400 bills that have passed his chamber. Getting a middle-class tax cut through the upper chamber in the lame-duck could be more difficult if election predictions prove to be accurate.

If Republicans win the Senate races in Illinois and West Virginia, the new members could be sworn in immediately following the elections because the current term for those seats ends after Nov. 2., and not in January.

This means Senate Democrats will have less of a majority in the lame-duck and will likely have a harder time getting the sixty votes needed to pass legislation that extends the middle-class tax cuts while allowing tax breaks for the wealthy to expire on schedule at the end of the year.

The predicament could force liberal leaders to either capitulate and extend all the tax cuts or allow them all to expire.

“When comparing changes in after-tax income, low-income workers benefitted substantially from the Bush-era tax cuts, and so they would pay much higher taxes if political gridlock allows the imminent expirations to occur on schedule,” Kasprak said.

Moreover, low-income taxpayers have benefitted from many temporary stimulus measures enacted in 2009 that are also set to expire at the end of this year: a further expansion of the earned income credit for couples, greater refundability of the child tax credit and bigger credits for college education.

The Making Work Pay credit that appears in paychecks and boosts take-home pay up to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples is also slated to expire next year.

The report shows inaction on these tax measures will cost a married couple with two dependents earning $40,000 about $2,643, with after tax-income dropping to $38,870, from $41,513 if the tax cuts are extended and taxpayers continue to take advantage of refundable credits.

The report is available at www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/26766.html.

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Net Neutrality

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Catch future episodes of The Needle for a special discussion of Tech at Night and my other project, UnlikelyVoter.com. Be warned, though, The Needle is a bit rowdier than RedState.

I’ve said it in this space before, and I’ll keep saying because the Lame Duck session is coming: Republicans need to get out in front on Net Neutrality and we need to do it quickly. We cannot hinder the Internet by forcing ISPs to go to court over Title II reclassification.

Imagine if every video you play online, every download you make, every OS upgrade you run, every podcast you play, all got slower, skipped more, and just became a greater drain on your time. That’s just the beginning of we face if Title II reclassification happens, and investor dollars are scared away from building private Internet infrastructure in America.

But that’s the situation. Henry Waxman is using Republican inaction to argue for radical FCC action. It shouldn’t be the case as Seton Motley points out, but that’s what he’s saying. So let’s judo this and fight back by using his own bill against him.

America really is uniting behind radical Net Neutrality proposals pushed by the neo-Marxists at Free Press and their (shrinking) band of allies. Even some universal access advocates are realizing that Internet access at good speeds and affordable prices for all Americans is a pipe dream if harsh FCC regulation lands on the Internet. Do you want to make the “digital divide” larger? Pass the “third way” of Title II reclassification that the FCC and Free Press want.

Do you want to kill jobs? Pass Title II reclassification Net Neutrality. That’s the case the Phoenix Center makes. Starting with a “10% negative shock to capital expenditures” (the expenditures needed to keep our downloads and videos humming along, even as services like Youtube push higher and higher resolutions), we see a ripple effect of jobs lost for every million in investment lost. High paying jobs, too: these jobs are 45% higher paying “than the typical US private-sector job.” Say hello to FCC Net Neutrality and say hello to McJobs.

And why are we even facing all of this? Because of the oh-so-scary prospect of paying for better service. We’ve had this argument before:

Yes, the same kinds of scare tactics driving Net Neutrality used to drive the push against cable television. Imagine if regulation had killed cable before it started. Who wants to go back to having 5-10 channels? Not me, and I don’t even watch much live television.

But everyone reading this is online, which is why everyone reading this will benefit if the House GOP will pick up the ball that Henry Waxman dropped, and push for a moderate, reasonable Net Neutrality bill that will stop the FCC’s radical plans. Just stop them. That’s what America needs for our economy, for our freedom, and just for the basic enjoyment of our daily lives in talking to family on Facebook, friends on Twitter, and comrades in political arms on RedState and other sites.

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Shifting Tides in Governors’ Races: Brown Now 3-to-1 Favorite – California

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By NATE SILVER

Jerry Brown is now a 75 percent favorite to become the next governor of California, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecasting model, after accusations circulated widely that his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, knowingly employed an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper. Last week, Mr. Brown was a 60 percent favorite, and two weeks ago, he was the underdog in the race.

