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Border deal raises sovereignty issues, ex-envoy says A proposed border deal between Canada and the United States will mean a tradeoff between sovereignty and security, says a former ambassador to Washington.
Michael Wilson, a retired diplomat and one-time Tory finance minister, told a defence and security conference there must be understanding, trust and confidence for the plan to work.
The planned perimeter deal is aimed at increasing cooperation on security practices to fortify the North American border while allowing the unfettered flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel.
“This border agreement does raise some very significant issues on sovereignty, on privacy, on the form of collaboration between both sides. Sharing of information is very important to being able to make this agreement work,” Wilson said Thursday. (Toronto Star)
Libya protests: Oil prices rise as unrest continues Oil prices have risen in the UK and US after continued unrest in Libya and worries about the impact on the country's crude exports.
In London Brent crude rose by more than $2 a barrel to $108.5, before falling back to $105.78 a barrel.
In New York, US light sweet crude oil rose by $7.37 to $93.57 a barrel.
US shares also closed heavily down. Asian stocks had closed down, and European shares also fell before recovering by mid-afternoon. (BBC)
Billionaire Brothers' Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute Among the thousands of demonstrators who jammed the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds this weekend was a well-financed advocate from Washington who was there to voice praise for cutting state spending by slashing union benefits and bargaining rights.
The visitor, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told a large group of counterprotesters who had gathered Saturday at one edge of what otherwise was a mostly union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits.
“We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” he said.
What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch. (New York Times)
Monsanto Shifts ALL Liability to Farmers Farmers like genetically modified (GM) crops because they can plant them, spray them with herbicide and then there is very little maintenance until harvest. Farmers who plant Monsanto's GM crops probably don't realize what they bargain for when they sign the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract. One farmer reportedly 'went crazy' when he discovered the scope of the contract because it transfers ALL liability to the farmer or grower.
Here is the paragraph that defines Monsanto's limit of liability that shifts it to the farmer:
"GROWER'S EXCLUSIVE LIMITED REMEDY: THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY OF THE GROWER AND THE LIMIT OF THE LIABILITY OF MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER FOR ANY AND ALL LOSSES, INJURY OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE USE OR HANDLING OF SEED (INCLUDING CLAIMS BASED IN CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, PRODUCT LIABILITY, STRICT LIABILITY, TORT, OR OTHERWISE) SHALL BE THE PRICE PAID BY THE GROWER FOR THE QUANTITY OF THE SEED INVOLVED OR, AT THE ELECTION OF MONSANTO OR THE SEED SELLER, THE REPLACEMENT OF THE SEED. IN NO EVENT SHALL MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER BE LIABLE FOR ANY INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES." (MorphCity)
Zero-Waste Family Maintains Normal Lifestyle (VIDEO) Bea Johnson wears makeup. She lives in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. And while raising two children, she's determined to live a zero-waste lifestyle.
Four years ago, Johnson's family downsized their home and decided to simplify their life, reducing the amount of stuff they owned. According to this video from NBC News, Bea's now down to one pair of shorts and two skirts. The family refills cloth sacks with grains and produce, have created a major composting system, and make their own cleaning products. Bea even offers reduction tips on her blog, The Zero Waste Home, encouraging readers to buy in bulk and start a junk mail war. The family's cumulative waste for this year all fits into a small metal box. This is a far cry from the over four pounds of waste every American produces per day. (Huffington Post)
"CIA spy" Davis was giving nuclear bomb material to Al-Qaeda, says report Double murder-accused US official Raymond Davis has been found in possession of top-secret CIA documents, which point to him or the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region, providing Al-Qaeda terrorists with "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents," according to a report.
Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned "grave" as it appears that open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States, The European Union Times reports.
The SVR warned in its report that the apprehension of 36-year-old Davis, who shot dead two Pakistani men in Lahore last month, had fuelled this crisis. (Yahoo!)
No Brain Damage From Ecstasy, New Research Shows Contrary to long-held opinion, ecstasy, the popular rave-culture drug, may not harm your brain.
This is according to one of the largest studies ever conducted on the illegal drug's effect on cognition, published last week in the journal Addiction.
Though former studies have concluded quite the opposite about the drug (technical name 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA) there's been concern that these conclusions were overstated and reached through faulty methods.
