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Old 02-24-2014, 07:39 PM
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Pentagon's Chuck Hagel plans to downsize US military

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to its smallest size since before the US entered World War Two.

Outlining his budget plan, the Pentagon chief proposed trimming the active-duty Army to 440,000-450,000 personnel, down from 520,000 currently.

Cold War-era Air Force fleets - the U-2 spy plane and the A-10 attack jet - will also be retired.

However, the plan requires approval from Congress, which could change it.

The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.

'Difficult decisions ahead'

Mr Hagel said at the Pentagon on Monday: "This is a time for reality.

"This is a budget that recognises the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges."

He added: "There are difficult decisions ahead. That is the reality we're living with."

The number of active-duty US Army members was already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.

Noting the current US Army strength, Mr Hagel added: "Since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defence strategy."

Mr Hagel said the administration would also recommend closing some domestic military bases in 2017, though such proposals have been rejected by Congress in recent years.

The Pentagon chief went on to unveil plans for changes to pay and benefits.

He recommended curbing housing allowances, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.

'No retreat'

However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November's midterm elections.

Reaction to the proposal was swift, with Republican members warning such cuts could hurt military readiness.

"The world is not getting to be a safer place. This is not the time for us to begin to retreat, and certainly not the time to cut our military," Republican Representative Michael Turner told Bloomberg News.

Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, blamed US President Barack Obama's administration for the predicament, saying cuts were only necessary because they had not been made elsewhere.

"It's all being sacrificed... on the altar of entitlements," he told Fox News. "This president cannot take on mandatory spending, so all we've done in the Congress - and this president - is basically cut discretionary spending."

The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since 1940, when the US was mobilising for World War Two and employed 267,000 active-duty soldiers. The US entered that conflict in 1941 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

By the end of World War Two, there were 8.2 million active-duty US Army members, according to figures provided on Monday by the Pentagon.

The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.

The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of 11 September 2001.

After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.

I'll believe that they want to focus on the health-care premiums when that happens.

To be clear, Canada does no better on this, but basically veterans are always getting the shaft in these matters. And that's the point I'll be looking at when these cost-cutting measures are implemented.

We will see.

As for the rest of it, well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

The defence budget couldn't continue to swell every year forever.

Not when, apparently, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still haven't been paid for, whatever that means.
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Old 02-25-2014, 04:42 PM
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Wow, I would've expected China's expenses for military purposes to be much closer to the US's.

No wonder steadily increasing it couldn't have continued forever.

Apparently, they're now planning to fully pull out of Afghanistan as well.

Not that I'm in favor of the wars they fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, not at all, but the US is continually getting more and more isolationist yet again.
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Old 02-25-2014, 09:17 PM
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The thing about the military situation of the U.S. right now is that it's ultimately unsustainable.

The two wars stretched their troops way too thin. They had to resort to stop-loss measures to keep the wars going and, naturally, the troops are exhausted.

There's also a massive problem with veterans issues (again, we have the same in Canada, so I'm really not casting aspersions in saying that).

So I don't know that I'm ready to call it isolationism yet. The last 13 years have been a painful reminder to the United States that the rest of the world will only follow them so far.

They have a lot to deal with, a lot of reassessing to do and a lot of reorganization.

Situations like what's going on in CAR right now could potentially be a test to just how isolationist they remain the future.

The next time someone asks for help, if the U.S. choose to stay away, then we can say it's isolationism.
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Old 03-06-2014, 06:03 PM
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US Army sex assault prosecutor suspended for 'groping'

A top prosecutor of sexual assault cases in the US Army has been accused of groping a female lawyer colleague, military officials say.

Lt Col Joseph Morse has been suspended amid allegations he targeted the woman at a 2011 sexual assault legal conference in Virginia.

Meanwhile, a bill to overhaul the military's handling of such cases stalled in the US Senate.

The Army has seen a spate of sexual assault cases in recent years.

Earlier on Thursday US Army Brig Gen Jeffrey Sinclair, who is accused of sexual assault, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a move his lawyer said would help his chances at trial.

