NEWS ARCHIVES [JAN-FEB. 2014]
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Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series Championship - The game was not only magical, it was special. This was the first World Series the Sox won at home with all their fans in attendance in 96 years. We have play-by-play photos in our Photo Gallery.
The Seattle Seahawks won the XLVIII Superbowl in a blowout against the Denver Broncos: 43 - 8 at the MetLife Stadium across the New York border in New Jersey.
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The XXII Olympics Winter Games - 2014 -Sochi, Russia
[Last Updated Thursday February 13, 2014]
U.S. Sweeps Olympics Medals in
Freestyle Skiing Competition
Men's ski slopestyle gold medal winner Joss Christensen of the United States, center, celebrates on the podium with his teammates Gus Kenworthy, left, silver, and Nicholas Goepper, bronze, right, during a flower ceremony at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
BREAKING NEWS: FL Jury: Mistrial on 1st. Degree Murder
No Government Shutdown - Boehner Said
Winter Olympics 2014 from Sochi, Russia - Also in The News
Breaking News: David Wildstein Told Reporters He Has
Evidence of Christie's Knowledge & Connection to Bridgegate
NY City Mayor de Blasio Reached Deal to Scrap Stop-&-Frisk
Iran Nuclear Deal Moves Forward
President Obama Will Announce Major Changes in NSA Spying
NJ Gov. Chris Christie & the Washington Bridge Gate
NBC's Al Roker Told Polar Vortex Doubters To Stop It
Gallup's Annual U.S. Economic Indicators
Gallup's Flue Report
Voter Restriction Laws in Half The Country
Special Report from Headliners
2013 In Review
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February 15, 2014
Florida Jury Reached Partial Verdict in The Killing of 17 Year Old Jordan Davis
by Michael Dunn
Read our editorial in Views & analysis below
After four days of deliberation, the jury in the trial of Michael Dunn, a Florida man who shot a teenager to death in a parking lot during a dispute over loud music, said it could not agree on whether Mr. Dunn had acted in self-defense or was guilty of murder.The jurors did find Mr. Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted murder for getting out of his car, and firing several times at the Durango sport utility vehicle in which Jordan Davis, 17, was killed but three other teenagers survived. Mr. Dunn continued to fire at the car even as it pulled away. For that crime, Mr. Dunn he could be sentenced to 20 to 60 years in prison.The judge declared a mistrial on the count of first-degree murder. The jury also failed to reach agreement on lesser charges that are automatically included in jury instructions.Those were second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors are free to move ahead with a new trial on the murder charge, if they wish.
February 12, 2014
The New York Times Broke The News Late Tuesday
Ending three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015 – without any conditions.The vote – 221 to 201 – relied primarily on Democrats to carry the legislation, the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other measures. Only 28 Republicans voted yes.
February 11, 2014
THERE MAY BE NO GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN THIS TIME AROUND
OVER RAISING THE DEBT CEILING TO ALLOW THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO PAY ITS BILL AND PREVENT DEFAULT
From the New York Times: Facing a rebellion over his latest debt ceiling proposal, Speaker John A. Boehner has told House Republicans that he will bring legislation to a vote Wednesday that would raise the government’s borrowing authority with no strings attached.“House Republican leaders told members this morning that it is clear the paid-for military COLA provision will not attract enough support, so we will be bringing up a ‘clean’ debt limit bill tomorrow,” a Republican aide said. “Boehner made clear the G.O.P. would provide the requisite number of Republican votes for the measure but that Democrats will be expected to carry the vote.”;The military provision would have reversed a cut to the pensions of working-age veterans that Congress approved two months ago to try to trim the budget deficit.
Winter Olympics 2014 from Sochi Russia - Medalists
[Update: Monday February 17, 2014]
Meryl Davis & Charile White Winning gold in The Ice Dancing Competition
on Sunday Febraury 16, 2014
The Sochi Olympics 2014 - Men Freestyle Ski Slopestyle Medalists
Gus Kenworthy - Silver Medalist
Gus Kenworthy - Silver Medalist
U.S. Olympics Men Slopestyle Ski Team Medals Sweep Winners
Sage Kotsenburg won the snowboarding gold medal with his incredible trick, which he named
the "Holy Crail."
Austrian Matthias Mayer won gold in the Blue Riband Winter Games Men's Downhill
Alpine Skiing Women's Super Combined USA - Bronze Medalist Julia Mancuso
Jamie Anderson completes Slopestyle Sweep - USA won 2nd gold medal
IN THE NEWS
February 6, 2014 [1:30 AM]
Fallen Stars Governor Chris Christie in Trouble Waters under the Washington Bridge Traffic Jam in Gate in Fort Lee - Walls Are Closing In on Gov Read below [See related articles and links below]
the New York Times broke a story tonight that the Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.
The Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.The letter marked the first signal that Mr. Christie was aware of the closings, something he repeatedly denied during a two-hour press conference earlier this month.In early January, documents revealed that a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, had sent an email to Mr. Wildstein saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” the town at the New Jersey end of the bridge, where Mr. Christie’s aides had pursued but failed to receive an endorsement from the mayor.Mr. Christie has steadfastly denied that he knew before this month that anyone in his administration was responsible for the lane closings, and his administration has tried to portray it as the actions of a rogue staff member.
