April 13, 2012
By: Stephen C. Webster
General Electric, one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the world, isn’t immune to criticism, and on Thursday some of their most vocal critics — their shareholders — gathered in the lobby of the company’s Boston offices to elaborate on their frustrations through song and dance.
“GE pays no taxes — it’s pathetic!” the group began to sing after donning red caps in the GE building’s lobby. “Billions in refunds! It’s pathetic! You know that ain’t fair — ain’t fair anywhere.”
The protest was staged by activists with MassUniting.org, which describes itself as “a coalition of neighbors, community groups, faith organizations and labor united for good jobs, corporate accountability, and stronger communities.” They group, which said it recruited “dozens” of GE shareholders for the event, targeted the company over their last two years of highly publicized tax returns. GE in Boston has been targeted before too, by protesters with the “Occupy” movement.
GE has become notorious for paying relatively little in taxes on tens of billions in profits, and earlier this year the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice said the company’s latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reveals that GE massively avoided the official U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent by using deductions and loopholes in the tax code, allowing them to reap benefits from taxpayers during years when its profits were down.
February 14, 2012
By Colin A. Young
At least 11 more dolphins have stranded themselves on the shores of Cape Cod this morning as the mass strandings enter the second month. The International Fund for Animal Welfare said at least one of the 11 had died.
The animal welfare group said the dolphins were found in an area commonly known as “the gut,” a muddy area near the Herring River in Wellfleet.
“The team is out there now with 10 live dolphins,” the group’s spokesman Michael Booth said. “It could take quite awhile; it’s a treacherous location with lots of mud. The team is trying to pull them out of the mud and bring them to our rescue trailers.”
February 6, 2012
By Associated Press
“Go Anonymous, go. They should be given a medal for bravery.” –KTRN
Saboteurs stole passwords and sensitive information on tipsters while hacking into the websites of several law enforcement agencies worldwide in attacks attributed to the collective known as Anonymous.
Breaches were reported this week in Boston, Syracuse, N.Y., Salt Lake City and Greece.
Hackers gained access to the Salt Lake City Police Department website that gathers citizen complaints about drug and other crimes, including phone numbers, addresses and other personal data of informants, police said.
The website remained down Friday as police worked to make it more secure.
Anonymous is a collection of Internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists whose targets have included financial institutions such as Visa and MasterCard, the Church of Scientology and law enforcement agencies.
Following a spate of arrests across the world, the group and its various offshoots have focused their attention on law enforcement agencies in general and the FBI in particular.
The group also claimed responsibility for hacking the website of a Virginia law firm that represented a U.S. Marine involved in the deaths of civilians in Iraq in 2005.
Anonymous also published a recording on the Internet Friday of a phone call between the FBI and Scotland Yard, gloating in a Twitter message that “the FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now.”
February 3, 2012
By Associated Press
“The FBI is sure doing it’s job. Here is just one more example of the incompetence of the agency. The officers involved should be arrested. Let’s hope this woman sues. All of this happened because of drugs. Legalize them and idiotic FBI agents will have more important work to do – like raiding Gibson guitars.” –KTRN
A Massachusetts mother says the FBI used a chain saw blade to cut through her door and held her at gunpoint for at least 30 minutes before agents realized they were conducting a raid at the wrong home.
Judy Sanchez, of Fitchburg, says she awoke to heavy footsteps in the stairwell on Jan. 26 and walked into her kitchen in time to see a blade chop through her door.
She says she was held face down, on the floor, at gunpoint while her 3-year-old daughter cried in another room.
It turns out agents were after the other tenant on the same floor of the multi-unit building. That tenant was suspected of dealing drugs.
Sanchez says she and her daughter now have trouble sleeping.
An FBI spokesman in Boston said Wednesday that the agency is paying for the damage. He said the arrest team was only in the wrong apartment for about 15 minutes, and that the special agent in charge at the scene repeatedly apologized for the mistake. But those words didn’t satisfy Sanchez.
