Friday, April 18, 2014

Who says there's nothing good in Detroit?

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas come from the Motown with a fine rocking sound. This tune is called "Gone In Two Seconds"

Modern western bull

From the pen of John Cole

Still the best way to rip off the poors

Payday lenders reap a usurious reward for their efforts, despite occasional attempts to rein in their slimy practices. And thanks to Republican efforts to push federal judges to the right, the courts aren't much help when people get fleeced.
In 2003, Tonya Burke was living in North Carolina with her two children when she got into financial trouble. She had fallen $500 behind on her rent and utilities, and neither of her boys’ fathers was able to chip in. Then she needed to take time off from work when her younger son, who was only 8 months old, had to have emergency intestinal surgery. After his recovery, she started working for $11 an hour as a secretary, “but my paychecks weren’t enough to cover the back bills and the new ones too,” she says. “I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to ask anyone else for help.” There was a payday lender across the street from her office. “It seemed like a good solution.”

Even though North Carolina made payday lending illegal in 2001, five lenders got around the law by affiliating with out-of-state banks to offer short-term, high-interest loans. So Burke was able to walk into a storefront owned by Nationwide Budget Finance and leave with a cashier’s check for $600. When the loan came due on her next payday, however, she couldn’t pay it and immediately began to fall behind on the fees. So she took out another loan to cover the first one. And then took out another to cover that one — and then another and another. Eventually she wound up with seven loans, each for only hundreds of dollars, but with annual interest rates of 300 to 500 percent. It wasn’t long before the lenders started calling, she says, threatening with jail if she couldn’t make her payments.

Worried for herself and her children, Burke eventually found her way to Carlene McNulty, a consumer rights lawyer at the North Carolina Justice Center. McNulty had heard about many cases of people who found themselves buried under the fees of payday loans. “Our Legislature said: ‘Payday lending is harmful to consumers. Get out of North Carolina!’ ” she told me. “But they were still here, just as if the law had never changed.”

Payday loans are often advertised as a short-term lift that helps keep the lights on or allows you to stay in school. But borrowers often become trapped in a debt spiral. According to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government’s financial watchdog, about 50 percent of initial payday loans play out into a string of 10 or more. “One could readily conclude that the business model of the payday industry depends on people becoming stuck in these loans for the long term,” the C.F.P.B.’s report said.

McNulty wanted to go to court on behalf of Burke and tens of thousands of other payday victims, but she faced an unusually thorny challenge. The fine print on the loan agreements barred recipients from participating in class-action suits. Of course, many businesses try to protect themselves from these suits, which they argue can amount to extortion for minor sins. And by forcing every dispute into individual arbitration, companies can avoid many lawsuits in areas like misleading credit-card offers or sex discrimination. “It’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card for the company,” McNulty says. In part, this is because few poor or middle-class customers take up the offer to arbitrate a dispute. The awards are generally capped, and the amounts are too low to make it worth a lawyer’s time or fee.

But class-action lawsuits can be a powerful tool for reform. And so, suing the payday lenders under the state’s unfair-trade-practice and usury laws, McNulty challenged the class-action bans. She proceeded with five class-action cases, one against each of five major lenders still offering payday loans in North Carolina. The state courts allowed the cases to go forward, ruling that consumers weren’t aware that they were signing away their rights and that there weren’t enough lawyers willing to take individual cases to arbitration. By early 2011, three lenders settled for $37.5 million. The North Carolina attorney general shut down the remaining payday lenders.
So North Carolina succeeded where others have failed or failed to act. But thanks to Supreme Court ruling written by Justice "Fat Tony" Scalia that twists the intent of the law, poor people are more likely to be screwed by arbitration. And so it goes, on and on.

If only he were a Member of Congress

This sort of behavior would be perfectly legal and encouraged by the other lawmakers. Sadly the dumbass was a private citizen and that qualifies as "insider trading".
Speaking of oil slicks …

Federal securities investigators say that the man that BP initially put in charge of cleaning up the oil from its massive 2010 Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico used nonpublic information to safely dump $1 million of his family’s company stock before the share price nosedived.

In a federal court suit filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Keith A. Seilhan, 47, of Tomball, Texas, with insider trading. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Seilhan agreed to settle the charges for the negotiated sum of $223,000, including $105,409 in civil penalties. He is no longer with the company.

“Corporate insiders must not misuse the material nonpublic information they receive while responding to unique or disastrous corporate events, even where they stand to suffer losses as a consequence of those events,” said Daniel Hawke, chief of the Market Abuse Unit in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

An experienced crisis manager, Seilhan was pressed into action soon after the company’s Deep Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, causing the well cap on the ocean floor to fail to seal.