Although several polls released in the past week show Mr. Brown, a Democrat and former governor, with a small lead, it is unclear how much of the change in his standing is attributable to the reports about Ms. Whitman and the housekeeper, Nicandra Díaz Santillán. Ms. Whitman acknowledged hiring Ms. Díaz Santillán, but she says she dismissed her as soon as her immigration status was disclosed. A poll by Rasmussen Reports registered no change in Ms. Whitman’s unfavorability rating — 50 percent, unchanged from two weeks earlier — even as it found Mr. Brown gaining ground.

Any impact may be hard to measure because it might be felt most among Hispanic voters, and the polls were already in disagreement about how many of their votes Ms. Whitman might get. About 40 percent of Hispanic voters in California prefer to speak Spanish to pollsters, according to the research firm Latino Decisions, and these voters may be underrepresented in some polls.

Still, the allegations are obviously not helpful to Ms. Whitman, whose campaign has reacted with a certain lack of dexterity — with Ms. Whitman, for instance, having volunteered to take a polygraph test to rebut them. Such distractions may be relatively more difficult for a candidate like Ms. Whitman, who is running her first campaign for office, and who is used to writing her own script as the former chief executive of eBay.

History teaches us, nevertheless, that shifts in the polling sometimes reverse themselves — indeed, this happens at least as often as a candidate continues to gain “momentum” from them. So caution is warranted until we get a better sense of whether Mr. Brown’s lead can be maintained.

*-*

Several other gubernatorial races have had polling shift in recent days.

In Illinois, several polls show improvement for the Democratic incumbent, Pat Quinn. But the model is being cautious here. Only one poll, from Suffolk University, shows Mr. Quinn with a lead outside the margin of error, while until recently his Republican opponent, Bill Brady, had leads of around 10 points in most surveys. The model, therefore, still gives Mr. Brady a 79 percent chance of winning, although this is down from 91 percent last week.

If the model seems too slow to catch up to Mr. Quinn’s apparent surge in the polls, it’s worth bearing in mind another Midwestern state, Ohio. Some polling in Ohio last week had suggested that the Democratic incumbent, Ted Strickland, was pulling into a rough tie with his Republican opponent, John Kasich, spontaneously overcoming what had been about a 10-point deficit.

The model, however, was cautious about taking those numbers quite at face value. And this week, that looks prudent, since three new polls have come out showing Mr. Kasich still holding an advantage of 6 to 9 points. Obviously, Mr. Strickland could still win — and Mr. Quinn’s chances must be considered improved. But the lesson is not to jump to conclusions. Especially at this stage of the campaign, things like changes in advertising spending patterns can touch off short-lived bounces in the polls.

A race that shows a more unambiguous shift toward the Democrat is the one in Maryland, which had received fairly scant polling. Both a Washington Post poll and a Rasmussen Reports poll now show the Democratic incumbent, Martin O’Malley, with a solid lead there. The model now makes him an 89 percent favorite, up from 67 percent last week.

The Republican candidate, Rick Scott, has gained ground in Florida. The polling had been mixed there — but each of the five polls released in the past week give Mr. Scott a small advantage over the Democrat, Alex Sink. The model assigns Mr. Scott a 60 percent chance of winning, after he was a slight underdog in last week’s forecast; it is plausible that Mr. Scott has been assisted by the Senate race in the state, where the Republican, Marco Rubio, has run a strong campaign and has emerged with a clear lead over two opponents.

Another Republican with an improved forecast is the party’s candidate in New Mexico, Susana Martinez. It is not necessarily that Ms. Martinez has gained any more ground over her Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish; she has appeared to hold the lead for a while. But with three polls in the past week showing her with a clear advantage — New Mexico had received limited polling before — the model can now be more confident in its forecast.

A few other states are worth commenting on:

* A poll from the University of New Hampshire contradicts two others that had shown a close race there. It gives the Democratic incumbent, John Lynch, a 17-point lead, although with a high number of undecideds. We had not been persuaded that Mr. Lynch was in all that much jeopardy; he has a strong approval rating, and one of the polling firms that was showing a close race, American Research Group, has a dubious track record. But the model now rates his chances of winning back above 90 percent.

