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Archive for August 2nd, 2014

House Sues Obama, Then Tells Him to Ignore Congress

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

House Sues Obama, Then Tells Him to Ignore Congress
On Wednesday, House Republicans sued President Barack Obama for acting on his own without approval from Congress. On Thursday, House Republicans told Obama he should act on his own to fix the border crisis. The messaging whiplash resulted from Speaker John Boehner’s failure to pass a Republican spending bill that would provide $659 million to help stem the child migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. In a statement following the decision to abruptly scrap a vote on the measure, Boehner and his fellow GOP leaders tried to put the onus back on Obama, saying the president had the power to act unilaterally, “without the need for congressional action,” to respond to the crisis.


Congress backs Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Congress backs Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved a $225 million package to replenish Israel’s missile defenses with its last order of business before a five-week recess, as the Jewish state’s cease-fire with Hamas unraveled and Israeli forces pushed deep into Gaza in search of a missing army officer.

Biden Swims Naked, Upsetting Female Secret Service Agents, Book Claims
Author tells U.S. News the book is well-reported and balanced.


Obama: “We tortured some folks” after 9/11

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama: “We tortured some folks” after 9/11
But president says Americans should not be too “sanctimonious” about passing judgment

Katy Perry’s biggest fan: President Obama?
The president recognized the singer for being “a wonderful person” during a White House dinner celebrating the 46th anniversary of the Special Olympics.


Fox Host: Having Kids Out Of Wedlock Is “The Ultimate In Negligence”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Fox Host: Having Kids Out Of Wedlock Is “The Ultimate In Negligence”

From the August 2 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday:

Previously:

Fox Host’s Message To Male Victims Of Domestic Violence: “That Is Embarrassing, Getting Beaten Up By Your Girlfriend”

To Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Reporting Statutory Rape Is “Whiny”

Outnumbered’s Tucker Carlson Sees Nothing Wrong With Female Teacher Sexually Harassing Male Student


From Now Till Election, Congress to Make Itself Scarce

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

From Now Till Election, Congress to Make Itself Scarce
Caitlin Huey-Burns, RealClearPolitics
Never mind that this Congress is on track to becoming the least productive in modern history. By Friday, most lawmakers will be heading back to their home states and districts on a five-week recess, despite having plenty of items on their to-do list. They will return on Sept. 8 — but only for a few weeks before heading out again until after the November midterms. Welcome to the election year schedule. The light program allows for the nation’s legislators to be among their constituents in the final weeks of the midterm campaign. On the one hand, that’s seems like a smart strategy:…

Bipartisanship Is Alive and Well, But Not in the Obama White House
Michael Barone, RealClearPolitics
Bipartisanship is dead. That’s the conventional wisdom, and there’s a lot of evidence to support it. But there’s evidence to the contrary as well. On two important issues, veterans’ health and job training, congressional Republicans and Democrats have, with little notice, reached constructive bipartisan agreements. These are both issues on which everyone agrees government should be involved. The country certainly owes something to veterans. And no one’s proposing to eliminate job training programs altogether. But government is also not doing a good job on either. The Veterans Affairs…

The Islamic State’s Challenge
David Ignatius, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON — Warnings from U.S. officials about the terrorist Islamic State that has established a safe haven in Iraq and Syria sound ominously like the intelligence alerts that preceded al-Qaeda’s attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Richard Ledgett, the deputy director of the National Security Agency, told the Aspen Security Forum last week that the “most worrisome” threat he’s tracking are the thousands of foreign fighters training with the Islamic State. Lisa Monaco, the White House counterterrorism adviser, told the same gathering that the al-Qaeda spinoff poses a potential danger to the U.S….

Obama’s Possible Immigration Action: Would It Be Legal?
Michael Cipriano, RealClearPolitics
Even as House Republicans prepare to file a lawsuit over what they call President Obama’s abuse of executive authority, White House officials have let it be known that Obama is considering unilaterally issuing work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants as a way of shielding them from deportation. Aside from any political fallout from such a move, one question that has been raised concerns whether a president actually has such authority. The most prominent school of thought, legal experts say, is that the measure being floated would fall within a president’s purview….