NEW YORK STOP-&-FRISK IS DEAD
Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces Agreement in Landmark Stop & Frisk Case
Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces Agreement in Landmark Stop & Frisk Case Brownsville Recreation Center1555 Linden Boulevard, BrooklynJanuary 30, 2014
NEW YORK MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO REACHED AN AGREEMENT WITH CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS ALONG WITH A SETTLEMENT WITH THE PLAINTIFFS IN THE CASE TO END STOP-&-FRISK
The New York Times: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that New York City had reached an agreement with civil rights lawyers who had challenged the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices. This announcement makes way for the city to implement the sweeping reforms ordered by a federal judge last summer. Those reforms, which were blocked on appeal by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, include the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the police department policies toward minorities in the City. Last fall, the judge rule that the city’s stop-and-frisk policies were unconstitutional and that the department had resorted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling.” The judge, Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had also ruled that the policy resulted in “the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause” under the Fourteenth Amendment.
After federal judge Shira A. Scheinlin issued her blistering order against the New York City Department Police practices of Stop-&-Frisk and declared it unconstitutional, it was widely reported that the policy has allowed for police to stop over 700,000 New York City residents just in the last year of the policy (2013), mostly Black and Hispanics men without probable cause and search them on the spot for weapons and other contraband. It has been documents and also widely reported that about 98 percent of those stopped over the 9 years that this program has been in effect were found carrying no weapon or drug. A great number of those victimized were handcuffed and brought to police stations for questioning, and even arrested and then released without being charged with any offense or just to see all charges dismissed because they committed no crimes. Court Halts New York Stop-and-Frisk Ruling, Taking Judge Off Case
January 14, 2014
The New York Times - Sunday, January 12, 2014 1:08 PM EST
Six world powers have agreed on how to put in place an accord that would temporarily freeze much of Iran’s nuclear program, American and Iranian officials said on Sunday.That accord would go into effect on Jan. 20.International negotiators worked out an agreement in November to constrain much of Iran’s program for six months so that diplomats would have time to pursue a more comprehensive follow-up accord.But before the temporary agreement could take effect, negotiators had to work out the technical procedures for carrying it out and resolve some of its ambiguities in concert with the International Atomic Energy Agency.READ MORE at:
President Will Announce Changes To NSA Surveillance Program
The Associated Press has reported that the White House has announced Friday that President Barack Obama will give his review of the National Security Agency's spying programs next Friday January 17, 2014. The president is expected to outline changes to the NSA surveillance programs., reports the Associated Press.
This week, President Obama was briefed by the independent oversight board appointed to review the U.S. government's surveillance programs. "We wanted to be able to provide input into the decision-making process," David Medine, who heads the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, told AP. The task force agreed to preview its key recommendations with the president ahead of its full report due to be released on January 23, 2014.
The President is reported to be considering more than 40 recommendations, including limits to the U.S. spying on foreign allies and the storage of phone record metadata from millions of Americans. A second task force, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, announced 46 recommendations to scale back the scope of government surveillance in December.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
& the Washington Bridge Traffic-Jam Gate
Chris Christie Press Conference - Embarrassed & Humiliated Denies Knowledge!
Chris Christie Press Conference - Embarrassed & Humiliated Denies Knowledge!Chris Christie Press Conference - Bridge GateChris Christie Press Conference - Bridge GateChris Christie Press Confe...
Chris Christie: It wasn't me! Plus, I'm outraged! (Dailykos)
John Steward of the Daily Show: Maybe he’ll say he was smoking crack – It worked for Rob Forb (The Mayor of Toronto. His approval rating went up by 5% after he admitted to smoking crack and more)
That sound you’re hearing is the air going out of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 Republican presidential aspirations, thanks to the scandal known as Bridgegate.
This news about Chris Christie is going to sound like something you might see on House of Cards, but keep in mind that this really happened, and that Chris Christie is one of the GOP's top choices for a 2016 presidential candidate. So stick with me for a second.
In September, New Jersey officials closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge, causing massive gridlock that left thousands of commuters -- including school buses and first responders -- stranded near the town of Fort Lee.
Christie insisted -- over and over again! -- that no one on his staff was involved in the closure, and that the decision wasn't political retribution for the Fort Lee mayor's failure to endorse Christie for re-election.
Literally none of that appears to be true. His staff was directly involved, and their motivation appeared to be straight-up political retribution.
Chip in $13 or more to help keep Chris Christie away from the presidency.
Yesterday, subpoenaed emails revealed that the order to close the lanes came directly from one of Christie's top aides and went directly to a high school pal Christie had appointed to the Port Authority. Her exact instructions? "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
If that's enough to make you want to elect more Democrats, then I hope you'll chip in to support our candidates up and down the ticket. Republicans do a lot of outrageous things, but this story matters more than most.
It seems pretty likely that Chris Christie will spend the next couple years gearing up to run for President of the United States, which means we need to start paying attention to this guy now.
This may have started as a local news story about a traffic jam, but it's so much more -- it's about who Chris Christie is, and the kind of spiteful, costly, and damaging failures of leadership Americans can expect from him.
NBC’S Al ROKER
Al Roker Tells Polar Vortex Doubters To "Stuff It"
Al Roker has this to say to all the haters out there: The polar vortex is real and anyone who doesn't believe that can "stuff it."Follow me belowTwitter: http://www.twitter.com/RawSanity Tumblr:...
TWEETED THIS PHOTO OF A 1959 AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY TEXT WITH A POLAR VORTEX DEFINITION IN IT:
Annual U.S. Economic Trends, 2008-2013
U.S. Payroll to Population Rate Falls to 42.9% in December
Unemployment rate declines to 7.4%
“The U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate (P2P), as measured by Gallup, fell to 42.9% in December, from 43.7% in November. The current rate is the lowest Gallup has measured since March 2011.”