He was tapped to coordinate BP’s oil collection and cleanup in the gulf and along the coast. From BP’s Incident Command Center in Houma, La., Seilhan directed BP’s oil skimming operations and its efforts to contain expansion of the spill.

The SEC’s suit alleges that on April 29, BP was publicly estimating that the oil was gushing from the well at the rate of up to 5,000 barrels per day, as it reported to the SEC.

The actual flow rate was later estimated to be between 52,700 and 62,200 barrels per day, news that helped send the company’s share prices plunging from over $52 to close as low as $26.83, trading records show.

But Seilhan and his family didn’t suffer the consequences.
Two questions left unanswered in this McClatchy article, how much did he profit and how much may be covered by insurance that executives at his level often have?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

She gigged around Boston

To pay for a study at Berklee College of Music. I think it did Emily Elbert some good as this performance of "Brandy In The Summertime" from her 2012 album Alive, In Love shows.

It's all in the way you say it.

From the pen of Ben Sargent

GOP appealing to another minority

This one is vocal, organized and dead wrong in its viewpoint but absolutely white in its makeup.
Hand over your email address to a political campaign, and typically all you can expect in return is an endless stream of solicitations for money.

But one supporter of Greg Brophy, a state senator who ran for governor in Colorado, got something else: a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle.

It was the top prize in “Greg Brophy’s Gun Club Giveaway,” an online contest last month in which people handed over personal information that is the currency of modern political campaigns — first and last names, email addresses and phone numbers — and in exchange, one lucky winner would get the gun.

“I tricked this baby out,” said Mr. Brophy, a Republican, boasting about how he had added all manner of accessories — extra grips, a backup sight and a strap so it could be slung effortlessly over the shoulder.

Online gun sweepstakes have become one of the most useful tools for campaign outreach in the 2014 Republican primaries. Across the country, from a race for sheriff in California to the United States Senate primary in South Carolina, candidates are using high-powered pistols and rifles as a lure to build up their donor lists and expand their base of support.

The method may be new, but the concept is actually a durable campaign device. Take a group of possible supporters who are highly motivated around an issue, in this case gun ownership and Second Amendment rights, and pique their interest with good marketing. Then, once you have their attention, solicit their personal information and follow up to ask for support and money.
Curious that they do not give away hunting guns. AR-15's and similar weapons are really only good for shooting up people and not worth a damn against game.

Jimmy Carter pisses off Canada's Head Hoser

And the former President was just one of a number of Nobel Peace Prize winners who called upon current President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. This call was what upset Canadian Teabagger PM Harper.
Former President Jimmy Carter has incurred the ire of Canadian Premier Stephen Harper after pleading with Barack Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, imploring the U.S. president to show "bold leadership" and not make a "dangerous commitment to the status quo."

In a letter addressed to the president and Secretary of State John Kerry, Carter, along with other Nobel Peace Prize laureates — including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu — called climate change "one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced" and urged the U.S. government to decide against approving the $7 billion pipeline project.

"The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline would have meaningful and significant impacts in reducing carbon pollution," the laureates wrote on April 15. "History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice."

Harper bristled at the letter, with the prime minister's office responding the following day with a dig at Carter.

"Mr. Carter knows from his time as president during the 1979 energy crisis there are benefits to having access to oil from stable, secure partners like Canada," Harper’s office said in a statement.

Carter served only one term as president, following harsh criticism and a drop in popularity that in part stemmed from his handling of the Iranian revolution and the subsequent oil supply crisis it sparked.
Jimmy Carter also knows what filth and fertilizer are and that you don't breathe one or step in the other.

Great Black Father speak with forked tongue, too.

If you are one of the First Immigrant bands that has been hustled, scammed and robbed by the white man over the years, you are now discovering that the Great Black Father in Washington speaks with the same forked tongue as his predecessors.
Is 10 years enough time to buy 10 million acres of land?

Maybe not, at least for the U.S. government.

Many of the nation’s tribal leaders say the Obama administration is moving far too slowly with a massive plan to spend $1.9 billion to buy back thousands of parcels of land that have been sold over the years on U.S. Indian reservations.

Congress signed off on the huge land buy in 2010 to settle a lawsuit, after royalties from Indian land never made it back to the tribes as promised.