“Just a little pat on the back and saying `I’m sorry’ is not OK,” Sanchez told The Sentinel and Enterprise of Fitchburg.
The botched raid was part of a two-year probe by federal and state authorities into illegal gun sales, drug trafficking and gang activities they dubbed Operation Red Wolf. FBI agents said they were looking for a suspect they identified as 41-year-old Luis R. Vasquez, who uses the street name “Joker,” when they went into Sanchez’s apartment.
They later arrested Vasquez and charged him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and other crimes that have him facing up to 40 years in federal prison.
Janury 18, 2012
By Quinn Norton
“Another TSA employee turns out to be a creep. This is what happens when you give people pretend power.” –KTRN
What was a TSA air marshal doing at an Occupy camp at 3:40 on a Saturday morning, just an hour before protestors were evicted by Boston police?
Stealing the iPhone of one of the camp’s prominent voices, then slapping her, apparently.
TSA air marshal Adam Marshall was arrested by the Boston police department at 3:50 a.m. on Dec. 10 after he allegedly argued with members of Occupy, called some of them prostitutes, struck one of Occupy’s organizers and main tweeters in the face, grabbed her iPhone and then fled.
Marshall was pursued by some 25 occupiers, according to witnesses, ditching the phone as he ran, and then was arrested by Boston police who were preparing to evict the camp.
October 4th, 2011
By: Ethan A. Huff
Right now in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and a growing number of other cities, tens of thousands of protestors of all stripes and political persuasions are marching in protest of the corporate corruption that has infiltrated and taken control of the US government — and the mainstream media (MSM), of course, has been virtually absent in covering this massive and escalating demonstration against the current state of US politics.
The ongoing demonstrations, which are part of a new movement called Occupy Wall Street (OWS), have already resulted in numerous cases of violent police abuses, the shutting down of the Brooklyn Bridge, and even the voluntary arrival of members of the US armed forces who have reportedly come to help protest and protect protestors from attacks by local law enforcement.
Most Americans still have no idea that the protests, which officially began on September 17, 2011, are even taking place, though, because the MSM has been too busy focusing on the next presidential election cycle and other safe, pre-planned news segments. But the events are getting so large and disruptive that the media will be unable to ignore them for too much longer.
While not everybody involved in the OWS movement is necessarily fighting against totalitarian government and for true freedom and liberty — InfoWars explains that many protestors are actually demanding bigger government and higher taxes as a solution (http://www.infowars.com/occupy-wall…) — some of the protestors do appear to understand that big government is the problem, and not the answer.
But regardless of what the protestors believe as a whole, they still have every right to peacefully gather and protest without being abused by their own government. And unfortunately many protestors’ constitutional rights have been violated, as early reports and video clips that spread like wildfire on YouTube showed police pepper spraying protestors and aggressively arresting individuals for no apparent reason (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blo…).
Then on Saturday, a group of US Army and Marine troops reportedly traveled to New York to help support the movement and offer protection for protestors against police abuse. One Army serviceman by the name of Ward Reilly posted a message on Facebook on his way to the protests saying, “I didn’t fight for Wall St. I fought for America. Now it’s Congress’ turn,” a sentiment apparently shared by the other servicemen veterans traveling to protest locations (http://antinewworldorderparty.wordp…).
October 13, 2010
Big US cities could be squeezed by unfunded public pensions as they and counties face a $574 billion funding gap, a study to be released on Tuesday shows.
The gap at the municipal level would be in addition to $3,000 billion in unfunded liabilities already estimated for state-run pensions, according to research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Rochester.
“What is yet to be seen is how this burden will be distributed between state and local governments and whether the federal government will be called upon for bail-outs,” said Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School.
The financial demands of unfunded pension promises come as state and local governments grapple with years of falling tax revenue related to the recession.
The combination has raised concern that defaults, which are historically rare in the $2,800 billion municipal bond market where local governments obtain money, could now rise.
“The bondholders would be competing with the pension beneficiaries for scarce government resources,” Mr Rauh said.
