Category: Wealthy / Afluent Indulgences

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Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines


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‘A Pipeline Straight to Jail’

Posted on Oct 11, 2015

By Chris Hedges

Boris Franklin in a classroom at Rutgers. When he was in prison, he was a student under the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP), and he is now attending Rutgers under the university’s Mountainview Program. (Michael Nigro)

The defeat of the Harvard University debate team by a team from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskills elucidates a truth known intimately by those of us who teach in prisons: that the failure of the American educational system to offer opportunities to the poor and the government’s abandonment of families and children living in blighted communities condemn millions of boys and girls, often of color, to a life of suffering, misery and early death. The income inequality, the trillions of dollars we divert to the war industry, the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas and the refusal to invest in our infrastructure wrecks life after innocent life.

I spent four years as a graduate student at Harvard University. Privilege, and especially white privilege, I discovered, is the primary prerequisite for attending an Ivy League university. I have also spent several years teaching in prisons. In class after class in prison, there is a core of students who could excel at Harvard. This is not hyperbolic, as the defeat of the Harvard debate team illustrates. But poverty condemned my students before they ever entered school. And as poverty expands, inflicting on communities and families a host of maladies including crime, addiction, rage, despair and hopelessness, the few remaining institutions that might intervene to lift the poor up are gutted or closed. Even when students in inner-city schools are not the targets of racial insults, racism worms into their lives because the institutions that should help them are nonexistent or deeply dysfunctional.

I stood outside a prison gate in Newark, N.J., at 7 a.m. last April 24. I waited for the release of one of my students, Boris Franklin, who had spent 11 years incarcerated. I had ridden to the gate with his mother, who spent her time reading Bible verses out loud in the car, and his sister. We watched him walk down the road toward us. He was wearing the baggy gray sweatpants, oversize white T-shirt and white Reeboks that prisoners purchase before their release. Franklin had laid out $50 for his new clothes. A prisoner in New Jersey earns $28 a month working in prison.


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04.10.2015 Author: Janet Phelan


Barbara Stone was only able to get out of jail when she agreed to stop blogging. Patty Reid is on the lam. Cary-Andrew Crittenden may be facing further jail time for his efforts to inform others about problems in the Santa Clara County legal system. And Ginny Johnson is under a gag order which nearly eventuated in a close encounter with a jail cell.

All these individuals are experiencing, up close and personal, the limits of free speech when that speech inconveniences someone more powerful than they. Twenty, thirty years ago none of these individuals would have faced the grave legal problems they now confront. But thirty years ago, the legal system in the US was not yet in free fall.

The devolution of the US legal system is evidenced in the existence of a dual legal system, wherein there abides two parallel—and often contradictory—systems of law. One system is the written code—the Constitutional and statutory mandates. The other system is what a judge does in his courtroom. And increasingly, judges are acting like monarchs, unaccountable to anyone.

This is well expressed when First Amendment (freedom of speech) issues collide with governmental imperatives.  Prior restraint, that is the imposition of gags or inhibitions on speech not yet spoken, is illegal in the US, according to the written code. Increasingly, however, judges are issuing orders which amount to prior restraint when an individual’s speech becomes politically inconvenient.

A previous article discussed the plight of Barbara Stone, whose mother is under a guardianship in Dade County, Florida. Upon visiting her mother in the home in which the guardian had placed Helen Stone, Barbara was shocked to find her mother emaciated and on a feeding tube. Barbara then allegedly took her mother to lunch.

She was subsequently arrested and charged with “custody interference,” and up until recently was confined to house arrest, an electronic tracking bracelet ensuring her compliance.

The problem was that Barbara would not shut up. She filed a number of lawsuits against guardianship court Judge Michael Genden and also against guardian Jacqueline Hertz and her attorney, Roy Lustig, as well as criminal court judge Victoria Brennan and Governor Rick Scott. She also launched a blog with the purpose of exposing the parties involved in what she termed the continuing abuse of her mother. Tiring of her complaints, Judge Genden charged her with criminal contempt for failing to show up at a court hearing and Barbara went into lock-up.

This past week, Stone, who is licensed to practice law in the state of New York, secured her release from jail at a significant price. She has agreed to stop blogging and also, significantly, to not file further papers in her mother’s case without a lawyer. In other words, the price of her freedom was prior restraint.

