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Father found dead in Lincoln Park pawn shop - WDIV Detroit

Berkley Information from Google News - 1 hour 31 min ago

WDIV Detroit

Father found dead in Lincoln Park pawn shop
WDIV Detroit
Lincoln Park Pawn Shop Owner Found Shot To Death Inside BusinessCBS Local

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Categories: Berkley Area News

Signs of spring bloom around Birmingham - C&G Newspapers

Berkley Information from Google News - 1 hour 31 min ago

C&G Newspapers

Signs of spring bloom around Birmingham
C&G Newspapers
BIRMINGHAM — Though Mother Nature can't quite seem to make up her mind, the calendar assures us that spring has indeed arrived in Birmingham. Some of the city's favorite signs of the season have also arrived, including the opening of spring golf and ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

Around the World, America's Taxman Cometh by way of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

Huffington Post News - 1 hour 35 min ago

As Tax Day approaches, homeland Americans scurry to file their annual tax filing obligations. But for an estimated 7.6 million Americans working and living overseas, they have an obligation to not only pay taxes in their respective countries where they live; they need to pay the piper in homeland America as well, via the requirements under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA),

FATCA has opened the portal to serious consequences for citizen based taxation.

FATCA targets US citizens living and working overseas and holds foreign financial institutions (FFI) responsible for reporting accounts to the IRS for taxation. The FFIs, in attempts to avoid costly reporting are closing and refusing American overseas' local bank accounts, retirement accounts, mortgages, etc.

Under very specific circumstances, there is an earned income exclusion of $99,200 but this doesn't mean tax free as that money is taxed in the Americans overseas' country of residence.

Who can argue with a process to catch tax shelters in the proverbial Swiss bank account? Not many, but this includes a world-wide dragnet that snags innocents resulting in little known serious consequences for hard working Americans and their families living and working overseas.

Mark Mazur, the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for tax policy, said the government's new enforcement was intended to help make sure all taxpayers pay what they owe "regardless of where they live."

But "What they owe", how they can invest, and do their banking is the resounding question.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country that taxes its citizens on their world-wide income, no matter where they live And FATCA has been referred to as a range of: protection from tax shelters, a net to catch people who don't want to report their income, all the way to pure fascism.

It is hard to fathom walking in the shoes of an American abroad experiencing the effects of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) Friends from social media have shared stories of serious difficulties handling their finances and investments and "divorce overseas style" with quite literal gut-wrenching effects.

There is bitter resentment of new U.S. tax laws but lasting affection for their homeland. This includes many American veterans that are renouncing their citizenship because they cannot conduct their financial business any longer; bank accounts, retirement accounts closing, mortgages rescinded and denied. And no American veteran should ever consider renouncing American citizenship due to invasive tax and reporting obligations.

Mrs. P living in Germany, an American overseas from a family job transfer now widowed, lives daily in fear of FATCA calling it "cruel, immoral, and unjust". She is a proud member of the Daughters of the Mayflower and has family in the US. While she has always paid her taxes, Mrs. P, while proud of being an American, broken hearted she feels that America has betrayed her. She is afraid to travel home and wants to renounce her American citizenship but cannot afford the significant fee of $2,350. (422 percent increase from the previous year) She is asking family contributions to her renunciation fund for birthdays and Christmas gifts.

Ms. M from Austria has been tax compliant for many years but now has been notified by her bank that she could no longer put money into her mutual funds account, negatively affecting her ability to invest for retirement.

Mr. B, an American Marine has painfully decided to say "good bye" to the US and renounce citizenship. Protecting his family and their finances resulted in this difficult decision.

Army veteran "G", stayed in Europe. He and his non-American in-laws have a business that American tax laws require an accounting. The cost for tax preparation is prohibitive at thousands per year. He feels like he is treated like a tax-evading criminal. He is preparing to renounce.

Mrs. C is a United States Air Force veteran that is tearfully considering renouncing her US citizenship due to fear of capital gains taxes to the U.S. where that tax doesn't exist in her country of residence. She cannot invest in retirement accounts. She is hoping for some relief for Americans overseas before making her final decision but claims that FATCA will not take away who she is - an American veteran.

In fact, American renunciation is up 221 percent in 2013 to be exact (according to the Federal Register).

Americans are "divorcing" their homeland and their spouses to protect their mortgages, family investments, bank accounts, and extreme tax preparations costs in the thousands of dollars annually.

In an attempt to repeal some provisions of FATCA, on March 4, 2015, Senator Rand Paul (R) Kentucky, introduced Senate Bill S66, a bill that amends the Internal Revenue Code with respect to withholding requirements for payments to foreign financial institutions, reporting for foreign financial assets, penalties for undisclosed foreign financial assets, and excessive penalties for failure to file.

Looking in the proverbial eyes of my cyber American overseas friends, it is easy to empathize with the difficulty of their new, broad range of tax obligations, reporting, banking, expenses, and gut-wrenching decisions.

Current committee work is being performed in the Senate to review FATCA. Contact your Congressional representatives with personal experiences and concerns.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Everyday Abolition: Working Towards Non-Punitive Accountability

Huffington Post News - 1 hour 42 min ago

This is part two of train of thought that includes more questions than answers, but I hope it starts conversations on how we can find alternatives in our daily lives to abolish our Prison Industrial Complex. Read the first part, "Everyday Abolition: We Are Responsible for the Prison Industrial Complex."

This year there has been a loud call for justice in the killings of black men and trans women of color in the US. Justice for Mike Brown. Justice for Penny Proud. Justice for Eric Garner. But what does that justice look like? Is justice incarcerating the people who killed Michael, Penny, Eric, and so many others? Sasha Alexander, from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project says, "To work towards our liberation, we must not mirror the systems used to oppress us. Justice will not come from policing, jailing, or incarcerating more people--these systems only contribute to the violence trans and gender nonconforming folks and all folks face."

Toni Morrison asked in The Nation, "In this contemporary world of violent protests, internecine war, cries for food and peace, in which whole desert cities are thrown up to shelter the dispossessed, abandoned, terrified populations running for their lives and the breath of their children, what are we (the so-called civilized) to do?" She correctly observed, "The solutions gravitate toward military intervention and/or internment-killing or jailing."

I have been at protest marches where the chant is "jail killer cops!" As an abolitionist I don't want anyone jailed. Yes, I know that this is a radical thought--no cages for living beings. The thing that has surprised me is how many of my friends, who say they are against the PIC, have joined, and at times led, these chants. We have better options. Most of us jump to punishment models before models of community healing.

What does justice look like from an abolitionist perspective? suggests, "The abolitionist response seeks to restore both the criminal and the victim to full humanity, to lives of integrity and dignity in the community."