Unlike Gallup's P2P rate, which is a percentage of the total U.S. population, traditional employment metrics, such as the unemployment rates Gallup and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, are a percentage of the workforce. Gallup defines the "workforce" as adults who are working or actively looking for work and available for employment. The U.S. workforce participation rate in December was 65.8%, down from November's 66.9% and from 66.8% in December 2012.
Gallup's Bottom Line
The overall percentage of the U.S. adult population that was employed full time for an employer dropped in December to 42.9%, a low a point since 2011. Further, the 34.2% of all Americans who were not in the workforce is up from what Gallup has measured over the past four years.
U.S. Flu and Cold Levels Rise, but Are Typical for Season
Hispanic, low-income, and 18- to 44-year-old adults are most vulnerable
The average percentage of U.S. adults who report being sick with the flu "yesterday" increased to 2.8%, according to the latest report by Gallup. This is up from 2.0% within one month between November December. “The prevalence of flu has ticked up every December since Gallup and Healthways began daily tracking in 2008. Flu reports from December 2013 were lower than in December 2012, but similar to the prior four Decembers.”
Voter Restriction Laws in Half of the States in the Country
FROM THE JOURNAL OF LAW & PUBLIC POLICY - JLPP
“I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as “pervasive, widespread or rampant” as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.” — Congressman John Lewis
The Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) marked the death knell for the traditional means of voter disenfranchisement, particularly literacy tests and poll taxes.
Two years after Congress passed the VRA, the number of African-American registered voters jumped almost 18% in Southern States. By the late 1980s, registration rates in Alabama increased from a pre-VRA 19.3% to 68.4%; in Mississippi, registration rates grew nearly 70%, from 6.7% in March of 1965 to 74.2% in November of 1988. The number of African-American representatives similarly saw a mass increase. In 1967, Edward William Brooke III became the first African-American politician elected to the Senate since the end of Reconstruction. While in 1964, no African-Americans served in Southern legislatures, by 1974 – less than ten years after the VRA’s enactment – this number grew to approximately 100, and today Southern states have 313 African-American state legislators. The 2012 election marked the first time in history when African-Americans voter turn-out rates surpassed that of white voters.
These promising statistics do not, however, imply that the VRA’s objective is achieved. While the 113th Congress may be the most diverse in history, the percentage of minority representatives (slightly less than a third of the House) falls short of national demographics. Latinos particularly are underrepresented in Congress; while in 2012, 16.9% of the American population identified as Hispanic or Latino, only 7% of Congress identifies as Hispanic or Latino. Further, efforts at disenfranchisement of minority voters persist. In 2011, for example, the City of Natchez, Mississippi, attempted to institute a redistricting plan aimed at reducing the African-American population and therefore diluting voting strength in a particular ward. The Justice Department rejected the proposal, citing discriminatory intent. Just last year, the Justice Department blocked a Georgia state law that rescheduled local elections in Augusta-Richmond from November to July, a month with lower voter turnout particularly among minorities. These are just two examples of the myriad times the Justice Department has protected voting rights under the VRA.
With the recent holding in Shelby County v. Holder, however, the ability to combat voter discrimination under the VRA lies in doubt. This decision’s evisceration of the VRA comes at a time in which renewed attacks on voting rights run rampant, in the form of voter ID laws and redistricting plans. These 21st century iterations of legal voting repression place burdens disproportionately on young, poor, and minority voters and racially segregated voting districts. The Court’s move to rescind the VRA’s Section 4(b) allows states to proceed with blatantly discriminatory legislation previously blocked by the Justice Department under the VRA.
The demographics of America are rapidly changing, skewing younger and more racially diverse. This shift directly affects state and national politics and threatens Republican power. In the 2012 election, non-white voters overwhelmingly supported President Obama, as did voters 18-29 and those making under $50,000 per year. The growth of demographic groups that typically vote Democrat can drastically change the balance of political power, particularly in key battleground states. The increasing Latino population in Texas, for instance, could turn this Republican stronghold into hotly contested state within a decade.
The recent voter ID laws and redistricting plans work to directly counter the trends towards changing politics. In 2011, the Texas legislature passed a redistricting map that concentrated Latino and African-American populations into geographical districts while dispersing the white population, effectively decreasing the political power among minority voters. Similarly, Texas’ voter id law, blocked by the Justice Department until the Shelby County decision, disproportionately impacts the State’s Latino voters. In North Carolina, redistricting plans artificially divided predominately black communities, thereby diluting voting power among African-Americans, who overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates. North Carolina’s controversial voter ID law similarly suppresses African-American voting power.
Despite the blow Shelby County struck to the Justice Department’s ability to protect voting rights under the VRA, Attorney General Eric Holder continues to fight discriminatory laws. Shortly after the Court’s decision in Shelby County, Holder announced plans to challenge Texas’ redistricting plan and voter ID law. He has also filed suit to block North Carolina’s voter ID law. While the Justice Department may still utilize the Section 2 and Section 3 of the VRA, these provision require a higher burden of proof of discriminatory purpose than Section 5, leading to more protracted and expensive proceedings. Further, Section 2 litigation can occur only after enactment of offensive voting provisions. Thus, while Holder may still seek redress against voting wrongs under the VRA, he and other voting rights activists face an uphill battle.