The allegations against Col Morse were first reported by the Stars and Stripes newspaper and were later confirmed by military officials to the BBC.

Col Morse supervises nearly two dozen Army prosecutors who handle sexual assault and domestic abuse cases.

The unnamed female Army lawyer alleges that Col Morse attempted to grope and kiss her in a hotel room.

The incident was initially reported in February and Col Morse is said to have been suspended soon thereafter.

No charges have yet been filed, though an investigation is under way, say US military officials.

Earlier on Thursday, a bill that sought to remove prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military chain of command failed to progress in the US Senate.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's proposal could only muster 55 votes, five short of the threshold needed to go forward.

Her bill would have transferred the authority to prosecute sex assault cases to an independent military prosecutor.

The Senate later voted unanimously to move forward a separate reform measure that would not go as far as the one proposed by Ms Gillibrand.

There has been a sizeable increase in the number of sexual assaults reported in the US military in recent years.

Pentagon data indicates the rate jumped 60% in fiscal year 2013 alone, with an estimated 5,400 cases reported.

Military officials have argued that such a surge indicates victims are more confident reporting such crimes because of campaigns to raise awareness of the issue.
Obviously, this is not the only reason why there's an epidemic of sexual assaults in the U.S. armed forces.

It gives you a good idea of just how pervasive the problem is, though, doesn't it?

It also point to the incredible challenge a woman who has the courage to file a complaint must face.
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Old 03-12-2014, 06:23 PM
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I can't be the only one who saw this on the news?

Three dead as New York City buildings collapse after gas blast

Three people have died and nine are missing after a gas leak sparked an explosion which levelled two buildings in New York City, authorities say.

Scores of others have been injured in the incident, which sent smoke billowing into the city sky.

More than 250 firefighters tackled the blaze at the scene near 116th Street and Park Avenue.

Train services to and from Grand Central Terminal have been restored after a complete halt earlier.

Missing people

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference from the scene that the gas leak had been reported to the utility company 15 minutes before the blast on Wednesday morning.

Mr de Blasio said the "major explosion" had destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged other structures.

The mayor's office confirmed to the Associated Press news agency that nine people were still missing by early Wednesday evening.

The New York fire department elevated the incident to the highest threat level possible.

It said 22 people had been hurt, but a tally of local hospitals by ABC News found that 64 had been admitted with injuries as a result of the incident.

That figure included seven children, one of whom was in a critical condition.

The utility company, Con Edison, says a resident in a nearby building reported smelling gas shortly before the explosion.

Streets and pavements around the site were littered with broken glass from shattered windows.

Witnesses reported the powerful blast knocked items off shelves in nearby stores.

Authorities in the area were said to be handing out medical masks to residents due to the thick white smoke at the scene.

A witness told the BBC "there was just a lot of panic" following the explosion.

Dan Scarvino had just emerged on to a nearby train platform when "suddenly a plume of smoke came out of nowhere".

"I've never seen anything like it," he added.

A witness told the New York Daily News she had smelled gas "for weeks" before the explosion.

"We saw people flying out of the window... those are my neighbours," Ashley Rivera said.

Another witness told the newspaper he heard two loud explosions that shook the barber shop where he works.

"It was loud, like boom, boom!" Mitch Abreu said. "It rocked the whole block.

"A window blew out of the other shop down the street," he added.

"It looked like the [Twin] Towers all over again. People covered in dust and covering their mouths."
They're lucky it didn't happen in a more crowded area, to be honest.

A gas leak that had been going on for weeks?

How does that even happen?
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Old 03-19-2014, 06:41 PM
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The four biggest takeaways from the Illinois primaries

Illinois voters went to the polls Tuesday to pick nominees for federal and state races, several of which will be among the most hotly contested in the country this fall.

