April 16, 2012
By JULIE PACE
“Aren’t the secret service supposed to be the best of the best? What is wrong with our government, and people in general?” –KTRN
A dozen Secret Service agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Barack Obama at an international summit have been relieved of duty because of allegations of misconduct.
A caller who said he had knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press the misconduct involved prostitutes in Cartagena, site of the Summit of the Americas. A Secret Service spokesman did not dispute that.
A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity, put the number of agents at 12. The agency was not releasing the number of personnel involved.
The Washington Post reported that Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the accusations related to at least one agent having involvement with prostitutes in Cartagena. The association represents federal law enforcement officers, including the Secret Service.
Ronald Kessler, a former Post reporter and the author of a book about the Secret Service, told the Post that he had learned that 12 agents were involved, several of them married.
The incident threatened to overshadow Obama’s economic and trade agenda at the summit and embarrass the U.S. The White House had no comment.
March 28, 2012
“Hey, America. We won first place! Nice job killing your own people. Land of the free!” –KTRN
It’s rare for America to rank number one among Western nations in many categories, but they managed to come out on top as the only Western country to execute its own citizens according to Amnesty International’s Global Execution Scale.
“The United States was again the only country in the Americas and the only member of the G8 group of leading economies to execute prisoners – 43 in 2011. Europe and former Soviet Union countries were capital punishment-free, apart from Belarus where two people were executed,” according to the report.
America finished fifth in the world behind China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. “If you look at the company we’re in globally, it’s not the company we want to be in,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told The Associated Press.
Notably, America’s total executions have gone down. According to the report, “In the USA, the number of executions and new death sentences dropped dramatically from a decade ago. Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. A moratorium was announced in the state of Oregon. And victims of violent crimes spoke out against the death penalty.”
Amnesty International makes clear that they oppose the death penalty in all cases:
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
February 28, 2012
By Richard Silverstein
There have been endless recent visits to Israel from high-ranking U.S. officials regarding the Iran issue, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and most recently National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
The AP reports that during the last set of meetings the Israelis defiantly told the U.S. that if they attacked Iran, they would leave the U.S. in the dark. Here’s how Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee put it:
Rogers told CNN on Monday: “I got the sense that Israel is incredibly serious about a strike on their nuclear weapons program. It’s their calculus that the administration … is not serious about a real military consequence to Iran moving forward.
“They believe they’re going to have to make a decision on their own, given the current posture of the United States,” he added.
Now, Israel’s two top leaders head to Washington for separate sets of talks in the coming days. Bibi comes for his annual triumphal curtain call before the Aipac national conference. There he will certainly repeat his baleful predictions of what a world with Iranian nukes would be like. It could be his last speech in this country before an Israeli attack.
February 27, 2012
Heads up: Drones are going mainstream.
Unmanned military aircraft have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia. Their civilian cousins are now in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.
Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.
Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground.
Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.
The Federal Aviation Administration must write rules allowing civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by September 2015.
February 6, 2012
By Greg Hunter
“They are lying to you again. Did you really expect anything else?” –KTRN
The most recent unemployment number is a total lie, and that lie was repeated all over the mainstream media (MSM). Two sins were committed here, and I don’t know which one is worse. The report was a sham, and the MSM reported that information without a single question about its accuracy. In a story carried across the MSM spectrum, the Associated Press said, “In a long-awaited surge of hiring, companies added 243,000 jobs in January – across the economy, up and down the pay scale and far more than just about anyone expected. Unemployment fell to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.” The report went on to say, “At the same time, the proportion of the population working or looking for work is its lowest in almost three decades. The length and depth of the recession have discouraged millions of people from looking for jobs. The better news of the past couple months has not yet encouraged most of them to start searching again.” (Click here for the complete AP story.)
Here’s a headline for you. If it were not for accounting gimmicks and what the government calls “seasonal-adjustments,” the unemployment rate would have gone up, not down! In his latest report, economist John Williams from Shadowstats.com said, “January’s unadjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.8% . . . The only difference between those numbers and the headline 243,000 January jobs gain and 8.3% unemployment rate, is how the seasonal adjustments were applied. There are serious issues with the current quality of those adjustments, and extremely small distortions in those seasonals can make big differences in the resulting headline data.”
As far as “discouraged” workers who are not looking for a job, that is total rubbish put out by the government. The real story is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) simply has stopped counting more than 1.2 million of the unemployed in its report Friday. Williams goes on to say, “The issues here suggest that the headline 8.3% unemployment for January has moved well outside the realm of common experience and credibility, into the arena of election-year political shenanigans.” Williams is such a gentleman. Please take into consideration the government’s “official” or “headline” number is only based on people being out of work for 6 months or less. If the unemployment rate was calculated the way BLS did it in 1994 and earlier, the unemployment and underemployment would be 22.5% (according to Shadowstats.com.)
