Published: Sunday 9 December 2012
The Republicans should not have been caught off-guard by Americans’ interest in issues like disenfranchisement and gender equality

 

After a hard-fought election campaign, costing well in excess of $2 billion, it seems to many observers that not much has changed in American politics: Barack Obama is still President, the Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate. With America facing a “fiscal cliff” – automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of 2013 that will most likely drive the economy into recession unless bipartisan agreement on an alternative fiscal path is reached – could there be anything worse than continued political gridlock?
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In fact, the election had several salutary effects – beyond showing that unbridled corporate spending could not buy an election, and that demographic changes in the United States may doom Republican extremism. The Republicans’ explicit campaign of disenfranchisement in some states – like Pennsylvania, where they tried to make it more difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to register to vote – backfired: those whose rights were threatened were motivated to turn out and exercise them. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and tireless warrior for reforms to protect ordinary citizens from banks’ abusive practices, won a seat in the Senate.

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Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
With the cut back of early voting in Florida, the result of lengthy lines was predictable.

If no one else is rejoicing about the systemic inconveniences imposed on Florida voters on Election Day, where waits as long as eight hours to cast a ballot were endured and witnessed by thousands of voters, the state’s former senators Mike Bennett and Ellyn Bogdanoff should be elated.

“I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert,” Bennett said in 2011 when sponsoring legislation to impose stricter voting requirements. His colleague concurred with his view that voting should be made more difficult. “Democracy should not be a convenience,” Bogdanoff said.

With the cut back of early voting in Florida, the result of lengthy lines was predictable. Lee Rowland, counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, noted that each state that succeeded in limiting early voting, particularly Florida and Ohio, led in the number of waiting hours for the public to vote, according to preliminary reports.

Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of the Advancement Project’s Voter Protection Program, said that had her mother been voting in Florida, she would have been unable to endure the wait as she uses a walker. 

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Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters.”

Add this to the list of bad bets the GOP placed this year: that young Americans’ support for Barack Obama, and their interest in politics in general, was tenuous enough to break—and that it could be broken through discouragement and voter suppression, rather than by specific appeals to their concerns.

Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters. That figure is comparable with the estimate at this time in 2008, which later rose to 52 percent as final results trickled in. Nearly a fifth of all voters were under 30 (19 percent, up from 18 percent in 2008), and they voted for Obama by a twenty-three-point margin, 60 to 37 percent.

The president could not have won without them. An analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) suggests that eighty of Obama’s electoral votes  READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Whether because of work constraints, school constraints, or other factors, voters across southwest Ohio were glad to have the opportunity to vote Monday.

“Today is the first day in the last seven that I’ve been outside,” David Ellis, a heavy-set African American man, told me as he waited at the back of the line in Springfield to vote. Ellis had just been released from the hospital earlier that day following major surgery. “I can’t stand out here long,” he said as he leaned on his black cane.

What if there weren’t early voting on Monday, I asked.

“I would’ve been a no-vote,” Ellis said, letting out a hearty chuckle.

Whether he knew it or not, Ellis came within a hair’s breadth of being a no-vote. For the past few months, Secretary of State Jon Husted has fought to eliminate the final three days of ...

Published: Sunday 4 November 2012
Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.”

Over the weekend, Romney debuted an ad in Ohio showing cars being crushed as a narrator says Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”

In fact, Chrysler is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Ohio. Its profits have enabled it to separately consider expanding into China, the world’s largest auto market.

Responding to the ad, Chrysler emphasized in a blog post that it has “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

“They are inviting a false inference,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on political advertising.

This is only the most recent in a stream of lies from Romney. Remember his contention that the President planned to “rob” Medicare of $716 billion when in fact the money would come from reduced payments to providers who were overcharging — thereby extending the life of Medicare? (Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.)

Remember Romney’s claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, when in fact Obama merely allowed governors to fashion harder or broader work requirements?  

Recall Romney’s assertion that he is not planning to give the rich a tax cut of almost $5 trillion, when in fact that’s exactly what his budget plan does? Or that his budget will reduce the long-term budget deficit, when in fact his numbers don’t add up? 

And so on. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil ...

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
While targeting firms promise a wealth of individual detail, it's hard to know how much information most campaigns are actually using.

 

If you're a registered voter and surf the web, one of the sites you visit has almost certainly placed a tiny piece of data on your computer flagging your political preferences. That piece of data, called a cookie, marks you as a Democrat or Republican, when you last voted, and what contributions you've made. It also can include factors like your estimated income, what you do for a living, and what you've bought at the local mall.

Across the country, companies are using cookies to tailor the political ads you see online. One of the firms is CampaignGrid, which boasted in a recent slideshow, “Internet Users are No Longer Anonymous.” The slideshow includes an image of the famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993: “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.” Next to it, CampaignGrid lists what it can now know about an Internet user: “Lives in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, 19002 zip code, Registered primary voting Republican, High net worth household, Age 50-54, Teenagers in the home, Technology professional, Interested in politics, Shopping for a car, Planning a vacation in Puerto Rico.”

The slideshow was online until last week, when the company removed it after we asked for comment. (Here is the  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
We noted the devastating health consequences of fracking close to a middle school/high school in Le Roy, New York, where at least 18 cases of Tourette Syndrome-like outbreaks have been reported by its students.

 

Pennsylvania recently passed Act 147 - also known as the Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act - opening up the floodgates for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on the campuses of its public universities. As noted in a recent post by DeSmog, the shale gas industry hasn't limited Version 2.0 of "frackademics" to PA's campuses, but is also fracking close to hundreds of K-12 schools across the country, as well.  

We noted the devastating health consequences of fracking close to a middle school/high school in Le Roy, New York, where at least 18 cases of Tourette Syndrome-like outbreaks have been reported by its students. This has moved Erin Brockovich's law firm to investigate the case, telling USA Today, "We don't have all the answers, but we are suspicious. The community asked us to help and this is what we do."