1. Bruce Rauner won, but it was close.

Former private equity executive Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination for governor. But it wasn't the easy victory some thought it might be. Rauner beat state Sen. Kirk Dillard by about three points. One plausible explanation of why it was so close: The multimillion dollar effort by Democrats and labor to attack Rauner in the lead-up to the race. Public unions fear Rauner, who has vowed to take them on, would swiftly curb their power if elected. Dillard, who is much friendlier to labor, won the backing and financial support of some unions down the stretch. In the end, it wasn't enough. But it's clear the onslaught had some effect. Democrats are looking to build on their push by painting Rauner as an out of touch Republican and likening him Mitt Romney in the general election. Republicans, meanwhile, like the contrast they can emphasize between Rauner's outsider/private sector credentials and Gov. Pat Quinn's insider profile -- especially against the backdrop of the state's fiscal problems. There are shades of the 2012 presidential race in Illinois. This could be one of the most competitive races of 2014.

2. Labor is in a bit of a pickle.

Speaking of Quinn, he's not exactly a hero of the organized labor movement at the moment. The governor signed a pension reform bill into law late last year to address the state's huge unfunded pension obligations. The law means slashed benefits for public employees, which is why public unions were not thrilled. Some have even banded together to sue over the law. In a way, unions are left to choose between a less than ideal candidate (Quinn) and a candidate who they disagree with from top to bottom (Rauner). That seems to suggest that they will eventually fall in line behind Quinn. (He already has the state AFL-CIO's support.) But it's not going to be a match made in heaven and the question is whether they will be with him full-bore or not.

3. None of the Republicans who voted for gay marriage lost.

When the Illinois state House passed a bill to legalize gay marriage last fall, just three out of 47 Republicans voted for it. On Tuesday, none of them lost. State Rep. Tom Cross (R) cruised to a 14-point victory in the primary for state treasurer while state Rep. Ed Sullivan (R) easily won renomination in his district. The third, state Rep. Ron Sandack (R), narrowly edged out his opponent by fewer than 200 votes, according to an unofficial tally. The close margin could mean the race goes to a recount. Sandack and Sullivan both faced pressure from third-party groups looking to oust them over their gay marriage votes. In Sandack's case, the issue became a central focus. Had the three Republicans lost, it would have probably given pause to Republicans considering backing gay marriage in other states where the matter comes up in the future. But given two decisive wins and a third tentative victory, gay rights advocates have a lot to be happy about a day after the election.

4. No big surprises in the House. Now Democrats have to play defense.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R) didn't lose his primary. Nor did Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R), for that matter, or any other incumbent. The U.S. House races played out as expected, setting the stage for a slate of competitive and potentially competitive general election contests. The most competitive race right now is the rematch between Rep. Brad Schneider (D) and former congressman Bob Dold (R). Davis could have his hands full against Democrat Ann Callis, while Reps. Bill Enyart (D) and Cheri Bustos (D) are also expected to face competitive contests. Less likely to flip but still worth watching are the seats of Reps. Bill Foster (D) and Tammy Duckworth (D). House Democrats had great success in Illinois in 2012. Now they have to defend those gains.
I suppose these things could be interesting in the context of 2016.
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Old 03-26-2014, 06:04 PM
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'Obamacare' grace period after 31 March deadline

The Obama administration is extending this month's deadline for people who were unable to get medical insurance in time under the healthcare law.

Applicants will have to demonstrate that special reasons prevented them enrolling by 31 March, such as glitches on the federal health coverage website.

Health officials did not specify how long the grace period would last.

The White House is racing to meet a goal of getting six million people signed up through new online markets.

'Surge in demand'

Five million people have already enrolled for premiums under the law, which is known as Obamacare.

The website - which has been overhauled since its disastrous launch last October - saw more than one million visitors on Monday.

"We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrolment, either online or over the phone," Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright said on Tuesday.

The decision will affect the 36 states where health insurance sign-ups take place via the federal government website.

Under the Affordable Care Act, it is now compulsory for people to have health cover - either provided for by their employer or by buying a private health plan.

Those who cannot afford it may qualify for benefits, but those without any insurance will face tax penalties.

Opinion polls show that the majority of Americans do not support the 2010 law, which represents the biggest overhaul of the multi-trillion dollar US healthcare system since the 1960s.