“Our country has changed,” claimed Chief Justice Roberts in his Shelby County opinion. With this decision, the majority reasoned that because the VRA proved successful, it is time to relax the Act’s strict requirements. As Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent: “With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself . . . the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as pre-clearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.” The recent moves by state legislatures to implement voter ID laws and redistricting plans that deny rights particularly to minority voters make clear that change is relative. It is therefore essential that Congress rewrite and reauthorize the VRA to ensure that Shelby County does not usher in another era of mass voter disenfranchisement.
Nearly half the states in the country passed laws restricting the right to vote in the five years leading up to the last presidential election, with most of them in the South, according to a study recently released by two professors from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Keith Bentele and Erin O’Brien, professors of sociology and political science, respectively found that race, class, and political partisanship influenced the push for a raft of restrictive laws from 2006 to 201
The study, published last month, found that during the five years preceding the 2012 election, nearly every state proposed a voting law that would have, in some way, restricted access to casting ballots or registering to vote. Almost half of states passed such a law, the study said.
From 2006 to 2011, according to the study, restrictive voter access policies were more likely to be proposed in states with larger African-American and immigrant populations, and where voter turnout among minority and low-income voters had increased during presidential elections.
A similar picture emerged for the passage of these proposals, with states where minority turnout had increased since the previous presidential election being more likely to implement restrictive legislation. On top of that, the study found that states where Republicans control the Legislature and the governor’s office were more likely to pass such laws.
Efforts to restrict voting surfaced throughout the country, but, according to the study, such proposals appeared to be much more likely to pass in the South and in battleground states such as Ohio and Florida. In Massachusetts, for example, more than 30 such laws were proposed during the five-year period scrutinized but none passed, according to the study.
“In states where Republicans have full control over state government, that’s where these things are more likely to pass,” Bentele said.
Bentele and O’Brien said they wanted to move beyond political rhetoric and try to empirically decode the reasons behind the restrictive voter policies, which include requiring a photo ID, shortening early voting, restricting voter registration drives, and limiting voting for felons. Democrats often say the laws are an effort to dampen turnout within their base. Republicans often counter, saying the laws are meant to prevent or curb electoral fraud.
“Today’s widespread accusatory rhetoric is long on dramatic flair but short on evidence,” said the study, titled “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies.” It appeared in the December issue of the political science journal Perspectives on Politics.
The two academics, though, said they made no assumptions at the beginning of the study.
Bentele and O’Brien used statistical regression analysis to test theories promoted by both the right and the left, including voter fraud, voter turnout, racial demographics, changes in minority and low-income voter turnout, and partisan control of state Legislatures.
“We think of voting as this steady march forward, but this legislation should be conceptualized as push and pull on voting rights that is very much driven by race and enabled by the fact that states control their election laws,” O’Brien said. “Things like the percentage of African-Americans in states, minority turnout, change in minority turnout are driving the proposal and passage here.”
Public attitudes are influenced when lawmakers file bills to restrict voting, with people often concluding that the electoral process is threatened so a solution is needed, the professors said.
“By proposing this legislation in the state, it puts in people’s heads . . . ‘Oh, now voter fraud is a problem. We need voter ID,’ ” O’Brien said. “Nobody cared about this six years ago. That proposal part actually serves an important function.”
And Bentele added: “Think of it as symbolic politics. Once you get down to the political reality of, can you pass this sort of thing, those sort of pass through a filter that’s mostly about political control.”
Bentele and O’Brien cautioned that their study does not reveal the motive behind the proposal and passage of these laws. “We can’t say every single state is doing this because they are racist,” O’Brien said. “We can say that what is driving states to do this in our statistical model is not voter fraud. They are responding to minority turnout changes, to changes [in] low-income turnout.”
The numbers bear out what states are doing and when they’re doing it, Bentele said, adding that the results were consistent and told a story.
“It’s irrefutable; this is a story of race and partisanship,’’ O’Brien said.
January 1, 2014
2013 Year in Review
January: President Barack Obama got sworn in for a historic second term after a brutal 2 billion dollar campaign against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate and Tea Party House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.
February: It was the deadliest storm in modern Philippine history, and one of the strongest ever recorded. Typhoon Haiyan plowed through the country's midsection on Nov. 8, with winds of more than 150 miles an hour. The storm killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than three million. President Benigno Aquino III estimated the cost of the damage—including 550,000 homes—at nearly $13 billion. The worst-hit area is mainly agricultural. Government economic managers have said the damage could lower growth, although reconstruction spending should temper the storm's effects on the economy.
Also in February: Christopher Dorner, an ex-police officer, is named a suspect wanted in connection with shootings that occurred throughout Southern California within a week period. In those shootings, three people died, including a police officer and an assistant women's basketball coach at California State University, Fullerton, and several others were wounded. Dorner was later killed after taking refuge in a house in the mountains and taking the homeowners hostage.
March: 76-year old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires became Pope Francis, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI who stepped down two weeks earlier, citing declining health—the first pontiff in more than six centuries to resign from a position traditionally held until death. Pope Francis of the Jesuit Order has amazed the world and brought back a billion Catholics to the Catholic Church through his return to the basic and fundamental principal of Christianity: caring for the poor and the less fortunate, and “love your neighbor as you love yourself for the love of God.”
April: 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his 19 year brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, bombed the Boston Marathon killing 3 people and wounding 260. Day later, the brother killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer and started a standoff with Watertown police in a chase that started in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The hunt for the surviving 19 year old Tuft University student shut down and paralyzed Metropolitan Boston for over 24 hours.