Babcock predicts Clyde job losses

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Babcock predicts Clyde job losses
The defence contractor Babcock warns its Clyde-based workforce that Scottish independence could lead to job losses.

UK suspends Tripoli embassy services
The Foreign Office says operations at the British embassy in Tripoli are to be temporarily suspended as violence worsens in Libya.

Israel action ‘foolish’ – Ashdown
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown calls Israel’s attacks on Gaza “foolish” and “disproportionate” and urges peace talks.


News Analysis: The War of Words in China

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

News Analysis: The War of Words in China
After a lull in xenophobia, anti-Western invective is back.

More Remains Found at Ukraine Crash Site
After delays, Dutch and Australian police officers and forensic experts are searching the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.



Explosion Kills Dozens at Eastern China Plant
At least 68 people were killed Saturday morning when a blast tore through a metal products factory in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province, state-run news media reported.




Super-Rich Gubernatorial Candidate Used Controversial Cayman Tax Gimmick To Maximize His Fortune

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Super-Rich Gubernatorial Candidate Used Controversial Cayman Tax Gimmick To Maximize His Fortune

Bruce Rauner (R-IL) is one of the richest people in the country, and he wants to be Illinois’ next governor.

The post Super-Rich Gubernatorial Candidate Used Controversial Cayman Tax Gimmick To Maximize His Fortune appeared first on ThinkProgress.

A beach on Grand Cayman, one of several popular tax havens for U.S. companies to claim as home.

A beach on Grand Cayman, one of several popular tax havens for U.S. companies to claim as home.

CREDIT: AP

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R) made part of his fortune from investments in a Caribbean tax haven, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. But because Rauner won’t release details on his tax filings it is impossible to tell just how much of his wealth comes from those offshore accounts.

The newspaper found five Cayman Islands-based investment funds among the dozens of income sources Rauner listed on state disclosure forms last year. Three of the five are funds set up by the private equity firm Rauner founded. Two others, including one that manages money for a large public pension fund in Illinois, are run by separate firms.

While Rauner’s income from each fund could be as low as $5,000 — the threshold for disclosure on the state forms — a more realistic guess would be in the millions of dollars. As a self-described member of the richest 0.01 percent of Americans, Rauner is unlikely to make chump change investments. Most funds of the sort the Sun-Times identified require minimum investments of $500,000 or $1 million dollars, a tax expert told the newspaper.

Rauner has released summary tax forms but has declined to disclose other paperwork that would allow tax experts to figure out how much of his wealth comes from the offshore holdings. A Rauner spokesman told the Sun-Times that the offshore locations of the investment funds do not affect the Rauners’ tax rates since they pay state and federal taxes on that income. But the success of the funds themselves, and their ability to pay dividends to both individual investors like the Rauners and institutional ones like pension funds, is enhanced by having roots in a tax haven.

The exotic Caymans linkage will draw further scrutiny to Rauner’s wealth and tax maneuvering. Like many very rich people around the world, the Rauners are able to manipulate the tax code in ways that reduce their tax rate without violating the law. Despite pulling in $108 million in taxable income from 2010 to 2012 — more than enough to qualify for the top federal income tax bracket with rates of 35 percent or more — Rauner and his wife paid an effective tax rate below 20 percent. That is mostly due to how the tax code treats investment income differently from wage income. Capital gains are taxed at far lower rates than salaries.

Rauner has also benefited from “an accounting maneuver that blurs the lines” between normal income and lower-tax investment income, the Chicago Tribune reported in July. The IRS is scrutinizing the “fee waivers” that private equity companies use to shift their partners’ income from higher-tax categories to lower-tax ones.

Rauner’s campaign has received more than $4 million in funding from billionaire financial sector colleagues. He has injected nearly $10 million of his own money into his race against Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL). Quinn’s supporters are hoping to revive the same sorts of attacks on private equity and out-of-touch multimillionaires that helped sink Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. But Rauner, who made national news over the winter when he called for lowering the state’s minimum wage, has enjoyed a steady lead over Quinn in summer polling.