Conservatives are expected to try to tap into this discontent during November's midterm elections, which will determine the shape of Congress for Mr Obama's last two years in office.
I don't anyone ever believed that the deadline was absolutely set in stone. Not with the way such legislation must be evolutive in nature.

But this is good news for those who have realized the opportunity they have access to now.
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Old 03-31-2014, 05:52 PM
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Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon resigns after corruption charges

The mayor of the largest city in the US state of North Carolina has resigned, hours after he was arrested by the FBI on corruption charges.

Newly elected Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, 47, is accused of accepting more than $48,000 (£28,953) in bribes and gifts from undercover FBI agents.

He promised access to city officials in return, investigators said.

Mr Cannon faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted on theft and bribery charges.

"I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the City for me to do so," he wrote in his resignation letter.

According to a complaint filed in federal court, between 17 January 2013 and 21 February 2014, Mr Cannon accepted payments from undercover FBI agents on five separate occasions.

In return, he offered to connect the agents to city officials responsible for planning, zoning and permitting.


Mr Cannon, a long-time Democratic city counsellor elected mayor in November, accepted cash, airline tickets, a Las Vegas hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment from the FBI agents, who reportedly posed as real estate developers, according to the complaint.

Before his election as mayor, Mr Cannon founded a car park company and was the long-time presenter of a radio chat show.

The corruption investigation reportedly began in August 2010 following a tip from an undercover local police officer.

At that time, Mr Cannon held an at-large seat on the city council of Charlotte, a major centre for the US financial industry with a population of about 775,000.

Among the allegations against him, Mr Cannon is accused of accepting a $12,500 cash payment from an undercover agent that Mr Cannon said he planned to use to develop a feminine hygiene product called Hers.

In exchange, Mr Cannon offered to help the agent obtain permits to open a nightclub.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory, himself a former mayor of Charlotte, said Mr Cannon's alleged behaviour was "inexcusable and cannot be tolerated".

"My heart is broken for the city of Charlotte," he said. "This is not the city that I know, served and love."
I haven't heard anything about this beyond this story.

Would anybody care to comment or fill in the blanks for me?

It seems like a very significant event to me.
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Old 04-03-2014, 07:00 PM
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US Supreme Court strikes down overall donor limits

The US Supreme Court has struck down overall contribution limits for individual political donors.

The court ruled 5-4 that individuals could give to candidates, parties and political groups without observing an overall cap of $123,200 (£74,000).

The ruling leaves in place the limit on how much a donor can give to a single candidate - currently $2,600 (£1,560).

The decision is the latest in a series which have loosened restrictions on US campaign finance.

Contribution limits were established by Congress in the 1970s in an attempt to restore the public's faith in government after President Richard Nixon's resignation in the Watergate scandal.

'How you choose'

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in Wednesday's majority opinion that overall limits "intrude without justification" on first amendment rights, the clause of the US constitution that enshrines freedom of speech.

Critics say the ruling will expand even further the influence of big money in politics.

Four years ago, the Supreme Court lifted limits on election spending by political action committees, in a landmark case known as Citizens United.

Last year the court removed restrictions on states with a history of race-biased voting laws.

That prompted activists to say the court was making it harder to vote in but easier to buy elections.

Wednesday's decision split the court along its liberal and conservative wings, with Justice Stephen Breyer taking the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

He wrote: "Taken together with [Citizens United], today's decision eviscerates our nation's campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."

The case was brought by Shaun McCutcheon, a Republican and owner of the Coalmont Electrical Development Corporation in Alabama.

Before the US elections two years ago, Mr McCutcheon made individual donations to 15 congressional candidates.

But he was unable to donate to another dozen candidates because that would have broken the overall limit.

"It's a very important case about your right to spend your money how you choose," Mr McCutcheon has said.

He told the Associated Press news agency that he planned to spend several hundred thousand dollars ahead of November's midterm elections.

The US government's lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, argued during the case that without the overall limit, one donor giving the maximum allowed to every congressional candidate, political party and political action committee would top $3m in a single election cycle.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 646 donors in the 2012 election cycle hit the overall donation limit.