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Time to Trade in Your Jag, Benz, BMW for a Dented Econobox: Days of Rage Are Coming

The resistance will take the form of subverting the signifiers of wealth that exemplify the few who have benefited so greatly while everyone else lost ground.
It’s time to trade in your Jag, Mercedes, BMW (and maybe your Prius, Volvo, Lexus, etc.) before the Days of Rage start. As I’ve explained before ( As the “Prosperity” Tide Recedes, the Ugly Reality of Wealth Inequality Is Exposed), the rage of the masses who have been losing ground while the Financier Oligarchs, the New Nobility and the technocrat class reap immense gains for decades has been suppressed by the dream that they too could join the Upper Caste.
But once the realistic odds of that happening (low) sink in, the Days of Rage will begin. For those still who don’t know the facts of rising inequality, here’s what you need to know.
The top 1% skim 23% of all income:
While the top 5% has enjoyed substantial income gains over the past 45 years, adjusted for inflation, the bottom 90% have lost ground:
The last time there was mass unrest in America was the civil rights/Vietnam War era. The power of the civil rights movement arose from the core injustice of segregation (separate and unequal) and institutionalized racism/bias. This institutionalized injustice drew people from all classes and ethnicities into the streets, where they were promptly beaten by police.

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File:VH-3D Marine One over Washington DC May 2005.jpg

Official U.S. Marine Corps photo 050521-N-0295M-097 [1] from the USMC website [2]

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopter, assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), in flight over Washington D.C. on 21 May 2005.

By  :  PH2(AW) Daniel J. McLain



Monday, 12 May 2014 09:47

$1.2 Billion for New White House Helicopters Just the Beginning

Written by 

It didn’t take long for critics to scoff at the costs of the latest effort to upgrade the fleet of presidential helicopters announced by the Defense Department on Wednesday, May 7. They say the $1.2-billion contract awarded to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation will be just the beginning.

There are at least two reasons to be skeptical: the open-ended nature of the White House requirements, and recent history.

The Department of Defense outlined its requirements, stating that Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which currently operates 19 presidential helicopters, must provide “safe and timely transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state and others as directed by the White House Military Office.”

In addition, each aircraft must be equipped with various self-defense features such as bulletproof glass and body panels, as well as specialized communications equipment that allows the president to maintain “critical command functions” while airborne. Each helicopter must be large enough to carry up to 14 passengers and several thousand pounds of baggage while being small enough to operate from the White House lawn.

Each must have a minimum range of 300 miles and carry a full complement of defensive countermeasures to thwart heat-seeking and radar-directed missiles and also be hardened against an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), either from an enemy or from the sun. It must be able to send and receive encrypted communications and hold secure teleconferences while in flight.

And each must have air-conditioning and a toilet.

Under the contract Sikorsky promises to deliver two prototypes by 2016, with another 21 fully operational aircraft six years later.

Several questions arise. First, why so many? After all, there’s just one president and one vice president. According to, anytime the president flies somewhere by helicopter, four other helicopters are alongside him. They fly in varying formations to keep the president’s aircraft as disguised as possible. This is often referred to as the presidential “shell game.” In addition, with a helicopter’s range of just 300 miles, a longer trip must “cache” additional aircraft along the route.


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Interesting  how Americans standing their ground  and  fighting  back  against  an  out of  control government  and  their jackboot  thuggery are violating the  law. 

Yet  the Politicians with their L.E. thugs who lie, steal , cheat  and abuse the American People  everyday  are  law  abiding ?

Perhaps it is time  to  teach these self aggrandized  public servants what  Americans are  capable  of  and  just  who they  truly  work for!!

You are  right about one thing Mr. Reid, this is  definitely  not  Over……..


~Desert Rose~


The New American

War on the West: Why More Bundy Standoffs Are Coming

Written by 

The federal government’s over-the-top police action against the Bundy family ranch is an ominous portent of more to come, as rogue agencies and their corporate/NGO partners attempt to “cleanse” the West of ranchers, farmers, miners, loggers, and other determined property owners.

On Saturday, April 12, the federal bureaucrats backed down. Faced with hundreds of men and women on horseback and on foot who were armed with firearms and video cameras — as well as local television broadcast stations and independent media streaming live video and radio feeds across America — the Obama administration called off the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) operation to confiscate hundreds of cattle belonging to Cliven Bundy, the current patriarch of a respected pioneer family that has been ranching in Nevada’s Clark County since the 1800s.

Supporters from all across the United States had converged on the Bunkerville, Nevada, area in support of Bundy, who is the

“last rancher standing” in Clark County, due to a decades-long campaign by federal agencies and allied enviro-activists to drive all ranchers off of the range. After a tense standoff, orders came down from above for the surrounded and outnumbered federal agents to “stand down” and turn loose the Bundy cattle that had been corralled.


On Saturday, before the resolution of the standoff, The New American talked to Richard Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, and founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), as he headed from a meeting of public officials to a press conference at the Bundy Ranch. He was very grave and worried at the time that the situation could spin out of control, and that federal agents might open fire on citizens. He also expressed his exasperation at Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Clark County Sheriff Douglass Gillespie. “If Governor Sandoval and Sheriff Gillespie were doing the jobs they were elected to do, they would have stopped this from getting to a dangerous point,” Sheriff Mack said. “There are lots of things they could have done to defuse this situation, including telling the Feds to ‘stand down,’ and to assert their own jurisdiction and force the federal authorities to obey the law, including the Constitution and the laws of the state of Nevada,” he noted. “I have a very bad feeling about this,” he continued, adding that he hoped the tensions would be deescalated and a peaceful outcome negotiated.

