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Archive for November 13th, 2014

National Cathedral to Host Muslim Prayer Service

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

National Cathedral to Host Muslim Prayer Service
The historic Washington National Cathedral is hosting a Muslim prayer service for the first time Friday. The prominent Episcopal cathedral often hosts national events, such as presidential funerals, and has hosted Muslims at various interfaith services in the past. But planners say this is the first time the cathedral has invited Muslims to lead their own prayers there, which they call a “powerful symbolic gesture.”


Obama Tells Beijing U.S. Had No Role in Hong Kong Protests

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Obama Tells Beijing U.S. Had No Role in Hong Kong Protests
The president said the U.S. did not fuel the pro-democracy demonstrations.

British actor Warren Clarke has died at 67
LONDON (AP) — British actor Warren Clarke, known for his role in the TV drama “Dalziel and Pascoe” and many other parts, has died. He was 67.

Maryland School System Cuts Religious Holidays From Calendar
The decision was aimed at appeasing Muslim community leaders, but had the opposite effect.


Rand Paul, advisers meet to strategize on a 2016 presidential bid

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Rand Paul, advisers meet to strategize on a 2016 presidential bid
The Kentucky Republican seems to be on the cusp of announcing a run, but can he woo a GOP establishment that has eyed him skeptically?

Senate Democrats plan vote on Keystone XL pipeline
The issue is becoming a proxy for the Louisiana Senate runoff


ABC World News Was The Only Evening Network Newscast To Ignore The Net Neutrality Announcement

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

ABC World News Was The Only Evening Network Newscast To Ignore The Net Neutrality Announcement

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir was the only one of the three broadcast evening newscasts to ignore the Obama administration’s announcement supporting net neutrality. NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News both covered the story.

President Obama issued a statement on Monday asking the Federal Communications Commission to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.” Obama asked the FCC to put into effect “bright-line rules” that would prevent Internet providers from blocking access to services, throttling Internet speeds or forcing one service to be prioritized over another. He also asked for providers to have to be more transparent in how their services operate.


Obama and the Definition of “Islamic”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Obama and the Definition of “Islamic”
Caroline Glick, RealClearPolitics
In his speech on September 11 announcing that the US would commence limited operations against Islamic State, US President Barack Obama insisted, “ISIL, [i.e. Islamic State] is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.” To be sure, it is hard to see how any human faith can countenance IS’s actions. For the past several months, on a daily basis, new videos appear of IS fighters proudly, openly and wantonly committing crimes against humanity. This week for instance, a video emerged of an IS slave…


Manifesto watch: Where parties stand

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Manifesto watch: Where parties stand
What we know parties will be promising at next year’s election

Farage: I could do deal with Labour
Nigel Farage says UKIP could do a deal with Labour – adding that he would “do a deal with the devil if he got me what I wanted” .

Germany’s spluttering economy
Is Germany’s economic engine room spluttering to a halt?


News Analysis: Fruitful Visit by Obama Ends With a Lecture From Xi

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

News Analysis: Fruitful Visit by Obama Ends With a Lecture From Xi
The Chinese and American presidents’ news conference laid bare stubborn differences over issues like press freedom.



Landing on a Comet, a Mission Aims to Unlock the Mysteries of Earth
The ambitious mission succeeded, despite a potential showstopper problem, when a signal arrived at Darmstadt, Germany, just after 11 a.m. Eastern time.



World Religion: Latin America Is Losing Its Catholic Identity
The Roman Catholic Church’s claim on the region is lessening as a younger generation turns to Protestantism, a Pew study found.

Sinosphere Blog: U.S. Policy Makers Could See Opportunity in China’s Rise
“It would be a mistake to view increased frictions as the result of inattention or clumsy policy,” says Ely Ratner, deputy director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.



Health Officials Reassess Strategy to Combat Ebola in Liberia
As the rate of new infections has slowed, American and Liberian officials are debating whether to shift money that was planned for the centers into other programs to combat future outbreaks.




Walmart’s ‘Made In USA’ Televisions Are Allegedly Made In China

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Walmart’s ‘Made In USA’ Televisions Are Allegedly Made In China

The way Element Electronics sells TVs sounds a lot like the Federal Trade Commission’s example of what not to do when using patriotism to sell things.

The post Walmart’s ‘Made In USA’ Televisions Are Allegedly Made In China appeared first on ThinkProgress.