Current pension assets for plans sponsored by Philadelphia can only pay for promised benefits through 2015, while Boston and Chicago would deplete their existing funds by 2019.
Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Florida and St Paul have current pension assets that can only pay for promised benefits through 2020.
Local governments use unique accounting methods that many, such as Mr Rauh, believe understate obligations. Based on his estimates, which use US Treasuries as the benchmark, each household already owes an average of $14,165 to current and former municipal public employees in the 50 cities and counties studied.
“Philadelphia has the most immediate cause for concern, as the city can pay existing promises with existing assets only through 2015,” Mr Rauh said, assuming an 8 percent annualized return, the most common benchmark for municipal plans.
In New York City, San Francisco and Boston the total is more than $30,000 a household and, in Chicago, it tops $40,000.
Taxpayers in these areas risk not only local tax increases and service cuts to pay for benefits, but potentially some of the bill for the $3,000 billion unfunded obligations at the state level, the researchers say.
“The fact that there is such a large burden of public employee pensions concentrated in urban metropolitan areas threatens the long-run economic viability of these cities, as residents can potentially move elsewhere to escape the situation,” Mr Rauh said.
The research examines 77 pension plans sponsored by 50 major cities and counties and covering about 2 million workers, which is estimated to be two-thirds of workers covered by local pensions. Researchers then extrapolated the results – an unfunded liability of about $5,300 per worker – to come up with the total estimate of $574 billion.
August 13, 2010
By: Nile Gardener
The last few weeks have been a nightmare for President Obama, in a summer of discontent in the United States which has deeply unsettled the ruling liberal elites, so much so that even the Left has begun to turn against the White House. While the anti-establishment Tea Party movement has gained significant ground and is now a rising and powerful political force to be reckoned with, many of the president’s own supporters as well as independents are rapidly losing faith in Barack Obama, with open warfare breaking out between the White House and the left-wing of the Democratic Party. While conservatism in America grows stronger by the day, the forces of liberalism are growing increasingly weaker and divided.
Against this backdrop, the president’s approval ratings have been sliding dramatically all summer, with the latest Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll of US voters dropping to minus 22 points, the lowest point so far for Barack Obama since taking office. While just 24 per cent of American voters strongly approve of the president’s job performance, almost twice that number, 46 per cent, strongly disapprove. According to Rasmussen, 65 per cent of voters believe the United States is going down the wrong track, including 70 per cent of independents.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls now has President Obama at over 50 per cent disapproval, a remarkably high figure for a president just 18 months into his first term. Strikingly, the latest USA Today/Gallup survey has the President on just 41 per cent approval, with 53 per cent disapproving.
There are an array of reasons behind the stunning decline and political fall of President Obama, chief among them fears over the current state of the US economy, with widespread concern over high levels of unemployment, the unstable housing market, and above all the towering budget deficit. Americans are increasingly rejecting President Obama’s big government solutions to America’s economic woes, which many fear will lead to the United States sharing the same fate as Greece.
Growing disillusionment with the Obama administration’s handling of the economy as well as health care and immigration has gone hand in hand with mounting unhappiness with the President’s aloof and imperial style of leadership, and a growing perception that he is out of touch with ordinary Americans, especially at a time of significant economic pain. Barack Obama’s striking absence of natural leadership ability (and blatant lack of experience) has played a big part in undermining his credibility with the US public, with his lacklustre handling of the Gulf oil spill coming under particularly intense fire.
On the national security and foreign policy front, President Obama has not fared any better. His leadership on the war in Afghanistan has been confused and at times lacking in conviction, and seemingly dictated by domestic political priorities rather than military and strategic goals. His overall foreign policy has been an appalling mess, with his flawed strategy of engagement of hostile regimes spectacularly backfiring. And as for the War on Terror, his administration has not even acknowledged it is fighting one.
Can it get any worse for President Obama? Undoubtedly yes. Here are 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in serious trouble, and why its prospects are unlikely to improve between now and the November mid-terms.
