Toyota

Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Middleborough High School Talent Show



"Talking to the Moon", Bruno Mars Oct. 28, 2011 Holly Colombo on piano, Jordan McClure singing.

Occupy Movement

From Occupy Denver:



From Occupy Oakland:




A Statement from Mayor Angel Taveras on Occupy Providence

Contrast the Public Response from Mayor Taveras to other places, including the disgraceful treatment in Boston and former Mayor Ray Flynn's comments.

Mayor Taveras is to be applauded for his comments and allowing the rule of law to prevail.

A Statement from Mayor Angel Taveras on Occupy Providence
Saturday, October 29, 2011
All citizens have a right to have their voices heard, and I, like the Occupy movement, am concerned about the causes and impacts of the most serious economic downturn in decades. This movement is important because our city, our state, our nation need to do much more to address the jobs and foreclosure crises which are crushing hope and opportunity for the 99% of us.

Here in Providence, the protesters who have camped in Burnside Park since October 15 have conducted themselves peacefully, and the city has had ongoing and respectful dialogue with the group. I commend Occupy Providence for its commitment to nonviolence, and I thank Occupy Providence for publicly recognizing the city’s efforts to ensure their right to assemble and demonstrate.

Unlike many other American cities, Providence is taking a nonviolent approach to the occupation of Burnside Park that has resulted in no arrests and the continued freedom to protest with the full support and cooperation of public safety.

The Commissioner has regularly met with protest organizers and sought open and honest communication about all public safety issues. He has waived multiple requirements and accommodated every public protest and march to date.

However, permanent occupation of the park is unsafe and unwise for compelling reasons both practical and legal. Emergency medical personnel have responded to instances involving drug overdose and fighting. Public safety officials have identified Level 3 sex offenders among those occupying the park. As the weather gets colder, Occupy protesters in other cities have been taken to the hospital with hypothermia.

Yet, Commissioner Pare and I have not taken police action. Instead, in the near future, we will petition the Courts for a ruling on the viability and constitutionality of this encampment. This will allow the protesters to have their day in Court and for a full public, legal vetting of the issues.

Accordingly, we have issued a notice asking the protestors to vacate Burnside Park by Sunday, October 30. We have made clear that protestors are welcome to return to the park everyday during park hours of 7 am to 9 pm. If protestors do not vacate Burnside Park on Sunday, the City will NOT follow the actions of other cities like Atlanta, Chicago or Oakland that have resulted in arrests and violence. Instead, the Courts will consider the merits of this issue over the next few weeks.

The City agrees with the ACLU, which has said that United States Supreme Court precedent "significantly limits" the right to camp out indefinitely in Burnside Park without a permit. In addition, like the ACLU, the city "fully supports the right of Occupy Providence to engage in other forms of peaceful protest at the park or elsewhere in the city."

I appreciate and share many of the global concerns that the Occupy movement seeks to address. And it is for this reason that I have used civil, nonviolent means to address the future of the encampment.

Together, as one Providence, we can make real progress towards our shared vision for a more just and equitable society: strengthening our schools, creating good jobs, developing safe and affordable housing and leading an open and transparent government.

Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers




Help give your local Occupy group the tools they need to fight corporate power by sharing our new video with them and posting it on your social networks: http://warcosts.com/1percent

War industry CEOs make tens of millions of dollars a year, putting them in the top 0.01 percent of income earners in the U.S.


Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush made $22.84 million last year.

Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens made $21.89 million.

Boeing CEO James McNerney: $19.4 million.

These guys use their corporations' massive lobbying dollars to keep their job-killing gravy train rolling. Last year, their companies spent a whopping $46 million on lobbying, corrupting our politics and ensuring that their bank accounts continue to fatten at our expense. These executives are some of the main reasons why we're wasting so much on war instead of rebuilding our own nation here at home.
Help us fight their propaganda campaign to protect their profits. Use our list to share this video with your local Occupy group and encourage them to show it at their events: http://warcosts.com/1percent

CORRECTION: Lockheed Martin's CEO is Robert Stevens. The video refers to him as "Martin Stevens" which is incorrect.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

American Banking and Mexican Drug Cartels

As streets of American cities are flooding with cheap illegal drugs, local resources stressed fighting those related crimes, this offers an interesting insight --

Drug War Profiteers: Book Exposes How Wachovia Bank Laundered Millions for Mexican Cartels

As protests continue against Wall Street and the nation’s biggest banks, we speak to British journalist Ed Vulliamy, author of "Amexica: War Along the Borderline." Vulliamy exposes how one bank, Wachovia, made millions in the Mexican drug war. At the time, Wachovia was the nation’s fourth-largest bank. It has since been taken over by Wells Fargo. "You can’t drive around Mexico with hundreds of billions of dollars in cash in a semi-artic truck. It has to be banked," Vulliamy said. "What I found was that it is coming into the United States, into the banking system." [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Mexico, where drug-related violence has surged since President Felipe Calderón sent in the army to fight the cartels when he took office December 2006. The New York Times reported this week U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly built up networks of Mexican informants that have allowed them to secretly infiltrate some of that country’s most powerful criminal organizations. Typically, Mexico is kept in the dark about the U.S. actions inside Mexico with its most secret informants. The U.S. informants have reportedly helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and mid-level drug traffickers. In addition, the informants have sometimes given U.S. counter-narcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they’re trying to dismantle.

For more about U.S. involvement in the drug wars in Mexico, we’re joined by Ed Vulliamy, author of Amexica: War Along the Borderline. He’s a writer for The Guardian and The Observer in Britain, and headed back there this week.

Ed, it’s good to have you with us.

ED VULLIAMY: Good morning, Amy. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have a few minutes.

ED VULLIAMY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So lay out what you have found since the hardcover has come out, and now you’ve released the paperback, Amexica.

ED VULLIAMY: Well, you get a second bite with the paperback. And the original book was a report from the ground, from the rehab clinics, from the streets of Tamaulipas, Juárez and so on. But, you know, the burning question across the board was: what happens to the money? You can’t drive around Mexico with hundreds of billions of dollars in cash in a semi-artic truck. It has to be banked. And what I found was that it is coming into the United States, into the banking system. Now, we have to be careful here, legally. I mean, Wachovia is the bank concerned in this instance. It is in the clear, because there was a deferred prosecution in March. They were clear.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean. What was Wachovia’s involvement?

ED VULLIAMY: OK, what happened was various signals, various red flags went up regarding inconsistencies. My contact—they were coming through London, traveler’s checks, serially numbered, strangely signed, coming through, and irregularities spotted. And my contact’s name is Woods, put up the alarm. Rather than be sort of thanked for his vigilance, he was basically sort of told to shut up, originally, and then spat out, frankly.

There was a prosecution. There was a settlement in the district court of Miami. And the settlement said—and it was a deferred prosecution, which means no one goes to jail, constructively, and you have to sort of behave for a year, and if you do so, the whole thing is dropped. And we have to say, it has been dropped. Wachovia has since been bought by Wells Fargo, who have cooperated with the investigation. It’s nothing against Wells Fargo.

But what was found was that $110 million—small change—was directly connected to four drug deals in Mexico involving the Sinaloa Cartel, but that the staggering figure of $378 billion—that’s a lot of money—was insufficiently monitored. Now, we don’t know how much of that was connected to drug deals. It could be anything between naught and $378 billion. But it gives us a glimpse of the size, of the volume, the quantity of the money involved. These were coming through things called casas de cambio, holes in the wall, basically, exchange houses, not even a proper banking system. So we have a medium-sized bank, that kind of money.

Then, I thought, well, let’s set this in context. Talked to a man called Antonio Maria Costa, who’s the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. He’s not there any longer. He posits that the volumes of money coming in from Mexico, from—and obviously his speciality was Europe, Russia, you know, similar operations—laundering of vast quantities of the profits of drugs and, of course, the calamitous violence that is the scourge of Mexico, is basically propping up the banking system. It is a major pillar of the banking system. Without it, it would have collapsed long ago. Well, we know that the other pillar propping it up is tax dollars.