Angela Davis describes an option of restorative justice. "Reconciliatory or restorative justice, for example, is presented by some abolitionists as an approach that has proved successful in non-Western societies--Native American societies, for example--and that can be tailored for use in urban contexts in cases that involve property and other offenses. The underlying idea is that in many cases, the reconciliation of offender and victim (including monetary compensation to the victim) is a much more progressive vision of justice than the social exile of the offender. The point is that we will not be free to imagine other ways of addressing crime as long as we see the prison as a permanent fixture for dealing with all or most violations of the law."

Practicing restorative justice begins in our everyday lives. In an everyday setting jumping to punitive measures raises questions like the following. What do you do when your neighbor/friend is verbally having a loud disagreement with her teenager? If you are on a college campus, what do you do when the student in the room next to you is playing their music too loud? What do you do when you see someone staggering down the sidewalk? What do you do when a kid steals a candy bar at the corner store? Is your impulse to call the police?

Where do we go when harm has been done to the community? Sasha Alexander says, "No one is disposable or expendable, and that the logic of using policing, punishment, and prison has not proven to address the systemic causes of violence. In dismantling structures of oppression, the process is just as critical as the end goal. From immigration and detention, to the prison industrial complex, jails, and psychiatric institutions, the intersections of oppression are deeply embedded in our structures. Abolition means preventing harm, intervening, and working towards non-punitive accountability." We need to increase our education about community and difference starting from birth. We need to educate each other about identity and communication.

Skidmore College describes restorative justice as a "collaborative decision-making process that includes victims, offenders, and others seeking to hold offenders accountable by having them (a) accept and acknowledge responsibility for their offenses, (b) to the best of their ability repair the harm they caused to victims and communities, and (c) work to reduce the risk of reoffense by building positive social ties to the community."

Schools are using such practices, as justice circles in small communities, like a team or dorm, and justice boards that encourage active participation by both offenders and harmed parties. Teaching these types of practices, in addition to mediation and collectively agreed upon community standards of mutual respect, can build spaces to bring people into these conversations.

Public shaming and calling out culture

I see what is referred to as the "calling out culture" often in opposition to restorative justice. In Magical Ersatz's piece entitled "'Call Out Culture': The Case Of Ableist Language", they comment: "I have witnessed, more times than I care to remember, a person who seems to be of general goodwill and good intentions enter into a conversation about disability on social media or a blog, only to get 'called out'--often quite harshly--for using ableist language. Sometimes it's disabled people doing the calling out, but more often than not (for the conversations I've witnessed, I should emphasize) it's non-disabled people. The called out person will sometimes attempt to explain why they said what they did, or why they don't think what they said was problematic. This usually results in even harsher criticism. The almost invariable result is that the called out person then quickly exits the conversation - no doubt leaving with a less than stellar impression of what it's like to talk about disability with progressives." Many of us have seen this on Facebook and Yik Yak, in faith communities, and on college campuses. We have ways of hiding our "calling out" to justify our rage and actions. We often use language about accountability and community protection. But is the end goal to push this person to the margins of our community?

Everyday abolition includes drawing people into discussion and accountability, often in small, personal settings. We may not have the "public joys" of shaming the wrong doer but in the end I believe that we will have a more just society.

In 2013 Ngọc Loan Trần posted a piece on Black Girl Dangerous entitled, "Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable". They suggest, "The first part of calling each other in is allowing mistakes to happen. Mistakes in communities seeking justice and freedom may not hurt any less but they also have possibility for transforming the ways we build with each other for a new, better world. We have got to believe that we can transform. I start "call in" conversations by identifying the behavior and defining why I am choosing to engage with them. I prioritize my values and invite them to think about theirs and where we share them. And then we talk about it. We talk about it together, like people who genuinely care about each other. We offer patience and compassion to each other and also keep it real, ending the conversation when we need to and knowing that it wasn't a loss to give it a try."

Who is my community?

Are people who spout racist, misogynist, and transphobic words and actions part of my community? Are incarcerated people part of my community? The short answer, I believe, is yes! Our world is like a permaculture garden where even the weeds are important. I might not always like it, but our global system is interconnected. Black Girl Dangerous clarified that Trần's article does not absolve white people of the racist shit we often do. And that "calling in" is not a way to dissipate the anger that people of color have when white folks are racist. I agree. But, in promoting everyday abolition, how do we leave room for anger, hurt, healing, and learning and how do we do it within a community of weeds? I am not saying that POC are responsible for educating white folks, I just want to question what is community? Who is my community?

At the Incite! Color of Violence 4 conference Angela Davis remarked, "Our work against violence must be done with joy and song and art to prefigure a world we want."

I have a radical dream, a world where people don't live in cages, where my community includes people with different beliefs and ideologies. Where some in my community may have caused great harm, but have been brought back into community. Where people living with mental health issues are getting the assistance they need, from the community. Where equity is the norm and inequality is rare. Until this day comes I will continue to practice everyday abolition, and fight to make this dream a reality. I will fight for my community living behind bars, for the freedom of all living beings. I know I won't do everything perfectly but I hope that others will join me because we can only do this together.



Categories: Political News and Opinion

Upward Mobility in America Is Stagnant. Here's How Community College Helps Fix It.

Huffington Post News - 1 hour 44 min ago

One of the great things that makes America special is its national belief that the "rags to riches" tale can happen here. For generations, immigrants have streamed into the country, sometimes bringing only what they could carry, because they knew of the economic opportunity that America presented. No matter how poor they were in Italy, Russia, Ireland, Mexico, or China, immigrants have known for generations that no society presents as much economic opportunity as ours. I know this personally from my experiences growing up in an immigrant family from Puerto Rico. We lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn with multiple relatives. We didn't always have a lot, but we knew we had a future here. In time, I became a successful serial entrepreneur. I am living proof that the American Dream still exists.

Unfortunately, many Americans are losing faith that the American Dream can still be achieved. A CNN poll from 2014 showed that 59% of Americans think the American Dream is unreachable, compared to 54% in 2006. Why do individuals have so much unbelief in their personal future?

One of the great causes of this pessimism is the stagnation of upward mobility. By upward mobility, I mean the potential for people to climb from the lower rungs of the economic ladder to the higher ones. This progression used to be a distinct feature of American life, but today it is less of a reality. One study even claims that if you're born poor today, you are as likely to stay poor as your grandparents were Another showed that half of people in the lowest income bracket were just as likely to be there 10 years later. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that the issue of stagnant mobility could be the most important to the 2016 Presidential election.

The problem is real. So how do we fix it?

There are lots of pieces to the puzzle, but the largest component must be education. The correlation between income and education is very clear: the more you have, the more you (usually) make. Not only do we need to improve the quality of K-12 education, but equipping our students with strong skill sets in higher education is necessary as well. Unfortunately, higher education is one of the most expensive products in America: top-flight universities are rapidly heading toward a $70,000 per year price tag! The cost of higher education has restricted the ability of many lower-income individuals to obtain a college degree, and consequently, they haven't been able to ascend the ladder of higher income.