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability's just-published report, "Gas Patch Roulette: How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in ...

Published: Saturday 20 October 2012
“Ordinarily if I’ve overpaid my local tax, for example by paying too much in the four required estimated tax payments, the township simply applies the overpayment to my next tax year’s estimated payment. Not so this year.”

 

I went into my local township building Monday to settle up my local income tax bill. I had filed for an extension of my federal and state taxes back in April (call it my "Romney extension), because of my father’s unexpected death a few weeks before the tax filing date and the need to deal with his funeral and with arranging for care for my widowed mother, who has Alzheimer’s, had taken up all my time.

I paid my local tax bill on time though, because at 1 percent of income it is a relatively small amount and was easy to get out of the way. I just made a rough estimate and dropped a check with the one-page form in the mail, figuring I’d settle the amount due after my federal taxes were completed. So, after finally getting my federal and state taxes done, I went to the town hall to settle up. It turned out I’d overpaid my local taxes by $165.

Ordinarily if I’ve overpaid my local tax, for example by paying too much in the four required estimated tax payments, the township simply applies the overpayment to my next tax year’s estimated payment. Not so this year. I was told that the collection of taxes by all the townships in Montgomery County had been privatized -- taken over by a private accountancy firm called Berkheimer Tax Administrator, a company expressly created to bid for outsourced collection operations of local towns, school districts and counties, for a fee.

The immediate problem for me resulting from this astonishing privatization of a fundamental local government activity -- the collection of taxes -- was that the local township office said they could not credit my overpayment as before. “Berkheimer is in charge of the money,” a township official told me, “and they will send you a check for the overpayment.”

“But that means I will be late in filing the first two quarterly estimated payments for 2012,” I said, adding, “but I’m ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“The financial disclosure system Congress has implemented also does not require the legislators to identify potential conflicts at the time that they take official actions that intersect or overlap with their investments.”

 

As legislators, members of Congress shape the environment where both benefits and detriments to their own fiscal wellbeing can be derived. A recent investigation by the Washington Post has shown the 73 congresspeople engage in practices which leverage their power for a net a financial gain. No one is corrupting these members — they’re doing it to themselves.

The Washington Post reports that:

The practice is both legal and permitted under the ethics rules 

that Congress has written for itself, which allow lawmakers to take actions that benefit themselves or their families except when they are the lone beneficiaries. The financial disclosure system Congress has implemented also does not require the legislators to identify potential conflicts at the time that they take official actions that intersect or overlap with their investments.

The committees rarely discipline their own, instead providing advisory opinions that generally give support and justification to lawmakers who take actions that intersect with their personal financial holdings, according to interviews with nearly a dozen ethics experts and government watchdog groups. And though Congress has required top executive branch officials to divest themselves of assets that may present a conflict, lawmakers have not asked the same of themselves.

While members of Congress are encouraged to consult the ethics committee for advice on whether or not to endorse or vote on a bill that may benefit their or one of their close relatives financial holdings, the committee

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“In an Oct. 4 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius, they suggested that $10 billion spent so far on the program has failed to ensure that the digital systems can share medical information, a key goal.”

 

Four Republican House leaders want federal officials to suspend payments to hospitals and doctors who switch from paper to electronic health records, arguing the program may be wasting billions of tax dollars and doing little to improve the quality of medical care.

In an Oct. 4 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius, they suggested that $10 billion spent so far on the program has failed to ensure that the digital systems can share medical information, a key goal. Linking health systems by computer is expected to help doctors do a better job treating the sick by avoiding costly waste, medical errors and duplication of tests.

The letter urges Sebilius to “change the course of direction” of the incentive program to require that doctors and hospitals  receiving tax money get digital systems that can “talk with one another.” Failure to do so, the letter says, will result in a “less efficient system that squanders taxpayer dollars and does little, if anything, to improve outcomes for Medicare.” The letter urges Sebelius to suspend payments under the program until rules are written requiring that the systems share information.

The letter is signed by Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, D-Mich., Ways and Means health subcommittee chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa. and energy health subcommittee chair Wally Herger, R-Calif.

The Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which runs the incentive program, did not respond to a request for comment on the letter on Friday.

The harsh criticism from Congress is unusual given the strong support that digitizing medicine has received from both political parties in recent years.

President George W. ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
“The lower court judge responded to the state supreme court’s order, and he blocked some — but not all — of the state’s voter suppression law.”

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously rejected a lower court judge’s decision allowing that state’s voter ID law to move forward. The high court ordered the trial judge to reexamine the case to ensure “liberal access” the ID voters need to vote, and to ensure that voter disenfranchisement will not result from the voter ID law — which the state’s Republican House Majority Leader said was enacted to “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

This morning, the lower court judge responded to the state supreme court’s order, and he blocked some — but not all — of the state’s voter suppression law. The punchline of his opinion is that voters will still be asked to present IDs at the polls, but voters without IDs will be allowed to cast ballots of some kind. In November, the opinion indicates that voters will be allowed to cast regular ballots. After November, assuming ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
Earthworks demonstrated that the penalties for breaking the rules are currently so weak that it’s merely been deemed a tiny “cost of doing business” by the oil and gas industry.

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project published a scathing 124-page report this week, "Breaking All the Rules: the Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement."

The content of the report is exactly as it sounds.

That is, state-level regulatory agencies and officials often aren't doing the jobs taxpayers currently pay them to do and aren't enforcing regulations on active oil and gas wells even when required to under the law.

This is both out of neglect and also because they're vastly understaffed and underfunded, meaning they literally don't have the time and/or resources to do proper inspections.

