The Immigration Issue, Americans Drowning in Debt and the McDonald’s Ruling

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While the immigration battle rages on between Congress and the White House, most Americans believe the wave of children crossing the border into the United States from Central America are refugees escaping the dangers at home and the United States should support those children while reviewing their cases and not deport them immediate, according to Cathy Lynn Grossmann, Most Americans Think U.S. Should Shelter Child Migrants Not Deport Them, Survey Says. A new survey released on Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute surveyed people from all points of view along the political and religious spectrum. The survey found that Democrats (80 percent), Independents (69 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) favor offering support to unaccompanied children while a process to review their cases gets underway, while most major religious groups say the same, including white evangelical Protestants (56 percent), white mainline Protestants (67 percent), minority Protestants (74 percent), Catholics (75 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent). The survey sample, according to Grossmann, of 1,026 adults was not large enough to capture the views of smaller groups such as Jews, Muslims or Mormons. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, said: “It makes a difference that we are talking about children facing violence and harm. The value of keeping families together cuts across all party lines.” As a result, most Americans can make a “pretty clear distinction between the problem of the children arriving from Central America and the problem of illegal immigration in general.” While one in four Americans (27 percent) want the children to be deports due to illegal immigrant status, 69 percent feel they should be treated as refugees and along to remain in the United Stats if authorities determine it is not safe to return them to their homes. In addition, Grossmann reports, in the survey “the children are seen as fleeing violence and serious threats to their safety at home (45 percent), seeking better education and economic opportunities (34 percent) or both (14 percent).” Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) believe the children should be given shelter and support while there’s “a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay.” Again while most (56 percent) say the families are “doing what they can to keep their children safe in very difficult circumstances,” 38 percent say those families are “taking advantage of American good will and are really seeking a back door to immigrate to our country” and 26 percent or one in four want the children to be deported now. The situation in general is viewed as a crisis by 36 percent and 43 percent call it “a serious problem but not a crisis.”

Grossmann reports that the PRRI, in addition, asked what should be done about the situation, the breakdown is as follows:
* Most surveyed (71 percent) said the U.S. should offer “refuge and protection” for those who come to the U.S. “when they are facing serious danger in their home country.”
* 71 percent also mostly agree that these Central American children waiting for their cases to be heard “should be released to the care of relatives, host families or churches rather than be detained by immigration authorities.” (Twenty-eight percent disagree.)
* However, only 39 percent would allow these children to stay for good while 59 percent don’t want them here long-term because it “will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration.”
In short, according to Grossmann, attitudes are becoming more polarized between those who see immigrants as an asset and those who see them as a burden. However, views on citizenship or permanent legal residency stay pretty much the same with 58 percent saying they would allow a path to citizenship, 17 percent would allow residency and 22 percent say “identify and deport them.” The overall survey happened via phone interviews with 1,026 adults, conducted in English and Spanish between July 23 and July 27. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Another study release on Tuesday by the Urban Institute found that more than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reports to collection agencies, Josh Boak reports Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors. Senior fellow at the Washington think tank, Caroline Ratcliffe said that consumers to fall behind on credit cards, hospital bills, mortgages, auto loans, student debt, past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency and potentially hurt credit scores and job prospects. Laying it all out, Ratcliffe explains: “Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections. It can tip employers’ hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment.” The study found 35.1 percent of people with credit records have been reported to collections for an average debt of $5,178 based on September 2013 records. Boak comments that even while the country has reduced the size of its credit card debt, the share of Americans in collections has remained constant since the official end of the Great Recession in mid-2009. According to the American Bankers Association, credit card debt is at its lowest level in more than a decade as people increasingly pay off balances each month, while 2.44 percent of accounts are overdue 30 days or more versus the 15 year average of 3.82 percent. However the same percentage is still being reported for unpaid bills as reported by the Urban Institute study performed in conjunction with researchers from the Consumer Credit Research Institute. In all, this has reshaped the economy as the collections industry employs 140,000 workers who recover $50 billion each year as reported in a study published this year by the Federal Reserve’s Philadelphia bank branch. Boak notes the delinquent debt seems to be concentrated in Southern and Western states with Texas cities having a large share of their populations being reported to collections agencies: Dallas (44.3 percent); El Paso (44.4 percent), Houston (43.7 percent), McAllen (51.7 percent) and San Antonio (44.5 percent). In addition, the study says, “Almost half of Las Vegas residents- many of whom bore the brunt of the housing bust that sparked the recession- have debt in collections. Other Southern cities have a disproportionate number of their people facing debt collectors, including Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.” Only about 20 percent of Americans with credit records have debt at all, but high debt levels aren’t always delinquent with the large portion of the debt coming from mortgages. Unfortunately, stagnate incomes has led to why some parts of the country struggle with repaying debt, according to the Urban Institute’s Ratcliffe. Labor Department figures show that wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five year recovery and Wells Fargo figures show that after tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.