Since the program officially launched in 2012, the Department of Interior has focused the bulk of its work on just three tribes. It has made its first offers to landowners on the Makah reservation in Washington state and the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota. Appraisal work is underway on three other reservations in Montana.

But critics fear the department won’t have enough time to meet its goal of buying land for at least 150 tribes before the program expires in 2022.

“When you’re dealing with the federal bureaucracy, it isn’t enough, and tribes know that better than anybody. . . . We’re looking at eight years left, only three tribes down,” Michael Finley of Inchelium, Wash., chairman of the Colville tribe in Washington state, said in an interview.

As part of the settlement, Congress agreed to buy up to 10 million additional acres to hold in trust for U.S. tribes. That’s about twice the size of Massachusetts, making it the largest expansion ever proposed for the government’s tribal land trust, which now covers 46 million acres. Forty tribes account for 90 percent of the targeted land.

The land troubles date back to the General Allotment Act of 1887, which gave parcels to individual tribal members, often in tracts of 80 to 160 acres. While the government promised to account for royalties generated from such things as grazing or logging, the money never helped tribal members, which resulted in the lawsuit.
Steal their land and their livelihood and lie to them all the way. Same then and same now. Hey Teabaggers, if you lost your job, retirement and/or house in the Great Bankster Mortgage Fraud, watch this to see how you will end up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some people never have problems finding a date

Like Nicole Atkins in this video "Girl You Look Amazing" from her new album Slow Phaser.

Progress is our most important product

From the pen of Ben Sargent

Bloomie is gunning for the NRA

And I, for one, say it is about time someone went after America's premier supporter of armed terrorism.
Michael R. Bloomberg, making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said gun control advocates need to learn from the N.R.A. and punish those politicians who fail to support their agenda — even Democrats whose positions otherwise align with his own.

“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you,’ ” he said of the N.R.A. “ ‘If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop.’ ”

He added: “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.”

The considerable advantages that gun rights advocates enjoy — in intensity, organization and political clout — will not be easy to overcome. Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg has already spent millions of dollars trying to persuade members of Congress to support enhanced background check laws with virtually nothing to show for it.

Mr. Bloomberg’s blueprint reimagines the way gun control advocates have traditionally confronted the issue. Rather than relying so heavily on television ad campaigns, Mr. Bloomberg will put a large portion of his resources into the often-unseen field operations that have been effective for groups like the N.R.A. in driving single-issue, like-minded voters to the polls.

Women, and mothers in particular, will be the focus of the organizing and outreach, a path that he and his advisers have modeled after groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The plans call for a restructuring of the gun control groups he funds, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. They will be brought under one new umbrella group called Everytown for Gun Safety.
We are on his side and hope that one day soon America's streets and schools will be safe from the terror of the bloody handed gun peddlers.

Black people can be above the law, too

Just as long as they are capable of throwing the football in a way that makes white people lots and lots of money. The New York Times has printed the results of an investigation into the rape allegation against Florida State moneyball quarterback Jameis Winston that was far more thorough than the official rape investigation.
As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.

For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.

Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.

After a Florida State student accused quarterback Jameis Winston of rape, the police did not interview him or obtain his DNA. Phil Sears/Associated Press

In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs, acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do,” Mr. Meggs said in a recent interview. Even so, he cautioned, a better investigation might have yielded the same result.
Yes, the result may have been the same because evidence can be ignored in many way when people are asked to judge between one college coed and big time college sports money.

The International Principle of Guilt By Association

Fortunately this was validated in the latest reported drone strike in Yemen when an Australian and a New Zealander were killed in the company of 3 known al-Qaida operatives. Their respective governments were quick to say, "Hey we're cool with that".
New Zealand and Australia were drawn into the global debate on drone strikes Wednesday after confirming that a citizen from each country had been killed in U.S. strikes in Yemen.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the men were killed along with three known Al-Qaeda operatives during a drone strike in November. The New Zealander had attended a rebel training camp and was under surveillance by intelligence agencies, Key said.

He added that drone strikes by the United States were justified in some circumstances.

"I think they are legitimate, at certain times, where countries are trying to contend with very dangerous situations and they are trying to deal with those terrorists without putting their own people in harm's way," he said.

Key said he thought the November strike was such a justified occasion: "I suspect so, yes, given that three of the people killed were well-known Al-Qaeda operatives."...

The newspaper The Australian first reported the deaths. The newspaper said Wednesday the men were killed Nov. 19 during a Predator drone strike on rebels traveling in a convoy of cars in Yemen's eastern region of Hadramout. It said the men were part of Yemen's Al-Qaeda branch, also called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The newspaper identified the Australian as Christopher Harvard of Townsville.