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
In Pennsylvania alone - a state where the concepts of mercy, compassion and understanding appear to be uniquely in short supply - there are an astonishing 470 prisoners currently serving prison terms of life-without-chance-of-parole who committed their crimes as children

 

The United States never misses an opportunity to castigate other countries for “uncivilized” behavior, and certainly there is enough of that to go around almost anywhere you look in the world. But there’s plenty of it here in the U.S. too.

Just consider the case of Terry Williams.

Williams, a 47-year-old black man, has spent almost 30 years on Pennsylvania’s crowded death row while lawyers appealed his death penalty for two murders committed back when he was a 17 and 18-year old boy. Now he’s about to be killed by the state for those crimes.

At the time he was tried and convicted, although it was known to prosecutors that his two victims were adult men who had forcibly raped Williams when he was as young as 13, and that he had been a victim of sexual abuse since he was six, the jury was not informed about any of this. In recent years, a number of the 12 jurors who originally convicted him and sentenced the teenager to death have now said that had they known about the abuse he suffered -- particularly at the hands of the two men he later killed -- they would have decided the case differently, and certainly would not have voted for the death penalty. Even the wife of one of his victims has pleaded with the state to spare him.

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Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign.”

For Democrats caught up in the race for U.S. presidential power, Mitt Romney’s description of “the 47 percent” is a great chance to pile on. Here is a super-rich Republican showing his contempt for the working class, many people are thinking — let’s make the most of it!

But sometimes the “caught in the act” statements of politicians are worth more than a quick dismissal. Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign. He told people in a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to explain their economic frustrations.

The two remarks are different. Romney’s is contemptuous, while Obama’s is only condescending. As someone brought up working class, I can tell the difference; I voted for Obama because I’ve been condescended to a lot in my life, and that doesn’t stop me from making reasoned choices. I’ll vote for him again. But my point here is that both remarks reveal the striking lack of agency that is assigned by leaders of political parties to the working class.

What made Obama’s remark condescending was that he made it as a leading Democrat. If the Democratic Party had been fighting for the agency of working class people, then the labor movement would be so strong that we would now be enjoying full employment, universal health care, and low or no college tuition. The financial sector would have been too regulated to throw us into the current recession, and if it somehow had done so anyway, the priority in 2008 and 2009 would have been Main Street, not Wall Street.

In other words, the economic frustrations that Obama linked to certain cultural expressions in small-town Pennsylvania were exacerbated by his own party. His remark ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
Fracking as a political issue, like that tap water, is catching fire.

 

Western Pennsylvania is considered the birthplace of commercial oil drilling. On Aug. 27, 1859, Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pa., and changed the course of history. Now, people there are busy trying to stop wells, and the increasingly pervasive drilling practice known as fracking. Fracking is the popular term for hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to extract natural gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface. Fracking is promoted by the gas industry as the key to escaping from dependence on foreign oil. But evidence is mounting that fracking pollutes groundwater with a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals, creating imminent threats to public health and safety. It has even caused earthquakes in Ohio. As people mark the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, popular resistance to the immense power of the energy industry is on the rise.

Underlying the problem of fracking is, literally, the Marcellus Shale (which is formally called, coincidentally, the Marcellus Member of the Romney Formation). This massive, underground geologic formation stretches from upstate New York across Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, through West Virginia, Tennessee and parts of Virginia. Unlike the easily extracted crude oil of Saudi Arabia, the natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is captured in tiny pockets, and is hard to get at. In order to extract it with what the industry considers efficiency, holes are drilled thousands of feet deep, which then turn a corner and continue thousands more feet, horizontally. The detonation of explosive charges, coupled with the infusion of high-pressure fluids, fractures the shale, allowing the gas to bubble up to the surface.

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Published: Wednesday 19 September 2012
“The Supreme Court, which had only concluded its hearings on the law late last week, emphasized that the lower court must heavily weigh the likelihood of whether the law would prevent registered voters who lack a photo ID from being eligible to vote in the November 6th presidential election.”

In a relatively speedy finding, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it is sending the decision on the state’s controversial photo-ID law back to the lower court for a decision.

 

The Supreme Court, which had only concluded its hearings on the law late last week, emphasized that the lower court must heavily weigh the likelihood of whether the law would prevent registered voters who lack a photo ID from being eligible to vote in the November 6th presidential election.

 

“We’re glad to see that [the] Pennsylvania Supreme Court is taking the actual impact on voters seriously,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Requiring the state to prove the law will not disenfranchise voters is the right step to take. The reports from Pennsylvania already include long lines at the PennDOT [Pennsylvania Department of Transportation] offices, confusion and untrained workers giving out misinformation.”

 

That PennDOT staff would not be adequately trained to meet the volume of public inquiries, or that its bureaucracy would be incapable of issuing the number of photo IDs required, have been ongoing concerns of state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Harrisburg). For one, he has explained that PennDOT staff are not well versed with election laws which are distinctly different and more complex than the criteria for simply obtaining a driver’s license. However, staff training aside, Hughes, the Democratic Appropriations Chair, contends that the state simply has not allocated enough revenue to cover the costs of generating the necessary number of photo IDs.

 

By the state’s own estimates, even if it eliminated the approximately 100,000 registered voters it has deemed inactive from its calculations, approximately 600,000 photo-IDs would have to be ...

Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
“Here in Pennsylvania, Terry Williams, a man who has been living on death row for three decades after being convicted murdering two men when he was only 17 and 18, is slated to be executed October 3.”

 

Just because someone has the ability to do something, does not mean he or she should do it.

We have two examples of such a situation before us at the moment: President Barack Obama and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

Here in Pennsylvania, Terry Williams, a man who has been living on death row for three decades after being convicted murdering two men when he was only 17 and 18, is slated to be executed October 3. He has exhausted his appeals and his family, his attorney, and even the wife of one of the men he killed, are asking the state's governor and former attorney general, Republican Tom Corbett, to grant him clemency. Why? Williams was repeatedly raped by his two victims, beginning when he was only a 13-year-old boy. It’s ironic that the same Gov. Corbett who turned a blind eye to Penn State serial boy rapist and football coach Jerry Sandusky is now, at least so far, allowing this obscene execution to go forward. Corbett signed the death warrant for Williams’ execution early this month.