While the American continue to struggle to make ends meet, Carol Kopp reports, McDonald’s In The Frying Pan, the ruling by the New York regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could change the lives of million of low wage Americans and open the way for complaints blaming McDonald’s for low pay and poor working conditions in its restaurants. The ruling says the McDonald’s hamburger chain shares responsibility for workers’ wages and working conditions with the operators of its franchise restaurants allowing for 113 unfair labor practices complaints filed by franchise workers across the nation to include the chain, according to Micah Wissinger, an attorney for Levy Ratner which is the law firm representing New York City fast food workers. The “joint employer” designation could give future legal actions taken by workers more clout when seeking higher wages, better working conditions or protesting firing decisions. Mark Barenberg, a law professor at Columbia Law School says, “The determination from the NLRB’s General Counsel has the potential to upend the fast-food industry’s decades-long strategy of ‘out-sourcing’ legal responsibility to franchisees when it comes to securing workers’ rights. Companies like McDonald’s insert an intermediary between themselves and workers, even though they’re manifestly in control of the franchisees’ employment decisions.” In addition, other hamburger chains like Burger King and other fast food brands like KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut can also be affected by this decision since all of these chains are owned by Yum! brand but operated by franchises. Richard Eiker has worked for McDonald’s in Kansas City for 30 years and says the company constantly monitors its franchises by tracking software, on-site inspections and visits from secret shoppers to monitor the operations. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA told the Associated Press the company will appeal the decision. David French, senior vice president with the National Retail Federation, told the New York Times the decision is “outrageous” saying, “It is just further evidence that the N.L.R.B. has lost all credibility as a government agency established to protect workers and is now just a government agency that serves as an adjunct for organized labor, which has fought for this decision for a number of years as a means to more easily unionize entire companies and industries.” The issue came to the forefront by labor organizers backed by the United Service Employees International Union, which has staged nationwide protests in favor of higher wages and more stable work hours for fast-food employees, Kopp explains.

Relief for the VA, Paul Ryan Rants, Saving Chicago, DC Gun Laws and Fast Food Worker’s Rights

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After six weeks of negotiations, House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a compromise to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays and deaths. Matthew Daly reports, After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care, the chairman of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon to unveil a plan to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care. An agreement Sunday by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House panel, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate veterans panel chair, was reached after many private meetings, no shows and public spats with only days left until Congress goes on a five week recess. A partisan impasse loomed which both sides hoped to avoid what Miller called the “sort of bickering and name-calling for which Washington has become infamous.” Three days later, via telephone from Florida and Vermont, Miller and Sanders were on the same page. The tentative deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators and a full vote in the House and Senate. The plan announced Monday, according to Miller and Sanders, is intended to “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.” Luis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, said on Sunday: “There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That’s what this is all about.” Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: “It’s about time they’re doing their jobs. You don’t get a medal for doing your job.” An updated audit by the VA this month shows 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics still wait 30 days for an appointment with 46,000 veterans waiting at least three months for an initial appointment and an additional 7,00 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade that never got them. The Senate and House are set to adjourn at the end of the week until September and lawmakers from both parties see the VA bill as a top priority. Meanwhile, the Senate is also expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary, replacing Gibson.

While one problem may potentially be resolved this week, on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned the federal government’s approach to poverty reduction claiming the Obama administration is responsible for the system that “perpetuates poverty” in America, according to Ashley Alman’s article Paul Ryan Accuses Obama Administration Of System That ‘Perpetuates Poverty.’ On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Ryan came to discuss his new poverty proposal involving consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs including food stamps and housing vouchers into one program coordinated by each state. Host David Gregory commented that Ryan sounded like he had little “sympathy” for impoverished Americans. Ryan responded by saying: “We don’t want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. The federal government’s approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty, in many ways it has disincentivized people from going to work. Able-bodied people should go to work, and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential.” Ryan announced his poverty proposal Thursday saying it is an opportunity for reform that would be “budget neutral.” However, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) disagrees: “The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not a new idea at all: it’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles. If you look at the block grant proposal in the context of the Ryan-Republican budget, it would dramatically slash the resources available to help struggling families.”