* In Connecticut, on the other hand, we were perhaps a bit too confident in assigning the race to the Democratic candidate, Dan Malloy. While Mr. Malloy remains the favorite, fresh polling this week shows him with less than 50 percent of the vote, giving the Republican, Tom Foley, an opportunity to win by closing the race strongly.

* A poll from a Maine firm, Critical Insights, shows the Democrat, Libby Mitchell, with a small plurality of the vote after having trailed the Republican Paul LePage by double digits in their previous survey. But caution here: Mr. LePage has led in several polls, including one released by Ms. Mitchell’s campaign. Maine remains among the more difficult states to forecast, with no fewer than three independent candidates in the race and a high proportion of undecided voters.

* The notion that Carl P. Paladino had a credible chance to upend Andrew Cuomo in New York seems more dubious today, with three new polls showing Mr. Cuomo, the Democrat, with leads of 15 to 24 points. The model now makes Mr. Paladino, whose unfavorability ratings have increased sharply, about a 100-to-1 underdog. You could find better risks to take at that price, like the Buffalo Bills winning the Super Bowl.

* A Texas survey from Public Strategies gives the Republican incumbent, Rick Perry, a 14-point lead, his largest so far. That improves his winning chances to around 90 percent in the model.

* Finally, in Rhode Island, there’s now a clearer consensus that the favorite is the Democrat, Frank T. Caprio, and not the independent, Lincoln Chafee, a former senator. But races with three or more significant candidates are tricky to predict, and it’s plausible that Mr. Chafee could gain ground if the Republican, John Robitaille, who had just 14 percent of the vote in one survey, begins to look nonviable to voters and some of his support migrates to Mr. Chafee.

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Ex-Hostage Re-evaluates ‘Right’ in Columbia

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As Ingrid Betancourt continues her worldwide book tour, most of the press focuses on the former Colombian senator and presidential candidate’s gripping saga of nearly seven years of captivity under the FARC Communist guerillas, her spectacular rescue in ’09, and how she is dealing with adjusting to life today.

But there was one observation Betancourt made in Washington that much of the international press has overlooked but that is nonetheless poignant and politically dramatic: that her native country is “not the Colombia it was when I was abducted” and has “improved a lot” in the eight years since her kidnapping in February of ’02—when it has been under governments headed by conservatives who had been political foes of Betancourt when she was a left-of-center representative, senator, and presidential candidate.

“The security has improved a lot,” Betancourt told a standing-room-only crowd at the National Press Club in Washington on September 22. “It is not the Colombia it was when I was abducted.”

The year that she was kidnapped by FARC guerillas, Betancourt was the presidential nominee of the Oxygen Party, a decidedly-left-of-center movement. As Betancourt herself described the party in her memoir Even Silence Has An End: “We were putting forward an ecological and pacifist platform. We were ‘green,’ we were about social reform.”

Betancourt’s leading opponent in ’02 was conservative Alvaro Uribe, who went on to win the presidency twice. Under Uribe and Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian government took a hard-line against FARC, killed many of its leaders, and rescued numerous hostages: among them Betancourt, who came out of captivity in February of ’09 following a spectacular raid in which undercover agents posed as Red Cross workers to get to the FARC-held hostages. Earlier this year, Santos was elected president.

So, after eight years of rule under political enemies she once called “ultra-right,” how does Betancourt feel Colombia is doing? As she told the Press Club audience, “We’re walking in the right direction. We’re a better democracy than yesterday.”

She also said that the Colombian military “is doing a great job” fighting the FARC and terrorism.

Her failure to say anything critical about conservatives Uribe and Santos is likely to disappoint Betancourt’s enthusiasts on the Left. (The fact that the former senator speaks so often of how her Roman Catholic faith means more to her now and that reading the Bible sustained her while a hostage is also unlikely to please fans of hers on the leftist side). Many had urged her to make another race for the presidency in 2010, but she declined to run in the race won by Santos.

Will she re-enter politics and possibly run for President again in 2014? Betancourt said it was unlikely, but left the door slightly ajar regarding a comeback.

“I don’t feel politics is right now, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again,” she said. “Right now, I need to find a place to reconstruct my life.” She added that, at this time, “I do not want to do politics in Colombia.”