Then we have President Obama. Last fall he signed into law the Constitution-shredding National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision allowing the military, inside the United States, to arrest and detain indefinitely without trial American citizens. He initially assured the public that he would not use that tyrannical power as president. Not wanting to trust that all presidents would say the same thing, a group of journalists and other plaintiffs then filed suit in federal court, claiming the law was unconstitutional (the sixth amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guarantees to all people -- not just citizens -- the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”). Two days ago, Federal District Judge Katherine Forrest (an Obama appointee to the bench) issued a permanent injunction in New York declaring ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“Republicans have led the effort, saying argue voter ID laws prevent fraud.”

NAACP President Ben Jealous joins us to discuss what some are calling the greatest wave of legislative assaults on voting rights in more than half a century. As shifting demographics give more weight to voters in the South, eight of 11 states in the former Confederacy have passed restrictive voting laws since the 2010 election. Republicans have led the effort, saying voter ID laws prevent fraud. But others call it a political ploy to suppress voters who may not have the proper identification, and typically vote Democrat.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We’re covering the Democratic convention, inside and out. I’m Amy Goodman.

And in this last segment of this hour of Democracy Now!, we’re joined by Ben Jealous. He is head of the NAACP. I saw folks from the NAACP at the Republican convention, now here at the Democratic convention. Voter rights has been a clear message of the 

Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld.

 

Raymond Rutherford has voted for decades. But this year, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to cast a ballot.

The Sumter, S.C., resident, 59, has never had a government-issued photo ID because a midwife’s error listed him as Ramon Croskey on his birth certificate. It’s wrong on his Social Security card, too.

Rutherford has tried to find the time and money to correct his birth certificate as he waits to see if the photo voter ID law is upheld by a three-judge U.S. District Court panel, scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., in late September.

In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld. Voters without photo ID by November would be able to sign an affidavit explaining why they could not get an ID in time.

South Carolina’s photo voter ID law is similar to a series of restrictive election measures passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in states of the former Confederacy, including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia. North Carolina’s General Assembly failed to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a photo voter ID bill. 

Thirty-seven states have considered photo voter ID laws since 2010. In November, five states — Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas and Pennsylvania — will vote under new strict photo voter ID laws. A judge soon could decide whether the Pennsylvania law violates the state constitution, as voting rights advocates claim.

Supporters argue the laws are important protections against in-person voter impersonation fraud, but civil rights organizations and election historians see evidence of a more sinister legacy. Obtaining certificates of birth, marriage and divorce needed to get a proper photo ID can be an obstacle ...

Published: Friday 17 August 2012
“Lawsuits have continued to crop up challenging the laws, mostly on the grounds that they violate state constitutions.”

 

On Wednesday, in a closely watched case, a state judge in Pennsylvania declined to block the state’s controversial voter ID law from taking effect. If the ruling is upheld on appeal, registered voters in the state will be required to show acceptable photo ID during the general election in November.

There’s been a lot of attention on this lawsuit, given the closeness of the election and greater focus on voter ID laws, which critics say could disenfranchise voters who are likely to lack photo ID, often the poor, elderly, and minorities. (To catch up on this issue, check out our guide on everything you need to know about voter ID laws.)

Yesterday’s ruling has generated plenty of criticism and concern. But it’s far from the first time a judge has ruled on voter ID laws, a number of times in favor of them. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Indiana’s strict voter ID law, saying in 2008 that it’s constitutional.

Lawsuits have continued to crop up challenging the laws, mostly on the grounds ...

Published: Sunday 5 August 2012
The Delaware “Island” is heavily utilized by oil and gas majors, all of which are part of the “two-thirds of the Fortune 500” corporations parking their money in The First State.

 

Most people think of downtown Houston, Texas as ground zero for the oil and gas industry. Houston, after all, serves as home base for corporate headquarters of oil and gas giants, including the likes of BPAmerica, ConocoPhillips, and Shell Oil Company, to name a few.

Comparably speaking, few would think of Wilmington, Delaware in a similar vein. But perhaps they should, according to a recent New York Times investigative report by Leslie Wayne.

Wayne's story revealed that Delaware serves as what journalist Nicholas Shaxson calls a "Treasure Island" in his recent book by that namesake. It's an "onshore tax haven" and an even more robust one than the Caymen Islands, to boot.

The Delaware "Island" is heavily utilized by oil and gas majors, all of which are part of the "two-thirds of the Fortune 500" corporations parking their money in The First State.

Delaware is an outlier in the way it does business,” David Brunori, a professor at George Washington Law School told The Times. “What it offers is an opportunity to game the system and do it legally.”

The numbers are astounding. "Over the last decade, the Delaware loophole has enabled corporations to reduce the taxes paid to other states by an estimated $9.5 billion," Wayne wrote

"More than 900,000 business entities choose Delaware as a location to incorporate," explained another report. "The number…exceeds Delaware's human population of 850,000."

Marcellus Shale Frackers Utilize the "Delaware Loophole" 

The New York Times story also demonstrated that the shale gas industry has become an expert at ...

Published: Tuesday 31 July 2012
“They were ordinary Americans, whose neighborhoods, townships and states have been struggling to put an end to fracking, a destructive form of natural gas drilling.”

 

The war came home this weekend, as thousands of people whose land has been under siege by the U.S. government and corporate interests gathered in Washington, D.C. No, they weren’t victims of drone attacks or 10-plus years of fighting in Afghanistan. They were ordinary Americans, whose neighborhoods, townships and states have been struggling to put an end to fracking, a destructive form of natural gas drilling.