A recent report by a D.C. consulting firm estimates about 3 million long-term unemployed have been dropped from the unemployment statistics in the last few years. (Click here for that story.) The Obama Administration has predicted the “official” unemployment rate would be below 8% by the November 2012 election. Heck, if you stop counting enough people, you can get the unemployment rate down below 5%, and that will make the 15 million or so unemployed feel really good. Taxpayers are paying to be essentially hoodwinked by the BLS, and the mainstream media never questions these numbers.
September 29th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Mark Sherman
Raising prospects for a major election-year ruling, the Obama administration launched its Supreme Court defense of its landmark health care overhaul Wednesday, appealing what it called a “fundamentally flawed” appeals court decision that declared the law’s central provision unconstitutional.
Destined from the start for a high court showdown, the health care law affecting virtually every American seems sure to figure prominently in President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election next year. Republican contenders are already assailing it in virtually every debate and speech.
The administration formally appealed a ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta that struck down the law’s core requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014.
At the same time, however, the winners in that appellate case, 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, also asked for high court review Wednesday, saying the entire law, and not just the individual insurance mandate, should be struck down.
The Supreme Court almost always weighs in when a lower court has struck down all or part of a federal law, to say nothing of one that aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans.
The bigger question had been the timing. The administration’s filing makes it more likely that the case will be heard and decided in the term that begins next week.
Repeating arguments it has made in courts across the country in response to many challenges to the law, the administration said Congress was well within its constitutional power to enact the insurance requirement.
Disagreeing with that, the 26 states and business group said in their filings that the justices should act before the 2012 presidential election because of uncertainty over costs and requirements.
On the issue of timing, their cause got an unexpected boost from retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who said voters would be better off if they knew the law’s fate law before casting their ballots next year.
The 91-year-old Stevens said in an Associated Press interview that the justices would not shy away from deciding the case in the middle of a presidential campaign and would be doing the country a service. “It would be better to have that known about than be speculated as a part of the political argument,” Stevens said in his Supreme Court office overlooking the Capitol.
Though the Atlanta appeals court struck down the individual insurance requirement, it upheld the rest of the law. The states and the business group say that would still impose huge new costs.
In another challenge to the same law, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati sided with the administration. In a separate Supreme Court filing Tuesday night, the Obama administration said it does not appear necessary to grant review of the Cincinnati case and the government added that consolidating the two cases could complicate the presentation of arguments “without a sufficient corresponding benefit.”
The law would extend health coverage mainly through subsidies to purchase private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid. The states object to the Medicaid expansion and a provision forcing them to cover their employees’ health care at a level set by the government.
The individual insurance mandate “indisputably served as the centerpiece of the delicate compromise that produced” the law, according to the states, with Florida taking the lead.
The administration said in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the law’s changes in the insurance market, including requiring insurers to cover people without regard for pre-existing health conditions, would not work without the participation mandate.
The insurance requirement is intended to force healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance into the pool of insured, helping to reduce private insurers’ financial risk.
Both appeals stressed the importance of resolving the overhaul’s constitutionality as soon as possible, which under normal court procedures would be by June 2012.
While a decision in that time frame would come in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, the NFIB said it is more important to resolve uncertainty about costs and requirements than drag out consideration into 2013 or beyond.
“When you talk to our members and other small-business owners about what is the biggest problem they’re facing, they say uncertainty,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB’s legal division. “When you ask what, one of first answers is the health care law.”
Stevens, who retired last year, said his former colleagues would not be affected by the potential impact of their decision on Obama’s re-election chances.
“They’ll decide it on the law. I’m totally convinced of that,” he said.
Obama appointed Stevens’ successor, Elena Kagan.
Stevens said that if he still had a vote on the court on timing, he would cast it in favor of hearing the case sooner rather than later. He would not say how he would vote on the issue of the law’s constitutionality, although he said the court’s 6-3 decision in a 2005 case involving medical marijuana seems to lend support to the administration’s defense of the law.
Stevens wrote the opinion that held that the Constitution allows federal regulation of homegrown marijuana as interstate commerce. A central dispute in the health care case is over Congress’s power under the Constitution’s commerce clause to mandate the purchase of health insurance.
In addition to the competing rulings on the law’s validity, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled that it was premature to decide the law’s constitutionality. Citing a federal law aimed at preventing lawsuits from tying up tax collection, that court held that a definitive ruling could come only after taxpayers begin paying the penalty for not purchasing insurance.