Fortunately, most likely due to the national attention that the Bundy situation was receiving, federal officials backed off, the demonstrators and supporters remained peaceful, and a violent confrontation was averted. However, that does not end the affair. Members of the Bundy family and supporters, such as Sheriff Mack, expressed concerns that the evacuation of the federal police force might be a feint, and that there may be plans for them to return the following day, or as soon as the supporters and television crews had departed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose personal financial stake in the Bundy eviction has been called into question, let it be known that he wants to see the matter pursued.

“Well, it’s not over,” Reid told NBC’s Nevada affiliate KRNV on Monday, April 14. “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

Senator Reid, Nevada’s senior senator, is very incensed when the American people, i.e., ordinary citizens, “violate the law” — as he puts it — but he says nothing about the more serious violations of the laws and the Constitution by public officials, such as himself or the BLM officials.

This is the same federal BLM that Chief Judge Robert C. Jones of the Federal District Court of Nevada last year ruled had been engaged in a decades-long criminal “conspiracy” against the Wayne Hage family, fellow ranchers and friends of the Bundys. Among other things, Judge Jones accused the federal bureaucrats of racketeering under the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations) statute, and accused them as well of extortion, mail fraud, and fraud, in an effort “to kill the business of Mr. Hage.” In fact, the government’s actions were so malicious, said the judge, as to “shock the conscience of the Court.” Judge Jones granted an injunction against the agencies and referred area BLM and Forest Service managers to the Justice Department for prosecution.

Has Attorney General Eric Holder prosecuted any federal officials for criminal activity and violation of the Hage family’s constitutionally protected rights? No. Has Sen. Harry Reid denounced this lawlessness and criminal activity by government officials and call upon President Obama and Attorney General Holder to protect the citizens of his state from the depredations of federal officials under their command? No.

Huge Federal Footprint: And a Boot on Every Neck

With attitudes such as those expressed above by Sen. Harry Reid, it is almost a certainty that the recently defused Bundy Ranch standoff will be replayed again — and in the not-too-distant future. And the outcome could be much less amicable for all concerned.

And this is but one of many incidents that can be expected, because the Bundy family are not the only victims in the federal crosshairs. The BLM, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and other federal agencies own and/or control hundreds of millions of acres of the 12 western states. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not as large a landlord as some of these bigger agencies, but it exercises enormous regulatory clout over both private and public lands, air, and water. And while the EPA’s draconian, arbitrary, and costly regulations affect the entire country, they fall especially hard on the states in the West, where the federal impact is already massive due to the outsized footprint of the federal agencies.

federal landAs the accompanying map graphically demonstrates, there is a striking difference between the federal government’s claim to physical real estate in the states of East and the Midwest versus those of the West. In Maine, for instance, federal agencies occupy only 1.1 percent of the state’s land area; in New York it’s a mere 0.8 percent. The federal government claims only 1.8 percent of Indiana, 1.6 percent of Alabama, and 1.7 percent of Ohio. But in the Western states, the federal footprint covers from nearly one-third to over four-fifths of the area of the states.


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Ron Paul: Feds May Come Back With Way More Force ‘Like Waco’

Watch Video Here

by Fox News Insider // Apr 14 2014 // 5:32pm

Former Texas Rep. Ron Paul was on “Your World” this afternoon to discuss the battle between a Nevada rancher and the federal government.

The federal government says Cliven Bundy owes $1 million in grazing fees, and authorities seized many of his cattle. Bundy then declared a “range war” on the government, prompting a standoff between Bundy’s supporters and the government. The government has since pulled back.

Paul said the government could come back with more force because it doesn’t give up power easily, citing the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians’ compound in Waco, Texas. He said this issue poses the question of who should own the land.

Paul said Bundy has virtual ownership of the land because his family has been using it for so long.

“I think land should be in the states, and I think the states should sell it to the people,” he said. “You need the government out of it.”

Hear more of Paul’s thoughts in the video above.