The incredible price increase of a four-year college degree means that a community college education is growing as a value proposition. Community colleges usually cost a good deal less in tuition than four-year colleges, and they place a greater emphasis on equipping their students with hard, workplace-relevant skills (accounting, nursing, IT, etc.) over less objective subjects like literature, psychology, or art (not that those are bad things). Unfortunately, many students in community college come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and need extra attention and guidance to succeed. What community colleges need now are greater numbers of guidance counselors, and better technological tools to help those counselors evaluate student progress and guide them toward sustainable career pathways.

President Obama's plan for free community college has a lot of promise for encouraging the kinds of economic mobility that the country needs.

People across the political spectrum might disagree on the causes of why mobility has stagnated, but it is obvious that more education, and especially a scaling up of community college education, should be part of the solution.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

HUFFPOLLSTER: Obama Approval Rating Holds Steady

Huffington Post News - 1 hour 45 min ago

A new national poll finds Obama approval at 47 percent, about what other surveys have been measuring for the last few months. Many Republicans are conservative or religious, but only a third are both. And the GOP frontrunner for 2016 is a candidate named 'undecided.' This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

POST/ABC SEES 'SOFTENING' IN OBAMA APPROVAL - Dan Balz and Peyton Craighill: "President Obama’s approval rating has softened since registering a sharp upward spike early this year, but he has regained some of the ground lost to Republicans during and after their big victories in the 2014 midterm elections, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll...The president’s overall approval rating stands at 47 percent in the new survey, ticking down from 50 percent in January. Disapproval inched up 3 points to 47 percent, erasing a positive net margin. Those who strongly disapprove of his performance outnumber those who strongly approve by 10 points. The January finding represented a dramatic increase for the president, from a post-election low of 41 percent approval in December. Other surveys during the first weeks of the year also found increases, indicating a significant bounce back for a president whose party had just lost control of the Senate and suffered major losses elsewhere." [WashPost]

Compared to what? - Obama's approval rating in the January Post/ABC survey fell on the high side of the typical range of variation of other polls. Generally, most polls showed a modest increase in Obama's approval rating in January that has persisted. The HuffPost Pollster chart, which combines all available public polls, now estimates Obama's approval at 46.4 percent , nearly 4 percentage points higher than the low set in late October (42.6 percent). [Pollster Chart]

'Bright spot' on economy - More from Balz and Craighill: "One bright spot for the president is continued improvement in perceptions of his handling of the economy. [Obama's] economic approval rating today is 49 percent positive and 46 percent negative, the first time he has been in net positive territory since January 2013, just as he was about to be sworn in for his second term and was enjoying the glow of his reelection victory. The improvement in Obama’s standing on the economy tracks the mostly steady stream of better economic statistics over the past few months. Although overall impressions of the economy remain negative, with 59 percent saying it is 'not so good' or 'poor,' this is lower than 72 percent last fall and any previous point in Obama’s presidency." [WashPost]

ONLY A THIRD OF REPUBLICANS ARE HIGHLY RELIGIOUS AND CONSERVATIVE - Frank Newport: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz chose a conservative, evangelical Christian university as the setting for his announcement that he was running for president. This underscored his apparent strategic decision to focus relentlessly on the conservative highly, religious segment of his party...Exactly how big are these various segments of the Republican Party? We can provide estimates by looking at the cross between ideology and religiosity among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, based on interviews conducted with 17,845 Republicans as part of Gallup Daily tracking so far this year...Overall, 50% of Republicans are highly religious, above the national average of 40%, and 61% are conservative -- again, way above the national average of 35%. But not all highly religious Republicans are conservative and vice versa. In fact, the data show that a little more than one-third of Republicans can be classified as both conservative and highly religious. Thus, the pure segment of Republicans who meet both conservative and highly religious criteria is not the majority." [Gallup]

'UNDECIDED' LEADS 2016 - Natalie Jackson: "The real front-runner for the 2016 Republican New Hampshire primary has a surprising name: Undecided. That’s the key finding in a Suffolk University poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. The poll reports 24 percent undecided, but a closer look reveals that 55 percent were at first unable to name a candidate they would support. These results reveal less about voter preferences than they do about how much poll respondents know about potential Republican primary candidates: A majority of the potential Republican electorate in New Hampshire probably doesn’t think much about the primary yet.....Yes, some recent news reports have used polling to crown 'front-runners' in the Republican race, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and even neurosurgeon Ben Carson, as the leaders. But the reality is that most Republicans don’t know who they would support, and many aren’t even thinking about the race yet." [HuffPost]

AEI REPORT: 'ARE WE SAFER?' - Karlyn Bowman, writing for the conservative American Enterprise Institute: "Do Americans feel less threatened by terrorism now than they did when President Obama took office? The April issue of AEI’s Political Report compares public opinion on the George W. Bush and Obama administrations’ handling of terrorism, assesses how much terrorism concerns Americans, and assesses Americans’ opinions on how the United States should respond to the threat of ISIS...At a time when the federal government gets few positive marks, half or more of Americans say the government is doing very well or fairly well in reducing the threat of terrorism… When Gallup asked people about 15 issues in early 2014 and then again this year, worries about future terrorism at home had increased the most. Fifty-one percent told Gallup they worry a great deal about the possibility of future terrorist attacks in the United States, up 12 points from 2014. Defending the country from future terrorist attacks ranks highest among Americans’ priorities for President Obama and Congress this year in terms of those who say it should be a “top priority,” with 76 percent giving Pew pollsters that response in January... Since the fall, concerns about ISIS have risen, with only a small percentage saying the group is not a threat." [AEI]

HUFFPOLLSTER VIA EMAIL! - You can receive this daily update every weekday morning via email! Just click here, enter your email address, and click "sign up." That's all there is to it (and you can unsubscribe anytime).

WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-By margins of 4-to-1 or higher, voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania prefer a negotiated settlement to reduce Iran's nuclear program rather than military intervention. [Quinnipiac]

-U.S. economic confidence remains steady in March. [Gallup]

-More women are working later into their pregnancy than ever before. [Pew]

-Among African Americans, support for gay marriage does not extend to requiring businesses to serve same-sex couples. [538]

-The U.S. Olympic committee denies a report it will drop Boston's Olympic bid if its tracking polls fail to show improved support. [Boston Globe]

-Mark Mellman (D) reviews statistically misleading claims in accounts of medical research. [The Hil]

-The U.K.'s Lord Ashcroft quits the House of Lords to devote more time to his work as a pollster. [Order Order via @williamjordann]

-The New York Times maps shifts in voting for Rahm Emanuel from 2011 to 2015 by precinct. [NYT]

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Privatization of Medicare: Urgency of the Latest Threat

Huffington Post News - 1 hour 50 min ago

This is a dangerous time for Medicare. The bill passed by the House on March 27, by a surprising bipartisan majority of 392-37--H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015--threatens to end traditional Medicare as a social insurance program that protects seniors in a single large risk pool. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in two weeks.