A Walmart supplier has been passing off Chinese televisions as

A Walmart supplier has been passing off Chinese televisions as “assembled in the USA,” according to a new Federal Trade Commission complaint.

CREDIT: Alliance for American Manufacturing/Federal Trade Commission

Element Electronics boasts of being the only American-owned and American-assembled television company. Flashy red-white-and-blue packaging helps it do business with Walmart as part of the retailer’s quarter-trillion-dollar “Made in USA” initiative. But according to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint filed Tuesday, the company isn’t making anything in America after all.

Instead, the complaint alleges, the Chinese-made TVs arrive to Element’s South Carolina assembly line in boxes adorned with a waving American flag and the slogan “America Matters” on the front and the phrase “assembled in the USA” on top. Element’s employees unscrew a plastic panel, install a Chinese-made motherboard, close the panel, and return the TVs to their patriotic packaging so that they can be shipped out to Walmart, Target, Meijer, Sam’s Club, and QVC. That depiction of Element’s assembly process comes from a July article in the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal article is the key evidence in the FTC complaint, which was filed by a non-partisan non-profit group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM). AAM’s blog had previously touted Element Electronics as an example of manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S., but in Tuesday’s complaint it asks the FTC for an injunction barring Element from saying that their televisions are assembled stateside.

A product cannot be advertised as assembled in America, according to FTC rules, unless it undergoes a “substantial transformation” on U.S. soil. Furthermore, the AAM complaint notes, the FTC rules offer a specific example of an assembly process that would not qualify — and that example “is strikingly similar to the facts as they relate to Element’s ‘assembly’ process.” The example describes a computer built from foreign-made parts that “then are put together in a simple ‘screwdriver’ operation in the U.S.,” reminiscent of what the Journal found upon visiting Element’s South Carolina facility.

An Element spokeswoman did not return multiple calls seeking comment on Wednesday. Element President Michael O’Shaughnessy told the Journal in July that the company has plans to establish a more extensive and complex operation in South Carolina over the next few years as more parts start to be manufactured in America. He also told the newspaper that the conveyor belts and other hardware that make up the physical assembly line in South Carolina were themselves manufactured in China and installed by Chinese engineers.

Element describes itself as an American-owned company whose televisions are made by a Chinese conglomerate called Tsinghau TongFang (THTF) Global. But the question of corporate ownership is murkier on THTF Global’s website, one page of which refers to Element varyingly as an “owned brand,” a “self-owned brand,” and an “affiliated brand.” A separate page about Element on the Chinese company’s website uses the collective pronoun “we” to describe what customers can expect from “us at Element.”

When Element first came to the state in 2013, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said the arrival was another sign that “South Carolina has transitioned into an advanced manufacturing state.” The same press release noted that Element was getting a $1.3 million infrastructure grant from the state in addition to unspecified tax credits for hiring workers. That grant program helps finance building improvements companies need to operate in the state. “In this particular case the company was going into a building that had been vacant for 5 years,” Commerce Department spokeswoman Allison Skipper told ThinkProgress, “and it needed some up-fit prior to moving in.”

The state predicted Element’s facility would create 500 jobs in the state. The Nerve, a news website in the state, reported at the time that 250 of those jobs were supposed to be created in the first year, and that state officials “were being tight-lipped about the details of the taxpayer-backed incentives for the project.” The Journal reported that Element employs just 185 in the state so far. The company tells South Carolina that it has 325 workers, according to Commerce Department spokeswoman Skipper, who recently attended a Walmart supplier summit where Element appeared. Element will not be able to cash in its per-employee tax credits until it reaches the 500-job goal it pledged the state in 2013, she said, but the state does not attempt to predict how much the credits will ultimately cost.

While Element’s ownership and job creation deals are murky, the company is indisputably the key link in the serpentine process by which Chinese-made televisions are landing on Walmart shelves in boxes draped with the stars and bars. AAM calls Element “a poster child of Walmart’s recent Made in America push” whereby “consumers are led to believe that Element’s televisions contribute to bringing jobs back to the United States.” Walmart’s public relations push around American manufacturing has played out alongside stiff criticism of the company’s habit of paying wages so low that its employees rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance programs to survive.