But—and so, one has a sort of a glimpse through this case, through this afterword in this paperback edition, a glimpse of where all the money goes, you know, how—you know, we hear a lot about how the Mexican war, this catastrophe in Mexico, is crossing the border into the United States, and indeed how it isn’t crossing the border. But one way in which it sure as hell is crossing the border is hundreds of billions of dollars of blood money.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but we’re going to do a post-show interview, and we’re going to post it online at democracynow.org. We’ve been speaking with Ed Vulliamy. He is a writer for The Guardian and The Observer, headed back to London. His book is called Amexica: War Along the Borderline, and he’s written the cover story of Harper’s, which we’re going to talk about post-show, which is called "Broken Britain."

Oakland!

When I attempted to send a FAX to the Oakland Mayor to protest the police brutality in the treatment of peaceful protesters, the FAX machine reported only out of service.

The Mayor of Oakland seems to have experienced an epiphany of sorts.

Pathetic that it required an outpouring of public condemnation nationwide
.


Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's About-Face


"Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's rather remarkable statement below marks a watershed for the burgeoning American Occupy movements.

Cast against the backdrop of Wednesday's fully-militarized Oakland city center, Quan's effusively conciliatory remarks can only be interpreted as an admission that turning downtown Oakland into a war zone to roll up a tent-city encampment did not work.

It should be noted that adherence to non-violent discipline on the part of the Occupy Oakland organizers and all the protesters that participated throughout the day was a critically important factor in forcing the City of Oakland's hand.

Brute-force police oppression of the Occupy movement has taken its best shot. It is possible that non-violent resistance has prevailed. -- Marc Ash/RSN

Statement by Oakland, California, Mayor Jean Quan on Wednesday's police action against Occupy Oakland protesters:

We support the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement: we have high levels of unemployment and we have high levels of foreclosure that makes Oakland part of the 99% too. We are a progressive city and tolerant of many opinions. We may not always agree, but we all have a right to be heard.

I want to thank everyone for the peaceful demonstration at Frank Ogawa Park tonight, and thank the city employees who worked hard to clean up the plaza so that all activities can continue including Occupy Wall Street. We have decided to have a minimal police presence at the plaza for the short term and build a community effort to improve communications and dialogue with the demonstrators.

99% of our officers stayed professional during difficult and dangerous circumstances as did some of the demonstrators who dissuaded other protestors from vandalizing downtown and for helping to keep the demonstrations peaceful. For the most part, demonstrations over the past two weeks have been peaceful. We hope they continue to be so.

I want to express our deepest concern for all of those who were injured last night, and we are committed to ensuring this does not happen again. Investigations of certain incidents are underway and I will personally monitor them.

We understand and recognize the impact this event has had on the community and acknowledge what has happened. We cannot change the past, but we are committed to doing better.

Most of us are part of the 99%, and understand the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We are committed to honoring their free speech right.

Finally, we understand the demonstrators want to meet with me and Chief Jordan. We welcome open dialogue with representatives of Occupy Wall Street members, and we are willing to meet with them as soon as possible.



Iraq War Vet Hospitalized with Fractured Skull After Being Shot by Police at Occupy Oakland Protest

Thousands of people reclaimed the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall Wednesday after police dispersed them twice on Tuesday — first in a pre-dawn raid on the camp and 12 hours later at night when protesters attempted to retake the park — using beanbag projectiles and tear gas. Many protesters expressed outrage over of the injury of Oakland protester Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran whose skull was fractured by a projectile fired by police Tuesday night. He is hospitalized in critical condition and is reportedly under sedation by doctors monitoring his injury. We speak to Jesse Palmer, an Occupy Oakland protester who helped move Olsen to safety, and to Aaron Hinde, a close friend of Scott Olsen and a fellow member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. One of Olsen’s other friends, Adele Carpenter, told Reuters, "The irony is not lost on anyone here that this is someone who survived two tours in Iraq and is now seriously injured by the Oakland police force." Aaron Hinde talked about why Olsen joined the Occupy Oakland movement: "He was a very motivated and dedicated individual. And he believed in the Occupy movement, because it’s very obvious what’s happening in this country, especially as veterans. We’ve had our eyes opened by serving and going to war overseas." [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: As we broadcast, protesters with the Occupy San Francisco encampment are preparing for possible eviction by police, but reports just now coming in say police may have called off their raid.

Meanwhile, across the Bay last night, thousands of people reclaimed the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall after police dispersed them Tuesday night using bean bag projectiles and tear gas. At last night’s general assembly, the Occupy Oakland encampment voted almost unanimously to call for a general strike on November 2nd, saying, quote, "Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city. All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them," the statement said.

Also in Oakland, an independent police review body will examine the clashes between riot police and protesters Tuesday that left an Iraq war veteran in critical condition. Scott Olsen is a 24-year-old Iraq war vet. He was struck in the head by a police projectile. Video footage posted to YouTube shows a man identified as Scott Olsen lying motionless and unresponsive in front of a police line after apparently having been hit by a tear gas canister. Several protesters gather around him, but a police officer can be seen throwing a device close to the group which then explodes with a bright flash and loud bang, dispersing the protesters. The video then cuts to footage of protesters carrying Olsen away as blood streams down his face.

A spokesperson for Highland Hospital in East Oakland has confirmed that Scott Olsen remains in critical condition. He suffered from a fractured skull and brain swelling. One of Olsen’s friends, Adele Carpenter, told Reuters, "The irony is not lost on anyone here that this is someone who survived two tours in Iraq and is now seriously injured by the Oakland police force." Olsen served in Iraq from 2006 to 2010 with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told a news conference his department is investigating the injury to Olsen as a "level one" incident, the highest level for an internal police inquiry. He declined to confirm whether Olsen was struck with a projectile fired by police.

Well, for more on what happened to Iraq war veteran, to Marine Corporal Scott Olsen, and the broader role that veterans play in the Occupy movement across the country, we’re joined by two guests in Berkeley, California. Aaron Hinde is a close friend of Scott Olsen, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, as Scott was. He has slept at Occupy San Francisco for several nights. We’re also joined by Jesse Palmer, who participated in Occupy Oakland since its inception. He helped carry Scott to safety after the police projectile hit Olsen in the head. Aaron Hinde, Jesse Palmer are joining us from the studios of the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I want to begin with Jesse, because you were on the scene on Tuesday night. Can you describe what time it was that Scott was hit and exactly what happened when you came upon him?

JESSE PALMER: Well, it was about 7:45. People had marched at 5:00, and by the point that the first tear gas and concussion grenades were used, people had been marching for over two hours. At the time, there was a large group of people standing at 14th and Broadway, which is the intersection right in downtown Oakland closest to Oscar Grant Plaza. The police had given an order to disperse, but there was no aggressive behavior towards the police. It was basically just a standoff. People were standing around.

All of a sudden, you know, in just an instant, with no real warning, concussion grenades went off and tear gas canisters went off all around us. I was right in the middle of the intersection, and it was very shocking, because you just heard the explosions in every direction all around you. Most of the crowd I was with proceeded north on Broadway, but people went in every direction. The other two intersections, people left.

At that time, I didn’t see that Scott had been struck. And in fact the tear gas makes it very hard for you to see. You can’t see. So people fell back about a half a block down Broadway, then somebody said that somebody had been hurt. And so, a number of people ran back up into the tear gas. And he was lying on the sidewalk, and there were a couple of medics already with him, and they said, "We need to get him farther out," because it was very very unsafe at that location. And so, we picked him up, and we carried him about a block, around the corner from where they could safely work on him.

AMY GOODMAN: What exactly was his condition as you tried, with others, to carry him?

JESSE PALMER: So, we picked him up, and my initial—I told him, "You’re going to be OK. My name’s Jesse. Can you tell me your name?" because I knew it was a terrifying situation, and I wanted to comfort him. But he didn’t respond at all. His eyes were open. He just stared blankly. And that was when I realized. You know, there was blood coming out of—it was a little hard to say, but his eyes, his mouth, his nose, there was a lot of blood on his face. And it was a terrifying, you know, moment. I mean, he was alive, and we didn’t know how badly he was hurt. And he didn’t speak back to me. And I tried a few times, because I thought, "Oh, he’ll be able to speak back." And he never spoke. We got him around the sidewalk, and then there were—the medics said they were EMTs, and they had experience. So that was when I left. But he—yeah, he was seriously hurt.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play the videotape that has been posted to YouTube. There were two different ones. One is the first, when you all got him, and it shows Scott’s bloody face as you were carrying him away. And then we’ll play the other, where people went to try to get him, and the flashbang grenade was—hit right at the area where he was lying. Let’s go to the first, where you got him.