1. The Obama presidency is out of touch with the American people
In a previous post I noted how the Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien Régime, extravagant, decaying and out of touch with ordinary Americans. The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Spain at a time of widespread economic hardship was symbolic of a White House that barely gives a second thought to public opinion on many issues, and frequently projects a distinctly elitist image. The “let them eat cake” approach didn’t play well over two centuries ago, and it won’t succeed today.
2. Most Americans don’t have confidence in the president’s leadership
This deficit of trust in Obama’s leadership is central to his decline. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, “nearly six in ten voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country”, and two thirds “say they are disillusioned with or angry about the way the federal government is working.” The poll showed that a staggering 58 per cent of Americans say they do not have confidence in the president’s decision-making, with just 42 per cent saying they do.
3. Obama fails to inspire
In contrast to the soaring rhetoric of his 2004 Convention speech in Boston which succeeded in impressing millions of television viewers at the time, America is no longer inspired by Barack Obama’s flat, monotonous and often dull presidential speeches and statements delivered via teleprompter. From his extraordinarily uninspiring Afghanistan speech at West Point to his flat State of the Union address, President Obama has failed to touch the heart of America. Even Jimmy Carter was more moving.
4. The United States is drowning in debt
The Congressional Budget Office Long-Term Budget Outlook offers a frightening picture of the scale of America’s national debt. Under its alternative fiscal scenario, the CBO projects that US debt could rise to 87 percent of GDP by 2020, 109 percent by 2025, and 185 percent in 2035. While much of Europe, led by Britain and Germany, are aggressively cutting their deficits, the Obama administration is actively growing America’s debt, and has no plan in place to avert a looming Greek-style financial crisis.
5. Obama’s Big Government message is falling flat
The relentless emphasis on bailouts and stimulus spending has done little to spur economic growth or create jobs, but has greatly advanced the power of the federal government in America. This is not an approach that is proving popular with the American public, and even most European governments have long ditched this tax and spend approach to saving their own economies.
6. Obama’s support for socialised health care is a huge political mistake
In an extraordinary act of political Harakiri, President Obama leant his full support to the hugely controversial, unpopular and divisive health care reform bill, with a monstrous price tag of $940 billion, whose repeal is now supported by 55 per cent of likely US voters. As I wrote at the time of its passing, the legislation is “a great leap forward by the United States towards a European-style vision of universal health care, which will only lead to soaring costs, higher taxes, and a surge in red tape for small businesses. This reckless legislation dramatically expands the power of the state over the lives of individuals, and could not be further from the vision of America’s founding fathers.”
7. Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill has been weak-kneed and indecisive
While much of the spilled oil in the Gulf has now been thankfully cleared up, the political damage for the White House will be long-lasting. Instead of showing real leadership on the matter by acing decisively and drawing upon offers of international support, the Obama administration settled on a more convenient strategy of relentlessly bashing an Anglo-American company while largely sitting on its hands. Significantly, a poll of Louisiana voters gave George W. Bush higher marks for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with 62 percent disapproving of Obama’s performance on the Gulf oil spill.
8. US foreign policy is an embarrassing mess under the Obama administration
It is hard to think of a single foreign policy success for the Obama administration, but there have been plenty of missteps which have weakened American global power as well as the standing of the United States. The surrender to Moscow on Third Site missile defence, the failure to aggressively stand up to Iran’s nuclear programme, the decision to side with ousted Marxists in Honduras, the slap in the face for Great Britain over the Falklands, have all contributed to the image of a US administration completely out of its depth in international affairs. The Obama administration’s high risk strategy of appeasing America’s enemies while kicking traditional US allies has only succeeded in weakening the United States while strengthening her adversaries.