These veterans of the frack war were in Washington for a national convergence called Stop the Frack Attack. Over the course of two days, they held teach-ins and strategy sessions on ways to bring relief to their communities through collective action, before ending on Saturday with the first ever national march and rally against fracking. Many hailed the event as an important step to building a broad, grassroots movement to ban the drilling practice.

“I’m going to dream big,” said Jennie Scheibach with NonToxic Ohio, a group fighting the spread of fracking in northern Ohio and the disposal of fracking waste in the state’s rivers. “Standing together, rising up together, we can stop this.”

Jennie wasn’t alone. Thousands of people from across the country, from voluminous backgrounds, joined in common cause in D.C. over the weekend, raising the call for an end to fracking.

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Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
“The NCAA leveled penalties including a fine of $60 million, a reduction of student-athlete scholarships, and a vacating of all wins of the Penn State football team from 1998 to 2011.”

The governing body of U.S. college sports Monday announced a series of unprecedented sanctions against Penn State University following an independent investigation into the widespread cover-up of child sexual abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The NCAA leveled penalties including a fine of $60 million, a reduction of student-athlete scholarships, and a vacating of all wins of the Penn State football team from 1998 to 2011. We're joined by Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and host of Edge of Sports Radio. Zirin says the sanctions will punish Penn State students, while sparing top officials, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett -- who has drawn criticism for his handling of the Sandusky investigation while serving as the state's Attorney General and preparing for a gubernatorial run. "We're attacking 18-year-old scholarship athletes and making them pay the price when people in power have not really had to be affected by the horrible crimes that took place in Happy Valley," Zirin says. "I do not trust the NCAA to be [the] adjudicating body for the simple reason that their very existence ensures more cover-ups and more scandals in the future."

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: The governing body of U.S. ...

Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
“This year, Mountain Justice Spring Break was located in northern West Virginia, where fracking is currently wreaking havoc upon the landscape.”

Listening to the talk in Washington is depressing these days for those concerned about the future of our planet. Democrats join Republicans in trying to roll back environmental regulation, any discussion of climate legislation is dead and everyone wants to expand domestic fossil fuel production. But all across America in the midst of a long hot summer, ordinary citizens are telling a different story by confronting out-of-control energy extraction directly.

When she isn’t busy fighting fracking or organizing communities, Deirdre Lally teaches free health and nutrition classes in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. On Lally’s commute, she passes dozens of gas operation trucks and a number of active strip mines.

“While teaching children and seniors how to stay healthy, I look out the window of the classroom and I see nothing but strip mines surrounding the town,” Lally shared in a meeting between activists fighting mountaintop removal and fracking this past spring. “Poison is running into the streams and water tables and coal dust is in the air. How is a population to be healthy when extractive industries are taking over their towns?”

Lally was at Mountain Justice Spring Break, an annual training camp for anti-mountaintop removal activists. For the past several years, students, community members and activists have gathered together each spring to share skills and fight mountaintop removal, an extremely destructive form of strip mining that scrapes off the top of mountains to get to ...

Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
“In these so-called ‘non-strict photo ID states’ — Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, South Dakota and Hawaii — individuals are requested to show photo ID but can still vote if they don’t have one.”

Voter IDs laws have become a political flashpoint in what's gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

 

We've taken ...

Published: Friday 29 June 2012
So there it is, the Republican strategy for staging a quiet coup by first putting the right to buy votes and bribe politicians in the hands of billionaires (think Supreme Court and Citizens United), then using control of state legislatures thus gained to deny some citizens (the ones least likely to support a proto-fascist party) the right to vote. 

 

 

They wrap themselves in a constitution we were taught to revere, a constitution they secretly hold in contempt.  They are subversives in Armani suits, and they are far more dangerous to the survival of this creaky, old republic than communists and terrorists ever were. 

News that a Republican leader recently boasted that Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law will boost Willard Mitt Romney’s chances of winning that key state in the November election is causing a stir among progressives and liberals.  Why? 

First, a few facts:  The loquacious protagonist in this story is a tool named Mike Turzai.  Not exactly a household name, unless you happen to live in the state founded by William Penn – you know the state where the “Miracle at Philadelphia” (aka the Constitutional Convention of 1787) happened, where the Liberty Bell proudly displays its crack, and where the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross famously helped launch a revolution.

Turzai is the Republican House Majority Leader in Pennsylvania’s state legislature.  As such, he was instrumental in getting House Bill 934 – otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act – passed.  The bill, which was recently signed into law by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, will require Pennsylvanians to show valid photo identification each and every time they vote.  Think of it as a form of contraception: like safe sex, this bill is for the voters' "protection".

Imagine:  Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross could not vote in Pennsylvania without a valid ID.  Something tells me that under the new rules few of Franklin's contemporaries could have voted back then.  One can't help but wonder how many eligible white male property owners would have ...

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
“The regulation monster is composed of the mounds of bureaucratic paperwork and red tape that strangles businesses.”

Those familiar with the “confidence fairy” recognize that economic policy debates in Washington are dominated by imaginary creatures. The confidence fairy, which was discovered by Paul Krugman, is the mythical creature that brings investment, jobs, and growth as a reward to countries that practice painful austerity.

Economies don’t actually work this way, but important people in policy making positions in Washington and Europe insist that they do. And they hope that they can get the public to believe in the confidence fairy, or at least a large enough segment of the public, to stay in power.

In this same vein, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are trying hard to promote the belief in the “regulation monster.” The regulation monster is composed of the mounds of bureaucratic paperwork and red tape that strangles businesses. As a result of the regulatory monster, America’s businesses aren’t able to be the job creators that they want to be.