PROTESTER 1: Medic!

PROTESTER 2: We need a medic! Medic! Medic!

PROTESTER 3: What happened? What happened?

PROTESTER 2: He got [bleep] shot!

PROTESTER 3: What’s your name? What’s your name?

PROTESTER 2: What’s your name?

PROTESTER 4: Dude, wake up!

PROTESTER 3: What’s your name?

PROTESTER 4: What’s your name?

PROTESTER 5: Can you say anything?

PROTESTER 3: Medic!

PROTESTERS: Medic!

PROTESTER 3: Whoa! [bleep]! Hey, back up! Back up! Back up!

AMY GOODMAN: And for our radio listeners, of course, you can see this on television, but as you could see just how it—how it sounds, exactly as it looks. And that is, a war zone. The other video is Scott lying on the ground, not yet taken by all of you, the video we just had. And this is when people ran up—we’re going to play it as I speak—ran up to try to help him.

PROTESTER: Help him! Help him!

AMY GOODMAN: So, Jesse Palmer, what do you understand at this point was the projectile that was used that first hit Scott, and this flashbang grenade, when people came to try to pick him up?

JESSE PALMER: I mean, it’s—there’s no way I can really say precisely what happened. There were tear gas projectiles that were shot in and fell all around us. The flashbang grenades were thrown, and they went off, again, all around us. And meanwhile, you can also hear on the video that they’re shooting some kind of—you know, some kind of other thing, what they were calling them bean bag rounds. Some people were calling them rubber bullets. But those were ricocheting and flying through the air all at once.

And, in fact, you know, just to correct you, he actually got carried twice. There was the initial group that carried him from right in front of the police barricade, which is where he was standing, just down the street a little bit. But then, for whatever reason, they weren’t able to carry him all the way to safety. And I think the reason is, is because there was so much tear gas and so much—so many projectiles flying through the air. So, I first became aware of him—he had been carried away from the barricade, but not all the way to safety. He was still close to the police. And that was when we ran back up near the police and took—carried him again. So the first video is of his first carrying, but then he was put down, and then we carried him again to a safer location around the block. It was a very chaotic situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Aaron Hinde, tell us who Scott is. Who is your friend Scott Olsen? You, both, members of IVAW, the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

AARON HINDE: Scott came to San Francisco about three months ago from Wisconsin, where he actually participated in the holding of the State Capitol over there. Scott’s probably one of the most warmest, kindest guys I know. He’s just one of those people who always has a smile on his face and never has anything negative to say. Like Adele said, it’s very ironic that he was the one to be critically injured, not just because of his status as a veteran, but just because of the nature of him. He was a very nice guy. He was not aggressive. He was not angry at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about his moving from Madison to the Bay Area and why he was participating in Occupy Oakland. You were not there at the time, is that right? You were at Occupy San Francisco?

AARON HINDE: Right, I was at Occupy San Francisco, and around 8:00 or so, some woman was reading off a couple of tweets off of the Twitter feed and said that there was an Iraq veteran who had been injured. I immediately called some people over there and found out that it was a long-haired Iraq veteran, and I knew immediately that it was Scott. So I started calling hospitals, found out where he was, and immediately drove over there and called over other members of our organization to the hospital for support.

Scott came, like I said, three months ago, and he got a great job with his friend Keith, who he also served with, in the IT. He worked during the day and slept in San Francisco by night. He was a very motivated and dedicated individual. And he believed in the Occupy movement, because it’s very obvious what’s happening in this country, especially as veterans. We’ve had our eyes opened by serving and going to war overseas. So, there’s a small contingency of us out here, and we’re all very motivated and dedicated. And we’re all hoping for the best for a full and swift recovery for Scott.

AMY GOODMAN: Aaron, can you describe—there’s a vigil outside of the hospital, as Scott lies inside the hospital. Now, the hospital put him into a coma, is that right? To reduce the brain swelling.

AARON HINDE: Right. The hospital has kept him intubated and drugged up, so that he doesn’t regain consciousness. I was able to see him for a while yesterday, until the nurses finally kicked everyone but his roommate out and stopped communicating with us. I’m guessing that has something to do with the ongoing police investigation in the matter. As far as the vigil outside the hospital, I haven’t been back there since about 4:00 yesterday. So, I will definitely be attending that today. Also at 7:00—

AMY GOODMAN: His family is flying in today?

AARON HINDE: I believe his family is trying to get here as quickly as possible. I haven’t talked with Keith yet to see when exactly they’re coming in. But, yes, his family is on the way.

AMY GOODMAN: And you said, "At 7:00"?

AARON HINDE: At 7:00, we’re planning on holding another vigil outside of City Hall, after the general assembly of Occupy Oakland. Everyone’s invited. This is really something that needs to be highlighted, what police brutality can do to a citizen populace and exactly who is comprised of this Occupy movement.

AMY GOODMAN: A general strike is being called for November 2nd, is that right?

JESSE PALMER: That’s correct. I was at the general assembly last night, which was the biggest that we’ve had yet. And it’s a modified consensus decision making, which requires a 90 percent vote of the participants in order to approve a proposal. And this proposal came up, was discussed for over two hours. And then the vote, with 1,600 votes counted, was 1,484 for, 77 abstained, 46 against. There was an overwhelming feeling that we needed to take it to the next level. And Oakland has—you know, there was a general strike in Oakland in 1946 that everybody is aware of as a precedent. I think we feel that this struggle is moving in—you know, the occupation of Oakland was incredibly powerful and educational, and the level of dialogue was amazing, for everybody involved, but I think we all feel like it’s time to take the struggle to the next level, so that everyone can participate in Oakland and around the country. And not everybody is going to come down to a tent city, so we feel that a general strike is the next way to go.

AMY GOODMAN: And you retook what’s being called now Oscar Grant Plaza, for the young man who was killed by the BART police two years ago. You retook that encampment that the police evacuated you from two nights ago?

JESSE PALMER: There was—when we arrived yesterday for the general assembly, because what was scheduled last night was our general assembly that we’ve had every night since the occupation began. There was a fence around the grassy area where the tents had stood. The general assembly didn’t make a decision to remove the fence, but the fence was removed. And as of when I left, yeah, it had been retaken. I don’t know what’s happened since midnight.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Aaron Hinde, if you could talk about the level of participation of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets? I just came from Louisville, Kentucky, and there were several vets there. I was in Kansas City before that, same thing. Talk about what you’re seeing as a vet yourself.

AARON HINDE: As a veteran or as an active-duty servicemember, you swear an oath to uphold and protect your country, and that is carried with you, even if you go out of the military, that sense of responsibility. And because of that vigilance, it seems veterans are always on the cusp of these types of social, progressive actions that are going on. I know that our organization, Veterans for Peace and other veteran organizations are highly active in the Occupy movement. We, for the most part, agree with all the principles and are trying to support it however we can, and participate, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Of course, we’ll continue to follow this story and report on Scott Olsen’s condition, now unconscious in the Oakland hospital, friends holding a vigil outside, his family flying in today. Aaron Hinde, friend of Scott Olsen, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Jesse Palmer, who participated in Occupy Oakland and helped to carry Scott Olsen to safety after the police projectile hit Olsen in the head.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, the Occupy movement in the United States to Tahrir Square. We’ll be joined by two Egyptian activists, leaders in the Egyptian revolution, who’ve come to this country and spoke at Occupy Wall Street. Stay with us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy

As the U.S. promotes Democracy around the world, the shocking truth is sadly revealed around the country.

This has been such a disgusting display of police brutality against peaceful protesters broadcast around the world, shouldn't we be embarrassed by our own hypocrisy?