May: Under the leadership of the bipartisan so-called “gang of eight,” led by Tea Party Cuban-American Florida Senator,Marco Rubio, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary approves immigration reform legislation that would give citizenship to millions living in the country illegally. At the time, Rubio was regarded as a rising star in the Republican Party – the man likely to fix Republicans’ electoral deficit among Latinos. However, within days, Rubio was forced to distance himself from his own plan when he came under attack from conservative groups and Tea Party faithful. Rubio who was considered a sure bet to run as a candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries quickly fell from grace and was side swept by Tea Party hardliners the Junior Senators from Texas and Kentucky, respectively Ted Cruz who led the government shutdown with the help of 80 Tea Party House Republicans and Senate Libertarian Rand Paul.
June: 29-year old former NSA contractor and data analysts released top-secret documents to the UK newspaper, The Guardian and the Washington Post, unleashing outrage and disbelief in the massive National Security Agency data-swooping program on American citizens and foreigners. The leak revealed the government’s reach into private telephone, internet, and financial records access by internet into the systems of major service providers, including AT&T, Verizon,Sprint, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others. Snowden later released thousand more pages of classified documents, some showing illegal practices by the NSA and the monitoring of telephone activities of at least 19 foreign Heads of States, including France and Germany.
Also in June: the Republican majority legislature in Texas passed one of the most restrictive laws banning most abortions and passing regulations which would have made impossible for doctors and clinics to provide abortion services in the State. When the legislature attempted to pass the law in just before midnight at the end of the legislative period, Texas Democratic Senator Wendy Davis mounted an 13- hour filibuster. The filibuster rules in the Texas legislature are strict and forbid members to get off topics, lean on the podium, and even from drinking water. When a Senate colleague tried to provide Mss. Davis with a back support, the Senate Republican Chair declared that she had violated the rules and ordered her to terminate the filibuster By that time, words had gotten out on social media and thousands of people spontaneously showed up and filled the galleries of the capitol, chairing and chanting for her to be allowed to continue. When she was finally forced off the floor just 1 minute before midnight, the Republicans tried to rush the bill through and passed it. However, the record later showed that they had voted for the bill 2 minutes after midnight when the legislative session had already expired, which would have made the bill illegal. That forced the Republicans to pull out the bill. but in July, Texas governor Rick Perry called a special session of the legislature and the bill was passed. Democrats are a small minority in the Texas legislature.
July: A Seminole County Florida Jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Reactions around the country was swift as people marched in several cities around the country to protest the verdict from coast to coast.
August: The Islamic politics and cultural website, Islamic Invitation Turkey released a video, they said, showed that the Syrian government had launched a chemical attack near Damascus, the capital of Syria. The international press reported stories about the attack, but the evidence began to indicate that the chemical attack, which killed 1500 civilians, including 400 children, was ordered and carried out by the military forces of Syrian’s President Bashar Al Assad. President Obama threatened military action against Syria. However, several days later, news broke that Secretary of State John Kerry, brand new on the job, had reached a diplomatic agreement with the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin to monitor the destruction of Syria’s entire chemical weapon under the close supervision of the United Nations’ Weapons Inspectors.
Also in August: Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin struck down New York’s stop-and-frisk “policy” ruling that the New York Police Department tactics of violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city. The ruling effectively killed the program, following the election of New York’s new Mayor Bill De Blasio. In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin effectively rejected New York Mayor’s Michael Bloomberg and his administration’s argument that the tactics plays a major element in fighting crime in the city. In her ruling, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin found that the Police Department resorted to a “policy of indirect racial profiling” as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers’ routinely stopping “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” The judge found that patrol officers have used the policy in the past 9 years “to stop innocent people without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing.” Bloomberg tries angrily and desperately to hang onto his racist policy under the pretense of safety, and he woe to pursue this bloody odious legacy through the courts. Ultimately, this scheme will be found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme; for it cannot survive any serious scrutiny by any person of conscience under the IV and the XIV Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Declared a “Day of Rage.” The country descended into chaos and violence, and appeared to be on the verge of a civil war after the military intervened in Egyptians’ second uprising against President Mohammed Morsi and installed interim PM Hazem Beblawi. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to rise against what they considered a military coup and took to the streets by the thousands in protest. Egypt has been under military rule since, and in a state of turmoil since President Morsi was democratically elected by a majority of Egyptians a year ago in the wake of the Arab Spring, which resulted in the ouster of 30-year military dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The military promised new elections, but has since banned the Muslim Brotherhood from political participation, declaring the party a terrorist organization.
September 1: North Carolina passed the most extreme voter ID laws with other measures all aimed at preventing targeted groups of voters from casting ballots in the general elections. Those laws targeted Blacks and Hispanics, younger voters, low income and elderly voters by making it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to obtain newly required State ID that the State made almost impossible to obtain based on the very requirements that were put in place to obtain such ID. In addition, many states reduced the number of days for voting, cut down on voting hours, and reduced voting precincts by moving them out of populated areas and increasing them in more rural areas with lower populations. Civil rights groups successfully sued over those voting restrictions and by Election Day, most of those laws were struck down and found unconstitutional by the Courts. In addition, the Justice Department blocked several of those states from putting those laws into effect by using Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to challenge the new laws and protect the voting rights of millions of Americans.
September 5: After her fifth attempt, Diana Nyad did something truly historic, when she completed a swim from Havana, Cuba to the Key West, a voyage she started 35 years ago. The 64-year-old left Havana Saturday and reached the shores of Florida’s Key West on Labor Day, Monday, September 2, 2013 just before 2 PM local time after about 53 hours of swimming in shark-infested water. Although looking a bit dazed, with a swollen lip, and covered with sunburn, Nyad swam within feet of the beach before walking onto dry land. She was received by clapping spectators who cheered her on and wanted to take pictures with her. She was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. CBS reported that she was released from the hospital Monday evening after receiving IV treatment. The record-book swimmer told reporters, "I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you're never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team," she said on the beach. "I have to say, I'm a little bit out of it right now," she was reporting saying.