As families to continue to struggle to keep their heads above water, cities are not only struggling to keep people working, but keep gun violence to a minimum. Glenn Minnis reports, Can Noah’s Arc save streets of Chicago?, Joakim Noah, an NBA All Star Center, on Friday spoke to a room full of teens and adolescents at a Major Adams Community Center room about gun and gang violence culture so out of control it has brought his hometown of Chicago to its knees. Noah spoke of his motivation to start his “Stand up Chicago” campaign: “It’s very important that we understand that this is not just a problem that’s going on on the South Side, the violence is not a problem that’s going on on the West Side. This is a Chicago problem.” Noah also enlisted the help of teammate and Chi-town native Derrick Rose who appeared on a 60 second PSA for his initiative. Join by rapper and Chicago native Common, he states in the PSA: “I stand for my city.” In a statement on his Noah’s Arc Foundation site, Noah and his mom, Cecilia Rodhe, called on all Chicagoans to “take a stand against violence and become ambassadors for peace and positivity.” Over the first seven months of the year, 207 homicides have taken place in Chicago with the most recent incident on July 4 weekend where the L.A. Times reported at least 16 people killed and 82 injured over three and half days. In response, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has added seven more ATF agents to its former roster of 45 in hopes of somehow of corralling all the madness, according to Minnis. Noah summed up the goal of his organization by saying: “As somebody who plays for the Bulls, I feel like I’m somebody who represents the city, and I think that helping our youth is important. The summer months bring a lot of violence, and we felt it was urgent to get a public service announcement out now in order to bring some hope, change and support to the community. We have to find a way together, whether you’re rich, poor, black, white, whatever you are, to come together and solve this together. To me personally, this is just as important as winning a championship.”

Meanwhile, gun advocates in Washington, D.C. this weekend celebrate following a federal judge ruling that struck down the city’s ban on handguns in public, the AOL article, D.C.’s gun laws take another hit in handgun carry ruling, explains. District Judge Frederick Scullin reached the conclusion many other district courts reached in similar cases: “The Second Amendment secures an individual right … to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.” The ruling prevents D.C. officials from enforcing public gun bans until licensing regulations are put in place. In 2008 a Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, overturned the city’s total ban on handguns ruling the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own weapons for self-defense, AOL reports. The latest decision comes from an Aug. 2009 lawsuit that, according to SCOTUSblog notes, got tangled up in the D.C. district’s legal red tape for five years frustrating the plaintiffs. “The challengers to the D.C. law tried repeatedly to get a ruling, even asking a federal appeals court to step in to command that the case be decided.” In addition, Congress is challenging gun control in D.C. House Republicans approved an amendment to the district’s funding bill that would prevent D.C. from enforcing their gun laws. However, it will still be illegal to bring to a gun into a federal building. D.C. officials have yet to announce plans to appeal the ruling, but a spokesman told reporters the city is looking into options.

As the gun fight rages on, on Saturday, fast food workers across the nation voted to escalate efforts for $15 an hour pay and union membership using nonviolent civil disobedience. More than 1,300 workers came together at a convention center in Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign to spread to dozens of cities in less than two years, Tammy Webber reports, Fast Food Workers Vow Civil Disobedience. The Service Employee International Union provides financial and organizational support to fast food protests. They began in 2012 in New York City including daylong strikes and peaceful demonstrations outside this year’s McDonald’s Corp. shareholder meeting where 130 protestors were arrested for stepping onto company property. Saturday’s convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included session on civil disobedience and leadership training. Rev.William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said: “People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed. This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages. If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy.” The movement comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats try to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wage which stands at $7.25 an hour for federal wages or about $15,000 per year for40 hours a week. Obama and others want to increase it to $10.10. The restaurant industry argues that a $15 hourly wage would lead to business closing and job cuts. According to Webber: “The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership.” Scott DeFife, the association;s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters are “demonizing” an industry that employs all ages, backgrounds and skill levels instead of focusing on policies to increase education and job training. Unfortunately, many workers say that people stay in these jobs for years because they are the only ones available. Barber believes that “this movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country.”