Prior to heading up Element, company president Michael O’Shaughnessy was involved in another complicated, potentially scandalous business enterprise. O’Shaughnessy managed to get caught up in a Ponzi scheme as head of Polaroid and two other companies owned by Thomas Petters. Petters is currently in jail for running a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme over 14 years. O’Shaughnessy was never charged, but according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal he has been sued twice by victims of Petters’ crimes who say that the $9 million in bonuses and fees the Element president received from Petters’ companies while the Ponzi scheme was running are ill-gotten funds that should be returned to victims. One lawsuit claims that Petters’ fraud succeeded in part because he “paid exorbitant sums of money to surround himself with executives, partners, and friends who helped create the essential air of success” he needed to bilk people and identifies O’Shaughnessy as one example of those human elements in Petters’ disguise. Calls to attorneys on both sides of the lawsuits against O’Shaughnessy were not immediately returned.

Update

This post has been updated with comment from the South Carolina Commerce Department. Element Electronics has told the state it employs 325 people, not the 185 reported by the Wall Street Journal in July.

The post Walmart’s ‘Made In USA’ Televisions Are Allegedly Made In China appeared first on ThinkProgress.

False Robocalls That Wreaked Havoc On Chicago Elections Linked To GOP Activists

Nearly 2,000 election judges didn’t show up on Election Day because of the misleading robocalls.

The post False Robocalls That Wreaked Havoc On Chicago Elections Linked To GOP Activists appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Voters were still lined up to vote at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, November 5 at a Chicago polling place that allowed same-day registration.

Voters were still lined up to vote at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, November 5 at a Chicago polling place that allowed same-day registration.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Courtesy of Lauren Scott

Chicago election judges received misleading and factually incorrect robocalls before the midterm, causing close to 2,000 of them to not show up on Election Day. As a criminal investigation gets underway, the Chicago Sun-Times has tied the calls to two Republican activists while the Republican Party has denied involvement and distanced itself from the party members who it claims acted alone.

An unknown number of election judges received one or more automated phone calls that informed them about an additional required training session or told them they needed to vote a certain way in order to keep their position. As a result, polling places across the city were understaffed and lines reached seven hours in some precincts. A smaller number of voters were turned away from certain locations.

The city was forced to dispatch standby election judges when some polling places had just one or no election judges present at 6 a.m. when polls were scheduled to open. At the time, the Chicago Board of Elections said it didn’t know who made the calls or why they were sent out. The Cook County State’s Attorney has launched a criminal investigation and Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for hearings on the robocalls.

“There’s nothing more important than the integrity of the democratic electoral process,” Emanuel said when he and the City Council passed a resolution calling for hearings. “Somebody called with the intent to create confusion.”

While the city hasn’t revealed any additional information, the Sun Times reported that one of the callers identified himself as Jim Parrilli, a Republican committeeman for the 19th Ward who was defeated in his run for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. In one call, he identified himself as the Cook County Election Judge Coordinator and told the election judges that voting is required and “part of being a Republican judge means supporting our Republican ticket.”

Another call was made by Sharon Maroni, coordinator for the Chicago election judge program. Sources told the Sun-Times that Parrilli and Maroni were working together, but neither have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Cook County Republican Chairman Aaron Del Mar told the Sun-Times the party was not involved in the robocalls or the fraudulent activities. “Anything they did, they acted alone,” he said.

The state’s attorney’s office told ThinkProgress that an investigation is ongoing, but declined to comment on any details. Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen also said he is not commenting on the pending investigation.

Two election judges also told CBS Chicago that they were removed from their positions as committeemen with the Republican Party because they questioned the validity of the phone calls and whether election judges should be pressured to vote for a particular party.

Other issues including confusion over a new state program allowing same day registration at some polling places also contributed to the long lines that drove voters away. Lower turnout in Chicago favored Republican governor Bruce Rauner, who ended the night with a nearly five-point lead over incumbent Governor Pat Quinn.

The post False Robocalls That Wreaked Havoc On Chicago Elections Linked To GOP Activists appeared first on ThinkProgress.


The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Revisited

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Revisited
From: Eric Alterman

Twenty-five years ago, Eric Alterman reminded us that the so-called “experts” were wrong about the Berlin Wall. Some things haven’t changed much.

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like in Mauritius
From: Michelle Chen

A political scandal in Britain draws attention to labor exploitation that extends far beyond a single T-shirt.

Andrew Sullivan Versus the Social-Justice Warriors
From: Michelle Goldberg

The famous blogger needn’t panic. Twitter’s new partnership with the feminist group WAM! is an attempt to fight abuse, not impose ideological censorship.