The timing could not be more ironical. Medicare was passed 50 years ago by overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress--by votes of 302-116 in the House and 70-24 in the Senate. Since 1965, it has provided a set of comprehensive benefits as an earned right without regard to health conditions or income, with all beneficiaries paying into the program through mandatory contributions from individuals and/or employers. (1) For the last 50 years, Medicare has been a solid rock of coverage in a shark-infested sea of unstable and expensive private plans.

But all that can go away if Republicans (and many Democrats) recklessly pass H.R. 2 without concern for its long-term implications. There are many problems in this bill, crafted as it is to serve the agenda of politicians waving the false flag of "entitlement reform" and lobbyists for organized medicine, private insurers, the drug industry, and other corporate stakeholders in the medical-industrial complex. As is typical in a large legislative package that is difficult to understand, and many legislators have not read, the devil is in the details.

H.R. 2 does have one useful goal--to replace the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for setting Medicare payment rates for physicians. The SGR formula was set in 1997 in a deficit-reduction law that ties payment rates to economic growth, which since then has led to recurrent last-minute budget crises, known as the "doc fix" over cuts in physician reimbursement. There have been 17 short-term "fixes" over the last ten years, each time kicking the can down the road without resolving how to proceed.

H.R. 2 eliminates the SGR formula, and proposes different ways to pay physicians, including expanded use of capitation, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and various ways to implement "pay for performance" incentives. These are all supposedly aimed to improve quality of care and contain costs through a "merit-based incentive payment system" (MIPS). But are all untested, unproven, and unlikely to either increase quality or contain costs while adding greatly to administrative complexity. In his 2014 Health Affairs blog, Jeff Goldsmith warned us about this approach:

"With this legislation, Congress is preparing yet again to enshrine in statute another payment strategy that is both unproven and highly controversial. The proposed legislation casts in concrete an almost laughable complex and expensive clinical record-keeping regime, while preserving the very volume-enhancing features of fee-for-service payment that caused the SGR problem in the first place. The cure is actually worse, and potentially more expensive, than the disease we have now." (2)

Among the many structural changes in this massive bill are two that, if adopted, will seriously undermine the future integrity of Medicare: (1) its limits on first-dollar supplemental Medigap insurance coverage, and (2) introduction of means testing whereby higher-income Americans would pay more for their Medicare coverage. (3)

The first will hurt the approximately 12 million of the 50 million Medicare enrollees who rely on Medigap. Based on the already disproven premise that "more skin in the game" reins in unnecessary health care, the bill would prohibit plans from covering Part B deductibles. That would transform the whole concept of comprehensive, universal coverage of seniors over 65 with a consumer-directed approach to financing that care, thereby enabling further privatization of Medicare. Medicare patients could expect to face ever-higher deductibles, unaffordable for many, who would end up forgoing necessary care. The Medicare Rights Center, a national, nonprofit organization, has this to say about H.R. 2: "[it] does not represent a fair deal for people with Medicare--expecting too much from beneficiaries in return for too little." (4)

The second big change--means testing--may seem innocuous, or even a good idea on first blush, but has the potential to unravel the large Medicare risk pool, leading to higher prices, further privatization, and fewer benefits. H.R. 2 would increase payments, permanently, that higher-income seniors would pay for their Medicare coverage, thereby establishing a precedent for future increases. But that could have detrimental impacts on the overall Medicare risk pool, thereby threatening the coverage of lower-income beneficiaries. Jacob Hacker and Theodore Marmor, who have studied the Medicare program over many years, tell us that affluent Medicare enrollees account for only about 1 or 2 percent of Medicare's total costs. But with this change, affluent seniors would likely shift over to private programs that they could easily afford, thereby breaking up the Medicare risk pool and compromising the universality of Medicare coverage. The end result of that, of course, is increasing costs of coverage by adverse selection, a downward spiral of coverage, and erosion of broad political support for Medicare. (5)

Conservatives have pushed for privatization Medicare as an "entitlement program" for many years, by shifting it from a defined-benefits program to one with defined-contributions. As new Speaker of the House in 1994, Newt Gingrich famously declared that this "could solve the Medicare problem and cause it to wither on the vine." (6) Recent years have already seen continuing privatization of Medicare--including the Medicare + Choice HMOs in the 1990s (discredited by excesses of managed care), its sequel, Medicare Advantage, and the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA). Each of these have benefitted insurers, drug companies and other corporate stakeholders more than patients.

Republicans have attached the above two "poison pills," plus other changes not being reported, to a goal that both parties support--eliminating the unworkable SGR formula. But H.R. 2 will continue the unraveling of traditional Medicare, and lead to higher costs that will be unaffordable for many seniors and disabled enrollees. Both parties are congratulating themselves on bipartisanship as they oversell the SGR part of the problem. It is unfortunate and misguided that Democrats are taken by this SGR ruse to transform Medicare. They are seeming to cave to the Republicans without concern for the bill's long-term implications. They need to read the bill and stand up in defense of traditional Medicare. It is inappropriate for them to congratulate themselves on a "transformative" success that is such a long-term threat to the most vulnerable among us.

H.R. 2 will go to the Senate, which returns from recess on April 13th. While it is expected to pass there, there is a big risk that its poison pills will not be recognized and dealt with by legislators. It may well be acted upon quickly as the Senate decides what to do with the austere conservative budget passed by the House that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut Medicaid, food stamps, and other safety-net programs.

House Republicans want to convert Medicare into a voucher program, and would like to see the Senate concur. All this ties together as the biggest threat to health care for seniors and the disabled that we have yet seen. Democrats need to discover their spine!


1. Study Panel on Medicare's Larger Social Role, Final Report. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Social Insurance, 1999, pp. 1-2.

2. Goldsmith, J. Primum non nocere: Congress's inadequate Medicare physician payment fix. Health Affairs blog, January 24, 2014.

3. Editorial Board. The House may be about to finally fix the 'doc fix.' Washington Post, March 25, 2015.

4. Response to House Legislative Package to Repeal and Replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Formula (H. R. 2). New York. Medicare Rights Center, March 26, 2015.

5. Hacker, JS, Marmor, TR. Medicare reform: fact, fiction, and foolishness. Public Policy & Aging Report 13 (4): 1, Fall 2003.

6. Gingrich, N., as cited by Smith, DG. Entitlement Politics: Medicare and Medicaid 1995-2001, New York. Aldine de Gruyter, 2002: 71, citing Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 1995, pp. 7-13.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Grant Hill: 'There's Something Un-American' About NCAA System

Huffington Post News - 1 hour 55 min ago

Former Duke basketball star Grant Hill has joined the small but growing number of former NCAA men’s basketball and football players who say it’s time to ask whether the NCAA should pay student athletes.

In a phone interview with The Huffington Post on Tuesday, Hill said “there’s something un-American” about the NCAA’s current set-up.

“I think we have to take a hard look at that,” Hill said, when asked whether he agrees with fellow Duke basketball alum Shane Battier’s recent insistence that the NCAA figure out a way to financially compensate players. “There’s so much revenue generated on the TV side now.”