Harvard's stepfather, Neil Dowrick, told the newspaper he received a government letter indicating his stepson had been buried in Yemen.
Apparently it took longer to identify the New Zealander because they had to use DNA samples from the bits left over. However they ultimately proved to be from someone that the Wellington government was happy to blow up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mrs. Costello sounds way better than Tom Waits, any day

Which is why his songs should always be sung by someone else. Like this rendition of "The Heart of Saturday Night" by Diana Krall.

To those who say government is bad

I post this graphic of the benefits government has provided to Wal-Mart and the Walton family. Your taxes make up for what they do not pay.

Good night, John-Boy

The Pursuit of Happiness has no amendment.

From the pen of Jim Morin

Is this why Republicans cut IRS funding?

We all think it is because they want to eliminate audits of their big money owners so they can run their big scams and tax cheats. But the sad truth is that most Congresscritters are small minded men and women who, individually, can be bought quite cheaply. This kind of tax fraud is more on their scale.
Identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime, and tax-return fraud has become one of its most dynamic subsets. Criminals are leaving street corners for living rooms, and trading drugs for laptops, lured by the promise of more money for less hustle. According to the IRS, indictments and sentencing for tax-return fraud doubled last year, and the agency has described identity theft as the number one tax scam of 2014.

Prospective tax thieves need just three things: your name, Social Security number and birth date. (Those personal records are cheaply available on the black market.) They can then electronically file thousands of false tax returns with made-up numbers for your income and deductions. Within a couple of weeks, your refund is in the swindler’s pocket -- possibly spent on cars and other luxury items, before you even file your taxes.

The IRS does not have third-party information to effectively verify your income when tax returns are processed. So when a thief gets a fraudulent refund, the burden is on the victims to prove to the IRS that they are the legitimate taxpayers.

To collect the stolen tax returns, thieves often use prepaid debit cards, which can be bought in regular corner stores, require no bank account and allow money to be laundered quickly and easily. That way, they don’t have to bother with banks or check-cashing stores that may become suspicious when one person brings in several tax-refund checks. Several detectives have reported pulling over drivers and finding stacks of prepaid cards, along with stolen identity data...

Identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime, and tax-return fraud has become one of its most dynamic subsets. Criminals are leaving street corners for living rooms, and trading drugs for laptops, lured by the promise of more money for less hustle. According to the IRS, indictments and sentencing for tax-return fraud doubled last year, and the agency has described identity theft as the number one tax scam of 2014.

Prospective tax thieves need just three things: your name, Social Security number and birth date. (Those personal records are cheaply available on the black market.) They can then electronically file thousands of false tax returns with made-up numbers for your income and deductions. Within a couple of weeks, your refund is in the swindler’s pocket -- possibly spent on cars and other luxury items, before you even file your taxes.

The IRS does not have third-party information to effectively verify your income when tax returns are processed. So when a thief gets a fraudulent refund, the burden is on the victims to prove to the IRS that they are the legitimate taxpayers.

To collect the stolen tax returns, thieves often use prepaid debit cards, which can be bought in regular corner stores, require no bank account and allow money to be laundered quickly and easily. That way, they don’t have to bother with banks or check-cashing stores that may become suspicious when one person brings in several tax-refund checks. Several detectives have reported pulling over drivers and finding stacks of prepaid cards, along with stolen identity data.
All done by fairly small fish. Why help a Big Swinging Dick who will just push you around when you can help people like yourself. And the more money the Republicans can cut from the IRS, the easier it will be for their supporters to prosper.

Lewis Black has a rant

And in it he explains socialism and why he is one.

Congressfelon Darrell Issa - Witch Hunter or Narcissist

Certainly the blasts of buffoonery that he refers to as "investigations" have been called witch hunts, but when all is said and done, the focus of attention has always been Darrell Issa.
From the plush chairman’s seat on the dais in the cavernous hearing room of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Darrell Issa peered down at Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen and offered a rhetorical pat on the shoulder, followed shortly by a swift verbal kick in the pants.

“You were brought in to do a very hard job, and no doubt you ask yourself every day, ‘Why did I ever ask for and accept one of the hardest jobs anyone could ever have in Washington?’ ” Issa said in the opening at a hearing earlier this month on the IRS’s improper scrutiny of mostly conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. “Unfortunately, you’ve been more concerned with managing the political fallout than cooperating with Congress, or at least this committee.”