There are a few problems with this story. First and foremost, all the data show that businesses are doing just great. The profit share of GDP is near its 50-year high. The after-tax profit share is at a 50-year high since the tax share of profits is down considerably from its levels in the 50s and 60s. This means that when we look at the economy as a whole, the regulation monster has not left any tracks.

Suppose we look at specific industries. Governor Romney and the Republicans say the ...

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
Johnson and Johnson has been facing mounting pressure following a push from Color of Change and other progressive groups to leave the conservative agenda-setting group.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson announced today that they are dropping their membership from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Johnson and Johnson has been facing mounting pressure following a push from Color of Change and other progressive groups to leave the conservative agenda-setting group.

ALEC is responsible for crafting voter suppression legislation that has been used in state houses across the country, and the “Stand Your Ground” law that originally protected Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Johnson and Johnson is the latest in a huge wave of groups leaving ALEC.

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“Walker won because folks saw a shrinking economic pie, and they believed he was going to do the tough but necessary belt-tightening required for the state to live within its budget.”

 

A few months after last year’s Wisconsin uprising at the state capitol, I stood in front of a packed Quaker meeting house overflowing with labor leaders, religious leaders and radical activists. They carried a wide range of feelings: a mood of failure because Governor Scott Walker had moved through his nefarious legislation, an excitement left over from daily waves of actions and protests, and a shared sense of shock and being overwhelmed. They had just inspired some of the largest impromptu civil disobedience in recent U.S. history, even prompting Democratic politicians to follow suit and flee the state in hopes of preventing passage of the bill. They also were vaguely united around a new possibility, one that I feared then would redirect the energy of the movement: “If we recall Walker, we can win.”

We now see the result. Conservatives are crowing over their guy winning by seven points. They believe Wisconsin is back in play as a swing state for the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney was quick to celebrate, saying this will “echo beyond the borders.”

Democrats worry it is a portent of things to come for states like my own, Pennsylvania, where our Republican governor is slightly more timid but shares the same goal: to slash and burn the social service safety net. That Walker won by a greater percentage then when he was first put in office, certainly gives chilling credibility to Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch’s statement at her victory party: 

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
As gambling becomes widespread, clearly more of the money comes from locals.

 

A surprising fact: Gamblers spent more last year at commercial casinos in Indiana than they did at non-Indian casinos in all but three other states — not surprisingly, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The 11 casinos and two racinos (horse racing tracks with slots) are the Hoosier State's third-largest source of tax revenues.

Cleary, the idea that gambling is sinful has vanished in much of the heartland — Iowa has 18 casinos — and increasingly on the coasts. Or let's just say that the immorality attached to the activity and to preying on the working class, lonely elders and other vulnerable groups that flock to casinos has faded before the god of lower taxes. But that easy-come of living off gamblers seems to be vanishing as nearby states get in on the action.

Indiana has relied on attracting players from neighboring Kentucky and Ohio. Kentucky still doesn't allow casinos, but Ohio has succumbed. The Horseshoe ...

Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“Today, eleven more state lawmakers announced that they would no longer associate with ALEC.”

In the last two months, sixteen companies and other institutional supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council announced that they would part ways with the organization — likely costing the conservative group hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual funding. Similarly, several dozen lawmakers broke ties with ALEC due to a progressive campaign highlighting the organization’s harmful impact on state lawmaking. ALEC drafts and promotes “model” conservative legislation, including bills disenfranchising, and the so-called “stand your ground” laws that may shield Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman from justice.

Today, eleven more state lawmakers announced that they would no longer associate with ALEC. According to an email from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the ex-ALEC lawmakers are:

  • 8 Pennsylvania legislators (Sen. Lisa Boscola, Sen. Leanna Washington, Sen. Anthony Williams, Rep. Nick Kotik, Rep. Ted Harhai, Rep. William Keller, Rep. Joseph Markosek, Rep. Joseph Petrarca)
  • 2 Illinois legislators (Rep. Mary Flowers, Rep. Brendan Phelps)
  • 1 Iowa legislator (Rep. Brian Quirk)

All eleven of these lawmakers are Democrats. In total, 39 Democratic lawmakers have dropped ALEC.

The campaign against ALEC already pressured the conservative group to eliminate its Public Safety and Elections task force, which was ...

Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
“All told, over 400 Republican bills are pending in state legislatures, attacking womens’ reproductive rights.”

What are the three demographic groups whose electoral impact is growing fastest? Hispanics, women, and young people. Who are Republicans pissing off the most? Latinos, women, and young people.

It’s almost as if the GOP can’t help itself.

Start with Hispanic voters, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they comprise an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney by more than two to one, according to a recent Pew poll.

The movement of Hispanics into the Democratic camp has been going on for decades. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Replicating California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s disastrous support almost twenty years ago for Proposition 187 – which would have screened out undocumented immigrants from public schools, health care, and other social services, and required law-enforcement officials to report any “suspected” illegals. (Wilson, you may remember, lost that year’s election, and California’s Republican Party has never recovered.)

The Arizona law now before the Supreme Court – sponsored by Republicans in the state and copied by Republican legislators and governors in several others – would authorize police to stop anyone looking Hispanic and demand proof of citizenship. It’s nativism disguised as law enforcement.

Romney is trying to distance himself from that law, but it’s not working. That may be because he dubbed it a “model law” during February’s Republican primary debate in Arizona, and because its author (former state senator Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a special election last November largely by angry Hispanic voters) says he’s working closely with Romney advisers.

Hispanics are also reacting to ...

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
“They can do pretty much anything they want with the money,” said Viveca Novak, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “They can have a margarita party in the Bahamas.”

What can the people who run super PACs do with all the cash they have collected when their favorite candidate drops out of the race?

“They can do pretty much anything they want with the money,” said Viveca Novak, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “They can have a margarita party in the Bahamas.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign Tuesday means the “Red, White and Blue Fund” super PAC, which supported him, is without a candidate. The organization and its benefactors helped the under-funded Santorum stay in the game.