Read more on the Nevada ranch standoff:

Feds Pull Back in Nevada Ranch Standoff

Nevada Rancher Renews Fight Against Big Gov: ‘We’re Standing Up for the Constitution’




Sheriff Mack travels with other CSPOA members to stand with Nevada rancher against the BLM 

Many of you have called or emailed regarding the storm brewing between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM.  We all know how we feel about the all-too-frequent bullying of individual citizens by various Feds with their usurped, unconstitutional powers.  It’s an epidemic that must be stopped.Well, we want you to know we ARE doing something about it, and thankfully this time we’re not alone.  Sheriff Mack is leaving early Saturday morning for an emergency trip to Bunkerville, Nevada, along with other members of the CSPOA posse (hopefully that’s some of you!) to stand vigil and find a peaceful resolution to this conflict (i.e., the feds going home).AND this late-breaking news as per Lyle Rapacki today:

State Senate President Andy Biggs and House of Reps Speaker Dave Livingston have both agreed that Arizona should be involved in supporting CSPOA and Oath Keepers in going to Bunkerville, NV to support the movement for freedom there with the Cliven Bundy family. State Senators Al Melvin, Chester Crandall, and Kelly Ward along with State Reps Brenda Barton, Bob Thorpe, Kelly Townsend and Warren Peterson are all planning to be at the Bundy ranch by Sunday morning. Furthermore, they all plan to attend the Press Conference Monday afternoon with the CSPOA and Oath Keepers along with the Bundys and other sheriffs and public officials from across the country.


We hope you understand how HUGE this is, that state senators and reps are supporting the CSPOA and the Oath Keepers!  We are not alone!



A Delegation of state legislators, lead by Washington State Representative Matt Shea, along with a  delegation of current serving Sheriffs, lead by Sheriff Richard Mack of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and military and police members of Oath Keepers, are converging on the site of a stand-off between federal law enforcement and Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy, to prevent bloodshed and to stand in defense of hardworking rural Americans who are under assault by a runaway federal government.

LAS VEGAS, NV, April 10, 2014

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (, led by retired Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, and the Oath Keepers organization ( are assisting Washington State Representative Matt Shea in organizing a delegation of current serving Western state legislators and Sheriffs to travel to the site of a tense stand-off between Bunkerville, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The delegation is traveling to Nevada to support a coalition of current serving Nevada legislators being organized by Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, of Las Vegas, to stand vigil at the Bundy ranch to prevent Federal Government provocation of violence resulting in another Ruby Ridge or Waco type incident.  They also hope that their example of oath-sworn public servants defending the rights of the people will prompt Clark County, Nevada Sheriff Douglas Gillespie and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to honor their oaths of office by taking real action to defend the rights of the Bundy family, the rights of all Nevadans, and the sovereignty of the State of Nevada.

Yesterday, April 9, 2014, Nevada State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore served the first watch in this vigil shortly after Cliven Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, was tazered by BLM “Rangers” during a heated confrontation.  [The video of that confrontation can be seen with the full article on the Oath Keepers web site,]:

The courage and resolve displayed by Ammon Bundy and his relatives is inspiring, and may well go down in history as a watershed moment – a turning of the tide.  But the above video also amply demonstrates the heavy-handed behavior of the BLM that risks escalating an already volatile situation into open bloodshed, that, once begun, may spiral out of anyone’s control.

It is necessary that current serving public servants step in-between the protesters and the BLM, to protect the rights of the people and to prevent violence against them by the militarized federal law enforcement that are massing near the ranch to continue the forced confiscation (theft) of  Bundy’s cattle, while they also restrict all access to huge tracts of public land, and attempt to restrict the free speech of protesters with their absurd “First Amendment Area” (which the protesters are ignoring, to their honor).

The Oath Keepers organization, comprised of 40,000 current serving and former military, police, and first responders, is also calling on its members and all other patriotic Americans to join the vigil at the Bundy ranch under the leadership of the current serving legislators and sheriffs.  The goal is to have at least one current serving state legislator and at least one sheriff on the ground at all times until this is over.  And they will be backed by a large number of military and police veterans, as well as dedicated patriotic Americans from all walks of life, to interpose and defend the rights of the protesters and to keep an eye on the actions of the BLM and any other federal law enforcement present, to prevent a recurrence of the horrid abuses seen at Ruby Ridge and Waco, and to hopefully pressure the Clark County Sheriff and the Nevada Governor to step up and do their constitutional duty.

Regardless, please tell everyone you know to be praying for a peaceful resolution to this situation and for the safety of the brave patriots headed there and on the ground there right now.

Please read the entire press release  
on the Oath Keepers web site, 


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ALERT! Flood Insurance Rates to Skyrocket After FEMA Redraws Flood Maps!


Published on Feb 27, 2014

IT’S ABOUT TO HIT THE FAN FOLKS ! This move also makes me think that they KNOW , We have severe flooding coming down the pike!…


FEMA has quietly moved the lines on its flood maps to benefit hundreds of oceanfront condo buildings and million-dollar homes, according to an analysis of federal records by NBC News.


Image: The Turquoise Place condominium buildings rise above Orange Beach, Alabama, before sunrise.