Issa’s probes into that IRS scandal, the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, the flawed Operation Fast and Furious gun-tracking program and other Obama administration controversies have thrust the San Diego-area member of the House of Representatives into the spotlight...

“Issa’s propensity to overreach and sometimes exaggerate shifts the focus from the investigation to Issa,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar on politics and Congress at the center-right American Enterprise Institute. “The fact that he hasn’t gotten the goods at any point reflects poorly on the committee and its chairman.”...

Issa sought to increase the heat on the White House and IRS when he pushed a vote Thursday to hold Lois Lerner, who headed an IRS division that reviews tax exemption applications, in contempt of Congress after she invoked her Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify before the committee.

Committee Democrats, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, lashed out at Issa on the eve of the vote, accusing him of engaging in tactics that Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., used in the 1950s to smear Americans he suspected of communism.

Ahead of the vote, Cummings’ office released a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that found 11 cases from the 1950s and ’60s in which witnesses were prosecuted for refusing to answer questions after invoking the Fifth Amendment.

The CRS study found that defendants in cases that dealt just with testimony were either found not guilty or eventually had their convictions overturned.

“Rep. Issa’s approach as chairman has been to accuse first and then launch massive investigations to seek evidence to back up his claims, which he has yet to find,” Cummings said.
But when all has been said and done, one thing remains clear. Darrell Issa, like Joseph McCarthy would still be unknown without his public antics so they must continue.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A time of much promise for this geezer

And Judy Collins was a bright spot in that time. "Turn, Turn, Turn"

Mitch Needs A Forever Home. Can You Help?

Lady Parts Justice has a new ad to help Mitch The Chin.

If CNN were realy concerned about news

Our intrepid reporter Tom Tomorrow gives us a look at what their coverage would have been. But this is only speculation and has no bearing in reality.

Out of the mouths of gimlet eyed granny starvers

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Global military spending has dropped

In part because of reduced US spending because of the winding down of the George W Bush Memorial Wars. In spite of increased military spending by other countries, the US is still #1 by a factor of 10. W00T!
Total global military spending declined for the second straight year in 2013 because of cuts in the United States and much of the West — but expenditures steadily rose in the rest of the world, especially Africa and the Middle East, international monitors said in a report released Sunday.

Military spending outside the West grew by 1.8 percent in 2013, putting the worldwide total at about $1.7 trillion, according the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a nongovernmental organization that monitors conflicts around the world.

“The increase in military spending in emerging and developing countries continues unabated,” Sam Perlo-Freeman, one of the authors of the report, said in a news release.

In the U.S., the decline in military spending — down 7.8 percent in 2013 to $630 billion — came as costs dropped after skyrocketing during years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reductions came out of Overseas Contingency Operations, which funded those two conflicts, and from across-the-board cuts mandated by Congress and initiated last year.

But despite those cuts U.S. spending still dwarfs that of other countries — and though it is likely to decline further in 2014, it is still expected to exceed $500 billion.

The SIPRI data shows that total U.S. spending in 2013 was roughly equal to the next nine top global spenders combined, and accounted for 37 percent of all global aggregate military spending, compared to 11 percent for second-place China, and 5 percent for third-place Russia. And even as the United States cut military spending last year its top two rivals raised theirs, with China’s up 7.4 percent and Russia’s up 4.8 percent.

Military spending also rose in other areas outside the West, which the report defined as North America, Oceania, and Western and Central Europe.

The region with the largest increase was Africa, where spending increased 8.3 percent to $44.9 billion — almost a quarter of which was racked up by Algeria, which the report said has continued to steadily militarize because of a "desire for regional power status, the powerful role of the military, the threat of terrorism — including from armed Islamist groups in neighboring Mali — and the ready availability of oil funds."

Spending also jumped in the Middle East, by 4 percent to $150 billion —continuing a trend that saw a 56 percent increase between 2004 and 2013.
Anybody who thinks an empire comes cheap or can be made to pay for itself need only ask the British about that. The good side is that soon the 1% will need to make jobs for the serfs so they can be taxed to pay for this. God forbid the 1% pony up any extra change.

When your patent medicine isn't really good enough

Obviously the best way to get doctors to prescribe it in sufficient quantity is to pay your doctors. Unfortunately this practice is frowned upon in most countries. GlaxoSmithKline is discovering that, again.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been accused of bribing doctors in Poland to prescribe its medicines, the latest if a string of corruption allegations to hit the company.

BBC current affairs program Panorama reported Monday that employees of GSK would give money to doctors for lectures that would never happen in a bid to boost certain products.