The latest research, a $1.8 million study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), set out to correct these methods by eliminating all other factors that could possibly contribute to mental impairment: 1) sleep deprivation and dehydration commonplace in rave culture, 2) previous habitual drug or alcohol use, or 3) former cognitive damage for any reason. (Huffington Post)
A Monopoly on Cheating I HATE cheats. They cut the line and snatch the bargain. They sweet-talk the customer service rep into bending the rules. They count cards and win the raffle with some sneaky ticket placement. They are the 100th caller every time. They trick you on mileage or square footage and bribe their way up the organ transplant list. They pump and dump their stocks, their families, their friends. They get ahead and they win. We lose. Then they explain ever so condescendingly that it’s not a zero-sum game.
I never cheated much as a child, not on tests or papers, not at Go Fish or poker or even board games like Sorry or Risk. It’s been the same since. I pay my taxes, under-claim expenses, give mistaken change back to the cashier. I don’t lie on applications. I’d probably fill out my own death warrant with civic-minded meticulousness.
I’m not bragging. I find this part of me repellent. I’m not noble or good. I’m adult enough to know that the victories of cheats don’t feel hollow to them. They live happy lives. They don’t think they are cheats. They consider themselves warriors of life. (New York Times)
Congresswoman's Inspiring Speech On Her Abortion And Planned Parenthood In the heated House debate yesterday on a proposal to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding for women's health and sex education services, one speech stood out. California representative Jackie Speier said she would abandon her prepared remarks because "my stomach is in knots." Then she told the world about her own abortion.
In her case, it was a wanted pregnancy she had to terminate because of complications. "But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous." She then went on to say that Republicans were wasting the time of Americans, who are primarily concerned with jobs and not with what is, last time we all checked, a legal procedure. There's no other way to say it: She kicked ass. (Also, just hearing the word vagina on the House floor is excitement enough.)
Meanwhile, Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin showed yet another reason why it's important to elect women and people of color — the prospect of a bunch of old white guys standing around talking about black women's fertility and alleged genocide. After Rep. Paul Brown said (falsely) that clinics target neighborhoods where people of color live and that "more black babies are killed" by Planned Parenthood. (Jezebel)
It's a bird! It's a spy! It's both Backed by the Pentagon's research arm, Monrovia firm AeroVironment has developed the Nano Hummingbird, an experimental miniature drone that could one day do reconnaissance by landing on a window ledge.
A pocket-size drone dubbed the Nano Hummingbird for the way it flaps its tiny robotic wings has been developed for the Pentagon by a Monrovia company as a mini-spy plane capable of maneuvering on the battlefield and in urban areas.
The battery-powered drone was built by AeroVironment Inc. for the Pentagon's research arm as part of a series of experiments in nanotechnology. The little flying machine is built to look like a bird for potential use in spy missions. (Los Angeles Times)
Appeals planned as Amazon residents win ruling against Chevron A judge in Ecuador this week awarded $8.64 billion to Ecuadorian residents of the Amazon who had sued Chevron for years of crude oil pollution, but both sides said Tuesday they will appeal the verdict.
Chevron charges the verdict against them is the "product of fraud," and the plaintiffs say the size of the award is too small in comparison to what would be needed to do a real cleanup.
Luis Yanza, speaking for the residents' group the Assembly of those Affected by Chevron, said at a news conference that the ruling was "historic" and a "collective victory." However, he said, "Eight billion dollars doesn't represent a significant amount to repair the environmental damages."
The judgment against Chevron is the latest in 18 years of litigation between the Amazon residents and Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron. It was decided in a courtroom in the Amazon by Judge Nicolas Zambrano. (CNN)
Revolution U: What Egypt Learned From The Students Who Overthrew Milosevic Early in 2008, workers at a government-owned textile factory in the Egyptian mill town of El-Mahalla el-Kubra announced that they were going on strike on the first Sunday in April to protest high food prices and low wages. They caught the attention of a group of tech-savvy young people an hour's drive to the south in the capital city of Cairo, who started a Facebook group to organize protests and strikes on April 6 throughout Egypt in solidarity with the mill workers. To their shock, the page quickly acquired some 70,000 followers.
But what worked so smoothly online proved much more difficult on the street. Police occupied the factory in Mahalla and headed off the strike. The demonstrations there turned violent: Protesters set fire to buildings, and police started shooting, killing at least two people. The solidarity protests around Egypt, meanwhile, fizzled out, in most places blocked by police. The Facebook organizers had never agreed on tactics, whether Egyptians should stay home or fill the streets in protest. People knew they wanted to do something. But no one had a clear idea of what that something was.