Obama Impeachment, Addressing the Border Crisis and What to Do with Iraq

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On Friday, One of President Obama’s top advisers said that he expects House Republicans will file articles of impeachment against the president, according to Sam Stein, Dan Pfeiffer: White House Expects John Boehner To Try For Impeachment. Dan Pfeiffer, a senior aide with Obama since he first took office, told reporters he anticipated that a lawsuit filed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over executive actions taken by the president on health care would not be enough to satisfy some vocal conservative in Congress. Pfeiffer added that coming executive actions surrounding immigration will only help to stoke the impeachment fires. Speaking at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, he said, “I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility. I think that Speaker Boehner, by going down this path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future. I think impeachment is a very serious thing that has been bandied about by the recent Republican vice presidential nominee and others in a very unserious way. And no one has even made any allegation of anything that would be within six universes from what is generally considered in that space.” Boehner has said he has no interest in drafting articles of impeachment against the president. However Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel email this response to Pfeiffer: “We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals. It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.” While Pfeiffer did talk about impeachment possibilities, he did discuss the crisis at the border during Friday’s breakfast. Joe Miller, running in the Republican primary for a chance to challenge Sen, Mark Begich (D-Alaska), called for the impeachment of Obama in his campaign this week, according to David McCabe, Senate Hopeful Joe Miller Calls For Obama’s Impeachment, Blasts Mark Begich Over Border. In a press release, Miller said: “Sarah Palin is right; it’s time to impeach this President for dereliction of duty, selectively enforcing the law, and usurping powers that the Constitution does not authorize. He is willfully undermining the rule of law and creating chaos.” Palin, the Alaskan governor who rose to fame as Sen. john McCain’s presidential running mate in 2008, has repeatedly called for Obama’s impeachment this summer.

With a week to go before the August recess, House Republicans have yet to offer a bill to address the border crisis while Obama address South American leaders on the crisis. Elise Foley reports, House Republicans Still Hashing Out Details Of Border Crisis Plan, on Friday that members hope to take up legislation next week providing less than $1 billion, down from $1.5 billion earlier this week, to deal with the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended crossing the U.S. border illegally since October. However, the funding is far below Obama’s $3.7 billion requested and thr Senate proposal for $2.7 billion. While most members agree something needs to be done, they haven’t finalized it yet. As Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) puts it: “There’s a lot of nervousness among a lot of the members about a lot of things. Some are nervous that we won’t do anything, some are nervous that we’ll do too much. … These conversations are always fascinating because you’ll start with a range of opinions about this far apart, and eventually you begin to see what the consensus is. We are not at that point yet.” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told reporters, “The problem is DACA. There’s a perception out there that’s it’s OK to do this and to pay someone money to take your child to America. And it’s just a wrong perception.” Rep. John Fleming (R-Fla.) said, “Let’s say theoretically it makes it all the way to the president’s desk and he signs it. It’ll be yet another law that the president will ignore and not enforce.” Rep. Charlie Dent (D-Pa.) said, “I believe there is consensus that we need to move a legislative package out of here before we leave next week. What’s going to be in that package, we’re going to be debating.” While Republicans try to come to some sort of resolution, President Obama met with Central American leaders Friday to urge them to slow the exodus of unaccompanied children from their countries, the Associated Press reports Obama to urge Central American leaders for help. Unfortunately with Senate Democrats opposed to policy changes to return kids quickly without judicial hearings, it looks unlikely that a deal will be agreed upon and sent to Obama’s desk in August. Friday’s White House meeting with the president of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador coincided with the administration possibly crating a pilot program to give young people from Honduras refugee status.

While the border crisis seems to be a hot button issue because of the August recess, the House has agreed upon one thing that the President cannot send more troops to Iraq without congressional approval. On Friday, the House passed a resolution to bar President Barack Obama from sending forces into Iraq in a sustained combat role without congress approving it first. The measure must still pass the Senate to force a shutdown with the president and risks opening up several questions related to the Constitution’s separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said, “This resolution makes one clear statement. If the president decides we should further involve our military in Iraq, he needs to work with Congress to authorize it. The time to debate our re-engagement in Iraq, should it come to that, is before we are caught in the heat of the moment. Not when the first body bags come home. Not when the first bombs start to fall. Not when the worst-case scenario is playing out on our TV screens.” More than 800 U.S. forces are in Iraq with more than half providing security for the embassy and U.S. personnel. In addition, American service members are involved in improving U.S. intelligence, providing security cooperation and conducting assessments of Iraqi capabilities. U.S. officials, according to the Washington Post, say the Sunni extremist calling themselves the Islamic State pose a threat to the American homeland as the group has expanded its base in Syria and seized a series of towns and cities in Iraq in recent months.

What happened to America?!

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Courtesy of Jack Cluth on the blog, What Would Jack Do?