LIVE COVERAGE


A Witness to the Violence in Oakland
Photos and Story By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News


Police Brutality Charges Sweep Across the US [go to original for links]
By Paul Harris, Guardian UK

From Naomi Wolf's arrest in New York to shootings in Tucson and Florida, forces face allegations of abuse of power.


fficer Michael Daragjati had no idea that the FBI was listening to his phone calls. Otherwise he would probably not have described his arrest and detention of an innocent black New Yorker in the manner he did.

Daragjati boasted to a woman friend that, while on patrol in Staten Island, he had "fried another nigger". It was "no big deal", he added. The FBI, which had been investigating another matter, then tried to work out what had happened.

According to court documents released in New York, Daragjati and his partner had randomly stopped and frisked a black man who had become angry and asked for Daragjati's name and badge number. Daragjati, 32, and with eight years on the force, had no reason to stop the man, and had found nothing illegal. But he arrested him and fabricated an account of him resisting arrest. The man, now referred to in papers only as John Doe because of fears for his safety, spent two nights in jail. He had merely been walking alone through the neighbourhood.

The shocking story has added to a growing sense that there are serious problems of indiscipline and law-breaking in US police forces. Last week the feminist author Naomi Wolf was arrested outside an awards ceremony in Manhattan. She had been advising Occupy Wall Street protesters of their rights to continue demonstrating outside the event. Instead, as she joined the protest, she was carted off to jail in her evening gown. That incident is only the most high-profile of many apparently illegal police actions around the protests. One senior officer, deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, created headlines worldwide when he pepper-sprayed young women behind a police barricade.

A report from the New York Civil Liberties Union recently looked at police use of Taser stun guns in the state, and revealed that in 60% of incidents where they were used, the incident did not meet the recommended criteria for such a weapon. Some cases involved people already handcuffed and 40% involved "at risk" subjects such as children, the elderly or mentally ill. "This disturbing pattern of misuse and abuse endangers lives," said the NYCLU's executive director, Donna Lieberman.

In Los Angeles, officers in the sheriff's department are accused of physically abusing some prison inmates and having sex with others. An internal report, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, revealed allegations that included beating people visiting relatives in jail. In Pittsburgh, there is the case of Jordan Miles, a high-flying high-school student stopped by three plainclothes policemen. Miles, 18 at the time, was walking to his grandmother's house and had no idea who the men were, as they did not identify themselves. He ran, but the officers caught him and beat him so badly that he ended up in hospital. He is undergoing neurological treatment for memory problems and has had to drop out of college.

Yet it was Miles who was charged with aggravated assault – a case that a judge later threw out. His mother, Terez Miles, said: "We are no strangers to police brutality in the city of Pittsburgh, but what they did was terrible and then they lied about it."

In Chicago, Jimmel Cannon, 13, was shot eight times by police who claimed that he had a BB gun in his hand. His family said that he had his hands in the air. In Tucson, Arizona, former marine Jose Guerena was killed by a Swat team on a drugs raid. They found nothing illegal, but Guerena was shot 23 times.

The list goes on. Miami is still dealing with the fallout of the fatal shooting of Raymond Herisse. He had been driving a car out of which police claimed gunshots came. However, it took three days before they produced a weapon. They also confiscated and destroyed the phones of people trying to record the incident.

"There is a widespread, continuing pattern of officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply," said Chris Calabrese, of the American Civil Liberties Union. Campaigners say the spread of camera phones is why so many incidents of brutality are appearing.

In another recorded call, Daragjati complained to a friend: "I could throw somebody a beating, they catch me on camera, and I'm fired." Some activists have taken that to heart. Diop Kamau, a former officer, runs the Florida-based Police Complaint Center, which investigates allegations of police abuse nationwide. "Police are now facing an onslaught of scrutiny because everyone has a cellphone," he said.

Kamau said that many police departments still had a culture of secrecy and many officers believed that there was little likelihood of punishment even if caught. "The police fill in the blanks. They say what happened and they will be believed," he said.

One weakness is that there is no central organisation for the police, and local departments do not release data on complaints or allegations of abuse. "The problem is that there is an absence of research," said Professor John Liederbach, an expert in American policing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. As the list of complaints and incidents grows, that might be about to change.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

NYPD Undercover Create Disturbance

On a pathetic note:

The Loudest Person at The Citibank Was the Undercover Cop that Arrested the Woman Outside

You should remember this incident where people trying to close their accounts with Citibank were locked in and arrested [click on link to view video]

But did you know from witness reports inside the bank the loudest person there was the undercover cop that later came out and arrested that woman?

Well, this is sort of a scary story: Marshall Garrett, one of the protesters who was arrested during Saturday’s Occupy Wall Street march for trying to hold a General Assembly in Citibank, told the Village Voice what went down that day. Apparently a plainclothed cop had been very well informed of the situation ahead of time and hidden himself in the crowd.
Here’s what Mr. Garrett told the paper:
But what was unknown to us and to a lot of people that day, including those in Times Square, was that there were undercover cops already there, paid to be disruptive and to be loud. One undercover cop present [at Citi] was louder than the entire group.


How did you know he was an undercover cop?

He arrested one of the protestors outside, and slammed her into the wall, and pushed her back into the bank. We all saw him at the precinct with us. He was laughing with the fellow white shirt cops, telling them about what we’d been saying, basically. It was a bit startling how inside their information was – how they were being paid to go to these protests and put us in situations where we’d be arrested and not be able to leave.

So let me clarify this:

Protesters decide to protest by closing their accounts en masse.

Group is infiltrated by undercover cops.

Undercover cops create disturbance in bank.

Bank manager panics calls 911.

Protesters get arrested for creating disruption.

Beacon Hill: ...the odor still lingers.

OPINION: Redistricting effort tainted from the start

The political tone-deafness of the pair of legislators charged with managing legislative redistricting turns out to be even more severe than we thought.

After defeating efforts to give responsibility for the task to an independent commission, Democratic leaders promised the process would be more fair and transparent than ever before. We assumed they understood that anything that looked like blatant incumbent protection – and other political games that have marred the Legislature’s redistricting efforts in the past – would be a blow to their credibility and avoided at all costs.

But then it came to light that one of the first acts of redistricting co-chairs Rep. Michael Moran, D-Brighton, and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, was to schedule private meetings with each member of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation to hear their preferences on how their districts should be drawn.

That’s exactly the kind of back-room deal-making reformers have been warning about. Beacon Hill politics are traditionally about who has power, not how will the public best be served. Census results require Massachusetts lose one of its 10 House districts. Starting the redistricting process with secret meetings with incumbents reinforces the idea that Moran and Rosenberg are rigging the game and dividing the spoils between fellow Democrats, putting the incumbents first and the voters second.

What’s worse was word that Moran had decided that, since he was going to be in Washington interviewing Congress members about their redistricting preferences, why not have a fundraiser for himself? One of the endangered incumbents, Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Somerville, generously found an exclusive restaurant to host the event, WCVB-TV Channel 5 reported. Other House members would surely be happy to send Washington insiders to help fatten Rep. Moran’s campaign account.

An hour after WCVB called to ask about the fundraiser, Moran canceled it. But the odor still lingers.

Why should a state representative be holding a fundraiser in Washington? Why would he accept help from the Congress members whose fate is in the hands of his committee? Why would someone entrusted by leaders of the Legislature with a sensitive job to do under the eyes of a skeptical public, do anything to give the impression his services are for sale?

This business confirms the suspicion that Moran, Rosenberg – and the leaders of the House and Senate who appointed them – have no clue about what a fair, transparent, non-political redistricting process looks like.

They are insiders playing an insiders’ game, oblivious to how it looks from the outside.

It’s not too late for Moran and Rosenberg to resign. Better yet, they should appoint a blue-ribbon panel of outsiders to take over the information-gathering and map-drawing process, and promise to keep their hands off until the panel presents their committee with one or more recommendations.



Legislative lines redrawn, 12th Plymouth District changes slightly
District currently held by Rep. Calter loses Duxbury, Middleborough precincts, gains Halifax precinct

By Kathryn Koch
Wicked Local Kingston


KINGSTON — Voters in Duxbury and Halifax are among those impacted by the announcement Tuesday that a legislative redistricting plan has been proposed by a joint committee of the General Court.