‘’In some respects, it seems like there’s something un-American about the whole idea of all this money being generated and all the players and talent that’s on the floor not having a part of that" money, Hill added.

Hill, who played for four NBA teams after graduating Duke, is now a broadcaster who will call the 2015 Final Four for the first time on Saturday, alongside Bill Raftery and Jim Nantz. He spoke to HuffPost as part of his involvement in the 2015 Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team, a program dedicated to honoring student-athletes committed to community service activities.

The NCAA pulled in nearly $1 billion in revenue in its most recent fiscal year, but claims the vast majority of its member institutions’ athletic departments lose money or break even. Sports economists recently told HuffPost that NCAA schools’ razor-thin margins are simply a result of their nonprofit status and accompanying inventive to spend every cent they pull in.

Hill said he was unsure exactly how schools should compensate student-athletes, a complex question considering the vast disparities in revenue generated by men’s football and basketball programs compared with most others. He suggested a regular stipend system or a scheme in which players are compensated after they have finished their studies as possibilities, but said he doesn’t have the answer.

Hill also echoed the concerns of President Barack Obama, who said in a sit-down interview with HuffPost in March that he worried paying college players would lead to “bidding wars” that might “ruin the sense of college sports.”

“You just have to figure out a way so that it’s fair across the board,” Hill cautioned. “You don’t want to give an unfair advantage to a school that has unlimited resources.”

When it comes to the game itself, Hill said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“The college game has a spirit about it that is magical,” Hill said. “As it pertains to March Madness and the tournament, I like it the way it is.”

NCAA schools have made a number of improvements to their athletic scholarship programs over the last year, including allowing unlimited meals for student-athletes after 2014 March Madness star Shabazz Napier told reporters last year that he sometimes went to bed “starving.” In January, a number of elite NCAA conferences also voted to expand their athletic scholarship programs to include additional costs.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Not the Internet We Have, But the Internet We Deserve

Huffington Post News - 2 hours 9 min ago

Edward Snowden may be a man of controversy and mixed reception, but everyone can agree that each time he speaks (although virtually) it becomes a litmus test of public opinion on the Internet.

On Wednesday, March 25 at this year's World Hosting Days in Rust, Germany, Snowden did not disappoint in this regard - appearing on screen in front of the world's leading Internet industry players, he made a serious call to action: "You have the opportunity today to have the trusted service provider relationship with your customers simply by changing your policies."

Photo by Open-Xchange

Of course, no service provider wants to be distrusted by their users. Data privacy is a hard balancing act to play as a service provider, with privacy laws and government policies varying region to region, and new surveillance threats - both from governments and large Internet companies - emerging all the time. But (as someone standing in the room as Snowden made his call to action) I have to say the industry has never been so energized as it is today to turn around the bad course that the Internet has been on, and create a more transparent, open Internet - the Internet that users deserve.

But service providers can't change the world by themselves - users have to be on board, because they are voting on Internet policy every day with their online behaviors.

The Consumer View on the Open Internet

A recent survey Open-Xchange conducted of 3,000 average Internet users in Europe and the U.S. (called the Consumer Openness Index) showed that more than half (55 percent) believe it is impossible to enjoy online services without sacrificing personal privacy. That paints a dark, perhaps even cynical view of public opinion on the Internet - however, these same users also expressed that they are open to using technologies which could improve the transparency and security of the Web.

In fact, 50 percent of survey respondents said that if a tool, for example a mobile application, existed that would alert them when their personal data was being shared by a website, then they would stop using that website immediately. Additionally, a majority would be willing to use encryption for their email, messaging and voice chats - 72 percent said they'd potentially do so. What's stopping them? Ease of use and awareness, it seems: 54 percent would adopt encryption if it was as easy as clicking a button, 47 percent would do so if it came standard with applications, and another 47 percent would use encryption if they had a better understanding of what it was and how to use it.

If you're an advocate of changing the Internet through innovative technology and services, then these are actually very inspiring numbers. Clearly, it's not indifference or apathy that's keeping users from abandoning many of the current intrusive (and often 'free') online services and applications they use - it's simply that aren't aware of or don't have access to easy-to-use, simple alternatives.

Now that's what I'd call a "call to action" for the Internet Industry.

Rebels Without a 'Clause'

I had the privilege of talking over these issues just two weeks ago at SXSW Interactive with some of the smartest minds on data privacy and Internet policy. I convened with Sascha Meinrath, Director of X-Lab; Michele Neylon, CEO of Blacknight Solutions; Dr. Matt McGlone, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at The University of Texas; and Mike Farrell, editor of Passcode, for a roundtable discussion on the results of the Consumer Openness Index.

The venue itself - the German Haus - was very apropos, since us Germans have a unique stance on privacy issues. Whatever the reasons - historical, social, political - German users are more cognizant of their privacy on the Internet than their counterparts in the UK or the U.S., and this was evidenced in our research. In fact, only one-quarter (24 percent) of German users said they have shared credit or debit card information online in the past 3 months - significantly fewer than those in the UK and U.S. (48 percent and 49 percent, respectively). Nearly one-quarter say they do not perform any financial transactions online, as a way to protect their privacy.

Terms and conditions - otherwise known as those lengthy statements that come up when a user is signing up for a new service - are overlooked by many Internet users worldwide. However, more than one-third (37 percent) of German users said they always read terms and conditions.

This level of privacy awareness if nothing to brag about, because Germany has its own troubling history of surveillance, from the Nazis through to the Stasi. But it does show that everyday users can make decisions that really matter online, and that can influence the technology industry, government policy and Internet standards.

Most of the roundtable participants at the German Haus voiced optimism that the Internet industry and policymakers can work together to positively address the current user dissatisfaction with the state of the Internet. Dr. McGlone in particular commented that users are "open to new technologies for protecting their privacy, more open than they were even five years ago." But he also clarified that "simplicity and convenience will be big determiners of their likelihood of using these technologies."

Again - that's a clear call to action. If Internet industry players who value freedom, transparency and privacy can beat the "big guys" at their own game (ease of use, user experience, accessibility and so on) then users can be swayed to embrace a more open Internet through the tools and services they choose to consume.

The So What

Every time a new poll of public opinion on the Internet comes out - and each time Edward Snowden makes a new public statement - we are left asking ourselves "so what?" Will things ever change?

Actually, as shown by the Consumer Openness Index and other recent research like the Pew Research Center's Changing Privacy Landscape report, it's remarkable how much the average Internet user is waking up to the reality of the convoluted, tangled Web that today's Internet has become - including its dangers, its limitations and where it has definite "room for improvement."

There are no quick and easy solutions to today's Internet quandaries, where giant Data States hold our information captive. But by listening to users, and keeping a finger on the pulse of 'openness' that's out there currently, it makes it ten times easier for those of us in the Internet industry to begin making changes that matter - right now!