September 28: President Obama announced that he spoke on the telephone with the President of Iran, Hassan Ruhani, before the Iranian President left New York after he attended and delivered a speech at the United Nations this week. The conversation was said to have lasted 10 to 15 minutes, after which President Obama made the announcement to the White House press without taking questions. The President acknowledged the barriers that exists on the road to forging a diplomatic solution over Iran's nuclear program. However, given that the Iranian Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini gave his green light for President Ruhani to engage in serious diplomatic negotiations with the U.S. to reach a negotiated settlement that would benefit all parties, including the middle East as a whole, by bringing about more stability, and satisfy the United State government, while allowing Iran to continue to pursue a peace civilian nuclear program. This was a breakthrough announcement, considering that the two countries have been in a virtual Cold War and open hostility since 1979, when Iranians revolted and overthrew the American puppet government of the Shah of Iran, took American hostages and returned the Supreme Leader, who was in exile in France, The Ayatollah Khomeini.
October 1: When the clock struck 12:00 last night, the extreme right wing Tea Party Republicans in Congress shut down the federal government. The demand in this hostage-taking: House Republicans want the President of the United State to scrap his own Health Care Law, which was duly passed in both Houses of Congress, upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and ratified voters in two elections. At this time, a small but the most radical faction in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has managed to hold the country hostage and shut down the government. Their leader in name only in the US House, Speaker John Boehner, stumbles and bumbles in front of cameras as if gagged and bound. After two weeks of holding funding for the federal government hostage in an attempt to dismantle the President’s Health Care law, through unworkable legislative maneuver, at midnight last, the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives succeeded in shutting down the federal government.
Also on October 1: The last component of the President’s healthcare law, the open insurance marketplace, was launched and the media, the Republicans, and a small fraction of people who had been covered under sub-standard health insurance plans went into a frenzy over the utter failure of the roll-out due to the abject dysfunction of the website that was built to handle enrollment, healthcare.gov.
October 17, The United States Government re-opened for business after 3 weeks (16 days) of Republican shut down over a failed effort to defund the President’s healthcare law. After resisting putting the Senate bill on the floor of the House without the support of the majority of his Republican Caucus, House Speaker John Boehner (Rep.-Ohio) finally agreed to allow the Senate clean continuing resolution to fund the government to go to the floor of the House for an open democratic vote. The bill was passed with the support of all 200 Democrats in the House; 87 Republicans voted yes, including Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
November: Historic Typhoon Haiyan stormed through the Philippine at winds of q50 miles an hour. It was the deadliest storm in modern in the history of the country. The storm killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than three million. A month later, about 101,000 people were still living in government shelters. President Benigno Aquino III estimated the cost of the damage, including 550,000 homes, at about $13 billion.
December: Tea Party House Republican Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray reached a budget agreement passed by both the House and the Senate. The first federal budget to have been enacted in 3 and a half years, paving the way for possible future compromises between the 2 governing parties and signaling a winding down of Republican obstructionism. The passage of the 2013 two-year budget also makes it less likely that Republicans will attempt to shut down the government over the raising of the country’s debt ceiling comes the deadline to do so on February 15, 2014. The budget deal also replaced the sequester cuts that caused the layoff of thousands of government employees and reduced benefits for food stamps recipients and meals on wheels for seniors. Although the Republicans succeeded in cutting $23 billion dollars out of the SNAP program that helps low-income families feed their children, they were unsuccessful in cutting the $40 billion they were looking to cut or eliminate the program altogether. The Democrats also held the line and prevented the Republicans from cutting Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. However, House Republican Speaker John Boehner adjourned Congress without passing the Senate passed Farm Bill or extending unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million unemployed Americans whose unemployment insurance ended 2 days after Christmas on December 27. Many of the new cuts have been placed squarely on veteran and federal employee pensions.
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
The Stock Market rose to all-time highs, breaking all records going back 50 years.
Wall Street ended its best year since the 1990’s.
The S&P 500 closed the year at record highs_ 29.6%.
The Dow Jones Industrial climbed to 26.5% ending its best year since 1995.
The Nasdaq climbed to 38.3% - its best year since 2009.
Wall Street and big banks settled with the government in a
multi-layer investigation into the fraudulent financial practices that led to the economic crash of 2008, and paid billions of dollars in fines and penalties, but nobody went to prison for defrauding ordinary citizens and causing untold miseries to homeowners and pensioners.
Worker marched and protested low wages
Hispanics marched to demand immigration reform and a stop to deportation and the break up of families
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Views & Analysis
In this section, we will analyze important news and offer our own views and opinion on the issues of the day. We will approach those issues from angles that may not be covered by the larger news media. We encourage and appreciate your feedback.
September 7, 2013
Syria – Is America an Imperial Power or Not?
If the Answer is no
We Have no Business Bombing Anyone
Except in Self-Defense
Or to Protect U.S. & ally-Nations' security Interest
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who demonstrated the war, made a stunningly bold and powerful statement, indicating that not only did the United States obtain conclusive evidence that the Syrian army use chemical gas to kill over 1500 people, including 400 children, but the administration was also in the process of planning a retaliatory attack on Syria for the alleged act. The civil war between Syrian rebels and Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad has been raging for over two years, with over 100,000 casualties, including civilians and children. The destruction in Syria has been massive. In the United States, some lawmakers, such as former Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war, Republican Senator John McCain and War Hock Senator Lindsey Graham, had been calling for the United States to provide weapons and other military equipment to the rebels. However, no one knows for sure who these rebels are. There are reports that the rebel groups are divided among Syrian revolutionaries who want to get rid of the thirty-year regime of President Assad and various Jihad and Al Qaeda groups.