The botched April 6 protests, the leaders realized in their aftermath, had been an object lesson in the limits of social networking as a tool of democratic revolution. Facebook could bring together tens of thousands of sympathizers online, but it couldn't organize them once they logged off. It was a useful communication tool to call people to -- well, to what? The April 6 leaders did not know the answer to this question. So they decided to learn from others who did. In the summer of 2009, Mohamed Adel, a 20-year-old blogger and April 6 activist, went to Belgrade, Serbia. (Foreign Policy)
Sen. Leahy on anthrax case: 'It's not closed' After the deadly shooting rampage in Tucson, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) was asked to reflect on his own experience as the would-be target of an assassin. That's when he let slip something that he rarely talks about publicly: He has never accepted the FBI's decision to close the case in the series of anthrax-laced letters mailed to public officials in fall 2001.
"I still wonder who sent it and why they sent it," the Judiciary Committee chairman told a crowd gathered last month at the Newseum in Northwest Washington to hear his 2011 legislative agenda.
More than a month later, Leahy was given fresh evidence this week that the science in the case was not airtight, reopening emotional wounds 91/2 years after letters sent to him and then-Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) helped cause the deaths of five people and sickened 17 others. On Tuesday, the National Research Council questioned the efficacy of the genetic testing used by the FBI to allege that a Fort Detrick scientist had acted alone in mailing the deadly letters to Capitol Hill and media outlets. (Washington Post)
Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? Financial crooks brought down the world's economy -- but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them By Matt Taibbi. Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.
"Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."
I put down my notebook. "Just that?"
"That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."
Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.
This article appears in the March 3, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the online archive February 18.
The rest of them, all of them, got off. Not a single executive who ran the companies that cooked up and cashed in on the phony financial boom — an industrywide scam that involved the mass sale of mismarked, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities — has ever been convicted. Their names by now are familiar to even the most casual Middle American news consumer: companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. What's more, many of these companies had corporate chieftains whose actions cost investors billions — from AIG derivatives chief Joe Cassano, who assured investors they would not lose even "one dollar" just months before his unit imploded, to the $263 million in compensation that former Lehman chief Dick "The Gorilla" Fuld conveniently failed to disclose. Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars. - "You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street," says a former congressional aide. "That's all it would take. Just once." (Rolling Stone)
My credit card had a 79.9% APR Toni Riss had a credit card with a 79.9% interest rate.
The 58-year-old woman from Texas thought she struck gold when she found the First Premier card, which is aimed specifically at consumers with poor credit.
"I had an accident on a motorcycle, went through bankruptcy to pay for medical expenses and my credit went to hell in a hand basket, so I was looking for credit cards for people with bad credit" Riss said.
They granted her a card with a $300 limit -- typical for new customers -- and a starting rate of 29.9%, which Riss said she considered decent given her credit score.
But about six months after opening the card -- at the end of 2009 -- she received an unwelcome surprise in the mail.
"I about had a heart attack when I got a disclosure notice saying that my starting rate of 29.9% was going up to 79.9%," said Riss. "It was ludicrous. Talk about a highway robbery."
At that same time, First Premier Bank launched a new credit card with the sky-high 79.9% rate.
The card proved popular with consumers, said First Premier Bankcard CEO Miles Beacom, but the performance was bad: "A lot of the people ran up the card, defaulted and went directly to charge off." (CNN)
Was Judge John Roll the actual target of the Giffords shooting? While most of the country has been focused on the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the murder of Judge John McCarthy Roll, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, remains largely and strangely missing from most of the mainstream press coverage of this event.
Judge Roll, considered by some to be one of the most constitutionally-centered judges in history, was a defender of liberty who, prior to his murder, had begun working with Rep. Giffords to build a new courthouse and to assert Arizona's sovereignty in dealing with illegal immigration. In essence, Rep. Giffords and Judge Roll were effectively breaking down the false 'left/right' political paradigm that paralyzes Americans from fighting back against government tyranny. This unique alliance between 'left' and 'right', and the potential it had to dismantle a whole host of encroaching federal interventions in state affairs, may be one of the reasons why Judge Roll's murder is conveniently being left out of the spotlight.