Jarek Wisniewski, a former GSK sales representative, told the BBC: “There is a simple equation: We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions.” He said. “We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.”

“It’s a bribe,” Wisnieswki added. The allegations follow previous corruption probes into the company’s actions in China and Iraq.

Although the payments were recorded as “educational services,” he said the doctors understood that meant they were to educate patients on why they should take GSK drugs and increase prescriptions.

A different representative confirmed to BBC that doctors were paid to increase prescriptions of certain medicines by selling patients on their benefits.

The statements will air on Monday night’s episode of “Panorama.”

Polish prosecutors said Monday that they have evidence to support the claims of corrupt payments in 13 different health centers.
GSK got caught doing the same in China and Iraq. They definitely need to tune up their sales pitch.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Born in Georgia, raised in New York & Yurp by hippie parents

I'm guessing if Madeleine Peyroux wants to sing about the things she has seen, she has seen enough to make a good song or two. "The Things I've Seen Today"

It is said that those who can't do it, teach it.

Which explains the impetus behind the latest strip from Brian McFadden.

The game is on in the Ukraine

From the Washington Post:
The conflict between pro-Russian gunmen and Ukrainian authorities turned bloody Sunday, with one security serviceman killed and reports of people wounded on both sides, escalating the struggle for the country’s east one week after separatists began occupying a series of government buildings.

The gun battle — the first reported between Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists — was set off as Ukraine’s top policeman declared an “anti-terrorist” operation Sunday against a burgeoning revolt that enveloped several small towns over the weekend. The systematic takeovers of police stations and other government buildings in the Donetsk region, close to the Russian border, led officials in Kiev to accuse Moscow of directing a coordinated campaign of aggression against Ukraine.

One member of Urkaine’s security service was shot to death Sunday in the fight for Slavyansk, 90 miles from the Russian border. Reports were contradictory about whether the officer died inside the city, where the police station had been occupied Saturday, or as a Ukrainian convoy approached the city. Five officers were reported wounded, along with four local residents.

Ukraine lost its Crimean peninsula to Russia last month in circumstances that looked highly similar to the events of the past week in eastern Ukraine, where men in unmarked uniforms began appearing and declaring themselves as local self-defense forces. In Crimea, many of them actually were Russian troops who surrounded Ukrainians in their bases and paved the way for a quickly held referendum that resulted in Russia annexing Crimea.
And now we wait and see how far it will go.

Everything designed and built by man has flaws

And in the world of software there exists a subset of people who examine every line of code written for whatever flaws may exist. Some have good intentions, some have bad intentions and some are just wiseass punks looking for trouble. And then there is the NSA which has the taxpayer funded size and means to find and exploit all those flaws first. And now our President has decided how the NSA will use that ability.
Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday.

But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.

The White House has never publicly detailed Mr. Obama’s decision, which he made in January as he began a three-month review of recommendations by a presidential advisory committee on what to do in response to recent disclosures about the National Security Agency.

But elements of the decision became evident on Friday, when the White House denied that it had any prior knowledge of the Heartbleed bug, a newly known hole in Internet security that sent Americans scrambling last week to change their online passwords. The White House statement said that when such flaws are discovered, there is now a “bias” in the government to share that knowledge with computer and software manufacturers so a remedy can be created and distributed to industry and consumers.

Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the review of the recommendations was now complete, and it had resulted in a “reinvigorated” process to weigh the value of disclosure when a security flaw is discovered, against the value of keeping the discovery secret for later use by the intelligence community.

“This process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities,” she said.
The national security exception to disclosure is understandable. It is the law enforcement exception that is scary. Every LEO worth his or her paycheck will tell you their "need" reaches that level of necessity. What will be missing is any attempt to gain a court order or warrant to exploit that flaw, a prima facie violation of the 4th Amendment. Or it would be a violation if the 4th Amendment still existed. As the President and the NSA have made clear, that amendment to the Constitution is now moot.

Early results coming in from Afghanistan

And with a mere 10% of the vote counted the current leader is a man whose parents named him twice, Abdullah Abdullah.
Initial election results put Afghan opposition figure Abdullah Abdullah in the lead on Sunday, but with less than 10 percent of votes counted and widespread allegations of fraud, there was no clear indication of who would succeed Hamid Karzai.

Results based on 10 percent of votes from 26 out of 34 provinces showed Abdullah with 41.9 percent and Western-leaning academic Ashraf Ghani second with 37.6 percent. A third candidate, Zalmay Rassoul, backed by two of Karzai's brothers, trailed far behind with 9.8 percent.