Meanwhile, on one side of the war, have been the United States and its friend and ally in the Middle East, Israel, and most European countries--the same coalition that took the rebel side in Libya and ended the reign of President Muammar Gaddafi who died in the conflict. On the other hand, standing with Syria, are Russia, China, Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and some other countries, including Hamas in the West Bank. Syria has received heavy weaponry from Russia, and perhaps from other countries, such as China, Iran, and North Korea. In addition, the Syrian army is much better trained and prepared than was the Iraqi army when both President George H. Walker Bush declared his Golf War (Desert Storm) on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1989, and when George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 ”Shock and Awe,” with a bombing campaign followed by a full ground invasion that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, imprisoned, or fleeing the country, as well as over 4,000 American soldiers dead and over 32,000 severely injured by improvised explosive devices or IED . Eventually, that war went on for 10 years unti President Obama, who ascended to office by running against the Iraq war, began withdrawing American troops from the country last year. The war in Afghanistan, which started after 9-11-2001, is still on-going with plans to withdraw the last American troops out of that country by 2015.
The American President’s rational for retaliating against Syria is the international agreement that banned the use of chemical and biological weapons after World War. That agreement was reiterated in 1972, and then again in 1993, and was signed by all but a handful of the countries in the world. Syria was not a party to that agreement. The real issues are that the United States has no real business either telling other countries what to do, or to act as the policeman of the world. In addition, the argument that the U.S. action is necessary to take a stand against a perceived egregious act by Syria is eviscerated, given that the international community that signed the chemical ban treaty is now retreating, with many of the signatory countries now refusing to participate in any U.S. military initiative. If this was not enough to invalidate a U.S. military action, the chemical ban treaty was signed under a United Nation Charter, and therefore would require a U.N. resolution to trigger a call to action. More importantly, this idea that somehow 15 hundreds people being killed by chemical weapons is an atrocity, when we watched pictures of dead and injured people, including children, day after day, all killed by machine guns, bombs, and missiles while we did nothing to intervening, is ludicrous. The fact in the matter is: The time has come for Western powers, including the United States, to stop waging war in that part of the world.
First, it was all about oil; America has to defend “its interests” in the region, used to be the pretense given to the country for invading Arab countries. Then somehow, it became all about Iran. Neocons from the failed Bush years have been itching for a war from day one of the first four years of the Obama administration. America, somehow felt endowed with some great power to order the Iranian government to stop working on nuclear activities. They have been fixing for a war with Iran. And now many view this alleged chemical weapon attack as their chance to start a war in Syria, which they hope will spill over into Iran. In fact, the United States has had an issue with Iran since the Iranians overthrew the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in the Iranian revolution in 1979. Similar to every corrupt hand-picked dictator the United States has installed around the world, such as in Cuba, Haiti, and other countries, the Shah was a puppet of the U.S. The people of Iran revolted against America puppetry and exploitation, and brought back the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini who had been in exile in France. This chain of events created a rift between the United States and Iran since 1979. But in every case, after each of those revolutions, the U.S. government would start a propaganda war against the government that the people elect to install. And without failing, government officials would begin to refer to the new governments as “regimes,” “brutal dictators” who kill their own people, terrorist states, and on and on the propaganda machine would squeak on. This is of course classic demonization. It is a Machiavellian principle that you demonize your enemy in order to free yourself from the burdens of public opinion and morality, even the rule of international law, when you decide to attack them or even assassinate them.
We now find ourselves a junction where President Obama has painted itself into a corner. This is sad for a president who ran on opening up dialogues, even engaging with all world leaders anew, including previous enemies, without pre-condition; a position for which he was roundly criticized by his opponents during the 2008 campaign. War is an action of last resort; It is meant for self-defense when a country is attacked, or to protect a nation’s internal or international security interests when such are threatened. Neither is the case here. America has no business drawing up lines, red or otherwise, within which other countries should walk, act, or fall. Even worse, this policy has no credibility, considering all of the countries that now have nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, including Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Russia, and China. Worst, still, The United States stood by idly on the side of Iraq when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to put down a civil war against Shia Arabs in Iraq, the Kurds, and against Iran during the Iran Iraq war. The U.S. never intervened when Israel bombs the life out of the Palestinians for over forty years. The bottom line is that not only is the time of imperial power at an end, the nature of warfare has changed forever. Therefore, Obama and Congress should refrain from getting involved in what will surely become one more war in the Middle East, a land that is going through all this turmoil due to the way America and Europeans have damaged and broken up that ancient civilization, which now they consider backwards. There can be no winners in any type of intervention in Syria by the United State or by any western powers at this time. The division we now witness, both internationally and here in the U.S., over what course of action to follow, is not only a sign of a war-weary nation, but also the consequence of the insane foreign policy and unnecessary wars that were forced onto this country by the administration of George W. Bush. The chicken-hocks and Neocons from that Era took the country into war on fabricated intelligence; It was a war at all cost and no diplomacy, and never mind peace type of ideology. Obama must take the country off that course, and put an end to the Neocons once and for all. That is the only way this president will regain any credibility for his foreign policy and the country, and remove himself from the corner in which he is being painted and dragging us all along into.