Worth noting here is that Jared Lee Loughner's two primary victims were a significant and growing threat to the political status quo. Giffords is a Democrat, and Judge Roll was a conservative. But the two had begun working hand-in-hand to accomplish real goals for the people they served, both in Arizona and across the country. (Natural News)
Feds slap Zions over billions in illegal money transfers Two federal agencies have slapped Zions Bank with multimillion-dollar civil penalties for failing to monitor suspicious wire transfers of billions of dollars related to transactions that may have involved drug trafficking and other crimes.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Friday said it imposed an $8 million penalty against Zions for shortcomings in its anti-money laundering controls — violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA Patriot Act.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — a Treasury Department agency involved in fighting money laundering — also fined Salt Lake City-based Zions $8 million but said the government would be satisfied by a single payment of $8 million.
“The bank is supposed to file suspicious activity reports if they find suspicious activity, and the bank failed to file those on a timely basis,” OCC spokesman Dick DeBuck said.
“The regulations also require the bank to monitor this wire activity, and the bank did not do that, either.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Happy toking: Strong majorities for drug reform (The Economist/YouGov poll) THIS week’s Economist-YouGov poll contains some exciting news for devotees of the weed. A huge majority of Americans, more than two to one once don’t knows have been excluded, support the legalisation and taxation of marijuana. Even without excluding the don’t knows, a clear majority favours treating the drug equivalently to tobacco and alcohol.
The data (see chart) reveal some interesting patterns. In every age group, more people favour than oppose legalisation. Predictably enough, the young are very strongly in favour, but babyboomers are almost as strongly so; and even those over 65 are narrowly in favour as well. Breaking the poll down by party, one finds that Republicans as well as Democrats are in favour, though the former much more narrowly so. (The Economist)
Patriot Act Extension Fails, Splitting Tea Party Republicans The Patriot Act took a temporary hit Tuesday night when the House failed to muster a two-thirds majority to extend three provisions of the law under special fast-track rules. It’s a temporary setback for the bill, which is expected to easily pass in a few days under regular rules. And it’s a kick in the teeth to the newly-minted GOP leadership, which missed what should have been a lay-up.
Most Democrats voted against the extension (which the White House supports) and were joined by 26 Republicans. What I find interesting is the fault line this vote reveals among Tea Party GOPers.
Slate’s Dave Weigel breaks out the list of GOP defectors, which includes eight freshmen elected under the Tea Party banner and three more veteran lawmakers who were inaugural members of the Tea Party caucus last year. But, he notes, high profile Tea Partyers like Michele Bachmann (who founded the Tea Party caucus after all), Kristi Noem, and Allen West all voted for the extension. “I break this out because there'll be a temptation to say ‘the Tea Party and its isolationist elements beat the reauthorization,’ and that's not quite it,” he writes. (US News & World Report)
Patriot Act extension fails in the House by seven votes House Republicans suffered an embarrassing setback Tuesday when they fell seven votes short of extending provisions of the Patriot Act, a vote that served as the first small uprising of the party's tea-party bloc.
The bill to reauthorize key parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law, which expire at the end of the month, required a super-majority to pass under special rules reserved for non-controversial measures.
But it fell short of the required two-thirds after 26 Republicans bucked their leadership, eight of them freshman lawmakers elected in November's midterm elections. With most Democrats opposing the extension, the final tally was 277 members in favor of extension, and 148 opposed. (Washington Post)
What is a 'Presidential Alert'? "This is a test of the Emergency Alert System. This is only a test..."
You've heard that warning before, but it may soon come directly from the White House.
The Federal Communications Commission has approved plans to hold the first test of a "Presidential Alert," or a broadcast warning that might be issued in the event of a serious natural disaster or terrorism threat.
It may seem like a scene out of George Orwell's "1984" or some other apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster, but government officials have wanted for years to establish a way for the White House to quickly, directly alert Americans of impending danger.
Commissioners voted last week to require television and radio stations, cable systems and satellite TV providers to participate in a test that would have them receive and transmit a live code that includes an alert message issued by the president. No date has been set for the test. (Washington Post)
Magnetic Polar Shifts Causing Massive Global Superstorms: Superstorms can also cause certain societies, cultures or whole countries to collapse. Others may go to war with each other. NASA has been warning about it…scientific papers have been written about it…geologists have seen its traces in rock strata and ice core samples…
Now "it" is here: an unstoppable magnetic pole shift that has sped up and is causing life-threatening havoc with the world's weather.
