Politics and Legislation
Walker signs bill barring workers from collecting damages for employment discrimination
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits workers from collecting damages in employment discrimination cases.
By: Associated Press report, Associated Press
MADISON — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits workers from collecting damages in employment discrimination cases.
Under current state law, employees who prevail in discrimination lawsuits can collect between $50,000 and $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The Republican bill blocks anyone from collecting such damages in employment discrimination suits…..
Another health law faces court challenge
By Julian Pecquet
Two weeks after fighting for the survival of its signature healthcare reform law before the Supreme Court, the Obama administration will be back in court Tuesday to defend another part of the president’s agenda to make Americans healthier.
The D.C. Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case brought by five tobacco companies challenging regulations requiring graphic warning labels on cigarette packs and advertisements starting in September.
Once again, the administration is finding itself accused of overstepping its constitutional authority, this time on First Amendment grounds.
“The graphic images … were neither designed to protect the consumer from confusion or deception, nor to increase consumer awareness of smoking risks; rather, they were crafted to evoke a strong emotional response calculated to provoke the viewer to quit or never start smoking,” federal Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled in February…..
White House abandons push for federal contractors to disclose political giving
By Mike Lillis
The Obama administration has all but abandoned its push to require federal contractors to disclose their political donations.
A year ago, the White House composed a draft executive order that would have forced potential government contractors to reveal their political spending as a condition of submitting bids. But roughly 12 months later, no final order has been issued, and supporters and critics alike say they’ve seen no signs such a change is forthcoming.
“The executive order can potentially come back after the 2012 elections,” said Craig Holman, lobbyist for Public Citizen, a government watchdog group that has been urging the greater transparency. “But I don’t consider it still being contemplated [now].”
Holman said Obama sent clear signals the issue has been pushed to the back burner in January when the president declined to pitch it in his State of the Union address.
Inside Russia: Putin’s Private National Guard
By Yulia Latynina
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that President-elect Vladimir Putin is poised to undertake the most significant reform Russia has seen in recent years by creating a National Guard from scratch. These special forces, numbering up to 400,000 men, would answer directly to the president and would be charged with protecting the country from internal threats.
As a result, Russia would resemble a classic South American or Middle Eastern dictatorship. Take, for example, Syria, where for decades men from the lower classes have had only two career options — a dead-end job with a state company or joining the troops that guard the president. Ironically, Putin is considering adopting such a system even after the entire world witnessed how the Libyan version of this model failed miserably, while the Syrian version of this model is headed toward a similar demise.
The creation of dedicated security units unconnected to the army or the police — like the infamous Tonton Macoutes under former Haitian President Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier — does not protect citizens from criminals nor external enemies, but protects the leadership from the people. These units are telltale attributes of a dictatorship.
The Putin regime effectively issued a decree granting freedom to the siloviki, as Peter III had granted certain liberties to the nobility. In freeing the hands of the siloviki, they were allowed to extort, steal and even kill. Paradoxically, the government asked for nothing in return, except for the promise to uphold a sort of gentlemen’s agreement: “You are free to rape and pillage as long as you break up anti-government demonstrations.”….
Analysts: Gas prices may have peaked
By Andrew Restuccia
Gasoline prices, which have vexed President Obama politically in recent months, may have reached their peak, according to energy analysts.
Prices at the pump reached nearly $3.94 last Friday, the highest point this year, according to AAA. But prices have decreased slightly over the last five days, reversing increases that began in December of last year.
Analysts say prices could continue to decline.
“What this could potentially mean for motorists is that prices could take a bit of a breather or they might fall,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at gasbuddy.com.“Traditionally, every spring we see prices rise like this,” DeHaan added. “They tend to peak in late spring.”
Ben Brockwell, director of data and pricing at the Oil Price Information Service, said gasoline prices have decreased more in the last five days than any time during the past year…..
Bernanke says financial stability a work in progress
By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
STONE MOUNTAIN, Georgia (Reuters) – The U.S. economy has yet to fully recover from the effects of the financial crisis, and regulators must continue to find new ways to strengthen the banking system, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday.