We're not stuck with the Internet we have, and the Internet we deserve is starting to be in sight.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Asbestos Litigation Industry Buzzes Over NYC's Silver Case, 'Iron Triangle'

Huffington Post News - 2 hours 11 min ago

For a while it was looking like a heavyweight showdown of sorts, at least as civil litigation panel discussions go, being billed as the "Battle in the Big Apple," featuring a name attorney from the Weitz & Luxenberg firm at the apex of New York's wildest political scandal in years.

Airplane tickets were rescheduled and conference calls postponed. But, perhaps showing how genteel such panels have become, the discussion at the Beverly Hills Perrin Conference on "cutting edge" asbestos litigation issues centered on relatively arcane case management orders. To the disappointment of some, Perry Weitz was not asked a single "gotcha" question about his firm's role in the arrest and indictment of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Talk about lackluster cross examination!

But, that particular panel aside, the "Silver case" has ushered in plenty of discussion for the asbestos litigation community. Much of the conference's hallway speculation centered on how the case might impact other "magnet jurisdictions" around the country. Victims' attorneys discount that, noting that the Silver situation may be several things, but that it remains limited to specific facts in New York.

In particular, speculation focused on whether the Silver-case "environment" can cast a shadow onto other local jurisdictions. That argument focuses on places like the longstanding capital of asbestos litigation, Madison County, IL. But it also included others like up-and-coming Newport News, VA, which was included on a recent tort reform group's "Judicial Hellholes" watchlist.

The group says Virginia has the nation's highest plaintiff success rate, at 87 percent, mostly due to Newport News' unusual maritime status.

The "Silver situation" argument tries to underscore what some are dubbing an "iron triangle," where the three corners are powerful (usually Democratic) legislators, wealthy plaintiffs lawyers who finance campaigns, and plaintiff-friendly judges, often appointed and supported by those same lawmakers.

Forbes explained the NYC case: "Federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal complaint against New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, detailing long-rumored allegations about how a prominent asbestos law firm steered millions of dollars to the powerful politician in exchange for client referrals from a doctor, who in turn is accused of accepting favors from Silver."

The NYT also noted that "a 35-page complaint by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York accuses Silver of accepting more than $5.3 million in payments from Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York law firm that specializes in asbestos lawsuits." (The firm has not faced any charges, and it's interesting that plenty of attorneys at the Perrin Conference, from both sides of the debate, argued that often-hefty referral fees are a routine industry practice. There were also jokes about the "no work" aspect of referrals, sort of "if that's illegal, lots of us are in trouble!")

On the judicial front, the case made headlines when Justice Sherry Klein Heitler, the asbestos-caseload judge, came under fire for connections to Silver and for making decisions that benefited his law firm. Heitler, 70, was a chief administrative judge and also headed a special section called New York City Asbestos Litigation, or NYCAL, that manages rules for asbestos cases. She has reportedly retired.

Time will tell if the defense-side's "iron triangle" analogy plays beyond the Five Boroughs, even if Speaker Silver's case highlights tort-reform advocates' talking points. Beyond an obvious link between plaintiff's firms and Democratic political donations, it's hard to see how a regionally significant plaintiff's lawyer, like Newport News' Robert Hatten, stands in for the national Weitz firm. Moreover, how appropriate is to try and paint the Hon. David F. Pugh, who often gets the Newport News asbestos cases, in the role of Judge Heitler?

One can safely assume that Hatten will not respond with a Silver-esque silence. The "watchlist" inclusion brought a blistering demand for an apology to the judiciary carried in the local daily paper.

To be fair, the Perrin Conference buzz about Silver and the "iron triangle" strategy came amid plenty of other cutting-edge (if less newsworthy) issues, like the ongoing discovery under way in a North Carolina bankruptcy case, rumors of high-profile lawyers fleeing some of the larger firms and increased connection between asbestos and lung cancers.

The cutting-edge summary judgement? For a civil lawsuit community often deemed the "longest running" in America, with decades of science and judicial decisions, it remains truly amazing that so very much seems to be unsettled.

(Courts Monitor research staff and West Coast edition editors contributed to this report.)

Categories: Political News and Opinion

“Risk! Podcast Live” at Magic Bag - The Macomb Daily

Berkley Information from Google News - 2 hours 13 min ago

“Risk! Podcast Live” at Magic Bag
The Macomb Daily
Kevin Allison presents his ìRisk! Podcast Liveî ó a program in which people tell true stories they never thought theyíd dare to share ó at the Magic Bag on Thursday, April 9. Posted: 04/01/15, 7:58 AM EDT | Updated: 21 secs ago. # Comments. Kevin ...

and more »

Categories: Berkley Area News

Lessons from the Battlefield

Huffington Post News - 2 hours 36 min ago

At just about sunrise in the sleepy little town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, mommies and daddies, babies and school kids, veterans and old folks start walking the streets looking for a place to go. Many will drag their suitcases through town and head for Carlisle CARES resource center. The scene looks a little like visitors coming to town, walking to their destinations. But there is no train or bus station, these tragic folks are displaced vagabonds, exiles in their own hometown.

Each day - while it's still dark - about 60 people are rousted from their makeshift beds on the floors of local churches. They fold up their blankets, roll up their two-inch foam mats, shoulder their belongings and vacate donated sleeping spaces.

Carlisle is as Americana as any city in the United States. Five founders who signed the Declaration of Independence lived in Carlisle. General Washington didn't just sleep there; he mustered troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion and worshiped regularly at the Presbyterian Church in the town square.

Carlisle came under fire during the Civil War. Rebel troops camped on the campus of Dickinson College as Confederate General Richard Ewell occupied the Carlisle Barracks: the northernmost military installation taken by the south during the War Between the States. The barracks - now known as the Army War College, a graduate school that educates military commanders from around the globe - at one time housed the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. That Native American concentration camp - disguised as a leaning institution - is best remembered for Jim Thorpe, the Sac and Fox native who won the U.S. two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics.

Carlisle, Pennsylvania is a pretty special place today too. Just 18,727 people live there. The median price of a dwelling is $137,500. Carlisle has a Dunkin Donuts, a McDonalds or two, a Walmart, many other power retailers and fast food joints and - as the crossroads of the east coast trucking industry - lots and lots of warehouses. Not surprisingly, many of the low wage earners who work in those establishments aren't living in the hundred-plus thousand dollar homes. They're sleeping on the floor of churches or in one of Carlisle's other two homeless facilities. Still, all these people working for low wages and shuffling along with their kids and the elderly in Cumberland County have it better off than most of the folks experiencing homelessness across the country. Most communities the size of Carlisle don't have any shelter at all.

Perhaps it's because of Carlisle's constant presence at the forefront of American history that the people of that town dedicate so many resources to the reality faced by their low-income neighbors. After J.E.B. Stuart's blasted a few canon balls into your county court house, it's hard to deny the reality of war. And there is a war in America. It's the war on the poor.

See, little Carlisle's remarkable because it acknowledges the homeless. Without counting the people living in dingy hotels - regularly displaced during one of the town's many infamous car shows - or those doubled up on the floors and couches in their neighbors homes, Carlisle charities shelter roughly 180 persons a night.