They gave $93m to candidates and committees.
And to think we thought it was bad before.

It's going to be a bloodbath.
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:01 PM
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Up to 22 people stabbed at Pennsylvania high school

An attacker armed with two knives has gone on a rampage at a high school in the US state of Pennsylvania, stabbing 21 students and a security guard.

A suspect, named as Alex Hribal, 16, was arrested at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville near Pittsburgh, police said.

He was later charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of assault. The wounded, some with serious stab wounds, were as young as 14.

All are expected to survive.

"There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students," Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said in an evening press conference in Murrysville. "Students who stayed with their friends and didn't leave their friends."


Twenty people were transported to two nearby hospitals after the attack, including several who needed surgery for "significant" stab wounds, with damage to major organs, according to a trauma director at Forbes Hospital.

A 17-year-old patient was also on ventilator after a knife pierced his liver.

The young man will need additional surgery "but we're very hopeful that he will make it through this," Dr Lou Alarcon, a medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center told a local broadcaster.

The school will be closed for several days as investigators process the crime scene, Gennaro Piraino, superintendent of the Franklin Regional school district, said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and all of those affected by this awful tragedy," he said.

The attack occurred as students were arriving at the school before 08:00 (12:00 GMT) on Wednesday morning.

Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said someone, possibly a student, pulled a fire alarm after seeing the first stabbings.

The panicked students poured out of the school building, some suffering injuries in the chaos, as police descended in search of the suspected attacker.

Police have not determined a motive, but investigators are looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before.

Officials have credited an assistant principal at the school with subduing the suspect, who has been charged as an adult.

In an interview outside the school, Morris Hundley said his "frantic" 14-year-old daughter Morriah called him to say a friend of hers had been stabbed at the school.

"She needed me or my wife to come get her," he said. "She was just frantic, I never heard her talk like that."
With trauma to organs, you almost feel bad being grateful that everyone will survive.

Some of these poor kids have a very long recovery road ahead of them, that's for sure.

And even those who weren't injured will have trauma from this event.

This is just plain horrible.
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Old 04-12-2014, 10:01 AM
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Obama taps Sylvia Mathews Burwell for health secretary

US President Barack Obama has nominated budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to succeed outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Mr Obama said Ms Burwell, 48, was an experienced, proven manager.

Ms Sebelius resigned on Thursday, months after the problematic launch of Mr Obama's landmark healthcare overhaul law, which she oversaw.

Mr Obama acknowledged problems under her tenure but said she ultimately "got the job done".

"The final score speaks for itself," Mr Obama said of the estimated 7.5 million people who enrolled in health insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before the 31 March deadline.

The 2010 law, nicknamed Obamacare by its detractors, was aimed at extending health insurance to the roughly 48 million Americans who lacked it and at slowing the growth of health costs.

At its heart are online marketplace websites on which consumers and ultimately businesses can shop for insurance.

The websites, called exchanges, were supposed to go live on 1 October but suffered significant, often crippling technical glitches more weeks after the launch.

The botched rollout drew scorn and heaps of criticism from the Republicans, who unanimously opposed the law in 2010 and have since fought to undermine it at every turn.

Resignation decision

Republicans see the Affordable Care Act as an inappropriate government intrusion into the healthcare industry.

"She's got bumps, I've got bumps, bruises," Mr Obama said of Ms Sebelius, who fought alongside him in 2009 and 2010 to win passage of the law and later served as a lightning rod for Republican attacks.

The US president had resisted Republican calls for Ms Sebelius to stand down.

Ms Sebelius later made the decision to resign herself, the New York Times reported.

Before becoming health and human services secretary in 2009, Ms Sebelius was governor of Kansas.

Ms Burwell's nomination to lead the Department of Health and Human Services requires Senate confirmation.

She held several positions in the White House and treasury department under President Bill Clinton, and also led global development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"I look forward to carrying on the important work of ensuring that children, families and seniors have the building blocks of healthy and productive lives," she said.
Poor Ms Sebelius, the Affordable Healthcare Act really took her down, nevermind that it's the best programme the U.S. has seen in decades.