John Brecher / NBC News

Why Taxpayers Will Bail Out the Rich When the Next Storm Hits


Flood-zone residents outraged over new insurance rates

CBS News CBS News

Published on Sep 28, 2013

Residents and business owners in Broad Channel, N.Y., are protesting skyrocketing insurance rates that are part of a new federal law designed to keep FEMA afloat. The new law increases the number of areas that are deemed flood zones and stipulates that homeowners in those areas raise their houses or face increased premiums. Don Dahler reports.


Congress tried to cut subsidies for homes in flood zones. It was harder than they thought.

Back in 1968, Congress first began subsidizing flood-insurance policies for homeowners across the nation. That change allowed more Americans to move into coastal areas and floodplains without paying full price for the risks involved.

Flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 (The Washington Post)

Flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 (The Washington Post)

By 2012, however, lawmakers were rethinking the whole scheme. The National Flood Insurance Program was subsidizing premiums for 1.1 million policies and running multi-billion-dollar deficits. On top of that, scientists were predicting that sea-level rise would make flooding even more common in the years ahead. Environmentalists and fiscal conservatives alike argued that it made little sense to encourage building in high-risk areas.

So, that summer, Congress voted to revamp the program.* The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 aimed to end subsidized rates for 438,000 insurance policies in flood zones  — mainly second homes, businesses, and repeatedly flooded properties. Subsidies for the rest (about 715,000 properties) would get rolled back more gradually, as the homes got sold. A separate set of properties could also face premium hikes as the government revises its flood maps.

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Revelations of mistreatment of maids and cleaners add to picture of widespread labour abuse in World Cup host nation



Qatari women with maid

Qatari women with their children and housemaid strolling in Doha. Photograph: Stock Connection/REX


Foreign maids, cleaners and other domestic workers are being subjected to slave-like labour conditions in Qatar, with many complaining they have been deprived of passports, wages, days off, holidays and freedom to move jobs, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

Hundreds of Filipino maids have fled to their embassy in recent months because conditions are so harsh. Many complain of physical and sexual abuse, harassment, long periods without pay and the confiscation of mobile phones.

The exploitation raises further concerns about labour practices in Qatar in advance of the World Cup, after Guardian reports about the treatment of construction workers. The maids are not directly connected to Qatar’s preparations for the football tournament, but domestic workers will play a big role in staffing the hotels, stadiums and other infrastructure that will underpin the 2022 tournament.

Our investigation reveals:

• The Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) sheltered more than 600 runaway maids in the first six months of 2013 alone.

• Some workers say they have not been paid for months.

• Many housemaids do not get days off.

• Some contracts and job descriptions are changed once the workers arrive in Qatar.

• Women who report a sexual assault can be charged with illicit relations.

The non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their employer constitute forced labour under UN rules. According to the International Labour Organisation, forced labour is “all work which is exacted from someone under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”.

Lack of consent can include induced indebtedness and deception about the type and terms of work, withholding or non-payment of wages and the retention of identity documents. Initial consent may be considered irrelevant when deception or fraud has been used to obtain it.

“Menace of penalty” can include physical violence, deprivation of food and shelter, non-payment of wages, the inability to repay a loan, exclusion from future employment and removal of rights and privileges.

Modern-day slavery is estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe.

When the Guardian visited in January, at least 35 runaway maids had sought sanctuary at the POLO in the capital, Doha, which provides support to 200,000 Filipinos in Qatar. The welfare officer said most complained of pay being withheld, insufficient food, overwork and maltreatment. Some said they had endured verbal and physical abuse by sponsors of different nationalities.

Eight Filipino workers interviewed by the Guardian said they had not been paid for six months, were sometimes deprived of food while cleaning for long hours and had had their passports confiscated.

“We are afraid,” said 28-year-old Jane*. “We don’t really know what to do. We are trying to survive. That’s why we do part-time jobs secretly.” If they are caught breaching their contract, the maids face months in a deportation centre. The repatriation process is often delayed when people do not have their passports, according to James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on Gulf migrants’ rights.

Qatar vigorously denies it is a “slave state” and is understood to be reviewing the controversial system that governs migrant labour, and to have stepped up inspections of businesses that use migrant labour. The Qatari labour ministry said in a statement: “We have clear laws and contractual terms in place to protect all people who live and work in Qatar and anyone found to have broken those laws will be prosecuted accordingly.” It said that non-payment of wages and confiscation of passports were illegal in Qatar, and added: “The vast majority of workers in Qatar – domestic or otherwise – work amicably, save money and send this home to improve the economic situation of their families and communities in their home countries.”

But the Philippines-based OFW (Overseas Foreign Workers) Watch, which supports Filipino migrant workers, said physical abuse, delayed and refused salaries, the misrepresentation of employers and contracts and passport confiscations were common issues in Qatar. The Guardian has already highlighted this malpractice in its investigation into the mistreatment of migrant workers as Qatar gears up for the 2022 World Cup.

As with the construction workers, the abuse of maids is systemic and brought into sharp focus by a lack of legal protection and the kafala sponsorship system, under which workers cannot leave the country or change jobs without their employer’s permission, Lynch said.