"I want to make clear that the results could change in future, as we announce the results with additional percentages of the vote, and this is not the final result," said Independent Election Commission (IEC) chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.

Afghanistan's allies praised the April 5 vote as a success because of a high turnout estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible voters and the failure of the Taliban to stage high-profile attacks.

But widespread fraud could undermine the legitimacy of an election meant to usher in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power, as Karzai steps down after more than 12 years in power and as Western forces prepare to leave.

If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of valid ballots, the top two will go into a run-off.
Still so many more to count and they are fighting every step of the way.

Quote of the Day

I could certainly polish myself up and get on those programs, but you’ve got to be able to contribute something to what they’re looking for.

“And really, what they’re looking for is not a thoughtful, nuanced approach to things. They’re looking for the extremes.
Rep Brian Higgins D-NY explaining why he avoids TV gasbag shows.

It is really no fun being Chinese these days

First you can't swim in the river because of all the dead pigs floating by. Then you really don't want to breath the air because the pollution is thick enough to chew. Now you can't even wash the crap out of your mouth because of an oil pipeline leak.
A crude oil leak from a pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) is to blame for water contamination that has affected more than 2.4 million people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou, in the the landlocked northwest part of the country, according to Chinese media reports Saturday.

The leak poisoned the water source for a water plant, introducing hazardous levels of benzene into the city's water, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

Residents scrambled to buy bottled water after authorities warned against using taps, in scenes reminiscent of a municipal water ban in the United States, following a coal-processing chemical spill that affected 300,000 West Virginians in January.

Xinhau cited Yan Zijiang, Lanzhou's environmental protection chief, as saying that a leak in a pipeline owned by Lanzhou Petrochemical Co., a unit of CNPC, was to blame for the water contamination.

The spill comes amid a push by Beijing to reign in pollution in China, which has seen environmental degradation come along with fast economic growth. Last week, a government review of 25,000 companies found 2,000 failed to meet pollution standards.

Lanzhou, a heavily industrialized city of 3.6 million people in the northwestern province of Gansu, ranks among China's most polluted centers.

Lanzhou Petrochemical is a major refinery with a total refining capacity of 280,000 barrels per day (bpd). The company plans to process 195,000 bpd of crude this year, industry sources have said.

Levels of benzene, a cancer-inducing chemical, in Lanzhou's tapwater on Friday rose 20 times above national safety levels, Lanzhou authorities said in a press release.

Lanzhou city authorities said Friday that they found 200 micrograms of benzene per liter of water. The national safety standard is 10 micrograms.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets its maximum limit for benzene at 5 micrograms per liter of water, but says zero is the ideal amount.

The high benzene levels forced the city to turn off the water supply in one district and city officials warned citizens not to drink tap water for the next 24 hours.
And the saddest part is that China is probably setting the standards for the future of our planet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A big voice from a little state

Sarah Potenza moved from Rhode Island to Chicago where she honed her chops with the Tall Boys. She has since left them and moved to Nashville for her husbands career. I suspect the move will help her career as well. Listen to "The Mess You Made Of Me" and see if you agree.

It's executive pay season

And once again the senior executives of America's largest corporations have managed have skillfully surmounted obstacles, avoided minefields and valiantly fought their way through to copious increases in their compensation. As always, these increases should not be considered signs of any accompanying ability. That was eliminated a long time ago.
But putting aside whether those particular metrics for aligning pay with performance make sense (or, rather, turning over that discussion to Gretchen Morgenson in her Fair Game column), the elegant machine itself would seem to have a dark side. Some say, in fact, that it is the main engine of inequality in America today.

The current system of executive compensation, with its emphasis on performance, can theoretically constrain pay, but in practice it has not stopped companies from paying their top executives more and more. The median compensation of a chief executive in 2013 was $13.9 million, up 9 percent from 2012, according the Equilar 100 C.E.O. Pay Study, conducted for The New York Times. The 100 C.E.O.s in the survey took home a combined $1.5 billion last year, a slight rise from 2012. And the pay-for-performance metrics — particularly the idea of paying executives with stock to align their interests with shareholders — may even have amplified that trend. In some ways, the corporate meritocrat has become a new class of aristocrat.

Economists have long known that high executive pay has contributed to the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else. But the role of executive compensation may be far larger than previously realized.