The group will continue to advocate for conservatives, but there’s no rule that says it has to.

“Pretty much any use of super PAC money — other than coordinating expenditures with candidates or contributing to candidates – would be a legal and permissible use,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Practical considerations would likely prevent super PAC operatives from doing something extravagant — like buying a yacht or taking a junket to the Caribbean. Such a purchase would be “career suicide,” Ryan said.

Red, White and Blue founder Nick Ryan said the PAC will work to defeat President Barack Obama, “strengthen the conservative majority in the House of Representatives” and “oust the liberal leadership in the Senate.”

Super PACs are permitted to collect unlimited sums from individuals, unions and corporations and spend the money on ads and other materials supporting or opposing a candidate. The only prohibition is that they cannot coordinate their expenditures with the candidates’ campaigns.

Through February, the Red, White and Blue Fund raised nearly $6 million, which provided Santorum with a significant boost. After a ...

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“Since broadcasters are resisting a proposal to put the data online, we’re doing it for them.”

Pennsylvanians know what it means to live in a swing state, and that typically includes seeing lots of political commercials on TV. Thanks to the April 24 Republican primary, the next few weeks will be no different.

As part of our “Free the Files” project, we need your help to ensure that the spending behind those ads is accessible to the public.

Each TV station in the U.S. keeps a detailed record of who is buying political ads, how much the ads cost, and when they are airing. It’s public data, but so far it's been accessible only by physically visiting the station and asking to see “the public file.”

Since broadcasters are resisting a proposal to put the data online, we’re doing it for them. We need volunteers from each big TV market in Pennsylvania (see the table below) to visit the stations, make copies of the paper files, then scan and email them to us. We’ll help organize and post the disclosure documents on the web.

We still need volunteers to visit the stations during business hours. It takes about 15 to 30 minutes at the station, plus however long it takes to scan and email the files.

So far, more than 235 people nationwide have signed up but only six in Pennsylvania — and there are more than 25 stations to visit in six markets.

Are you a student? This might be the perfect project for you. Northwestern University students were our first contributors to the project. We’re also eager to work with news organizations, as we have with the

Published: Wednesday 14 March 2012
“The draconian new law, known as Act 13, revises the state’s oil and gas statutes, to allow oil companies to drill for natural gas using the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking”

 

Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed and where the U.S. coal, oil and nuclear industries began, has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients. 

The draconian new law, known as Act 13, revises the state’s oil and gas statutes, to allow oil companies to drill for natural gas using the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, where large volumes of water and toxic chemicals are pumped into vertical wells with lateral bores to shatter the rock and release the hydrocarbons. The law strips rights from communities and individuals while imposing new statewide drilling rules. 

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” said Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has helped a handful of local communities—including the city of Pittsburgh—adopt community rights ordinances that elevate the rights of nature and people to block the drilling.  “The state has surrendered over 2,000 municipalities to the industry.  It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government.  They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us.  It is the corporate state.  That is how we look at it.” 

“Now I know what it ...

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
The Dryden case is merely the latest in a string of similar conflicts arising from Colorado to Pennsylvania that pit local communities against state oil and gas laws.

In a decision that could set a national precedent for how local governments can regulate gas drilling, a New York state court yesterday ruled for the first time that towns have the right to ban drilling despite a state regulation asserting they cannot.

At issue was a zoning law in Dryden, a township adjacent to Ithaca and the Cornell University campus, where drilling companies have leased some 22,000 acres for drilling. In August, Dryden's town board passed a zoning law that prohibits gas drilling within town limits. The next month, Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. sued the town, saying the ban was illegal because state law trumped the municipal rules.

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
“Can conservatives finally face the fact that they actually want quite a lot from government, and that they are simply unwilling to raise taxes to pay for it?”

When we talk about hypocrisy in politics, we usually highlight personal behavior. The serially-married politician who proclaims “family values” while also having affairs is now a rather dreary stock figure in our campaign narratives.

But the hypocrisy that matters far more is the gap between ideology and practice that has reached a crisis point in American conservatism. This Republican presidential campaign is demonstrating conclusively that there is an unbridgeable divide between the philosophical commitments conservative candidates make before they are elected and what they will have to do when faced with the day-to-day demands of practical governance. Conservatives in power have never been — and can never be — as anti-government as they are in a campaign.

Begin by asking yourself why so many conservative politicians say they’re anti-government but spend long careers in office drawing paychecks from the taxpayers. Also: Why do they bash government largesse while seeking as much of it as they can get for their constituents and friendly interest groups?

Why do they criticize “entitlements” and “big government” while promising today’s senior citizens — an important part of the conservative base — never, ever to cut their Medicare or Social Security? Why do they claim that they want government out of the marketplace while not only rejecting cuts in defense but also lauding ...

Published: Monday 30 January 2012
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Mitt Romney opened a commanding lead in Florida Sunday, driving his rivals to start shifting their sights to other states as more suitable battlegrounds to keep challenging him for the Republican presidential nomination.

Three new polls showed the former Massachusetts governor seizing a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, in Florida, where voting will end on Tuesday.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Gingrich planned to barnstorm the state by air Monday in a primary-eve push to close the gap. But he also looked past the likely loss on Tuesday, insisting the anti-Romney vote eventually will coalesce around him. "We will go all the way to the convention," he said Sunday.

Santorum, who suspended campaigning to be at the hospital bedside of an ailing 3-year-old daughter, sent surrogates to Florida. Rather than return to the state, he announced new plans to campaign instead in four other states Monday and Tuesday.

And Paul, who already abandoned ...

Published: Saturday 21 January 2012
According to the statement, the EPA plans to test the water supplies in 60 additional homes for hazardous substances.

First, the earth around the rural town of Dimock, Pa., was cracked open as gas drillersused fracking to tap the vast energy supplies of the Marcellus Shale.