“The women we’ve spoken to who have suffered abuses in the workplace, ranging from excessive working hours to physical violence, their employers came from a variety of countries,” he added.

Many maids say they do not get any rest days and that employers confiscate their mobile phones.

Several recruitment agencies contacted by phone told a Guardian reporter pretending to be a would-be client that they routinely withheld the passports of their migrant workers. One agency volunteered that it was up to the sponsor whether the maid had a day off. “If you want to give an off day, let them rest at your house,” an Al Hadeel Manpower representative said. “Don’t give them free days outside because there is more problems outside.”


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Yanukovych’s colossal ‘cottage’ by the sea dwarfs presidential palace.

Published: February 25, 2014, 4:02 pm
Updated: 35 mins ago


Lapsi, Ukraine, February 25, 2014 — A partial view of a staggering 8,000 square metre residence that deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was building for himself along the Black Sea in the restive Crimean Peninsula. Work stopped on the project on Monday when workers figured out that Yanulovych, who is facing charges of mass murder, would never pay them.

LAPSI, Ukraine — Ukrainians were stunned by the opulent grandeur of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidential palace when the doors were thrown open last Saturday, hours after the deposed leader fled for parts unknown ahead of formal charges this week accusing him of mass murder.

If those who gazed in wonder at the palace in Kyiv could have traveled safely to the primarily Russian Crimean Peninsula — where ethnic Ukrainians from the north are cursed and reviled at the moment for having toppled the old, pro-Moscow order — they might have had an even bigger shock at what is being built on a remote mountainside.

Another grotesque monument to Yanukovych’s vanity and venality, with a commanding view of the sea, has been slowly rising for the past three years about 30 kilometres from the port city of Sevastopol. Or at least it had been until workers abruptly began to cart away building materials on Monday because, as several of them said, “nobody has told us anything, but we understand that everything is now frozen and we won’t get paid.”

A handful of Ukrainians and journalists was allowed into the massive work site Tuesday. What they saw was a villa so colossal that, at a guess, it was four or five times the size of the huge residence in Kyiv that provoked such disgust when the common folk were allowed inside to gawk.

A Russian website guessed that the “cottage” by the sea was about 8,000 square metres. It looked to be about six months to a year from being completed. But it was already possible to see that the basketball court-sized living room was about 20 metres high and includes a massive fireplace. Many of the floors have a network of wires running underneath to heat them.

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The Kansas City Star.

Yanukovych crosses Ukraine, looking for refuge


Associated Press

— With his allies deserting him and his once-firm presidential power disintegrating, Viktor Yanukovych has fled Ukraine’s capital by car and aircraft, heading for the parts of the country where he is most likely to find friends, according to the acting head of the police.

On Monday, as Yanukovych’s exact whereabouts remained unknown, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakhov posted on his official Facebook page a rundown of where Yanukovych has been sighted since leaving Kiev on Friday.

His departure came hours after signing an agreement on resolving Ukraine’s political crisis that reduced his powers and was seen by many as a tacit admission of defeat.

Avakhov said a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yanukovych and several other officials for the “mass killing of civilians,” stemming from the deaths of protesters in Kiev.

Here’s a look at Yanukovych’s movements since Friday, based on one TV appearance and the account by Avakhov:


Yanukovych surfaced Saturday in the city of Kharkiv, 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Kiev, in the heartland of his base of support. In a videotaped interview, he bitterly likened opposition protesters to Nazis and declared he was still president and would not leave the country. That was his last public appearance.


From Kharkiv, Avakhov said Yanukovych, his chief of staff Andrit Klyuyev and his security guards flew Saturday by helicopter to the airport in Donetsk, his hometown, 230 kilometers (140 miles) to the south. There, he and his contingent transferred to two Falcon business jets and tried to fly off, but were prevented from leaving by border guards.

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CTV News

Seeking Viktor Yanukovych: A rundown of sightings in Ukraine

Jim Heintz, The Associated Press
Published Monday, February 24, 2014 11:10AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 24, 2014 5:59PM EST

KYIV, Ukraine — With his allies deserting him and his once-firm presidential power disintegrating, Viktor Yanukovych has fled Ukraine’s capital by car and aircraft, heading for the parts of the country where he is most likely to find friends, according to the acting head of the police.

On Monday, as Yanukovych’s exact whereabouts remained unknown, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakhov posted on his official Facebook page a rundown of where Yanukovych has been sighted since leaving Kyiv on Friday.

His departure came hours after signing an agreement on resolving Ukraine’s political crisis that reduced his powers and was seen by many as a tacit admission of defeat.

Avakhov said a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yanukovich and several other officials for the “mass killing of civilians,” stemming from the deaths of protesters in Kyiv.