In “Capital in the 21st Century,” (Belknap Press), a new best seller that is the talk of economics circles, Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics makes a staggering observation. His numbers show that two-thirds of the increase in American income inequality over the last four decades can be attributed to a steep rise in wages among the highest earners in society. This, of course, means people like the C.E.O.s in the Equilar survey, but also includes a broader class of highly paid executives. Mr. Piketty calls them “supermanagers” earning “supersalaries.”

“The system is pretty much out of control in many ways,” he said in an interview.
It's easy to kick one thru the uprights when you set the goal posts and your friends on the board will move the field spot for you.

There are laws to protect them

But those who would steal the pensions of workers have figured out how to get around them and threaten what should be the most secure pensions, multi-employer pools.
The pensions belong to people in multiemployer plans — big pooled investment funds with many sponsoring companies and a union. Multiemployer pensions are not only backed by federal insurance, but they also were thought to be even more secure than single-company pensions because when one company in a multiemployer pool failed, the others were required to pick up its “orphaned” retirees.

Today, however, the aging of the work force, the decline of unions, deregulation and two big stock crashes have taken a grievous toll on multiemployer pensions, which cover 10 million Americans. Dozens of multiemployer plans have already failed, and some giant ones are teetering — including, notably, the Teamsters’ Central States pension plan, with more than 400,000 members.

In February, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal multiemployer insurer would run out of money in seven years, which would leave retirees in failed plans with nothing.

“Unless Congress acts — and acts very soon — many plans will fail, more than one million people will lose their pensions, and thousands of small businesses will be handed bills they can’t pay,” said Joshua Gotbaum, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal insurer that pays benefits to people whose company pension plans fail.

“If Congress allows the P.B.G.C. to get the money and the authority it needs to do its job, then these plans can be preserved,” he added. “If not, the P.B.G.C. will run out of money, too, and multiemployer pensioners will get virtually nothing. This is not something that can wait a few years. If people kick the can down the road, they’ll find it went off a cliff.”

So far, efforts to keep multiemployer plans from toppling, and taking the federal insurance program down with them, are giving rise to something that was supposed to have been outlawed 40 years ago: cuts in benefits that workers have already earned.
Simple wage theft years after you earned it.
In the multiemployer world, the anticutback rule was amended in 2006, permitting the weakest plans to stop paying certain benefits to people who had not yet retired, including disability stipends, lump-sum distributions, recent pension increases, death benefits and early retirement benefits. The goal was to help those plans conserve their money while they try to rehabilitate themselves. Experts say the measures have helped, but some multiemployer plans may still fail if they cannot cut payments to retirees as well.
And so the only vast pool of wealth that remains untouched and unthreatened is that of thw 1% and every day it grows by whatever amount they can squeeze from you.

Congress has a strange way of looking at the law

“If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted,”
In the 10 years or so since President Cheney authorized and deep cover North Korean agent John Yoo justified torture, no one in a position to initiate a prosecution has said this about those involved with torture. But if you leak anything beyond what Senator Di-Fi has authorized you to and she will be all over you like flies on shit, threatening all manner of terrible retribution.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has opened an investigation into how McClatchy obtained the classified conclusions of a report into the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, the panel’s chairwoman said Friday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she was also referring the case to the Justice Department for investigation.

“If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “The committee is investigating this unauthorized disclosure and I intend to refer the matter to the Department of Justice.”

Feinstein issued her statement a day after McClatchy reported on the 20 major conclusions of the committee’s four-year, $40 million investigation into the top-secret detention and interrogation program that the CIA operated under the Bush administration.

“We are disappointed that Sen. Feinstein plans to seek a Justice Department investigation of our journalism,” said James Asher, McClatchy’s Washington bureau chief. “We believe that Americans need to know what the CIA might have done to detainees and who is responsible for any questionable practices, which is why we have vigorously covered this story.”

One key conclusion of the Senate report said that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” about the program to the Justice Department, thereby “impeding a proper legal analysis.”

That conclusion challenges the main defense of the program by the CIA and the Bush administration, which relied on Justice Department legal opinions in asserting that the harsh interrogation methods used on suspected detainees didn’t violate U.S. law against torture.

The committee voted last week to send the report, including a 480-page executive summary, the findings and conclusions, to the executive branch for a declassification review. Once any redactions are completed, the committee is expected to release the executive summary, findings and conclusions, but not the 6,600-page report itself.
The full 6600 page report should be released, every other country in the world has read it by now and we paid for it. By the time the CIA finishes making their shit smell like roses, the 480 page summary will amount to about 48 words.

Today;s Republicans aren't built to govern.

But Bill Maher does tell us what they are good for.

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