At least, it sounds like Ms Burwell brings a wealth of relevant experience to the table.

She'll need it.
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Old 04-17-2014, 09:08 PM
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Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy

The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

This is not news, you say.

Perhaps, but the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here's how they explain it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.

"A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time," they write, "while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time."

On the other hand:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

They conclude:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Eric Zuess, writing in Counterpunch, isn't surprised by the survey's results.

"American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's "news" media)," he writes. "The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious 'electoral' 'democratic' countries. We weren't formerly, but we clearly are now."

This is the "Duh Report", says Death and Taxes magazine's Robyn Pennacchia. Maybe, she writes, Americans should just accept their fate.

"Perhaps we ought to suck it up, admit we have a classist society and do like England where we have a House of Lords and a House of Commoners," she writes, "instead of pretending as though we all have some kind of equal opportunity here."
Honestly, I think the report/study brings up good points.

I don't post this to be disparaging of American politics or society.

I just think... they've got a point.
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Old 04-23-2014, 07:45 PM
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NYPD Twitter campaign 'backfires' after hashtag hijacked

A plan by the New York Police Department to use Twitter to boost its image seems to have backfired.

Users were asked to tweet a photo of themselves with officers and add the hashtag #myNYPD as part of a social media campaign.

But instead of a steady stream of friendly photos, the hashtag was quickly adopted by users posting images of possible police aggression.

The NYPD said: "Twitter provides an open forum for uncensored exchange."

The original tweet was posted on the NYPD's Twitter feed on Tuesday. Featuring two smiling officers and a member of the public, it encouraged users to send in similar photos.

But while several people did so, the hashtag was also picked up by others who used it to identify tweets containing photos of the NYPD in more hostile situations.

By Wednesday, the hashtag had become one of Twitter's top trending terms.

One photo showed a man being pushed down on to a car bonnet. It was from March 2013 and followed protests in Brooklyn over the death of 16-year-old Kimani Gray who was shot by police.

The protest group Occupy Wall Street tweeted an image of an NYPD police officer advancing towards a crowd with a baton raised.

Many of the photos appeared to be taken by professional photographers at incidents in New York City rather than users' own images.

One from the Associated Press showing a man being held down on the floor by two officers appeared in several tweets.

The NYPD issued a statement on Tuesday evening in response to the activity: "The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community. Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city."

Other Twitter interactions that have backfired include US Airways posting an explicit photo in response to a customer's tweet and McDonald's using a hashtag to highlight its farmers that quickly got taken over by people sharing their bad experiences of the burger chain.
Well, at least they're taking it in stride.

I think it's pretty ingenious, to be honest, to seize on the opportunity to air some of the pernicious aspects of police conduct.

I happen to believe that most cops are awesome and do a great job.

But I think it's also clear that a lot of the mistakes are probably hidden away more often than not.
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Old 04-28-2014, 04:25 PM
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Congressman Michael Grimm accused of business tax fraud

A US congressman has pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded tax collectors while running a health food restaurant before he was elected to office.

New York Republican Michael Grimm was arrested and charged with 20 counts of fraud and other crimes.

Prosecutors allege he concealed from tax authorities more than $1m (£595,000) in sales and hired undocumented immigrants.

Mr Grimm is also accused of lying under oath about his business practices.

A lawyer for the congressman, a former FBI agent and marine, has said the case against Mr Grimm was "politically driven".

"Congressman Grimm asserts his innocence of any wrongdoing," William McGinley said.

The New York congressman, who was elected in 2010, was caught on camera in January threatening to throw a reporter who questioned him about an investigation into his campaign funding off a balcony in the US capitol building. He later apologised.

Breaking the law

According to an indictment released on Monday, in 2007-10 Mr Grimm was running the day-to-day operations of Healthalicious, a restaurant in New York city's Manhattan borough, when he under-reported more than $1m in sales, reducing his tax costs.