Forget about global warming—man-made or natural—what drives planetary weather patterns is the climate and what drives the climate is the sun's magnetosphere and its electromagnetic interaction with a planet's own magnetic field.
When the field shifts, when it fluctuates, when it goes into flux and begins to become unstable anything can happen. And what normally happens is that all hell breaks loose.
Magnetic polar shifts have occurred many times in Earth's history. It's happening again now to every planet in the solar system including Earth.
The magnetic field drives weather to a significant degree and when that field starts migrating superstorms start erupting.
The superstorms have arrived
The first evidence we have that the dangerous superstorm cycle has started is the devastating series of storms that pounded the UK during late 2010. (Salem News)
All-Time Record: Wall Street Compensation Hits $135 Billion Wall Street was on the ropes just 25 months ago. Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros., Bank of America, Wachovia, maybe Morgan Stanley; Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase were wounded. GE could not role over its commercial paper. European banks required cash infusions from our central bank.
Just in the wake of a report highlighting Wall Street’s narrow, selfish imbecilities, we are treated to the stunning realization that the captains of the sinking liner are today enjoying the all-time record payoff for surviving with massive transfusions. The payout of $135 billion to employees of Wall Street firms in 2010 is equivalent to the total market value of both Bank of America and Citigroup. Imagine– in two years. (Forbes)
Iceland Shows Ireland Did 'Wrong Things' Saving Banks On his second day as head of Iceland’s third-largest bank, Arni Tomasson faced a crisis: The firm he had been asked by regulators to run was out of cash.
It was Oct. 8, 2008, at the height of the global financial meltdown, and Iceland's bank assets in the U.K. had been frozen, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its March issue. Customers flocked to branches of Tomasson's Glitnir Banki hf to withdraw money, even though the government had guaranteed their deposits. By the end of the day, the vaults were empty, says Tomasson, recalling the drama two years later.
The only way Glitnir and other lenders could avoid a panic the next morning was to get more cash, which they were having trouble doing. A container of crisp kronur sat on the tarmac at Reykjavik's airport awaiting payment, Tomasson says. The British company that printed the bills, De La Rue Plc, was demanding sterling, and the central bank couldn't access its U.K. account.
"Everybody was panicked -- depositors, creditors, banks around the world," Tomasson says. "The effort by all of us at the time was to make sure life could go on as normal." (Bloomberg)
Public Funding of Presidential Elections
Published in August 1996 (updated February 2011)
What is Public Funding?
When and How Did it Begin?
How Does Public Funding Work?
Primary Matching Funds
General Election Funding
Expenditure Limits for Publicly Funded Candidates
What is the FEC's Role?
Eligibility for Public Funds
Repayments of Public Funds
How Can I Support My Candidate?
How Can I Obtain Copies of Reports?
How Can I Get More Information?
(Federal Election Commission)
Clinton Ambassador Meeting: Unprecedented Mass Meeting Of Top Envoys Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is convening an unprecedented mass meeting of U.S. ambassadors.
The top envoys from nearly all of America's 260 embassies, consulates and other posts in more than 180 countries will be gathering at the State Department beginning on Monday. Officials say it's the first such global conference.
The gathering comes at a time of crisis in Egypt that could reshape dynamics in the Middle East, fallout from leaked diplomatic documents and congressional calls for sweeping cuts in foreign aid. (Associated Press)
Egypt's Web blockade raises concerns about 'kill switch' for Internet The news of Egypt's crackdown on Web access is raising new concerns over a comprehensive cybersecurity bill that critics claim gives the president a "kill switch" for the Internet.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) recently indicated they plan to re-introduce their bipartisan legislation, which passed the Senate Homeland Security Committee last year only to get mired in a standoff with Senate Commerce Committee members over which panel should have oversight of civilian cybersecurity.
Civil rights advocates such as the ACLU also raised concerns about the bill, which they claim gives the president the ability to shut down the Web in the event of a catastrophic cyber-attack.