That means that little Carlisle bears the responsibility for 180 people - a third of whom sleep on the floors of churches - 180 out of 18 thousand. Sure, they get a little help from the feds, very little, and even less from the state: the bulk of the burden for caring for people in the town rests on the shoulders of the good people in the area: An area where one of every one hundred persons is homeless.

Why are the people of Carlisle better off than the rest of the country? They're better off because using Carlisle's numbers and applying them nationally - numbers that are more accurate than nearly every other community that can't or won't support it's neighbors in need - simple math indicates that the number of homeless people in America is about 3.5 million. Sadly for everyone from the infants to the elderly experiencing homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) denies the existence of roughly 3 million of them.

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a community that was there for the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and educator to the commanders of our all our modern conflicts, has dedicated its resources to fighting the war on the poor. But the evidence this loving community has gathered on the battlefield is ignored.

The country should examine Carlisle's experience; study the whole problem - not the redacted version reported by HUD - demand more accurate reporting of the problem and exponential funding increases to address the need. If experience proves anything, the impact made by one small town, courageously battling successive threats to the American Dream, cannot be denied. Carlisle, Pennsylvania is proof that resources applied to a national threat can stave off disaster.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Postmodern Politics?

Huffington Post News - 2 hours 55 min ago

The United States and the Iranians share a common enemy in ISIS which they are both battling in Tikrit. There have even been reports that there has been some competiton and resentment on the part of Shiite militias who have refused to fight while the United States is bombing targets in the city ("US Airstrikes on ISIS in Tikrit Prompt Boycott by Shiite Fighters," NYT, 3/26/15). In Yemen the United States backs the Abrabbuh Mansour Hadi the democratically elected president who had previously been unseated by the Iranian backed Houthi's and is now in the process of being restored by a Saudi lead coalition ("Yemen Crisis: Who is fighting whom?"BBC, 3/26/15). America's closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, is Iran's greatest foe. Have such multivalent alliances ever existed in modern times. In the Second World War, there was, for instance, the Axis (composed of Japan, German and the fascist governments of Italy, France and Spain) and the Allies. However fragile, life was still simpler, as it was in terms of the spectrum of alliances that characterized the First World War. In l939, Russia did sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with the Germans, but that alliance soon fell apart. In his speech to congress Netanyahu said about the prospect of a military alliance with Iran, "the enemy of your enemy is your enemy." But these developments might be termed post-modernist realpolitik. If there ever was a sense of good and evil, of right and wrong, it is has become more cloudy then ever and the current situation has begotten the kind of strange bedfellows that one finds here in America where the Christian right and the feminist left have united against protecting the First Amendment rights of pornographers who produce images that are offensive to women. There's strength in numbers and its always easier when a coalition can close ranks against a common enemy the way the allies did against the axis powers during the Second World War. But there's also something undeniably intriguing about the prospect of sharing objectives with unlikely partners. As the palette of human sexuality has changed with same sex marriage and sex reassignment, so the concept of national objectives and identities which have created entities like NATO an SEATO may also evolve in ways that offer more pluralistic solutions to conflict resolution.

photo.: Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, Ottoman Grand Visier and Wali of Yemen

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Republican Economic Veterans Advising Jeb Bush

Huffington Post News - 3 hours 23 min ago

By Steve Holland, Anna Yukhananov and Lauren Tara LaCapra

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - Glenn Hubbard and Kevin Warsh, veteran Republican economic policymakers and critics of the Fed's ultra-loose monetary policy, have emerged as top economic advisers to likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush, Republican sources said on Tuesday.

Hubbard, who served as the top White House economist for former President George W. Bush, was one of the architects of Bush's tax cuts. Hubbard also advised Mitt Romney in his 2012 bid for the presidency and together with Warsh was mooted as a possible Treasury secretary if Romney made it to the White House.

Hubbard, dean of the business school at Columbia University, has close ties to financial companies, including insurer Metlife Inc and BlackRock Inc, the world's largest money manager.

Warsh served on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors during the Bush years.

Jeb Bush has been weighing a presidential bid and is expected to make a formal announcement within the coming months.

Two Republicans familiar with the matter confirmed the roles of Hubbard and Warsh. A Bush spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

Hubbard, in an emailed statement, would not confirm the connection with Bush, saying he was willing to discuss economic policies with any presidential contender, including Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"I think Governor Bush would be an excellent president, with his focus on economic growth, work, and opportunity. I would be happy to talk with any candidate about economic ideas - including Secretary Clinton," he said.

Warsh was not immediately available to comment.

Bill Simon, a former Wal-Mart chief executive who served on Bush's team when he was governor of Florida, is assembling policy experts for his prospective candidacy, Republican sources said.


Jeb Bush laid out his economic vision in February, saying he wanted to close the "opportunity gap," and reduce income inequality with solutions that do not rely heavily on government.

Hubbard has also called for less government. He has described President Barack Obama's signature health care law as a job killer and opposes Democratic proposals to raise the minimum wage.

He has advocated corporate and individual income tax cuts and shifting toward consumption taxes. He also favors expanded tax credits for the working poor.

Hubbard has kept his Rolodex up to date since leaving government, inviting corporate executives and economic policy experts to events and lectures at Columbia, according to a former colleague in the Bush administration.

But he has also come under fire for his close ties to the financial world.

In the 2010 documentary "Inside Job," filmmaker Charles Ferguson questioned him about his relationships with big banks including his involvement with Goldman Sachs Group Inc's Global Markets Institute while serving as dean of the business school.

He was also a researcher and expert witness in 2012 for subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Inc in a lawsuit over toxic mortgage securities.

The criticism prompted Columbia to change its policy to require business school professors to publicly disclose outside activities that could pose a conflict.

Hubbard's biography on Columbia's web site lists him as a member of the boards of directors for Metlife Inc and payroll company Automatic Data Processing Inc, as well as the board of BlackRock Inc's closed-end fund business, earning him, according to SEC filings, over half a million dollars in recent years.


During his tenure at the Federal Reserve, Warsh worked closely with then-Chairman Ben Bernanke battling the 2007-2009 financial crisis, serving as a conduit for communications with Wall Street firms.

Warsh has criticized the Fed's aggressive monetary easing, and has said he was worried about the risk of a financial bubble.

"The Fed has been spoiling financial markets since the depths of the financial crisis," he told CNBC on Tuesday.

But Warsh disagrees with Republicans who have called for greater congressional oversight of the Fed's monetary policy decision-making.

For his part, Hubbard has said the Fed's initial bond buying helped stabilize the U.S. economy after the financial crisis, but later on the securities purchases failed to do much to lift the economy and posed too many risks.