9. President Obama is muddled and confused on national security
From the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the War on Terror, President Obama’s leadership has often been muddled and confused. On Afghanistan he rightly sent tens of thousands of additional troops to the battlefield. At the same time however he bizarrely announced a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces beginning in July 2011, handing the initiative to the Taliban. On Iraq he has announced an end to combat operations and the withdrawal of all but 50,000 troops despite a recent upsurge in terrorist violence and political instability, and without the Iraqi military and police ready to take over. In addition he has ditched the concept of a War on Terror, replacing it with an Overseas Contingency Operation, hardly the right message to send in the midst of a long-war against Al-Qaeda.
10. Obama doesn’t believe in American greatness
Barack Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and has made apologising for his country into an art form. In a speech to the United Nations last September he stated that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” It is difficult to see how a US president who holds these views and does not even accept America’s greatness in history can actually lead the world’s only superpower with force and conviction.
There is a distinctly Titanic-like feel to the Obama presidency and it’s not hard to see why. The most left-wing president in modern American history has tried to force a highly interventionist, government-driven agenda that runs counter to the principles of free enterprise, individual freedom, and limited government that have made the United States the greatest power in the world, and the freest nation on earth.
This, combined with weak leadership both at home and abroad against the backdrop of tremendous economic uncertainty in an increasingly dangerous world, has contributed to a spectacular political collapse for a president once thought to be invincible. America at its core remains a deeply conservative nation, which cherishes its traditions and founding principles. President Obama is increasingly out of step with the American people, by advancing policies that undermine the United States as a global power, while undercutting America’s deep-seated love for freedom.
April 22, 2010
By: Jill Colvin
Strangers on their way to and from work Wednesday were surprised to see Transportation Security Administration officials, who usually screen luggage in airports, checking bags at local subway stations.
The TSA launched a pilot partnership with the NYPD Wednesday morning to enhance security on city trains, a spokeswoman for the TSA said. About a dozen stations are covered daily, according to the NYPD.
“While there is no specific threat to mass transit in the United States at this time, TSA and NYPD continuously work together to strengthen overall security efforts and keep the American people safe,” the Administration said in a statement.
At the 40th Street and 8th Avenue entrance to the Port Authority 42nd Street station, TSA staffers began randomly searching passengers at 4 p.m. The searches were expected to last through the evening rush.
Screeners said that passengers are generally happy to comply.
“For the most part, people co-operate fully,” said NYPD Lt. Francis O’Keeffe, who oversaw the operation.
Latifa Ziyad, who is visiting from Boston her three daughters, said she is fine with the searches if they make people safer.
“As long as I’m not getting singled out because I look a certain way, it’s okay,” she said.
Others were willing but eager to get on with their days.
“It’s alright, I’ve got thing to hide,” said accountant Ramone Esmilla, 50, as officers tested his knapsack, which was filled with gym clothes. “But I just want to get out of here and pick up my kid.”
The Administration has nicknamed the teams, which randomly screen passengers’ bags using chemical swabs, “VIPR”s (pronounced viper): Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response.
Subway baggage checks have been routinely conducted by the NYPD since 2005 following the London subway bombings.
TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis would not say how long the Administration expects the program to last, except that mass transit riders should anticipate a TSA presence underground “for the foreseeable future.”
March 23, 2010
North Korea is to put a US citizen on trial for illegally entering the country, its state news agency has said.
The citizen was named as 30-year-old Aijalon Mahli Gomes, from Boston, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
His “crime has been confirmed”, it said, without giving further details.
In late January, the North said it had detained an unidentified American. Last week, the US said the state had allowed a diplomat to visit the detainee.
The diplomat was from the Swedish embassy, which represents US interests in Pyongyang. American authorities have not named the US citizen concerned.
Last month, North Korea freed religious activist Robert Park, who had crossed into the country from China by walking over a frozen river on 25 December.
He had reportedly wanted to highlight human rights issues in North Korea, but was said before his release to have admitted his “mistake”.
Last year two US journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were also arrested by North Korea on the border with China.
They were sentenced to 12 years’ hard labour but freed in August after four months in captivity, as part of a diplomatic mission spearheaded by former US President Bill Clinton.