On Thursday, federal authorities filed an indictment in federal court in San Francisco charging FedEx with assisting two related online pharmacies by knowingly delivering painkillers and dangerous drugs to customers without prescriptions for ten years ending in 2010. Paul Elias reports, FedEx Charged With Knowingly Delivering Dangerous Drugs To Customers Without Prescriptions, that the Department of Justice announced the charges in Washington, D.C. demanding FedEx forfeit $820 million earned by assisting the illicit pharmacies. The Memphis, Tennessee based delivery company stands accused of shipping Ambien- a powerful sleep aid,  anti-anxiety medications Valium and Xanax and other drugs to customers without legitimate medical need and a lack of valid prescription. In a written statement, company spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said, “We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.” In addition, Fitzgerald said the DEA refused their request for a list of online pharmacies under investigation making it impossible for the company to know which companies are operating illegally. However, the Justice Department claims that federal officials told FedEx since 2004 that it was shipping dangerous drugs without prescriptions alleging that couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia warned executives about suspicious drug deliveries. Last year, rival company UPS paid $40 million to resolve similar allegations and took steps to block illicit online drug dealers from using their service. Both companies said in regulatory filings that they had been served with grand jury subpoenas between 2007 and 2009, Elias reports. The investigation came in response to the increase in online pharmacies launched in 2005 in San Francisco leading to  dozens of arrests, thousands of websites shuttered and tens of millions of dollars and pills seized worldwide. The executive director of Express Association of America, a trade group created by FedEx, UPS and three other service said there is no industry wide effort to address the policing of prescription drug deliveries. A federal jury in 2012 convicted three men of operating illegal pharmacies using FedEx and UPS to deliver drugs without prescriptions and seven others were convicted in San Francisco previously.

In Los Angeles, the Associate Press article, Lawsuit filed in LA woman’s pummeling by patrolman, a woman pummeled by a California Highway Patrol officer caught on video filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday. A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Marlene Pinnock names the commissioner of the CHP, the unidentified officer in the July 1 video and other officers as defendants. The video recorded by a passing driver shows Pinnock being repeatedly punched while being straddled by the officer. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock’s due process rights. In addition, Pinnock “suffered great mental and physical pain, suffering, anguish, fright, nervousness, anxiety, grief shock, humiliation, indignity, and embarrassment” and seeks monetary damages. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told the Associated Press: “We do have a good history at taking a look at our processes, procedures and conduct of our employees,” Farrow said. “That’s never been questioned until today.” He has met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times since the incident and pledge that an internal investigation will conclude in weeks rather than months. The CHP said Pinnock was walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown L.A. endangering herself and people in traffic and the officer was trying to restrain her. Pinnock had begun to walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation happened. The officer involved has been on the job one and half years and will be on desk duty until completion of the internal investigation, meanwhile, Pinnock remains hospitalized with head injuries. Nine drivers called 911 to report the beating, according to recordings the CHP released Thursday in response to public records request by the Associated Press. One caller said she appeared loaded, while another said she looked high or drunk. Pinnock claims in her suit that the CHP’s actions were an effort to shift blame by “misusing the criminal justice system to obtain privileged and private information to discredit (Pinnock) … or circumvent the discovery rules in civil rights violation matters.” The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters calling it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired.

While outrage and public distrust of the police in Los Angeles rages on, the justice system in Detroit leaves many shocked by the comments of one judge. According to Ed White, Judge tells young Detroit man he need a beating, a young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit motorist needed a father to beat the hell out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing a crime, a judge said Thursday. The shocking comment by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail. White reports that Callahan said Cummings needed a dad, “someone to discipline you. Someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.” Cummings and four others pleaded guilty to the assault on Steve Utash who was in a coma for days after the attack. Apparently, after the judge’s remark, the assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsay argued with the judge that the six month sentence was too light and many young black men without fathers don’t commit crimes. Callahan replied, a white judge himself: “Did I ever use the term ‘black’? It doesn’t matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red.” Despite the harsh tone, the judge said Cummings’ age and childhood were considered in the light sentence. As Callahan put it:”We’ve all been 19 years of age.”

While Cummings got off a little easier because of age for a vicious crime, a group of suburban white teens in Mississippi didn’t fair so well. A three year investigation into attacks on blacks in Mississippi’s capital of Jackson has grown to 10 indictments and six convictions, according to Jack Elliot, Hate crime investigation grows in Mississippi. The most recent indictments were made public Wednesday including two men and two women. The June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, who was ran over by a pick up truck outside a Jackson hotel, started a broader investigation into reports claiming groups of young white men and women drive from the mostly white Rankin Country into majority black Jackson to assault blacks. Prosecutors said the suspect using target the homeless or people under the influence of alcohol. John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon; Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs; Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges including conspiracy and committing a hate crime with each being released on a $100,000 bail. A tentative trial date is set for Sept. 15. Prosecutors said the assailants used their fists, beer bottles, sling shots and vehicles to attack. The assault on Anderson was caught by a hotel surveillance camera and received widespread attention after the video was obtained by news organization including the Associate Press. Four men pleaded guilty in the Anderson case and other offenses, while two other men pleaded guilty in other attacks.