John Gizzi is Political Editor of HUMAN EVENTS.
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McDonald’s and 29 other firms get waiver on health care coverage

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By Drew Armstrong, Bloomberg Business News

Nearly a million workers won’t get a consumer protection in the U.S. health reform law meant to cap insurance costs because the government exempted their employers.

Thirty companies and organizations, including McDonald’s (MCD) and Jack in the Box (JACK), won’t be required to raise the minimum annual benefit included in low-cost health plans, which are often used to cover part-time or low-wage employees.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which provided a list of exemptions, said it granted waivers in late September so workers with such plans wouldn’t lose coverage from employers who might choose instead to drop health insurance altogether.

Without waivers, companies would have had to provide a minimum of $750,000 in coverage next year, increasing to $1.25 million in 2012, $2 million in 2013 and unlimited in 2014.

“The big political issue here is the president promised no one would lose the coverage they’ve got,” says Robert Laszewski, chief executive officer of consulting company Health Policy and Strategy Associates. “Here we are a month before the election, and these companies represent 1 million people who would lose the coverage they’ve got.”

The United Agricultural Benefit Trust, the California-based cooperative that offers coverage to farm workers, was allowed to exempt 17,347 people. San Diego-based Jack in the Box’s waiver is for 1,130 workers, while McDonald’s asked to excuse 115,000.

The plans will be exempt from rules intended to keep people from having to pay for all their care once they reach a preset coverage cap. McDonald’s, which offers the programs as a way to cover part-time employees, told the Obama administration it might re-evaluate the plans unless it got a waiver.

McDonald’s and Jack in the Box didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The waiver program is intended to provide continuous coverage until 2014, when government-organized marketplaces will offer insurance subsidized by tax credits, says HHS spokeswoman Jessica Santillo.

The regulations would have hit some insurance plans for young adults in the universal coverage program run by the state of Massachusetts. The program, enacted in 2006, has a plan for individuals ages 18 to 26 who can’t get coverage through work, covering about 5,000 people. The waiver obtained by the state “will give us time to implement the transition plan in a manner designed to mitigate premium increases,” says Dick Powers, a spokesman for the state program.

The biggest single waiver, for 351,000 people, was for the United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund, a New York union providing coverage for city teachers. The waivers are effective for a year and were granted to insurance plans and companies that showed that employee premiums would rise or that workers would lose coverage without them, Santillo says.
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October Newsletter

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Dear Listeners-

Thank you for your interest in what’s new at The Micro Effect this month.

We have lots of exciting news to share.

Schedule Changes

*First, we have had some schedule changes. Visit our website (www.TheMicroEffect.com) and check the schedule page for new times for your favorite hosts and don’t miss a second of the best radio programming on the internet!

*FREEZE DRY GUY OCTOBER BLOWOUT!!

(All items are packed 6 #10 cans per case with less than 2% residual for extremely long term storage).

The Freeze Dry Guy is bursting at the seams in our warehouse and they need to move out several pallets of our finest Dehydrated foods to make room for several new items coming in next month.

These specially priced items were produced last year and easily have a remaining shelf of 20-plus years

We have only a very limited supply of these foods at these prices, so you should call in your order; first come, first served.

1.Pantry: 3 Months supply of some of the finest Dehydrated food for 1 person, normally $564.29, sale price $395

2.Emergency Units: 1 month supply for 1 person, normally $303.79, sale price $212.65.

3.Add-on Vegetables: 1 #10 can each of Corn, Green Garden Peas, Carrot Dices, Tomato Powder, Soup/Stew Blend, Onions, normal price: $172, (save $51.60) sale price $120.40

4.Add-on Fruits: 1 #10 can each of Apple Slices, Peach Slices, Raisins, Fruit Cocktail, Prunes and Banana Slices, normal price: $219, (save $65.50) sale price$153.50

5.ABC Soup, normally $135.00, our already low price $128, Special Sale price $120

6.Rolled Oats, normally $59.50, sale price $52.43

7.Chili Beans, normally $137.50, Sale Price $120.00

8.Cheddar Cheese Blend, normally $177.00, Sale Price $155.00

9.Instant Milk, normally $177.00, Sale Price $149.00

Limited to Supplies On Hand for the month of October 2010

As always with the Freeze Dry Guy, Shipping to the lower 48 States is FREE!!

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