“The heavy human and economic costs of the crisis underscore the importance of taking all necessary steps to avoid a repeat of the events of the past few years,” Bernanke told a group of economists and finance experts at a conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
In a speech that did not touch directly on the outlook for economic growth or monetary policy, Bernanke focused on the lingering blind spots for financial authorities trying to prevent a repeat of the 2008-2009 meltdown…..
IRS confident courts will uphold effort to license tax preparers
By Bernie Becker
The IRS is confident that its initiatives to increase regulation of tax preparers will be found legal, despite challenges from opponents.
With a libertarian group filing a lawsuit saying the agency is in the midst of a power-grab, Doug Shulman, the IRS commissioner, said last week that new requirements would help smoke out unscrupulous preparers and were being implemented with care.
“I’m very confident not only is everything we’re doing going to be seen as legal, but more importantly, everything we’re doing, I think, is going to benefit the American people,” Shulman said at the National Press Club on Thursday.
Under the IRS regulations, certain preparers have to pass a new competency test and complete 15 hours of education requirements a year.
According to the most recent figures, roughly 60 percent of taxpayers were using paid preparers.
But while it often takes a government license to cut hair, Shulman said that, before recent IRS efforts, there weren’t basic competency requirements for tax return preparers — even as government reports found some preparers making significant errors.
“I’m the IRS commissioner, so I’m biased that taxes are more important than how your hair looks,” Shulman said Thursday. “I know other people view that differently…..
Want Jobs? Rescue Homeowners – and Spend, Baby, Spend
Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed:
Another way to get the economy moving is to get financial relief to people who have been financially struggling and have put off needed spending – on vehicles, home improvements, and the like – as well as reasonable amenities. Homeowners owe $800 billion in “negative equity” to banks for non-existent real estate value. That’s an “invisible bailout” funded by the struggling middle class, and delivered by borrowers who were frequently hoodwinked into taking out a mortgage at inflated prices.
Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank To Introduce Japan’s 1st Card-Free ATMs
TOKYO (Nikkei)–Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank (8361) said Wednesday it will in September introduce Japan’s first ATMs that will enable customers to conduct cash withdrawals and other transactions by simply placing their palms over a reader, obviating the need for a card or bank book.
Although ATMs equipped with biometric authentication sensors already exist, those machines still require customers to use cash cards or bank books to withdraw funds….
Like generations of college students, Caprice Taylor needed a job to help pay her school and living expenses. For the 24-year-old student of fashion merchandise management at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, sales work at a retail clothing shop seemed like a good option.
Taylor was hired last year at Club Monaco, a high-end clothing and apparel retailer owned by Polo Ralph Lauren. But her scheduled shifts at the Manhattan store were not guaranteed. Instead, she was given call-in shifts, which required her to call the store two hours before she was scheduled to arrive to see if she was needed.
Most often, she was not.
For months, Taylor said, she arranged her personal life around work days, waiting in her apartment, only to call in and learn the store wasn’t busy enough. On some weeks, Taylor logged as few as six hours, not earning enough to keep up with her living expenses.
“It puts your day on complete hold,” Taylor said. “It pressures you.”
After four months of unpredictable paychecks, Taylor quit. She later found work at a Polo Ralph Lauren store that does not have on-call shifts. She was lucky to find it. Retail watchers say big-box stores and shopping-mall stalwarts are increasingly hiring workers for on-call shifts, a trend that cuts labor costs for employers, but leaves workers like Taylor struggling to get by…..
Wars and Rumors of War
Bahrain: The Key to Saudi-Qatari Servitude
Neo-Con’s pet project in Bahrain serves as point of leverage for Saudi-Qatari capitulation.
Like an axe poised above one’s neck at execution, the despotic hereditary regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have the specter of their own US-fueled “Arab Springs” looming over them, ever ready to be triggered. A constant reminder of this is the destabilized Sunni royal family in Bahrain, in the epicenter of Saudi and Qatari power.