Specifically, observers are concerned the new version of the bill will reportedly not allow for judicial review when the administration shuts down a network under attack. - Collins has bristled at that characterization, pointing out that the White House has indicated they already have the authority to shut down portions of the private-sector Web in the event of a national security emergency under a little-used provision of the Communications Act passed one month after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
A Senate aide also pointed out that the infrastructure of the U.S.-based Web is designed in such a fashion that no single "kill switch" to take down the entire network exists. Instead, a fiber-optic backbone connects servers in several geographically diverse locations to ensure continuity even in the event of an attack. (The Hill)
Rahm's Back In The Running For Chicago Mayor Host Scott Simon talks to Carol Marin, political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political editor for NBC 5 News, about the Illinois Supreme Court ruling that put former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel back of the ballot in the Chicago mayor's race. - Rahm Emanuel's name is back on the ballot, this time for good. The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously overturned an appellate court ruling that Mr. Emanuel did not meet the Chicago's residency requirements to run for mayor, because he had lived in Washington D.C. while serving as President Obama's chief of staff and hadnt returned to reside in Chicago long enough before he started to run.
Got that? What an eventful week, that began with the ruling that knocked Mr. Emanuel off the ballot, the decision that put him back on and a debate of the mayoral candidates. (National Public Radio)
House votes for repeal of public-paid campaigns: Lawmakers say system is broken Saying it has become an obsolete waste of money, the House on Wednesday voted to end the taxpayer-funded presidential campaign finance system that has fallen out of favor over the past decade as candidates have chosen to ignore it.
The bill steps back from the 1970s-era dream of publicly financed campaigns. More than $600 million could be saved over the next decade by ending the system that channels taxpayer dollars to presidential candidates who agree to abide by fundraising and spending limits.
Republicans said the 239-160 vote was just a recognition of how broken the system has become, particularly after Barack Obama reversed a campaign pledge and opted out of the primary and general election matching funds in 2008.
“It was President Obama who killed it and made a mockery of public financing of campaigns,” said Rep. Aaron Schock, Illinois Republican.
Despite his decision to opt out in 2008, Mr. Obama on Tuesday announced that he opposed the Republicans’ bill. He said the system should be fixed rather than ended, and predicted that corruption would grow with the end of publicly financed presidential campaigns. (Washington Times)
Left, right gear up for campaign-finance clash before 2012 elections Liberals and conservatives alike are gearing up for battles over campaign financing rules in anticipation of the 2012 election, which will decide control of the White House and Congress.
Liberal groups want to impose disclosure rules on shadowy political advocacy groups that raised and spent tens of millions of dollars in corporate contributions on the 2010 midterm elections. (The Hill)
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited—because of the First Amendment. The 5–4 decision, in favor of Citizens United, resulted from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, and whether the group could advertise the film in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image, in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act.
The decision reached the Supreme Court on appeal from a January 2008 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The lower court decision upheld provisions of the McCain–Feingold Act which prevented the film Hillary: The Movie from being shown on television within 30 days of 2008 Democratic primaries.
The Court struck down a provision of the McCain–Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting “electioneering communications.” An "electioneering communication" was defined in McCain–Feingold as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or thirty days of a primary. The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and partially overruled McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003). McCain–Feingold had previously been weakened, without overruling McConnell, in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2007). The Court did uphold requirements for disclaimer and disclosure by sponsors of advertisements. The case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties. (Wikipedia)
The Fourth American Revolution The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II. -- The Fourth Turning -- Strauss & Howe --1997 (The Burning Platform)
Reversing 'Citizens United' It will be a year this week since Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative activist colleagues on the Supreme Court joined together in a dramatic assault on American democracy. Their decision in the Citizens United case overturned more than a century's worth of precedent by awarding corporations the rights of citizens with regard to electioneering. The court did away with limits on when corporations can spend on elections, how much they can spend and how they can spend their money, allowing unlimited contributions from corporate treasuries to flood the electoral landscape.
As The Nation noted in the days after the case was decided, "This decision tips the balance against active citizenship and the rule of law by making it possible for the nation's most powerful economic interests to manipulate not just individual politicians and electoral contests but political discourse itself."
According to Bill de Blasio, New York City's public advocate, Citizens United spending - that is, spending that was only made possible by the court's ruling - accounted for 15 percent of the roughly $4 billion spent on the 2010 midterm elections. Eighty-five million dollars of Citizens United money was spent on U.S. Senate races alone. Worse, 30 percent of all spending by outside groups was funded by anonymous donations, an illegal action prior to the ruling. Forty million of the dollars spent on Senate races came from sources that might never be revealed. (Washington Post)
U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Decision: Constitution is Void The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that serves to allow judges to void the Constitution in their courtrooms. The decision was issued on January 18, 2011, and the Court did not even explain the decision (Docket No. 10-632, 10-633, and 10-690). One word decisions: DENIED.