With redistricting, Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, would represent one precinct each in the towns of Duxbury and Middleborough whereas he used to represent two precincts in those towns. He will also represent all of Halifax whereas he previously represented just one precinct in Halifax.

Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Pembroke, would pick up Precinct 6 in Duxbury, and would no longer represent the second precinct in Halifax. Webster said when he ran for office in 2002 that he was hopeful that he could eventually represent all of Duxbury rather than four precincts.

“Unfortunately, it won’t make Duxbury whole,” he said.

State legislators have to redraw the legislative and congressional district in Massachusetts to reflect population shifts identified through the 2010 Census. The state constitution requires the Legislature revise the map every 10 years.

Calter continues to represent all of Kingston, all of Plympton and three precincts (1, 11 and 13) in Plymouth. Calter said he expects the new districts to be finalized by the end of the year with the required votes of both the House and Senate.

While Calter technically represents constituents over 105 square miles and will represent one precinct each in the towns of Duxbury, Middleborough and, as usual, Plympton, he said he doesn’t turn away people who don’t live in his district but live in a town he helps represent. He accepts an obligation to all residents in a town.

“My new district is more difficult to serve but easier to defend,” he said. “It requires that I attend all of the important events in those towns although I represent only a small portion of them. It’s also a challenge when I receive constituent calls from Duxbury and Middleborough where I now only represent one precinct. I never ask what precinct a caller is in, so I’m often serving constituents in the parts of towns I don’t represent.”

Webster follows the same philosophy. He said he also responds to calls from all residents in the towns of Duxbury, Pembroke and Hanson whether they live in one of his precincts or not. He said he will continue to represent Duxbury the same way.

Calter said once redistricting has been finalized, he looks forward to introducing himself to his new constituents in Halifax.

“I’m excited that Halifax has been unified,” he said. “For a small town they deserve one representative.”

While disappointed that Duxbury has not been unified, Webster said it’s good for the people of Halifax to be represented by one person.

While there had been talk of Calter picking up another precinct in Plymouth, redistricting has not affected the number of precincts he represents in Plymouth. It does impact the Plymouth delegation, however, with a third legislator, from the 5th Barnstable District, representing a precint in South Plymouth because the Cape has been losing residents and Plymouth has been gaining in population.

Calter who represents Plymouth precincts 1, 11 and 13, said he looks forward to working with Rep. Randy Hunt, R-East Sandwich.

“The Senate President, Rep. deMacedo and myself work very closely on issues important to Plymouth,” he said. “We welcome Rep. Hunt to the delegation, and I look forward to working with him on the issues important to Plymouth.”

Murray would lose Plympton and precincts in Barnstable under the Senate redistricting. Plympton would fall within the Second Plymouth & Bristol District, as is Halifax now, represented by Sen. Thomas Kennedy, D-Brockton.

“I applaud Sen. Rosenberg, Rep. Moran and the joint Committee on Redistricting for carrying out a fair and equal redistricting process,” Murray said Wednesday in a statement. “While I will be losing three precincts in Barnstable and the town of Plympton because I am over population in my district, the strong relationships I have formed with both communities will remain. We have accomplished so much, and I am proud to continue to be their voice for the next 14 months.”

The biggest change expected from redistricting is that the state will lose a congressional seat because its population grew slower than the rest of the United States from 2000 to 2010.

The state districts have to be wrapped up first so potential candidates for those seats can meet a one-year residency requirement for the Nov. 4, 2012, election.


Legislature redistricting plan creates new Brockton district
Redistricting plan reflects changing demographics

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Remember Minnesota?

Pawlenty leaves office and the mess behind, much as Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts.

The state shuts down, article here:

Minnesota Shutdown 2011: State Government Shuts Down

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) and top Republican state lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal to avert a government shutdown ahead of a midnight (CST) deadline.

"I really believe I've done everything I possibly could and offered everything I could possibly think of," said Dayton addressing the state of the negotiations from his office on Thursday night. "This is a night of deep sorrow for me because I don't want to see this shutdown occur."

The Democratic governor and state GOP lawmakers had been engaged in contentious talks to close the state's $5 billion budget gap -- much of it left behind by GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who declined to seek a third term in the 2010 election.


And now, in an amazing display, the folly of a sports stadium?

Dayton wants Vikings special session by Thanksgiving
Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune

Gov. Mark Dayton said he wants a special session of the Legislature just before Thanksgiving to reach a final verdict on whether the Minnesota Vikings get a new, publicly subsidized stadium.

Raising the stakes on a long-running, divisive issue, the DFL governor gave Minnesota's political, civic and business leaders five weeks to determine where the project should be built, whether voters facing a sales tax increase should have a referendum and how the state's $300 million toward the stadium should be financed. Dayton said the stadium deal could still be a work in progress when legislators begin meeting, a move that could make a special session a politically explosive drama.

"Most of what I hear is what everyone's against. ... It has to be what people are for," said Dayton, after meeting with legislative leaders Monday. He again left open the possibility that the $1.1 billion project could be built in Minneapolis, where the team has played since 1982, rather than Ramsey County's Arden Hills, the Vikings' owners' clear choice for the new home.


What an interesting display of fiscal responsibility!

Redistricting Map

Not everyone was going to be pleased with the new lines, but Middleboro, you might want to look at this gem:

MAP

LETTER

It was soooo embarrassing....

who would say anything? Yet .... it's my tax dollars.

It was your tax dollars too.

And it was a public hearing.

In a previous attempt to bring a "Motion to Dismiss," Middleborough Town Counsel Dan Murray was sharply rebuked and told to 'resolve the matter and not return.'

Hmmm.

I didn't attend law school and make no pretense, yet wouldn't you think either an attorney representing the Town or the Middleborough Assessor, Barbara Erikson would be familiar with the laws, policies and practices surrounding an issue?

Attorney Murray's reason for the "Motion to Dismiss" ? The applicant had failed to sign the form [among other things], yet all other requisite information was present.

Thirty lashes with that wet noodle!

The judge was NOT pleased!


An ATB (Appellate Tax Board) Hearing was held Monday, October 17.

It was actually a "Motion to Dismiss" brought by the Town of Middleborough's Attorney, Dan Murray.



Attorney Murray presented arguments including an affidavit prepared by/for the Town Assessor, Barbara Erikson, that indicated applicant had made a comment to a staff member more than a year prior to the Affidavit about the 'form' - which is meaningless gossip.

Who remembers a conversation/passing comment from a year earlier? Frankly, how silly!


(This is the FORM to which Ms. Erikson refers on pages 5 and 6.)

I arrived at the ATB after fighting traffic exactly at 10 AM and couldn't find my case on the schedules posted in front of the court rooms.

So had to go to the office.

The clerk checked, confirmed I was on the schedule, but she made me aware that Atty. Murray had already phoned and said he was running late. (It is incumbent on legal counsel to assure a timely arrival.)

I sat in the courtroom and listened to a Mildford Bar/Restaurant case with the property owner's attorney and the Milford town attorney, Milford Assessor, surrounded by attorneys probably because ComCast was on the schedule.

Attorney Murray finally showed up ~ 1/2 hour late.

I had stepped outside the room to sip water I had brought with me so I wouldn't cough in the dry courtroom and realized when I returned that Attorney Murray was standing and approaching the table in front of the judges.

So, now, a little disorganized, as I re-entered, the clerk who knew I had been there was coming to get me.

I took my seat behind the table and Attorney Murray began his presentation.

Attorney Murray explained to the court that the applicant had filed for an abatement in December, the notice was sent in January to complete the form.

(Now, I'm fuming because Attorney Murray doesn't indicate that there's more than a calendar year in between.)

One of the judges asked 'what form?'

Attorney Murray explained that it was attached to the affidavit [copy on the Assessors' web site, above].

The 2 judges fumble through the papers, find the form and their verbal assault begins.

The judge asks where the form came from, he's never seen this before.

Attorney Murray speculates that the Assessor, Barbara Erikson created the form.

Attorney Murray quotes Ch. 59, Section 61A [below], claims applicant failed to provide information requested.

Now the tone gets more hostile!

The judge tells Attorney Murray what Ch. 59, Section 61A means - frankly, I was so shocked, I can't relate what it means.