Here’s a look at Yanukovych’s movements since Friday, based on one TV appearance and the account by Avakhov:

A TV interview in Kharkiv

Yanukovych surfaced Saturday in the city of Kharkiv, 400 kilometres east of Kyiv, in the heartland of his base of support. In a videotaped interview, he bitterly likened opposition protesters to Nazis and declared he was still president and would not leave the country. That was his last public appearance.

Foiled at the airport in Donetsk

From Kharkiv, Avakhov said Yanukovych, his chief of staff Andrit Klyuyev and his security guards flew Saturday by helicopter to the airport in Donetsk, his hometown, 230 kilometres to the south. There, he and his contingent transferred to two Falcon business jets and tried to fly off, but were prevented from leaving by border guards. Avakhov did not explain the basis for guards blocking the planes’ departure. Yanukovych spent a few hours in a state residence and then left about 10 p.m. in a convoy of automobiles, Avakhov said.

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Image: The Turquoise Place condominium buildings rise above Orange Beach, Alabama, before sunrise. John Brecher / NBC News

Why Taxpayers Will Bail Out the Rich When the Next Storm Hits

GULF SHORES, Ala. — As homeowners around the nation protest skyrocketing premiums for federal flood insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has quietly moved the lines on its flood maps to benefit hundreds of oceanfront condo buildings and million-dollar homes, according to an analysis of federal records by NBC News.

The changes shift the financial burden for the next destructive hurricane, tsunami or tropical storm onto the neighbors of these wealthy beach-dwellers — and ultimately onto all American taxpayers.

In more than 500 instances from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine, FEMA has remapped waterfront properties from the highest-risk flood zone, saving the owners as much as 97 percent on the premiums they pay into the financially strained National Flood Insurance Program.

NBC News also found that FEMA has redrawn maps even for properties that have repeatedly filed claims for flood losses from previous storms. At least some of the properties are on the secret “repetitive loss list” that FEMA sends to communities to alert them to problem properties. FEMA says that it does not factor in previous losses into its decisions on applications to redraw the flood zones.

And FEMA has given property owners a break even when the changes are opposed by the town hall official in charge of flood control. Although FEMA asks the local official to sign off on the map changes, it told NBC that its policy is to consider the applications even if the local expert opposes the change.

“If it’s been flooded, it’s susceptible to being flooded again. We all know that,” said Larry A. Larson, director emeritus of the 15,000-member national Association of State Floodplain Managers. “FEMA is ignoring data that’s readily available. That’s not smart. And it puts taxpayer money at risk.”

Image: A map shows 530 waterfront properties that have been moved out of the highest-risk flood zones. NBC News

See a map from NBC News linking to public records for the 533 rezoned properties along the U.S. coast.

The Gulf Coast experience

The neighboring resorts of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on the South Alabama coast include a stretch of beach that was flooded by Hurricanes Erin and Opal in 1995, Danny in 1997, Georges in 1998, Ivan in 2004, and Katrina in 2005. The map changes here offer a vivid example of the risks that come with such reclassifications.

The direct hit by Ivan was the worst, bringing not gently rising floodwaters but a 14-foot wall of water that leveled buildings and flooded more than a mile inland. That’s why flood maps show most of this beach as a “coastal velocity wave zone,” the area with the highest risk of damage from storm surge.

But nearly all of the condominium towers are no longer in that high-risk zone, including a 17-story condominium built where the old Holiday Inn was wiped away by Ivan’s winds and waves, and another where the McDonald’s was a total loss. From 2011 through 2013, FEMA granted applications remapping 66 out of 72 waterfront condo towers in Gulf Shores to lower-risk flood zones or off the flood maps entirely. Four others have applications pending. Just two applications have been denied. And next door in Orange Beach, the map lines have been redrawn around four high-rise condo buildings.

On a single day, Oct. 25, 2012 — a day when FEMA was closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy as it barreled toward the Atlantic Coast — a FEMA manager issued a document reclassifying a full mile of the coastal property in Gulf Shores. That document, just one of the 533 cases found nationwide by NBC News, redrew the lines to exclude 25 condo buildings from the highest-risk flood zone.

This beachfront condo, the Island Tower, collected $11,562 for its damage from Katrina, and more than $250,000 from Ivan.

Image: the Phoenix All Suites Hotel, left, and the Island Tower condominium building in Gulf Shores, Ala. John Brecher / NBC News
The Island Tower condominium building, right, and the Phoenix All Suites Hotel, left, rise above the beach in Gulf Shores. FEMA remapped both into lower-risk flood zones.

The Island Tower’s condo association was paying $143,190 a year into the National Flood Insurance Program. Now that it’s been reclassified into a lower-risk flood zone, its premium is $8,457 a year, a saving of 94 percent, according to records examined by NBC News.