The administration suggested that the Supreme Court should consider that issue because of the appellate ruling.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., also heard arguments in yet another lawsuit against the overhaul last week. That court has no timetable for its decision.
The other states aligned with Florida are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
September 30, 2010
The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.
The top-earning 20 percent of Americans – those making more than $100,000 each year – received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.
A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.
At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, census data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.
“Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more,” said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. “More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy.”
Lower-skilled adults ages 18 to 34 had the largest jumps in poverty last year as employers kept or hired older workers for the dwindling jobs available, Smeeding said. The declining economic fortunes have caused many unemployed young Americans to double-up in housing with parents, friends and loved ones, with potential problems for the labor market if they don’t get needed training for future jobs, he said.
Rea Hederman Jr., a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, agreed that census data show families of all income levels had tepid earnings in 2009, with poorer Americans taking a larger hit. “It’s certainly going to take a while for people to recover,” he said.
The findings are part of a broad array of U.S. census data being released this month that highlight the far-reaching impact of the recent economic meltdown. The effects have ranged from near-historic declines in U.S. mobility and birth rates to delayed marriage and the first drop in the number of illegal immigrants in two decades.
The census figures also come amid heated political debate in the run-up to the Nov. 2 elections over whether Congress should extend expiring Bush-era tax cuts. President Barack Obama wants to extend the tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 and joint filers making less than $250,000; Republicans are pushing for tax cuts for everyone, including wealthy Americans.
The 2009 census tabulations, which are based on pre-tax income and exclude capital gains, are adjusted for household size where data are available. Prior analyses of after-tax income made by the wealthiest 1 percent compared to middle- and low-income Americans have also pointed to a widening inequality gap, but only reflect U.S. data as of 2007.
Among the 2009 findings:
-The poorest poor are at record highs. The share of Americans below half the poverty line – $10,977 for a family of four – rose from 5.7 percent in 2008 to 6.3 percent. It was the highest level since the government began tracking that group in 1975.
-The poverty gap between young and old has doubled since 2000, due partly to the strength of Social Security in helping buoy Americans 65 and over. Child poverty is now 21 percent compared with 9 percent for older Americans. In 2000, when child poverty was at 16 percent, elderly poverty stood at 10 percent.
-Safety nets are helping fill health gaps. The percentage of children covered by government-sponsored health insurance such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program jumped to 37 percent, or 27.6 million, from 24 percent in 2000. That helped offset steady losses in employer-sponsored insurance.
The 2009 poverty level was set at $21,954 for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income. It excludes noncash aid such as food stamps.
Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, noted the effects of expanded government programs in cushioning the impact of skyrocketing unemployment. For example, the Census Bureau estimates that 3.6 million people would have been lifted above the poverty line if food stamps were counted – a number that would have reduced the 2009 poverty rate from the official 14.3 percent to 13.2 percent.
Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor, said while the U.S. has developed policies to combat poverty, it has trouble addressing ever-widening income inequality – even with a growing federal deficit and previous warnings by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan about soaring executive pay.
An Associated Press-GfK Poll this month found that by 54 percent to 44 percent, most Americans support raising taxes on the highest U.S. earners. Still, many congressional Democrats have expressed wariness about provoking the 44 percent minority so close to Election Day.
“We’re pretty good about not talking about income inequality,” Danziger said.
September 8, 2010
by Felicia Sonmez
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, facing a tough re-election bid in one of the states hardest hit by the recession, said today that the economic downturn was not his fault.
“I had nothing to do with the massive foreclosures here,” Reid said during an appearance on the ABC News/Washington Post “Top Line” program, adding that he also had no part in contributing to the state’s dismal unemployment figures.
At 14.3 percent, Nevada’s unemployment rate ranks the highest in the country. The Silver State has also been hit hard by foreclosure and bankruptcy; an Associated Press analysis found that Nevada is the most economically stressed state in the nation.
Reid’s opponent, former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R), has placed the blame for Nevada’s economic woes squarely on Reid’s shoulders. Her latest TV ad highlights the state’s record unemployment and charges that Reid “has dragged Nevada down to perhaps its lowest point ever.”
Reid contended in today’s interview that “it would take a real stretch” in order to think that he caused the country’s economic problems. Instead, Reid argued, he worked against many of the policies enacted during the administration of George W. Bush that were to blame for the economic crisis.
“I don’t have any hand in what took place during the Bush administration. I tried to rein that in,” Reid said.
Recent weeks have seen Democratic candidates fall behind in a slew of economically distressed states. In the latest example of how bad things have gotten, a Columbus Dispatch poll released over the weekend shows Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) trailing their Republican opponents by double digits in the state’s gubernatorial and Senate races.