Warsh was among the Fed's richest top officials when he joined it in 2006. Financial disclosures released in 2010 stated that as of the previous year, his wife Jane Lauder, granddaughter of the founder of the Estee Lauder cosmetics company, had assets worth at least $66.3 million. Warsh listed assets worth between $702,000 and $1.5 million. (Additional reporting by Howard Schneider in Washington; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Iran Nuclear Talks Resume After Negotiators Abandon March Deadline

Huffington Post News - 4 hours 47 min ago

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Iran nuclear negotiators resumed talks here Wednesday, just hours after abandoning a March 31 deadline to reach the outline of a deal and agreeing to press on. However, as the discussions dragged on, three of the six foreign ministers involved left the talks, and prospects for agreement remained uncertain.

Claiming enough progress had been made to warrant an extension after six days of intense bartering and eager to avoid a collapse in the discussions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his British and German counterparts huddled with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in the Swiss town of Lausanne to continue a marathon effort to bridge still significant gaps and hammer out details of a framework accord.

The foreign ministers of China, France and Russia all departed Lausanne overnight, although the significance of their absence was not clear.

The remaining ministers and the Chinese, French and Russian officials left behind are looking to reach understandings that would form the basis for a comprehensive agreement to be reached by the end of June.

After the talks last broke in the early hours of Wednesday, Zarif said solutions to many of the problems had been found and that documents attesting to that would soon be drafted. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said before leaving that the negotiators had reached agreement in principle on all key issues, and in the coming hours it will be put on paper.

But other officials were more skeptical.

Asked how high the chances of success were, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "I cannot say." And British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Iran might still not be ready to accept what is on the table.

"I'm optimistic that we will make further progress this morning but it does mean the Iranians being willing to meet us where there are still issues to deal with," Hammond told British reporters. "Fingers crossed and we'll hope to get there during the course of the day."

Although the Chinese, French and Russian ministers left their deputies in charge, Kerry postponed his planned Tuesday departure to stay in Lausanne, and an Iranian negotiator said his team would stay "as long as necessary" to clear the remaining hurdles.

Officials say their intention is to produce a joint statement outlining general political commitments to resolving concerns about Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, and their intention to begin a new phase of negotiations to get to that point. In addition, they are trying to fashion other documents that would lay out in more detail the steps they must take by June 30 to meet those goals.

The additional documents would allow the sides to make the case that the next round of talks will not simply be a continuation of negotiations that have already been twice extended since an interim agreement between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany was concluded in November 2013. President Barack Obama and other leaders, including Iran's, have said they are not interested in a third extension.

But if the parties agree only to a broad framework that leaves key details unresolved, Obama can expect stiff opposition at home from members of Congress who want to move forward with new, stiffer Iran sanctions. Lawmakers had agreed to hold off on such a measure through March while the parties negotiated. The White House says new sanctions would scuttle further diplomatic efforts to contain Iran's nuclear work and possibly lead Israel to act on threats to use military force to accomplish that goal.

And despite the progress that diplomats said merited the extension of talks into Wednesday, officials said the differences notably included issues over uranium enrichment, the status of Iran's enriched uranium stockpiles, limits on Iran's nuclear research and development, and the timing and scope of sanctions relief.

The U.S. and its negotiating partners are demanding curbs on Iranian nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons, and they say any agreement must extend the time Tehran would need to produce a weapon from the present several months to at least a year. The Iranians deny such military intentions, but they are negotiating with the aim that a deal will end sanctions on their economy.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Kim Ki-Jong Charged With Attempted Murder In Knife Attack On U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert

Huffington Post News - 7 hours 29 min ago

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday indicted a man who slashed the U.S. ambassador in Seoul last month on charges of attempted murder.

Kim Ki-jong, 55, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of assaulting a foreign envoy and obstruction, according to an official at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, who did not want to be named, citing department rules. South Korean law requires the trial to start within 14 days, and there is a possibility that it could start as early as next week, according to an official at the Seoul Central District Court, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules. He said it was too early to comment on the potential penalties Kim could face.

Prosecutors have also been investigating whether Kim violated a controversial law that bans praise or assistance for North Korea. The court official said it was possible prosecutors may add such charges against Kim during the trial.

Police say Kim attacked Ambassador Mark Lippert with a knife during a breakfast forum on March 5. He suffered deep gashes on his face and arm and was treated at a Seoul hospital for five days.

Police say Kim chose Lippert as a target to highlight his opposition to ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills. North Korea has angrily reacted to the drills, calling them an invasion rehearsal.

Anti-U.S. activists such as Kim have long blamed the presence of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South as a deterrent to the North for the continuing split of the Korean Peninsula.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Detroit Rep wrings deep emotions from a simple plot - Detroit Free Press

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:29pm

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Rep wrings deep emotions from a simple plot
Detroit Free Press
On paper, "The Kiss of the Sun for Pardon," described as a story in which "a barefoot waif gets lodging with a wheelchair-bound curmudgeon," has all the earmarks of a corny, sentimental work. Plot summaries can be deceiving, however. Watching Detroit ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

Best of the best: 5 fun things to do April 2-8 - Detroit Free Press

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:25pm

Detroit Free Press

Best of the best: 5 fun things to do April 2-8
Detroit Free Press
If excitement is building among the kiddies in your life about the imminent appearance of a certain candy-bearing hare, a visit to the Detroit Zoo is in order this weekend. The 24th edition of BUNNYVILLE, the zoo's annual Easter-themed party, springs ...

Categories: Berkley Area News

Oakland Joins Boycott Of Indiana Over Religious Freedom Law

Huffington Post News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:35pm

Oakland, California, on Tuesday joined a growing list of governments and businesses to boycott Indiana over its new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say allows businesses to shun LGBT people.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement that the city will not spend taxpayer money on travel to Indiana and condemned the state's law, which allows businesses to cite religious beliefs as a legal defense to discrimination, according to the East Bay Express.

"As Mayor of Oakland, I join with jurisdictions, private citizens, businesses and other entities around the world in denouncing the State of Indiana’s action and will continue to direct the City Administrator to deny the use of City dollars for travel to Indiana as long as this discriminatory law remains in effect,” Schaaf said.

Oakland joins San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Portland, Oregon, in announcing travel bans after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill on Thursday. Connecticut, Washington state and New York also have banned publicly funded travel by government workers to Indiana.

Several powerful tech companies near Oakland also spoken out against the Indiana law, with San Francisco-based Salesforce canceling the companies' events in the state.

HUFFPOST READERS: If you live in Indiana, we want to hear about how this law is affecting you. Email your story or any tips to Include your name, the city you live in, and a phone number if you're willing to be contacted by a reporter.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Pregnant mother, child held up by gunman at Southfield apartment - MyFox Detroit

Berkley Information from Google News - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:27pm

MyFox Detroit

Pregnant mother, child held up by gunman at Southfield apartment
MyFox Detroit
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) - A pregnant mother and her child were held up at gunpoint outside their Southfield apartment March 19. Police are still looking for the two suspects at large. Amber left her apartment around 8:45 a.m. to take her 6-year-old ...

Categories: Berkley Area News