Then, in  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Saturday 21 January 2012
An interview with Bret Grote of Human Rights Coalition.

On December 7, following the US Supreme Court’s refusal to consider the Philadelphia District Attorney’s final avenue of appeal, current DA Seth Williams announced that he would no longer be seeking a death sentence for the world-renowned death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal--on death row following his conviction at a 1982 trial deemed unfair by Amnesty International, the European Parliament, the Japanese Diet, Nelson Mandela, and many others. Abu-Jamal’s sentence of execution was first “overturned” by a federal court in December, 2001, and during the next ten years, he was never transferred from death row at the level five supermax prison, SCI Greene, in rural western Pennsylvania.

 

Shortly after the DA’s announcement in early December, Mumia Abu-Jamal, now 57 years old, was transferred to SCI Mahanoy in Frackville, PA, 100 miles from Philadelphia. Once there, it was expected that he would be released from solitary confinement and transferred into general population where he would finally have contact visits and generally less onerous conditions. However, he was immediately placed in “Administrative Custody,” in SCI Mahanoy’s “Restrictive Housing Unit” where his conditions of isolation and repression are now in many ways more extreme than they were on death row.

 

Presently at SCI Mahanoy, Mumia Abu-Jamal is shackled around his ankles and wrists whenever he is outside his cell, even to the shower and during already restricted visits--where he is already behind Plexiglas; Before going to the yard he is subject to strip searches before and after ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
Corbett’s cuts forced one school district to enforce wage freezes and cut extracurricular activities and another turned to actually using sheep instead of lawnmowers to cut grass at two of its schools.

The Chester Upland School District in Delaware County, Pennsylvania suffered a serious setback when Gov. Tom Corbett (R) slashed $900 million in education funds from the state budget. The cuts landed hardest on poorer districts, and Chester Upland, which predominantly serves African-American children and relies on state aid for nearly 70 percent of its funding, expects to fall short this school year by $19 ...

Published: Sunday 11 December 2011
“The clear sentiment in the crowded Constitution Center last night was that this alternative for Abu-Jamal would be absolutely unacceptable.”

The mood was both celebratory and angry among a 1000-plus overflow audience packed into the balcony space of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the evening of Dec. 9.

The crowd of supporters of Philadelphia journalist and black political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal had come to denounce the over 29 years that he has spent locked in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s grim death row since his conviction for the shooting of a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner. But they were also there to celebrate the surprise decision, announced two days earlier by Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, not to seek to reinstate Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, which had been permanently vacated by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Technically, the Supreme Court, last Oct. 11, had decided not to review a decision by a Third Circuit Court panel that had upheld a 2001 Federal Judge’s ruling declaring his 1982 death sentence to have been unconstitutional. The Federal Court and Appeals Court decisions had been appealed by the district attorney’s office for years, all the way to the Supreme Court.

The event at the Constitution Center had initially been planned to mark the 30th anniversary of the shooting incident that had led to Abu-Jamal’s arrest and to his trial and conviction. But only two days before, Williams, who had 180 days from the Supreme Court’s ...

Published: Wednesday 30 November 2011
“Republicans plan to devise an alternative way of paying for the payroll tax increase, but they have not yet announced their plans.”

President Barack Obama jets to Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on Congress to extend and perhaps expand a payroll tax cut for another year — a move that Senate Republicans suggested Tuesday could happen, at least the extension.

Last year, Obama and Congress agreed to cut the payroll tax paid by workers for Social Security by 2 percentage points, to 4.2 percent. Obama now wants to extend that another year — and even expand it so that workers would pay only 3.1 percent tax on their wages up to $106,800. If Congress doesn't act however, the 2-point tax cut ends Dec. 31, effectively raising taxes on workers.

The tax cut extension is a major part of Obama's $447 billion job creation package, and White House officials said he plans to champion it aggressively in the few weeks that Congress has remaining until it recesses for Christmas.

"If Congress refuses to act — then middle-class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time," Obama said last week in Manchester, N.H. "The question they'll have to answer when they get back from Thanksgiving is this: Are they really willing to break their oath to never raise taxes, and raise taxes on the middle class just to play politics?"

The White House has put a tax calculator on its whitehouse.gov webpage, allowing visitors to run the calculations themselves and warning that ...

Published: Monday 29 August 2011
“Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in coming days as rivers swell past their banks.” –President Barack Obama

Already a killer storm, Irene sloshed through the New York metropolitan area Sunday, briefly flooding parts of the city and severing power to a million people but not provoking the doomsday urban disaster that had been feared.

Diminished to a tropical storm and racing to its own overnight demise in New England and Canada, Irene killed at least 18 people in six states. More than 4.5 million customers lost power along the East Coast and well inland. Initial property damage estimates ranged up to $7 billion.

And it was not over yet.

“Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in coming days as rivers swell past their banks…,” President Barack Obama said Sunday evening. “There are a lot of communities that are still being affected.”

Irene dumped immense amounts of rain on a region already saturated by summer downpours. Many communities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, upstate New York, Connecticut, Vermont and elsewhere endured life-threatening floods and toppling trees.

State and local authorities warned of more to come and they begged residents not to become complacent. It takes some time for rain runoff to accumulate, they said, tree roots were weakening in the over-moist soil and the danger will not end for days.

“Stay inside,” Gov. Chris Christie told New Jersey residents. “The real issue that we’re going to have to deal with now is flooding. We’re going to experience major flooding. Some rivers haven’t crested yet, and it’s still raining.”

Christie noted at least 300 road closures and obstructions across his state, though he said the New Jersey Turnpike and bridges were clear, so tree-clearing equipment was on its way. Deep floods swamped portions of Hackensack, Westwood, Ridgewood, Hillsdale and other communities in New Jersey.

In New York City, ocean water invaded some beachside ...

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