While the justice system struggle to deal with the increase it seems in violent crimes and police department struggle to deal with the influx of criminals and public scrutiny, an old but constantly recycled issue has come up again with increasingly unjust consequences for some. What happened to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? If you can’t remember or don’t know, here’s a refresher:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Author: Emma Lazarus

Well sadly, since the Great Recession, many U.S. cities are trying to eradicate homelessness not in a humanitarian way but by making it illegal to be homeless according to Arthur Delaney, More Cities Are Basically Making It Illegal To Be Homeless. Citywide bans on things homeless people need to survive have increased according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Delaney reports, key finding from the survey of 187 American cities show that since 2011:

Citywide bans on camping in public have increased by 60 percent.

Citywide bans on begging have increased by 25 percent.

Citywide bans on loitering, loafing, and vagrancy have increased by 35 percent.

Citywide bans on sitting or lying down in particular public places have increased by 43 percent.

Bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119 percent.

The law center director Maria Foscarinis in a press release stated: “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces. Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.” According to government data, homelessness has declined 9 percent from January 2007 through January 2013 with 65 percent of the nation’s 610,042 homeless people staying in shelters any given night that month. Over those years, unsheltered homeless dropped by 23 percent. The law center report differs from government data noting it fails to account for several factors including jailed homeless people and other data suggest worsening homelessness such as a U.S. Conference of Mayors report that found a 4 percent increase in family homelessness from 2012 t0 2013.

White House and Congress: The Great Economic Divide

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden called for Republican and Democratic governors to lead the nation out of the mess that has crippled Washington and insist that Congress approve billions of dollars to repair the country’s aging infrastructure. The Associate Press reports (Vice President Joe Biden calls on governors to lead nation), during a meeting of the National Governors Association, Biden explained: “The way things have gotten today, and I’m not singling out any party or any group of people – the politics, the culture in Washington, it’s become too personal, it’s too corrosive. I think you’ve got to lead us out of this mess we’re in.” The three day conference held this year in Nashville gathers state leaders from both parties to collaborate despite partisan differences on immigration, health care and education. Even with the bipartisan tone, many governors face midterm election in a season where the balance of power in the statehouses could potentially be decided and ending some presidential campaigns before they begin. Biden, a potential presidential contender himself, said the political climate in Washington was less divisive when he began serving in the Senate three decades ago at a time when white segregationists served openly in Congress. In addition, he said Republicans and Democrats have long agreed on the need to reinvest in the nation’s infrastructure and workforce development, however the current climate even with needed spending has been bogged down by politics. The main concern for governors right now is the deadline for Congress to pay for the federal Highway Trust Fund that allows states to maintain their transportation infrastructure. While a short term bill will most likely pass in Congress, governors want a long term plan. Unfortunately, many governors are reluctant to give any suggestion on how to fund their infrastructure in the long term. As for right now, fuel taxes are the main revenue source, but they have not been raised in 21 years and aren’t keeping pace with spending. In addition, the bipartisan Senate proposal to increase the federal gas tax has failed. It is hard to say whether infrastructure issues will play a role in the coming elections, although Washington’s struggles with what was long a bipartisan issues is emblematic of voters’ overall view of Congress, which as the Associate Press puts it is at an all time low.

Meanwhile back in Washington, the Treasury Department on Friday said the June surplus totaled $71 billion, following a $130 billion deficit in May, putting it on course to record the lowest annual deficit since 2008. The Associate Press reports that the government also ran a surplus in June 2013 due in part to dividends from Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant under federal conservatorship for the past six years. For the first nine months of this budget year, the deficit totals $366 billion, down 28 percent from the same period last year 2013, while tax receipts are up 8 percent compared to the prior year and spending increased 1 percent. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year ending Sept. 30.