But Reid has managed to stay afloat, buoyed by an $8.9 million warchest as well as an opponent who has done herself few favors by making some less-than-mainstream comments on the trail.
Reid took aim at some of those comments today, including Angle’s remarks that Americans should consider taking up “Second Amendment remedies” and that there are “homegrown enemies” within “the walls of the Senate and the Congress.”
He also criticized Angle’s voting record during her years as state assemblywoman, charging that she “has a history of voting no on everything.”
“I honestly have not found anybody that thought she was an accomplished legislator,” Reid said.
In a separate interview, Angle defended her “homegrown enemies” remarks.
“Certainly, people who pass these kinds of policies — Obamacare, cap and trade, stimulus, bailout — they’re certainly not friends to the free market system,” Angle said.
With recent polls showing Reid and Angle neck-and-neck, expect the two to continue hammering each other well through the fall.
September 7, 2010
by Mike Masnick
Last fall, the Associated Press claimed that it was ready to change to face the new internet world — and that meant not just being a gatekeeper, but joining in the conversation. As we noted at the time, though, AP execs said all that, only to immediately follow that up with plans that looked like it was trying to become a new type of gatekeeper. It didn’t help that the company had also just sued VeriSign’s Moreover division for linking to AP stories along with a title and a tiny excerpt. That sort of thing is clearly fair use — but the AP doesn’t seem to think so.
And, now, it’s expanding its target list. Rather than just going after the big aggregators (surprisingly, Google settled), it appears that the Associated Press is going after bloggers for merely posting a linked headline and a tiny snippet of text from the article. In this case, Rogers Cadenhead informs us that the AP sent 7 DMCA takedown notices last week to his site, the Drudge Retort (a site that mocks the Drudge Report). In six cases, a blog post on the site quoted just a small snippet of text from an AP article (between 33 and 79 words — nowhere near the full length of the article). In every case, they also contained links back to the original AP article. Five of the six used a different headline than the original AP article. The other complaint was about a comment to a blog post, which also included a very short snippet and a link.
On the face of it, it’s nearly impossible to see how this isn’t fair use, even though an AP representative insists it’s not:
The use is not fair use simply because the work copied happened to be a news article and that the use is of the headline and the first few sentences only. This is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of “fair use.” AP considers taking the headline and lede of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes “hot news” misappropriation.
Hopefully, they won’t send a takedown notice for quoting that. This is pure bullying on the part of the Associated Press, and a clear overstepping of its legal rights. It’s most certainly not a sign that the organization has adapted to the internet age. In fact, the most amazing thing is that these types of uses (a snippet and a link) clearly help drive more traffic to those AP articles. This is a pure “shoot-self-in-the-foot” move by the Associated Press — and if they have any sense of decency they should issue a very public apology.
In the meantime, since the Associated Press apparently no longer wants traffic, we’ll start looking for other sources when linking to stories. I can’t promise we won’t link to any AP stories (they’re everywhere), but given the opportunity we’d prefer to link to a news organization that’s happy to accept our traffic, rather than one that might sue us for pointing people their way. This is quite unfortunate, as there are many AP reporters who read this site, and with whom I have come to build a strong relationship. I think they’re quite good reporters, and it’s too bad they work for such a short-sighted organization.
Update: Someone from the AP has posted a response in the comments. It makes some claims that simply do not seem to represent reality, including trying to define what is and is not “the link-based culture of the Internet.” It claims that it won’t go after snippets — but doesn’t explain why that’s exactly what it did. And then it responds to a blog post from Jeff Jarvis that I have not seen and did not reference. If the AP seriously wants to respond, why not respond to what is actually happening or what we actually said, rather than someone else. Update 2: I should also note that the comment from the AP includes what appears to be a bit of a sales pitch suggesting that bloggers license AP articles.
July 12, 2010
Jesse Jackson criticized Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert on Sunday, saying Gilbert sees LeBron James as a “runaway slave” and that the owner’s comments after the free-agent forward decided to join the Miami Heat put the player in danger.
Shortly after James announced his decision last week, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cleveland’s fans, ripping the 25-year-old and promising to deliver a title before James wins one. He called James’ decision “cowardly” and later told The Associated Press he believes James quit during a handful of Cavaliers playoff games.
“He has gotten a free pass,” Gilbert told the AP in a phone interview late Thursday night. “People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is.”
Jackson said Gilbert’s comments were “mean, arrogant and presumptuous.”
“He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship — between business partners — and LeBron honored his contract.”
Messages were left Sunday night seeking comment from Gilbert, the Cavaliers and James.
Jackson also called Gilbert’s comments an attack on all NBA players and said the owner should face a “challenge” from the league and the players’ association.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined comment.