Just down the beach is the Royal Palms. It collected $58,230 for damages during Katrina, and $889,730 from Ivan. The Royal Palms was paying $218,484 a year, but after being changed to a lower-risk flood zone, now pays only $6,845, saving 97 percent.

The map changes in just these two towns resulted in at least $5 million a year in lost revenue to the flood insurance program, according to records examined by NBC News. All of these changes were approved by FEMA despite opposition from the city officials in charge of floodplain management.

Image: A map shows condominium projects on the Gulf Coast. NBC News

See a map from NBC News with details of the condominium projects in Gulf Shores and Ocean Beach. Some of the condo projects have multiple buildings, making more than 60 buildings in all.

Elsewhere in Gulf Shores, homeowners are paying as much as $12,000 a year in flood insurance premiums for their single-family homes, according to insurance records. These homeowners are paying as much as several large condo buildings combined.

Properties from Alaska to Maine

Because waterfront properties are expensive, and it costs thousands of dollars to hire an engineer to press a case with FEMA, the remapped properties tend to be luxurious, either the first or second homes of industrialists, real estate developers and orthopedic surgeons.

The 533 properties include a $4 million home in the Hamptons resort on Long Island, N.Y., owned by a married couple who direct Wall Street investment firms.

In Miami, the beneficiaries include the twin 37-story condos at ritzy Turnberry Isle in Sunny Isles Beach, and also the Regalia, “the most luxurious building in South Florida.”

Image: The $19 million house shown at left in Naples, Florida, has been moved out of the highest-risk flood zone by FEMA Courtesy of Pictometry International Corp.
The Naples, Fla., home of Robert A. Watson, at left, was moved in 2013 out of the highest-risk flood zone, while its neighbors continue to pay higher rates for flood insurance.

In Naples, Fla., a $19 million home was remapped last year out of the high-risk zone. The owner, Robert A. Watson, former president and CEO of units of Westinghouse Electric and Transamerica, said his property is protected by a floodwall, and he sought the map change last year not to save money but because FEMA has changed the map elevations in that area so many times. He said he wanted to know for sure that a guesthouse would be permitted. (He called mandatory flood insurance “a massive scam on the American people.”)

In New York, FEMA granted the Mamaroneck Beach & Yacht Club’s request to be remapped from the high-risk flood zone in August 2012 — just two months before the club was damaged and its outbuildings destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, which stacked up yachts at its docks like pick-up sticks. The club told NBC that its engineering study showed that FEMA’s map was wrong.

“Sandy was a once in a millennium event, and therefore cannot be the sole determination for planning,” said Eric L. Gordon, attorney for the yacht club.

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MSN News

Baton Rouge’s Rich Want New Town to Keep Poor Pupils Out: Taxes

February 6, 2014 12:00 AM ET

By Margaret Newkirk

Saying they want local control, they’re trying to leave the 42,000-pupil public-education system. They envision their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-value homes, which would take money from schools in poorer parts of state-capital Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University. They even want their own city.

Similar efforts have surfaced in the past two years in Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Tennessee, some of them succeeding as the end of court-ordered desegregation removed legal barriers. The result may be a concentration of poverty and low achievement. A 2012 report by ACT, the Iowa-based testing organization, found only 10 percent of low-income students met college benchmarks in all subjects, less than half the average.

“It’s going to devastate us,” said Tania Nyman, 45, who has two elementary-age children in the Baton Rouge system. “They’re not only going to take the richer white kids out of the district, they are going to take their money out of it.”

U.S. educational funding varies by state, often relying heavily on local taxes. The South, once notorious for segregated schools, by 2011 had the nation’s second-narrowest funding disparity among districts, according to a study by the Federal Education Budget Project, a Washington-based research organization that is an offshoot of the nonpartisan New America Foundation.

Dropping Further

Louisiana, however, scored worst in the nation, according to the study. A December report by three LSU economics professors found that breaking up the East Baton Rouge Parish school system would depress total per-pupil spending to $8,870 from $9,635. It would rise to $11,686 in the breakaway district.

Eighty percent of the current district’s students are black, and 82 percent poor enough to qualify for free or reduced school meals. Nyman and other district boosters say a split would set a dire precedent.

“Every affluent community in the state will want to create their own little school system,” said Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers.“They are taking money away that would help the entire school system and the entire city.”

Opting Out

Backers of the split, whose website is called Local Schools for Local Children, say the district has been failing for at least a dozen years, with some schools performing so poorly that the state took them over. In the 2011-2012 school year, six of 10 students attended a school ranked failing or almost failing by the state and the drop-out rate was 20 percent, according to Baton Rouge Area Chamber, a business group.

“Baton Rouge is one of the best job markets around, and the middle class is moving out,” said Republican state Senator Mack “Bodi” White. “Those who stay have their kids in private schools.”

About 30 percent of children within district lines were in private schools in 2009, according to Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives.

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