Image: A map of eastern Saudi Arabia featuring the island nation of Bahrain situated between Qatar and the Saudi mainland. Bahrain, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is a despotic Sunni monarchy – selected by the West to be made an example of and to keep its neighbors in check and on board for the current “Arab Spring” blitzkrieg upturning the rest of the Arab World. (click image to enlarge)
The Bahrain protests, like those of Egypt, Libya, Syria, Myanmar, North Korea, Thailand, and beyond, were trained, equipped, and supported by the US State Department. Leading opposition organizations, such as the US-based “Witness Bahrain” and Bahrain Center for Human Rights, are partnered directly with US State Department-funded fronts like theInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) while a high-profile self-proclaimed leader of the protests, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was regional coordinator of “Frontline Defenders,” a Ford Foundation, Freedom House, American Jewish World Service, Soros Open Society Institute-funded “human rights” advocacy group. Al-Khawaja is now carrying out a “hunger strike” while in prison…..
Read Full Article Here
Articles of Interest
Special report: Rendition ordeal that raises new questions about secret trials
In 2004, Fatima Bouchar and her husband, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, were detained en route to the UK, and rendered to Libya. This is the story of their imprisonment, and the trail of evidence that reveals the involvement of the British government
Just when Fatima Bouchar thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Americans forced her to lie on a stretcher and began wrapping tape around her feet. They moved upwards, she says, along her legs, winding the tape around and around, binding her to the stretcher. They taped her stomach, her arms and then her chest. She was bound tight, unable to move.
Bouchar says there were three Americans: two tall, thin men and an equally tall woman. Mostly they were silent. She never saw their faces: they dressed in black and always wore black balaclavas. Bouchar was terrified. They didn’t stop at her chest – she says they also wound the tape around her head, covering her eyes. Then they put a hood and earmuffs on her. She was unable to move, to hear or to see. “My left eye was closed when the tape was applied,” she says, speaking about her ordeal for the first time. “But my right eye was open, and it stayed open throughout the journey. It was agony.” The journey would last around 17 hours.
Bouchar, then aged 30, had become a victim of the process known as extraordinary rendition. She and her husband, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a Libyan Islamist militant fighting Muammar Gaddafi, had been abducted in Bangkok and were being flown to one of Gaddafi’s prisons in Libya, a country where she had never before set foot. However, Bouchar’s case is different from the countless other renditions that the world has learned about over the past few years, and not just because she was one of the few female victims.
Documents discovered in Tripoli show that the operation was initiated by British intelligence officers, rather than the masked Americans or their superiors in the US. There is also some evidence that the operation may have been linked to a second British-initiated operation, which saw two men detained in Iraq and rendered to Afghanistan. Furthermore, the timing of the operation, and the questions that Bouchar’s husband and a second rendition victim say were subsequently put to them under torture, raise disturbing new questions about the secret court system that considers immigration appeals in terrorist cases in the UK – a system that the government has pledged to extend to civil trials in which the government itself is the defendant.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – On Thursday, the Navy simulated a jet crash near Old Pungo Ferry Road in Virginia Beach.
The drill was organized to train Virginia Beach and Chesapeake first responders. The scenario: A navy jet is unable to make the return trip to Oceana and has crashed near Back Bay in Virginia Beach.
The goal was to develop and exercise coordination efforts between the two cities and the Navy’s first responders, according to a news release from NAS Oceana.
CAPT James Webb, the CO of NAS Oceana, said, “We’re totally relying on all the cooperation. The first responders have to come from the surrounding community.”
The drill included numerous emergency services personnel and vehicles responding to the Navy’s fire trainer, which was placed in the parking lot of the old Capt. George’s restaurant.
“There are specific responder issues in dealing with aircraft that they wouldn’t normally face,” NAS Oceana Dist. Fire Chief Kenneth Snyder said.
Like unexploded ordinance and extremely flammable composite materials.
NAS Oceana personnel practice at least annually for the potential of a military aircraft crash, and the drill often involves the city’s first responders, but this is the first time a drill will involve both Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.