While strides are being made to cut the deficit, Congress still struggles to get their act together. On Friday, as Michael McAuliff reports, House Votes For Tax Breaks To Add $287 Billion More To Deficit, the GOP led House of Representatives voted to make a former stimulus measure permanent along with another related tax cut adding $287 billion to the deficit over the next 10 year. The largest part worth $263 billion is making permanent so called bonus depreciation which allows businesses to write off the cost of capital investments and improvements much quicker. The stimulus was used twice during the Bush Administration and expired last year. The idea is that if lawmakers give businesses a break during tough times then they will speed up major equipment purchases and stimulate the economy. Those who support it believe it would allow business to plan their investments, while opponents mock the idea stating that the Congressional Research Service reports found the break to be a weak stimulus and the stimulus effect will likely fall further if it becomes permanent. According to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee: “Even as a stimulus, the analysis shows that for every dollar that is invested we get 20 cents of growth.  A fellow could go bankrupt with that kind of economics, and that’s exactly what they would have the country doing and not meeting its other needs while funding something that doesn’t work.” In addition, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) added: “Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee was working on a markup of legislation for another short-term extension of the highway trust fund — you know, the transportation infrastructure investment we desperately need in this country. We were scratching and clawing to try to find an additional $10 billion over the next 10 months to try to keep some of these projects moving forward, and yet here today, we have another permanent change to the tax code at a cost of $287 billion over the next 10 years and not a nickel of it paid for.” Kind noted that his committee passed 14 permanent tax cut bills at a cost of $900 billion. Unfortunately, Friday’s full house vote allowed for two thirds of the committee’s cuts to pass. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the sponsor of the cuts, said that bonus depreciation has been going on since 2002 off and on without being paid for, so it might as well be permanent. He added, “Bad policy. Even though we are giving for the first time certainty, predictability to people who actually create jobs in America, who must have a business plan and must make those big purchases. Amazing.” The White House has threatened to veto the bill along with permanent cuts and additionally the Senate will weight the cuts, but only plan for short term extensions.

While Congress and the White House try to find common ground, three of the world’s richest men are calling for Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Igor Bobic article, Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, And Bill Gates Chastise House GOP On Immigration, explains the Casino magnate and conservative donor Sheldon Adselson along with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates criticized the House Republicans for their failure to address the current policy. In a New York Times op-ed piece published Thursday, they wrote: “Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest.” However, the chance of any immigration reform bill moving through the House is unlikely with the unwillingness of conservative members and Speaker John Boehner to bring to the floor without overwhelming support from his caucus. Despite the obstacles, Bobic reports the three men are unphased urging Republicans to listen to reason. They added: “A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don’t act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us…Signs of a more productive attitude in Washington — which passage of a well-designed immigration bill would provide — might well lift spirits and thereby stimulate the economy. It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.”

The Growing Economic Divide Between the Haves and Have Nots

Us PovertySequestration Effects

READ NOW: Dozier’s story and 99 others from the past week who have been dramatically affected by sequestration.

As the sequester fades from the headlines and gets reduce to a mere budgetary issues, many families and individual are feeling the effects of the automatic spending cuts. The new studies are downsizing the actual problems facing this country as agencies figure out ways to avoid the more alarming effects of the $85 billion in cuts, while Congress has given up on any solution to end the sequester. The sequester was portrayed by many even our nation’s leaders to bring the country to its knees yet we go on as normally as possible. The grips of the financial crisis are now beginning to be felt and the effects are quite dramatic already with organizations and companies laying off workers and many deciding not to hire for vacant spots. The food pantries that many families rely on are closed and many health services have followed suit. Farmers are forced to go without milk production information causing alarm in the dairy industry as higher milk prices are a possibility. Workers at missile testing fields are facing job losses, federal courts are force to be closed on Fridays and public broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. On a national level, sequestration has caused the cancellation of White House tours and long lines at the airport that never happened yet at the local level has begun to sting.

The Huff Post did an extensive review of the sequestration stories from the past week and found hundreds of stories across the country that took only a few hours to find and left no one immune from the cuts. Some mentions are rural towns in Alaska, missile test sites in the Marshall Islands, military bases in Virginia, university towns across the country, and housing agencies in inner cities are all feeling the cuts.  Cathy Hoskins, executive director of Salt Lake Community Action Program that just closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, commented: “Absolutely we’re feeling the effects of it. And our employees are trying to absorb the biggest parts of the cuts by taking furloughs and having the agency contribution to their retirement plan suspended.” Michael Jenkins, communications director of the Southeast Alaskan Regional Health Consortium, is also feeling the cuts as his group has to close the Bill Brady Healing Center that provides alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans. Lashell Dozier, the executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, had this to say about the effects of the sequester: “We are trying not to lay any employees off, but we will have reduced work schedules. We will also close our offices. there will be days when it is closed every month or several times a month. But if we do not come up with some type of solution or remedy by July, it will equate to 1,700 families losing housing vouchers, which is over 4,800 actual tenants.” The organization is facing $13.9 million cuts this year. Many officials are now grappling with the same issues and are using budget trickery as well as operational dexterity to avoid the pain, but the sequester is a real concern as the people and communities they serve rely on their help.