But it's not what Attorney Murray thought it meant and not a valid reason to deny/dismiss this case.

Not content to stop digging the hole, Attorney Murray then raises the issue that on the application for abatement with the Town and on the ATB application, the homeowner failed to provide 'an opinion of value.'

Now it's get more heated.

The judge, mighty testy! tells Attorney Murray that the homeowner's opinion is meaningless and he's never had anyone come before him and use that as an argument.

Then the judge, looking at Attorney Murray, tone really harsh, announced "I don't even want to hear from the homeowner! Case dismissed!"

Attorney Murray picked up his stuff mighty quickly and scooted right out.

I'm dallying, trying to figure out how I avoid Attorney Murray for what was really embarrassing - it was embarrassing to me because it was pretty rude though apparently justified by conspicuous legal incompetence recognized by those who have attended law school. It was embarrassing to be connected to a Town that fails to recognize such incompetence.

I turned in my seat to file some papers that I had placed on the table into my bag (which included a lengthy chronology) and the well dressed attorney in an expensive suit behind me, stood and said rather loudly "Well done!"

All I could do was laugh and comment about 'silent women.'

I NEVER SAID A WORD! What an astounding legal argument!

The judge was so aggravated, he announced that 'I need a break after that!'

So I meandered to the ladies room and he passed me, walking in a fashion that proclaimed his mood. As he passed, he commented 'sorry to make you come all this way for that.'

All I could say was 'thank you.'

Just astonishing!

I'm sure I missed the finer interpretations of the law simply because of my shock.


This is the 2nd time I have prevailed in court against the Town's Attorney and it has nothing to do with my expertise in the law.

The last time, I remained mostly silent, but I did quote the statute which is very clearly written.



It was the same statute that I had read to the Middleborough Assessor, Barbara Erikson on the telephone, to which she emphatically stated that I was wrong.




The Massachusetts General Law:
http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleIX/Chapter59/Section61A

Section 61A. A person applying for an abatement of a tax on real estate or personal property shall, upon request, exhibit to the assessors the property to which the application for abatement relates and if required by said assessors, shall exhibit and identify such property, and further, shall, upon request, furnish under oath such written information as may be reasonably required by the board of assessors to determine the actual fair cash valuation of the property to which the application for abatement relates including, but not limited to, income and rents received, and the expenses of maintaining such property. Failure of the applicant to comply with the provisions of this section within thirty days after such request shall bar him from any statutory appeal under this chapter unless the applicant was unable to comply with such request for reasons beyond his control or unless he attempted to comply in good faith.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Corruption of U.S. Custom and Border Protection

An interesting article that raises provocative questions about major government expansion and the lack of planning.

Border agency's rapid growth accompanied by rise in corruption

Since October 2004, 132 U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees have been indicted or convicted on corruption-related charges. Rapid expansion and lack of funds for background checks are blamed.

By Andrew Becker and Richard Marosi

When Luis Alarid was a child, his mother would seat him in the car while she smuggled people and drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. She was the sweet-talking commuter, he was her cute boy, and the mother-son ploy regularly kept customs inspectors from peeking inside the trunk.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOR THE RECORD:
Corruption case: An earlier version of this online article showed a photo of the San Ysidro border crossing and included a caption that stated that a Border Patrol agent who was hired there was engaged in illegal activity. Although the caption did not name the person, it referred to Luis Alarid, who is now serving a seven-year sentence for corruption. Alarid, however, was a customs inspector, not a Border Patrol agent, and he was hired at the Otay Mesa crossing, not San Ysidro.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Twenty-five years later, Alarid was back at the border in San Diego, seeking a job as a customs inspector. To get hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he first needed to clear screening that examined his personal, financial and work histories.

Alarid had served in the Marines and Army, which was a factor in his favor. But there was cause for concern: His finances were in shambles, including $30,000 in credit card debt. His mother, father and other relatives had been convicted of or indicted on charges of smuggling.

After the background check and an interview, Alarid was cleared for a border posting.

Within months, he turned his government job into a lucrative criminal enterprise. In cahoots with a gang that included his uncle and, allegedly, his mother, Alarid let cars into California filled with drugs and illegal immigrants.

"I was inside now, going around understanding how things work," Alarid said in a telephone interview from federal prison in Kentucky, where he is serving a seven-year sentence for corruption.

Alarid's is one of several corruption cases in recent years that have raised concerns about the adequacy of the customs agency's screening, a joint examination by The Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

As the agency rapidly increased staffing, the system designed to identify shady job applicants struggled to keep pace, resulting in hurried background checks and loosened hiring standards, said former and current Customs officials, background investigators and Border Patrol union officials.

At a congressional hearing in June, Customs Commissioner Alan Bersin acknowledged screening problems, and other officials have said that insufficient funding created a backlog of background investigations. "The accelerated hiring pace under which we operated between 2006 and 2008 … exposed critical organizational and individual vulnerabilities within," Bersin said.

Alarid's case and others also highlight the difficulty of assessing job candidates: Should prospective agents, for instance, be rejected because of the crimes of relatives? Should a background in Mexican law enforcement be enough to disqualify a candidate because of that country's rampant police corruption? Are high debt levels a sign of recklessness or the consequence of a weak economy?

Border agents and Customs inspectors are exposed to endless illegal moneymaking opportunities. Dozens of officers in recent years have turned their government jobs into illicit riches, funding desert estates and Las Vegas gambling binges, luxury cars and buying sprees at Tiffany's.

"It's such a perfect storm, if you will, down there along the southwest border, with the vast supply of money and the aggressive tactics of the cartels," said Terry Reed, an FBI supervisory agent.

Since October 2004, 132 Customs employees have been indicted or convicted on corruption-related charges, the majority from the Southwest border. Since 2006, the number of investigations has more than tripled, from 244 to about 870 last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General.

Of the 24,000 Customs agents along the southwest border, about half were hired in the last five years. The agency is on track to hire 2,500 additional agents in the next year.

Job requirements at Customs, for which agents don't need a high school diploma, have always been more lenient than at other federal agencies. The FBI, for example, requires a college degree and relevant work experience. Critics contend that the Border Patrol traditionally hired candidates with some military or college experience but that that changed in recent years, when the ranks were filled with younger and less-experienced applicants, some still in their teens.

W. Ralph Basham, Customs commissioner from 2006 until 2009, said he told high-ranking officials at the Department of Homeland Security that he was not comfortable with the agency's rapid expansion. Those concerns were dismissed.

"We cautioned against this strategy, but we were under tremendous pressure along the Southwest border to do something," Basham said.

The sharp increase in corruption cases has resulted in reforms. Customs started bolstering its internal affairs division in 2007, and Congress last year passed legislation that requires all prospective agents by 2013 to undergo polygraph testing.

So many applicants were awaiting screening in 2009 that the turnaround time was 294 days, government statistics showed. In some cases, investigators under pressure to work faster cut corners by doing fewer, or shorter, interviews of candidates' former employers, landlords and relatives. Some of the background checks are done by outside contractors who get paid per investigation and have an incentive to quickly complete the reviews.

Whenever there's a big fluctuation in hiring, it puts a real strain on the selection process and background investigations involved," said William Henderson, a retired government background investigator and author of a security clearance manual.

The backlog has also hampered reviews of veteran agents, who often don't undergo the required five-year periodic investigations until years later, said background investigators and agents.

Even with sufficient time, screeners can't always get a full picture of an applicant's life. John Paul Yanez-Camacho, for instance, was a former law enforcement officer from the Mexican state of Chihuahua and a manager of a nightclub in Ciudad Juarez owned by a suspected drug trafficker when he applied in 2003 to be an inspector. But investigators didn't know his full employment history, in part because the Mexican government doesn't permit U.S. background investigators to conduct probes in their country.

Two years after being hired, Yanez-Camacho started accessing a sensitive law enforcement database without authorization. From 2005 to 2006, he did so more than 250 times, often trying to get information about law enforcement investigations involving the suspected drug trafficker, according to his plea agreement.