The post Super-Rich Gubernatorial Candidate Used Controversial Cayman Tax Gimmick To Maximize His Fortune appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Congress’ August Recess Is America’s Only Required Vacation

American workers aren’t guaranteed any paid vacation or holiday time, but Congress is required to leave for a month.

The post Congress’ August Recess Is America’s Only Required Vacation appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Vacation 3x2

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Congress managed to adjourn on Friday night, sending all members home for a legislatively required recess for the entire month of August after becoming a close contender for the least productive Congress ever, with lots of unfinished business on the table.

The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 requires that the House and Senate take a break “not later than July 31 of each year,” or in an odd-numbered year “that Friday in August which occurs at least thirty days before the first Monday in September (Labor Day) of such year to the second day after Labor Day.” Congress can stay if the country is in a state of war, but that hasn’t happened since 1941. The law was passed after Congressional sessions had stretched so long that in 1963, the session began in January and ended in December with just a three-day weekend as a break in the whole time.

Lawmakers can come back early if both houses agree to it. And of course many of them hold town halls and other political or campaign events and meetings while they’re home. But they also get another break in December and often get nearly 250 days off from work in the nation’s capitol each year.

The American worker, on the other hand, could very well get no days off from work in a year. We are the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t guarantee that workers get some paid vacation time. There is no law, as there is for Congress, making sure they can take a break. The European Union, on the other hand, requires 20 paid vacation days, and many countries go further, such as the mandated 30 days in France, 28 in the United Kingdom, and 25 in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Even our northerly neighbors Canada require 10.

Many American employers offer vacation time anyway, but the number is shrinking, not growing. More than 80 percent of workers got paid vacation days two decades ago, but just 77 percent do today. Those who are getting the benefit get more days than before, 20 compared to 15. But most people don’t even use all of their time off, with the average employee taking only half of it. Many say they feel like they can’t be disconnected from work. And the increase in vacation days is counteracted by a decline in the number of paid holidays, which dropped from ten to eight.

Indeed, the United States doesn’t guarantee paid holidays either, unlike 13 other developed countries. That means, for example, that companies like Walmart, Gap, and Target were completely in their rights when they opened on Thanksgiving Day last year and made workers come in to work.

This isn’t just problematic for workers who may not get paid days off. Taking a break makes them perform better, helping their employers. Ernst & Young found that for every ten hours of vacation time taken by an employee, her year-end performance rating would improve by 8 percent. It also found that there was lower turnover with more time taken, which can be costly. Former NASA scientists found that people who take vacations will have an 82 percent boost in job performance upon their return, and longer vacations lead to better results. A recent study of Dutch workers also found that vacations can increase creativity by increasing cognitive flexibility when they return.

More vacation time would also boost the economy. One report found that American workers leave an average of three unused vacation days on the table every year, but if those were taken to travel, leisure spending would increase by nearly $1 trillion. Even if only some people traveled with that extra time, spending would still go up by $67 billion, adding $160 billion in business sales in the leisure industry.

The post Congress’ August Recess Is America’s Only Required Vacation appeared first on ThinkProgress.


John Brennan Lied and Must Be Fired

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

John Brennan Lied and Must Be Fired
Trevor Timm, The Guardian
As reports emerged Thursday that an internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general found that the CIA “improperly” spied on US Senate staffers when researching the CIA’s dark history of torture, it was hard to conclude anything but the obvious: John Brennan blatantly lied to the American public. Again.

The Boehner Lawsuit and Our Bored Icon President
Ed Rogers, Wash Post
Yesterday, the House moved to legally challenge the president over his obligation to enforce our laws. The impending lawsuit is a grand move, the result of which could offer an epic interpretation of our democratic balance.

There Must Be Accountability for CIA’s Snooping

Revelations on New Nixon Tapes
Bob Woodward, Washington Post
President Richard Nixon’s decision to install a secret recording system — and then to retain the tapes — perhaps ranks as the most consequential self-inflicted political wound of 20th-century America. The criminality, abuse of power, obsession with real and perceived enemies, rage, self-focus, and small-mindedness revealed on those tapes left him abandoned by his own party and forced him to resign 40 years ago.