The cuts started on March 1 after Democrats and republicans could not reach a decision to address the national deficits causing the sequestration to hit at a time when poverty in the U.S. is climbing while the nation tries to recover from an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the numbers of American Poverty at levels not seen since President Johnson launched the War on Poverty according to the Associated Press. Currently as of January, nearly 50 million Americans which is one in six are living below the poverty line according to the bureau and 20 percent of the country’s children are poor. Under the spending cuts, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Grazino believes his agency will have a $25 million shortfall in funds to help the poor with housing while 35,000 people are on a waiting list. Not only that, the city struggles to deal with city clean up efforts as Baltimore has 15,000 vacant and abandoned structures because of population decline over the past fifty years. While the economy tries to recover, improvements for those in deep poverty cannot keep pace with the cuts as the spending reductions hit hardest Americans not directly tied to the economy such as Head Start pre-school programs.

The cuts which also hit U.S. defense spending were put into place two years ago to help lawmakers avoid a federal debt standoff and potential shutdown, but compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress seemed impossible as the March 1 deadline came leading to the $85 million automatic cuts to go into effect. Democrats want deficit reduction including increase tax on wealthy, while the Republicans believe the problem could be solved through spending cuts and no more taxes. The Republicans want to see more cuts in next year’s budget resulting in a return to pre-sequester military spending levels and provide tax benefits for the wealthy. The 2014 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan calls for $135 billion over the next decade to be slashed from food aid for low income families which helps children who have been hit hardest by poverty and calls for the Medicare health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over to turn into a voucher program providing direct government payment to senior who try to buy insurance on the private market. As Ryan said in an interview with Fox News, reports the Associated Press: “If we never balance the budget, if we keep adding deficit upon deficit we have a debt crisis like Europe has. That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It’s growing the economy, it’s creating opportunity, it’s getting government to live within its means.”

 

Some worry though that the gap between rich and poor will keep widening under the austerity measures. According to the non-paritsan Congressional Research Service last year, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income.” Marry O’ Donnell, director of community services at Cathloic Charitirs of Balitmore, has already seen an increase in income inequality during the U.S. downturn stating, “In the last three years, there’s been a great change in the kinds of people we are serving. There are increasing numbers of people who owned a home, lost their jobs, end up living in their car and are coming with children to our soup kitchen,” she said. Her organization spent $126 million the last year feeding the poor, helping the unemployed find employment and housing, running nursing homes, and helping people get on their feet. About $98 million of that money came from various programs funded by the city, state, and federal government as these programs now face cuts because politician failed to do their job in Washington and find a compromise.

 

Oldest Family Business In U.S. Profits Without Layoffs Or Outsourcing

Oldest Family Business In U.S. Profits Without Layoffs Or Outsourcing – Careers Articles.

With the sequestration in full effect and no sign of any deals anytime soon, companies are finding ways to cut costs in order to make the hefty profits pre-recession by outsourcing, automating, and downsizing, but one company refuses to do so. The story of Avedis Zildjian Company sounds like something of a myth especially since in its 390 year history of cymgal manufacturing has never laid off a worker at least in recent history. Instead of laying off employees, the company retrains them for a new position when their jobs are automated plus offers incentive pay for increase productivity. The CEO Craigie Zildjian told NBC about the relationship with workers explaining, “It comes down to trust doesn’t it? You take care of us, and we take care of you.” Being the oldest family owned business in the U.S., the Zildjian company made cymbals in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire, then in Massachusetts during the Great Depression and can trace their history to Avedis Zildjian who was an Armenina alchemist whose secret formula for metals created cymbals with such an entrancing sound that he was invited to live with the sultan in the palace according to AOL jobs. Today, the facotry in Norwell, Mass., is run by 14th generation embers of the family and the Zildjian cymbals have been used by everyone from 19th century composer Richard Wagner to big band drummer Gene Krupa and Ringo Starr. The company currently controls 65 percent of the cymbal market with Craigie Zildjian as CEO and her sister Debbie Zildjian as vice president of Human Resources. The company’s commitment to retraining employees for new jobs is in stark contrast to employers who have cut back on training for decades which increased during the recession leaving only 1 in 5 workers with new skills from employer provided training in the past five years, according to a recent survey. For the past fifteen years, the company has offered 125 employees incentive pay for greater productivity and accuracy which has lead to only two months in 15 years where employees haven’t received a bonus according to Debbie Zildjian. This explains why so many employees are lifers who have been with the company for decades. Zildjian has been inviting music legends to test out their products and help them innovate for decades and to this day they send good tidings and birthday wishes to their artists on their twitter account which almost has 50,000 followers. The company has evolved with time as Craigie and Debbie Zildjian are the first women to run the company. The company’s success may also be due to the special rules for family management which requires as BBC reports that no family member can report to another, everyone must have job experience, college degrees are required, and no spouses allowed.