Presented with this information and massive proof that was not contested in any manner by the accused judges, at least six of the justices voted to deny the petitions:
"There is no legal or factual basis whatsoever for the decisions of the lower courts in this matter. These rulings were issued for corrupt reasons. Many of the judges in the Northern District of Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit are corrupt and violate laws and rules, as they have done in this case. The Supreme Court must recognize this Petition as one of the most serious matters ever presented to this Court." (PR Newswire)
World needs $100 trillion more credit, says World Economic Forum
The world's expected economic growth will have to be supported by an extra $100 trillion (£63 trillion) in credit over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum. - This doubling of existing credit levels could be achieved without increasing the risk of a major crisis, said the report from the WEF ahead of its high-profile annual meeting in Davos.
But researchers warned that leaders must be wary of new credit "hotspots", where too much lending takes place, as the world emerges from a financial catastrophe blamed in large part "to the failure of the financial system to detect and constrain" these areas of unsustainable debt.
"Pockets of credit grew rapidly to excess -- and brought the entire financial system to the brink of collapse," said the report, written in conjunction with consulting firm McKinsey. "Yet, credit is the lifeblood of the economy, and much more of it will be needed to sustain the recovery and enable the developing world to achieve its growth potential." (London Telegraph)
Strange Claim: The Sun Rose 2 Days Early in Greenland Residents of a town on the western coast of Greenland may have seen the sun peek over the horizon 48 hours earlier than its usual arrival on Jan. 13, sparking speculation, and disagreements, over possible causes.
The town of Ilulissat sits just above the Arctic Circle, meaning its residents had been without any sunlight for a good chunk of the winter, and traditionally they'd expect to see their "first sunrise" on Jan. 13.
News that the sun had peeked over the horizon on Jan. 11 appeared online in British and German-language publications and it appears to trace back to a story by the Greenland broadcasting company KNR that quotes residents who noticed the change. [Image Gallery: Sunrises and Sunsets]
Of about half a dozen scientists contacted, most were unaware of the report, which was circulating on the Internet. They offered a number of hypothetical explanations, including an illusion caused by an atmospheric effect and conflicting opinions about whether global warming might be to blame for melting along the edges of Greenland's ice sheet. With less ice, Greenland's elevation may take a dip such that the sun would have less distance to travel before appearing over the horizon. (Live Science)
Was Arizona Shooter Obsessed with “Waking Life”? If something is too difficult to explain, just blame cartoons. So now some people are beginning to suggest that Jared Loughner, the gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Arizona that killed six people, may have been a fan of Richard Linklater’s 2001 rotoscope-animation film Waking Life. Last night on 60 Minutes, friends of the shooter said he was “obsessed with the film.” The connection stems from Loughner’s obsession with lucid dreaming—a mental state in which you’re aware that you’re dreaming—which is a central theme of Waking Life. (Cartoon Brew)
EXPOSED: Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Political Syndicate (w/ Wayne Madsen) Who is Rahm Emanuel? How did he get into politics? The Emanuel family; just how powerful are they? What influence do they have on lobbying, and power politics? His workings with the Chicago Democratic Machine, how did he get started, is there a shady past he is trying to hide? Is Rahm being blackmailed because of his past with Obama on Chicago's North Side? The Blago trial; why was he and others never questioned about Obama, Valerie Jarret, and Jesse Jackson Jr. What role did he play in the attempt to bring the Olympics to Chicago? What is the connection to key players in Chicago and Washington DC winding up dead? Are there secret video tapes waiting to surface? If he is Mayor, what will the city of Chicago look like? Could he become another Rudy Giuliani? In this exclusive Special Investigation the Reality Report begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting goes deep and digs up the dirt that no Chicago media outlet would dare to report. This is a must see expose for anyone who has questions about Rahm Emanuel but just didn't know who to ask. (Reality Report)
Murdered Judge Defended Sheriff Mack Judge John M. Roll, murdered in Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson, was the leading judicial voice supporting former Graham County, Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack in his 1997 lawsuit against the federal government. Mack is a speaker, states’ rights advocate and author of The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope.