He paid workers in untracked cash and hired workers who were in the US illegally, further reducing the business' tax burden, the indictment alleges.

Prosecutors said Mr Grimm lied about these practices under oath during a deposition for a lawsuit filed by workers at the restaurant.

"In 2007, Michael Grimm, former Marine, former FBI agent, accountant and attorney, was poised for success as a small business owner," US Attorney Loretta Lynch said on Monday. "Instead, as alleged, Grimm made the choice to go from upholding the law to breaking it. In so doing he turned his back on every oath he had ever taken."

Mr Grimm had expected federal charges, his lawyer said on Friday, but the US justice department had previously said it was also investigating Mr Grimm for possible campaign finance violations.

No campaign finance charges were levelled against Mr Grimm on Monday.

He has previously acknowledged receiving $250,000 to $300,000 in contributions from followers of an Israeli rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, some of whom later said they made illegal contributions. Mr Grimm has denied knowledge of any illegal action.

On Friday, a woman who had been romantically involved with Mr Grimm was charged with using fake donors to make illegal contributions to his campaign.

If there was an a business scheme, he went after it, apparently.

Obviously, people who act like that think they can get away with it.

But, with his level of visibility, you would think he'd know better.
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Old 04-30-2014, 05:04 PM
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Senate Republicans block US minimum wage rise

US Senate Republicans have blocked a Democratic-backed rise in the minimum wage, as the two parties stake out positions ahead of November's election.

The bill to raise the national minimum to $10.10 (£5.99) from $7.25 failed in a largely party-line vote of 54-42.

Republicans say it would be unaffordable for employers, while Democrats say Republicans are taking sides against poor workers.

In recent months several states have passed their own minimum wage rises.

On Wednesday, the bill failed to attain the 60 votes needed to proceed to final passage.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote yes, while Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to "no" as it became clear the bill would fail, a procedural move that allows him to call another vote on the measure.

'Give America a raise'

The national wage rise failed a day after Hawaii's state legislature raised the state's minimum wage to $10.10, a level recommended by the Obama administration.

Hawaii joined a number of states and municipalities that have recently approved rises in their base hourly wages. Earlier in April, Minnesota went from having one of the nation's lowest minimum wages to the highest.

President Barack Obama criticised the vote in a White House press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

"By preventing even a vote on this bill, they prevented a raise for 28 million hardworking Americans," he said. "They said no to helping millions work their way out of poverty. And keep in mind this bill would've done so without any new taxes or spending or bureaucracy."

Mr Obama added a majority of Americans support such a rise.

After the vote, Democratic leaders attacked Republicans for blocking a bill they said would bring a pay rise for millions of Americans.

Mr Reid accused Republicans of "fighting for billionaires" while saying Democrats were fighting "for people who are struggling to make a living".

"It's very simple to us," New York Senator Chuck Schumer said. "An American who works 40 hours a week deserves a fair shot of getting out of poverty. At the present minimum wage level you can't."

Republicans in the Senate and the House maintain the proposal is too expensive for businesses and would result in job cuts.

"Washington Democrats' true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy, not helping the middle class," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said ahead of the vote.

The president's Democratic Party is facing a potential loss of control of the Senate in November, when one-third of the body's 100 senators are up for re-election.

In the upcoming campaign, Democrats hope to use the minimum wage fight to portray themselves as the guardians of working people and the middle class and the Republicans as the party of the wealthy, analysts say.

Industry opposition

The Senate bill, sponsored by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over the course of 30 months and then provide automatic increases for inflation.

Opponents of the rise cite a study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimating the law would result in the loss of about 500,000 jobs.

But the same study also anticipated as many as 16 million poor workers would see a substantial pay rise.

The bill is opposed by a host of industry groups, including the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the International Franchise Association, and well-funded conservative political organisations.

Congress has raised the minimum wage about once every decade but has not previously connected it to inflation. The wage's purchasing power has dropped significantly with inflation from its peak in 1968.
I think the parties have just drawn their lines in the sand for the next elections.

I don't know who's kidding whom about what this accomplishes, though.
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