April 6, 2012 by legitgov
Holy coincidence, Batman! Navy held recent drill to prepare for ‘exact’ events of Va. crash 06 Apr 2012 The US Navy held a drill on 15 December to prepare for the ‘exact’ situation that took place Friday, regarding the F/A-18 Navy jet crash. (No link, Fox News, 7PM ET live broadcast)
Navy jet has ‘catastrophic mechanical malfunction,’ hits apartments in Virginia
From Michael Martinez and Barbara Starr, CNN
CNN affiliates WTKR, WAVY and WVEC have more on the story.
(CNN) — A Navy fighter jet experienced a “catastrophic mechanical malfunction” during takeoff Friday over the military community of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and rained a stench of jet fuel shortly before crashing into apartment buildings, according to residents and Navy officials.
The jet carried a student pilot in the front seat and an experienced instructor behind him, and the dumping of jet fuel was “one of the indications that there was a mechanical malfunction,” Navy Capt. Mark Weisgerber told reporters.
The malfunction is being investigated, he said.
The two pilots, a Virginia Beach police officer, an EMS volunteer and three other people were treated at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. One of the pilots was admitted, while the other six patients were released, the hospital’s website said.
Both pilots, who live in Virginia Beach, are “doing well and they suffered minor injuries,” Weisgerber said.
As of Friday night, three people from one of five apartment buildings heavily damaged in the crash were unaccounted for, down from 30, Virginia Beach Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Riley said.
No one has been reported missing to authorities, but rescue crews are using a checklist of all occupants in the five buildings in an effort to account for all residents, Riley said.
Witnesses describe horror of jet crash
Rescue crews did an initial search of the five buildings, and as of Friday night, completed 95% of a secondary search, Riley said.
Witness: Pilot apologized for jet crash
“If there is anybody there, chances of survivability would be low,” Riley told reporters, referring to any survivors in the five buildings.
Witness: I saw flames under the plane
No deaths were reported as of Friday night, Riley said…..
Florida toll booths caught acting like TSA and DHS
Uploaded by vagabondvoice on Mar 7, 2011
Pay with a big bill and you will get the third degree- how did you get this money? do you have a bank statement-are you a terrorist? What you have a job- arrest him quick!!!
North Korea suffers major blow as rocket crashes
By Ju-min Park
(Reuters) – North Korea’s much hyped long-range rocket apparently crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch on Friday, U.S. and South Korean officials said, dealing a blow to the prestige of the reclusive and impoverished state as well as to its new leader.
Pyongyang had defied international pressure from the United States, the United Nations and others to push ahead with the launch timed to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, the deceased founder of the state.
Even close ally China had warned against the launch and South Korean intelligence officials have said North Korea may be ready to follow it up with a third nuclear test as it did after a rocket launch in 2009.
“South Korean and U.S. intelligence understand that North Korea’s missile launch failed,” a spokesman for the South’s defense ministry told reporters at a briefing.
North Korea said it wanted the Unha-3 rocket to put a weather satellite into orbit, although critics believed it was designed to enhance its capacity to design a ballistic missile to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States.
The rocket crashed in a sea that separates the Korean peninsula from China off the west coast of South Korea after flying 120 km (75 miles) from its launch site close to the Chinese border, officials in Seoul, Washington and Tokyo said…..
Rep. Mica: GSA officials spent week in Hawaii for one-hour ribbon cutting
By Pete Kasperowic
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that the ongoing probe into the wasteful spending habits of the General Services Administration (GSA) has uncovered that several GSA officials were flown to Hawaii for a week to attend a one-hour ribbon cutting ceremony.
The announcement from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairma is the latest in a slow drip of news on GSA’s activities that will culminate in two explosive hearings next week. One of Mica’s subcommittees will hold a hearing Tuesday, and the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee will grill current and former GSA officials on Monday.
Most of the anger from lawmakers has focused on a 2010 junket to Las Vegas that cost more than $800,000, as well as bonuses and expensive gifts given to GSA employees. But Mica said the Hawaii trip is a new low….
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