Sheriff Mack observed in an interview on Alex Jones’ Jan. 10 radio broadcast that John Roll changed his life. He has quoted Roll in his books. In 1997, when Mack was sheriff of Graham County, he joined with Sheriff Jay Printz of Montana in filing a suit against the federal government regarding the Brady Act. The resulting Supreme Court decision found the Act unconstitutional.
The Brady Act not only would have required state and local officials to carry out and fund a federal mandate regarding gun regulations, but it also called for the arrest of any law enforcement officer who refused to enforce it. On the basis of these provisions, Mack and Printz filed suit, and were eventually joined by five other sheriffs around the nation. Mack recalled of the judge:
He was really worried about the sanctions against me (or any other sheriff) — he protected me. Judge Roll stood up for me in particular because I was the only one filing the lawsuit at the time. (The New American)
From the archives: Rahm Emanuel, Freddie Mac and the big bucks years From Rahm Emanuel's profitable stint at mortgage giant and Freddie Mac scandals began during Emanuel's watch by Bob Secter and Andrew Zajac, and The House Rahm Built -- How Chicago's profane, ruthless, savvy operative, remade the Democrats in his image by Naftali Bendavid.
Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.
One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's Rahm Emanuel-- now chief of staff to President Barack Obama-- who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort....
What is less known, however, is how little he apparently did for his money and how he benefited from the kind of cozy ties between Washington and Wall Street that have fueled the nation's current economic mess..... (Chicago Tribune)
Gabrielle Giffords shooting: Frightening, twisted shrine in Arizona killer Jared Lee Loughner's yard A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others.
Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner's home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges.
A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal.
Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.
Investigators have focused on Loughner's online anti-government ramblings as the chief motivation for the shooting Saturday of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
The discovery of the shrine raises the possibility that Loughner, 22, may have been driven by other forces. Students and faculty at Pima Community College, which he attended until his suspension last summer, said Loughner was clearly at odds with the world. (NY Daily News)
Judge John Roll respected among peers: Roll lauded as a law scholar with strong standards U.S. District Judge John Roll could have been a likely target for an angry gunman.
But his death Saturday in the melee near Tucson that killed six and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was likely an unfortunate coincidence.
Roll, 63, chief judge for the U.S. District for Arizona, who sat on the bench since 1991, was in the middle of some of the state's most contentious court battles, many of them having to do with illegal immigration.
He was presiding over a federal court challenge to a ban on ethnic studies in the Tucson Unified School District when he died.
He had received death threats in 2009 during a civil-rights case in his courtroom filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher who made citizens' arrests.
Roll paid no attention to protests on both sides of the issue.
"Politics never bore on any of his decisions," said José de Jesus Rivera, a former U.S. attorney for Arizona who represented one side of the rancher case. But he was a courteous man, the kind who remembered your name, and your spouse's name.
He was not appearing with Giffords in any official capacity. It was a courtesy visit.
He told his family that after Mass on Saturday, he would stop by the supermarket in his neighborhood where Giffords was meeting with constituents to pay his respects to the congresswoman. (The Arizona Republic)
Judge's final actions key to federal charge for his murder The actions and motivations of U.S. District Court Judge John Roll just before he was shot dead at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's campaign event in Tucson on Saturday are important for the public narrative about the tragedy, but they're also vital to the federal criminal charge for his murder.
The criminal complaint federal prosecutors filed Sunday against the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, goes to some lengths to demonstrate that Roll didn't show up at the Giffords event just to say hello to the congresswoman, or on some whim after attending mass, as reports Saturday suggested. That storyline was fueled by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who said "because [Roll] knows Gabrielle very well, [he] came around the corner to say hi. Unfortunately he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
By contrast, FBI agent Tony Taylor argues that Roll was at the event to talk to Giffords about ongoing problems related to a surge in the federal judicial caseload in Arizona--a problem which the judge has attributed to a boost in the number of federal agents sent to the area to address immigration and border-related crime.
Under federal law, the murder or attempted murder of a U.S. official, such as a judge, is only considered a federal crime if committed "while such officer or employee is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties." In other words, if Roll simply stopped by the event to greet Giffords, who he's said to have been friendly with, or due to idle curiosity about what was happening there, his killing probably wouldn't be a federal offense. (Politico)
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