July 23, 2013
The George Zimmerman Murder Trial
Under Florida Stand-your-ground law, Zimmerman was entitled to a hearing before a judge to invoke the law and possibly receive immunity from prosecution. Zimmerman waived his rights to that hearing and instead decided to go on trial based on as a straight self-defense. Nonetheless, even though stand-your-ground was never a part of the trial, and neither party brought it up at any point, Judge Debra Nelson included the law in the jury instructions. This was surely a judicial error on her part. Judge Nelson has other responsibilities in allowing Zimmerman to get off scot-free on Second Degree Murder charges and manslaughter. For example, the judge allowed a motion by the defense forbidding the prosecution from using the term “racial profiling.” The ludicrousness of this is that the entire case was based on race. There can be no doubt that had Trayvon Martin been of White skin he would have been alive today, and anyone who claims otherwise ought to join the vacuum-thinker society and immediately moves to the great state of denial. But, even worst, when Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara started to stink up the courtroom with racial innuendos, scapegoating, and even calling a witness to suggest that Martin got exactly what he deserves because he is a Black youth, the judge allowed that to come in, a testimony that was highly prejudicial and inflammatory and had zero probative value.
The self-defense law has been on the books in jurisprudence since the beginning of time and is recognized in all 50 states and in every country. It is used in justifiable homicide. Self-defense is a sacred right. The idea behind it is that if you are attacked by someone and feels that your life is in danger, you have a God-given right to defense yourself in any manner available to you, including the use of deadly force. Self-defense, however, does not protect anyone who goes out looking for a fight, provokes a confrontation, and then kills another because they are losing the fight (especially in the case of Zimmerman where he knew that the police was on their way), or to kill someone because you want to, or perhaps it is what you had intended to do from the beginning. Sanford Police Detective Soreno who virtually testified for the defense, even though he was a prosecution witness, said that based on the consistency with which Zimmerman told his version of what happened on the night of February 26 when he killed Tryavon, Zimmerman “would have to be a pathological liar or telling the true.” Zimmer seems to fall into the first category, and like the dead teenager told his friend Rachel Jeantel on the phone minutes before Zimmerman shot him in the heart, Zimmerman is a “creep.” In the word of George Kastanza of the Seinfeld, “It is not a lie if you believe it.” In that episode, Kastanza was portraying a pathological liar. What would any of us do if we were to shoot someone dead? The answer is, we would come up with a story quickly to justify our action before the police arrive. And Zimmerman who was schooled in self-defense law, and the new Florida stand-your-ground law in his criminal justice classes, had plenty of time to make up a story to justify the killing while he waited on the scene of the murder for the police to arrive.
Ordinarily, self-defense is both an easy and hard defense to win on. In most cases where a defendant claims self-defense, the other party in the conflict in dead and therefore only the surviving party can take the stand to tell the jury what happened from their perspectives. Given this, even in the presence of good forensic evidence, self-defense remains largely a circumstantial legal quagmire, and unless prosecutors have sufficient direct evidence and witnesses to disprove a defendant’s version of the occurrence, a defendant is likely to be acquitted of murder charges. This being said, most defendants who plead self-defense get convicted, except for those with unlimited resources to hire dream team defense attorneys who will do whatever it takes, including assassinating the character of the dead victim and using inflammatory racial tactics in court to help their clients get away with murder, as was seen in the George Zimmerman’s defense strategy. Needless to say that self-defense is not typically used successfully when the defendant is Black. The reasons for this are 1) Many Black defendants do not have the financial resources to hire competent private attorneys and are routinely pushed by public defenders to plead guilty under threat that they might end up spending life in prison if they chose a trial by jury and are found guilty, which is always a risk. This is a practical strategy considering that White jurors tend to perceive Black defendants as capable of the worst making the testimony and any statement by a Black defendant more likely to be dismissed and disbelieved by jurors. With this backdrop, Zimmerman’s defense lawyers shamelessly used Trayvon’s race to appeal to the White Jurors’ basal instincts of bias, prejudice, and bigotry toward the dead teenager. This was not the first time defense lawyers had turned a murder victim into a monster who deserved to be killed, but defense attorneys for Zimmerman allowed themselves to get carried away and jumped over the boundaries of all decency into the territory of disgrace.
What makes this case unique is that any thinking observer, who watched the trial in its entirety and listened to Zimmerman’s multiple statements to police after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, could see through the well-fabricated story that Zimmerman told police and stuck to throughout. The same police that was more than willing to swallow his story whole the very night of the shooting. Zimmerman knew that the police was on his side right from the start, so the question is, why then would he not have stuck to his story? After all, it was working for him with those who counted. Finally, the idea that George Zimmerman has some sort of Hispanic blood or background in him is so irrelevant to this case, and apparently seems to provide some intrigue only to those who do not understand race relations in this country, are ignorant of the pervasive nature of racism, and are clueless relatives to the underlying animosity that exists among some Hispanics and Black Americans. This case is an all-around failure of racial cohesiveness in American society and a total exposure of the unequal and racist nature of American jurisprudence. If there was any doubt that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has brought the American civil war into our court system to continue the dismantling of the Black community, the Trayvon Martin case has obliterated all remain doubt.
the life out of a teenager. And he said in an interview with Shawn Hannity of Fox News that if he had to do it all over, he would not change a thing. He has been sitting in Court showing absolutely no remorse or concerns, just waiting for his lawyers to get him off. Every human being of good will, Black or White, should be outraged by the circumstances of this case.
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