Authorities suspected that Yanez-Camacho was passing along confidential information, but his motives remain a mystery. "He can't explain how he did that, why he did that and why he compromised his situation at the port of entry," Assistant U.S. Atty. Ed Weiner said at a court hearing in 2009 at which Yanez-Camacho was sentenced to probation for the misdemeanor violation.

Agents who are longtime border residents are often more susceptible to corruption because they often inherit networks of family members involved with organized crime, Customs officials say.

Former Border Patrol agent Salomon Ruiz, convicted of corruption in 2009, had uncles who were longtime smugglers in the McAllen, Texas, area, and his father had been deported to Mexico for drug trafficking. Jesus Huizar, a border patrol agent convicted in 2008, partnered with his wife's uncle, a known trafficker, in a human-smuggling scheme in El Paso.

The Customs agency could address the problem by forbidding most agents from working in their hometowns. But relocation is costly, and it's harder to find applicants who want to move, border authorities said.

The background investigator for Alarid, the San Diego customs inspector, asked him if he had contact with his parents. Alarid, who was raised in foster homes for much of his youth, said no. It was a lie.

Alarid was proud of his family's smuggling pedigree. He said he idolized his grandfather, a longtime drug trafficker from Baja California who in 1978 was indicted on trafficking charges. He'd visit with his father, a convicted drug dealer, and he'd take groceries and money to his often-homeless mother, who had served jail terms for smuggling and arson convictions.

But Alarid had a lot going for him. He was a high school track star and received commendations for his military service in Kosovo and Iraq. When his employment application was forwarded to an adjudicator who made hiring decisions, the adjudicator decided in Alarid's favor.

Alarid's large debt "was carefully reviewed, and there was believed to be mitigating factors, and there was a determination of suitable," said James Tomsheck, the agency's assistant commissioner for internal affairs.

Within months of going to work for Customs in October 2007, the rookie opened the gates. On cigarette breaks he would make calls to smugglers in Tijuana, telling them which lane at the port of entry he was handling. Over a four-month period, Alarid's scheme earned him about $200,000.

Some federal officials and investigators question Alarid's hiring. Screeners should have delved deeper into his relationship with his biological parents, and his debt seemed excessive, they said.

"There should have been some red flags that went up there. That guy should never have been hired," said Earl Stickler, a background investigator from Arizona.

Even Alarid, 35, wonders how he got the job.

"If I was a background investigator, I wouldn't have hired me," he said.


This report was published in cooperation with the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, where Becker is a staff writer
.

Let's move our nation forward!

This letter made such sense in a simple fashion, it says it all:

There is considerable empirical evidence that the main way to solve our nation’s job crisis is for the government to spend money to increase both public- and private-sector jobs. More teachers, policemen, firemen, road and bridge-builders, insulation and solar panel installers, etc. provide jobs both directly and indirectly. The wages these people receive have a large multiplier effect through the things these people purchase, the products their job requires, and the increased taxes they pay.

There is also considerable empirical evidence that cutting the taxes of the wealthy has a much smaller multiplier effect. Basically, the extra funds these folks have if their taxes are lower does increase their investment in businesses – but not very much. Not nearly as much as the increase in demand produced by directly increasing employment.

These are facts, not opinions.

Reasonable people in the Republican Party know this. But their party has been overwhelmed by its know-nothing branch. The reasonable Republicans in Congress are held hostage: they have to vote for policies that harm our country or they will lose the support of their base. This base comprises about 15% of the voting public - people who do not understand anything at all about the economy, whose views on many issues derive from an incorrect understanding of 18th and 19th century values and history, who consider evolution and global warming to be liberal plots. In the 21st century, it is disastrous to allow these people to dictate policy.

But they do. Republicans – including our own Scott Brown – are preventing even a discussion of President Obama’s plan to increase good jobs. Without it, the economy has little chance of improving.

Please, you reasonable Republicans out there: Tell Scott Brown and his colleagues that they ought to place a higher priority on the interests of our country than on trying to discredit our President. Help us to escape the economic doldrums through an approach that we know will succeed – government spending to increase jobs. Don’t listen to your know-nothings.


Donald Chauls

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Sistine Chapel

View the Sistine Chapel

MOVE THE MOUSE AROUND AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.


Here is an amazing bit of technology that you would never see in person, as you would NEVER be alone in the room.


It is ALWAYS VERY CROWDED and of course you can't see Michelangelo's artwork close up as you can here. This is especially spectacular if you have a large high-definition screen! Too many details to view on an iPhone.

TO VIEW EVERY PART OF THE MICHELANGELO'S MASTERPIECE, JUST CLICK AND DRAG YOUR ARROW IN THE DIRECTION YOU WISH TO SEE.

In the lower left, click on the plus (+) to move closer, on the minus (-) to move away. Choir is thrown in free. MOVE THE ARROW AND YOU WILL SEE EVERY PART OF THE CHAPEL.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Koch Brothers = Spreading Cancer

Cancer risks for Koch Profits


Interesting collage of videos

















How safe is the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth?

How safe is the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth?
Opponents line up to stop the renewal of Pilgrim's operating license

By Gerald Rogovin

With the eyes of the world still focused on the
nuclear accident in Fukishima, Japan, last March, residents from Cape Cod to Plymouth are raising questions about the safety of nuclear plants in the U.S., particularly Pilgrim Nuclear Station, close by Plymouth Rock.

Since 1990, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission has cited four reactor events as "a significant precursor of core damage that could lead to a large-scale release of radiation." They included Three Mile Island in 2002, Catawba Nuclear Station in 1996, the Wolf Creek nuclear plant in 1994 and the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in 1991.

One of every four nuclear reactors in the U.S. -- 27 of 104 -- has leaked tritium, a cancer-causing radioactive form of hydrogen, into ground water.

Sound scary?


It ought to. Those four events were in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kansas. But right here on Cape Cod, less than 60 miles from the Pilgrim plant, we share a similar exposure.

And Pilgrim, which has operated for more than 39 years, is seeking an
extension of its license for another 20 years starting in 2012, when its current license expires.

For years, activist organizations have been trying to shut down nuclear plants in New England. Currently, they operate in Plymouth, Vernon, Vt., and Seabrook, N.H, none much further than 80 miles from Cape Cod Canal. All of them have joined the effort to deny Pilgrim's license renewal.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick pleaded with the NRC to slow down the renewal process. But state action will have no impact on a decision. The state's Attorney-General petitioned the agency, opposing renewal. Denied, AG Martha Coakley appealed in federal court in 2006 against the NRC. Her challenge cited the risk of severe accidents in the spent fuel pool of the plant in the event of a terrorist attack, a national disaster, human error or equipment malfunction. The suit is still pending.

One change that may have come of the state's action: if the license renewal is approved, Pilgrim will be required to use
dry cask storage of its spent rod fuel.

In their efforts to close down operating nuclear plants in New England and New York State, public interest groups have had some success. Their principal argument is that the plants were designed for use for no more than 40 years, for safety reasons, and they are still operating.

But regulating the plants has been solely up to the NRC, which took away states' authority in 1990, when deregulation took hold. Cities and towns in the vicinity of the plants are at the mercy of the plant managements.

Pilgrim,
Vermont Yankee and the Fukishima Daiichi plants were all built within a year of each other, nearly 40 years ago. General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors were installed. The design was by Bechtel, the company that built the Big Dig highway complex in Boston.

The Plymouth plant, which employs 650 people, is part of
Entergy Nuclear Corp., a provider of electricity to eight states.

All three plants have limited capacities for pools of radioactive spent fuel. Pilgrim is currently at 85 percent of capacity, according to the
Citizens Awareness Network (CAN) in Shelburne Falls, Mass., a 20-year-old activist group. It reports that Yankee Vermont, near Brattleboro on the Vermont-Massachusetts line, has four times its capacity stored on the site.

CAN succeeded in closing the
Yankee Rowe nuclear plant in 1992, working with the Union of Concerned Scientists, according to CAN's director, Deb Katz. "It was really not the tsunami or the earthquake that created the radiation problem in Fukishima," she said. "Fukishima failed because the venting systems in all three reactors failed."

Destruction of the Japanese plant led the government there to close 49 of the country's 54 nuclear plants, a huge blow to a nation that depends heavily on nuclear power, and has made little investment in renewable energy, The New York Times reported last month.

Radioactivity levels in rice crops, milk, beef, spinach and tea leaves were still at elevated levels on September 25, six months after the accident in a city 35 miles from the Fukishima plant. This forced the Japanese government to order more testing, particularly of rice, a staple of the Japanese diet, according to The Times.

Governor Patrick, continuing to oppose Pilgrim's license renewal, has been under growing pressure from activist groups to take an even stronger stand.
MASSPIRG, an environmental group, wants the plant to close. "Even if safety concerns were not great, and they are, the economics of Pilgrim's continued operation are questionable," said Janet Domenitz, executive director of the organization.

"These old reactors are a huge risk, a fact brought home to us by Fukishima, which was designed and built exactly like Pilgrim," she added. John Rosenthal, a prominent Boston developer and a nuclear foe going back 30 years, when he was among the leaders of protests against the Seabrook, N.H. plant, concurs with Domenitz. "Regrettably, although the governor and the AG have weighed in because of the high risk, there has been push back. There are 645 jobs at Pilgrim. In these times, can we afford to lose that many? And Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray, in whose district the plant is located, has been very careful in her public comments about Pilgrim. She barely won re-election in her last campaign," said Rosenthal.

Pilgrim representatives have acknowledged that the pools holding the spent fuel rods were not designed for long-term storage. Spokesman David Tarantino told WBUR Radio they were built to hold the fuel rods for about five years, but have been used for 39 years and are nearly full. He cited frequent inspections by the NRC, which he said had determined the spent fuel storage is safe.

Charles Forsberg, who heads the nuclear fuel study group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees with Tarantino. He told WBUR, "in the short term, you store the spent fuel rods in pools, and in the long term, you put them in dry cask storage. If you store the spent fuel in those containers, nothing is going to happen."

But Pilgrim doesn't have dry cask storage. All of its spent fuel rods are in pools.

"Dry cask storage appears to be a workable response to the problems of storing nuclear waste. But the operators of these plants -- Entergy owns and operates Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee -- prefer not to undertake the expense." - Deb Katz, CAN Director
"Dry cask storage appears to be a workable response to the problems of storing nuclear waste," Katz said. But the operators of these plants -- Entergy owns and operates Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee -- prefer not to undertake the expense."

The earthquake that shook the Northeast in August caused relatively little damage, according to western Massachusetts newspapers. But The Boston Globe, in an editorial comment, said, "It underscored how inadequately prepared the region's nuclear power plants all are."

Measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, the quake produced tremors strong enough to exceed the "design basis" of a nuclear reactor in Virginia, closed since for safety inspections.

That has never happened before in an American nuclear plant, The Globe reported. It went on to note that the Virginia plant was not designed to withstand a quake of any size. The nuclear industry has insisted for years that it has anticipated every worst-case scenario. Altogether, 27 reactors in the eastern part of the U.S. may face seismic risks they were not built for, according to an NRC study conducted before the August quake.

George Harvey of the
New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution in Brattleboro, told CapeCodToday, "You folks on Cape Cod are in the same bind as we. Pilgrim Nuclear, like Vermont Yankee, is inherently unsafe. It happened at Fukishima. It can happen here: a meltdown could spread radiation from nuclear waste on prevailing winds to the Cape. Boston and Providence and everywhere in between would have to be evacuated.

"These plants have leaky pipes and faulty electrical cables. Fragments of the fuel are present. The spent fuel rods aren't designed for immersion in water. It's all an indication of NRC's lax attitude. It's frightening," Harvey said.

Gerald Rogovin began as a journalist in 1948 in dailies, weeklies, radio and magazines; and in the past 9 years back to weeklies and magazines. In between, for 36 years, he headed his own public relations firm in Boston. He lives in Yarmouth Port with a skepticism confirmed by 60 years in the inky trade.

Occupy Movement



Worth reading:

They Are the 1% - A Really Scary Follow Up

Youth pushed to the edge
By James Carroll Globe Columnist


Rep. Peter King Calls Occupy Wall Street Protesters 'Ragtag Mob,' 'Anarchists'

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Old Colony line: Early, and on budget

The cost of delayed infrastructure maintenance and upgrades just about equals the cost of the BIG DIG. Curious!


The overall news about the state’s aging highway, bridge, and transit network is grim.
More than $15 billion in repairs and replacements are needed


Old Colony line: Early, and on budget

A major MBTA project to replace crumbling concrete ties on the Old Colony commuter rail lines is on budget and ahead of schedule. And in Massachusetts, home of the Big Dig, that’s news.

The project was necessary after ties installed in the late 1990s failed far short of their predicted lifespan. The T is suing the manufacturer. While that sorry outcome sounds all too familiar, what happened next is worthy of note.

The tie-replacement job went to the lowest bidder, J.F. White Contracting Co., with a fixed price tag at $34.9 million. The T anticipated a two-year timetable. But the fixed budget with no option for change orders gave the contractor an incentive to do the work quickly and efficiently. Besides holding the line on cost, state transportation officials also shut down service on two branches between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, replacing trains with buses, to speed the project along. On weekends, all three branches were shut down. There were some complaints, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said, but the value of the shut-down outweighed the inconvenience.

The overall news about the state’s aging highway, bridge, and transit network is grim. More than $15 billion in repairs and replacements are needed, and the T faces a projected $161 million deficit for the coming year. Having one project proceed on budget and ahead of schedule does not change that picture. But it does show that every once in a while, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

11 Facts About Biggest Banks

Interesting list of facts:


11 Facts About Biggest Banks
By Pat Garofalo, Think Progress

The Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City more than three weeks ago have now spread across the country. The choice of Wall Street as the focal point for the protests - as even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said - makes sense due to the big bank malfeasance that led to the Great Recession.

While the Dodd-Frank financial reform law did a lot to ensure that a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis won't occur - through regulation of derivatives, a new consumer protection agency, and new powers for the government to dismantle failing banks - the biggest banks still have a firm grip on the financial system, even more so than before the 2008 financial crisis. Here are eleven facts that you need to know about the nation's biggest banks:

•Bank profits are highest since before the recession ...: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., bank profits in the first quarter of this year were "the best for the industry since the $36.8 billion earned in the second quarter of 2007." JP Morgan Chase is currently pulling in record profits.

•... even as the banks plan thousands of layoffs: Banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers.

•Banks make nearly one-third of total corporate profits: The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually down from before the financial crisis, when they made closer to 40 percent.

•Since 2008, the biggest banks have gotten bigger: Due to the failure of small competitors and mergers facilitated during the 2008 crisis, the nation's biggest banks - including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo - are now bigger than they were pre-recession. Pre-crisis, the four biggest banks held 32 percent of total deposits; now they hold nearly 40 percent.

•The four biggest banks issue 50 percent of mortgages and 66 percent of credit cards: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup issue one out of every two mortgages and nearly two out of every three credit cards in America.

•The 10 biggest banks hold 60 percent of bank assets: In the 1980s, the 10 biggest banks controlled 22 percent of total bank assets. Today, they control 60 percent.

•The six biggest banks hold assets equal to 63 percent of the country's GDP: In 1995, the six biggest banks in the country held assets equal to about 17 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Now their assets equal 63 percent of GDP.

•The five biggest banks hold 95 percent of derivatives: Nearly the entire market in derivatives - the credit instruments that helped blow up some of the nation's biggest banks as well as mega-insurer AIG - is dominated by just five firms: JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

•Banks cost households nearly $20 trillion in wealth: Almost $20 trillion in wealth was destroyed by the Great Recession, and total family wealth is still down "$12.8 trillion (in 2011 dollars) from June 2007 - its last peak."

•Big banks don't lend to small businesses: The New Rules Project notes that the country's 20 biggest banks "devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business."

•Big banks paid 5,000 bonuses of at least $1 million in 2008: According to the New York Attorney General's office, "nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008."

In the last few decades, regulations on the biggest banks have been systematically eliminated, while those banks engineered more and more ways to both rip off customers and turn ever-more complex trading instruments into ever-higher profits. It makes perfect sense, then, that a movement calling for an economy that works for everyone would center its efforts on an industry that exemplifies the opposite.










Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns