Bernie Sanders: Destroy the big banks before the big banks destroy you
16 Dec 2014 at 13:40 ET
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) plans a legislative push for the breakup of Wall Street’s largest banks and lifting the cap on contributions to Social Security.
“If Congress cannot regulate Wall Street, there is just one alternative,” said Sanders in a speech Saturday. “It is time to break these too-big-to-fail banks up so that they can never again destroy the jobs, homes, and life savings of the American people.”
Sanders, who has signaled he may run for president in 2016 to offer a true progressive alternative, said he would introduce legislation at the start of next congressional session to break up the largest investment banks.
“If a financial institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” he said.
He made the remarks during a debate on a controversial spending bill that contains provisions written by Citigroup lobbyists to weaken Dodd-Frank oversight of banking.
“If Wall Street lobbyists can literally write a provision into law that will allow too-big-to-fail banks to make the same risky bets that nearly destroyed our economy just a few years ago, it should be obvious to all that their incredible economic and political power is a huge danger to our economy and our way of life,” Sanders said.
Sanders also said he would introduce legislation intended to strengthen Social Security to lift a growing number of American seniors above the poverty level.
“The best way to expand Social Security is to ask the wealthiest people in our country to pay more into the system by scrapping the cap on income that is subject to the Social Security payroll tax,” he said.
Sanders said current rules allow a billionaire to pay the same amount into Social Security as a person who earns $117,000 a year.
“This is regressive, this is unfair, this is absurd,” the senator said. “If we lifted this cap and applied the Social Security payroll tax to income above $250,000 — not $117,000, but $250,000 a year, we could not only extend the solvency of Social Security for decades to come, which is what we want to do, but we could also provide the resources necessary to expand Social Security benefits. That is exactly what we should be doing, and that in fact is what the American people want us to do.”
A poll conducted in August found that 90 percent of Democratic voters supported lifting the cap, the senator said, along with 73 percent of independent voters and 73 percent of Republican voters.
“Sadly, despite this overwhelming support for expanding Social Security, the CEOs at the Business Roundtable — the organization representing the largest corporations in America — came out with a plan last year which does exactly what the American people do not want to do,” Sanders said. “The American people want to expand Social Security and the Business Roundtable came out with a plan that would increase the Social Security retirement age from 67 to 70 and severely cut the COLA of senior citizens and disabled veterans.”
Federal ‘Cromnibus’ spending bill also effectively ends U.S. ban on medical marijuana
16 Dec 2014 at 20:58 ET
The newly-passed $1.1 trillion federal spending bill also includes a bipartisan provision that signals the end of the federal ban on medical marijuana, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The provision bars federal agents from raiding medical marijuana retailers in the 32 states and the District of Columbia where the practice has been legalized. It also protects hemp farms in Colorado. The amendment was written by two California congressmen, Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
“This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy, and MS,” Rohrabacher said in a statement.
The measure followed the Justice Department’s move last year to scale back prosecution against legal marijuana growers and distributors. The department issued a similar directive last week concerning Native American reservations that may also legalize the drug.
However, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug on a federal level. The “Cromnibus” bill, as it has been called, contains a separate provision that will also stop Washington D.C. from using taxpayer money to enacting its own legalization of medical marijuana.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the spending bill into effect this week.
“The war on medical marijuana is over,” Drug Policy Alliance lobbyist Bill Piper told the Times. “Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana. This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted.”
Republican federal judge rules that Obama executive order on immigration is unconstitutional
16 Dec 2014 at 17:55 ET
President Barack Obama’s new plan to ease the threat of deportation for 4.7 million undocumented immigrants violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge found on Tuesday, handing down the first legal ruling against the plan.
The ruling has no immediate impact, with the government saying there was no reason for Judge Arthur Schwab of the Western District of Pennsylvania to address the issue in the case, which concerns 42-year-old Honduran immigrant Elionardo Juarez-Escobar.
Schwab is the first judge to rule on the legality of the plan Obama announced on Nov. 20. The executive action by the Democratic president is opposed by Republicans and is already subject to other legal challenges.
Schwab ruled that the executive action violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of separation of powers and the separate “take care clause,” which requires the president to faithfully execute laws passed by Congress.
Schwab says he ruled on the executive action issue because he concluded that Juarez-Escobar could be eligible for relief under the executive action.
Government lawyers told Schwab that Juarez-Escobar, who has pleaded guilty to re-entering the country, was not eligible because Obama’s order does not affect criminal proceedings.
Walmart ordered to pay $188 million for cutting workers’ meal and rest breaks
16 Dec 2014 at 12:18 ET
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc to pay $188 million to employees who had sued the retailer for failing to compensate them for rest breaks and all hours worked.
Wal-Mart said on Tuesday that it might appeal the decision, which upheld lower court rulings, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Monday’s ruling on the class-action lawsuit will reduce Wal-Mart’s earnings for the quarter ending on Jan. 31 by 6 cents a share, the company said in a securities filing. That amounts to roughly 4 percent of its profit forecast of $1.46 to $1.56 for the period.
Wal-Mart shares were up 0.5 percent at $84.39 in midday New York Stock Exchange trading.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a 2007 lower court ruling in favor of the workers, who said Wal-Mart failed to pay them for all hours worked and prevented them from taking full meal and rest breaks.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company did not believe the claims should be grouped together in a class-action suit. “Walmart has had strong policies in place to make sure all associates receive their appropriate pay and break periods,” she said.
The decision, which affects about 187,000 Wal-Mart employees who worked in Pennsylvania between 1998 and 2006, marks the second unfavorable ruling in a week for the retailer, the largest private employer in the United States.
On Dec. 9, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge found Wal-Mart had threatened employees trying to organize workers at two stores in California.
That ruling was seen as a victory for workers’ rights groups who have been challenging the retailer to boost wages and benefits.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company did not agree with some of the judge’s decisions in that case and was evaluating its next steps.
(Reporting by Shailaja Sharma in Bangalore and Nathan Layne in Chicago; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Lisa Von Ahn)
Family of Ohio man shot and killed in Walmart for holding a toy gun sue company, police
16 Dec 2014 at 12:22 ET
The family of an Ohio man shot and killed by police while holding a BB gun in a Walmart store filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit on Tuesday against the police and the national retail chain.
John Crawford, 22, was shot after a 911 caller reported a man with a gun at the Beavercreek Walmart in a suburb of the southern Ohio city of Dayton.
In a surveillance video released by authorities, Crawford, who is black, can be seen picking up an unpackaged BB gun off a shelf and walking through the store while talking on a cell phone until a white police officer shot him.
Crawford’s death came a few days before the Aug. 9 fatal shooting by police in Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, which is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department and has focused national attention on the use of deadly force by police.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, names the city of Beavercreek; Sean Williams, the Beavercreek police officer who fatally shot Crawford; Sergeant David Darkow, who accompanied Williams; Police Chief Dennis Evers; and the Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The suit said Williams shot Crawford about one second after making contact with him.
In September, a nine-member grand jury opted not to indict the two officers involved in the shooting on murder, reckless homicide and negligent homicide charges.
Wal-Mart officials were not immediately available for comment.
Cleveland cop pulls gun on man speeding home to help with wife’s high-risk pregnancy
16 Dec 2014 at 19:01 ET
A Cleveland-area man said he was held at gunpoint, ticketed and threatened despite explaining to a police officer that he was speeding home to help his wife, who has a high-risk pregnancy, give birth Northeast Ohio Media Group reported.
“Officer Robinson approached me yelling at me to put my hands up and holding me at gunpoint as if I was threatening his life,” Samuel Taylor said of the encounter. “His finger was on the trigger.”
According to WKYC-TV, Taylor’s wife, Katie, sent him a text message last Friday morning asking him to come home from work because she was in labor. Taylor said he was traveling at 38 mph in a 25 mph zone when he passed Cleveland Heights Police Officer William Robinson in his patrol vehicle.
Robinson started following Taylor, and signaled for him to pull over. But because he was “literally about six or seven houses” away from his home and street parking was blocked by other vehicles, Taylor said, he slowed down and pulled into his driveway, at which point Robinson allegedly approached him with his gun drawn.
Taylor said he spent the next 20 minutes explaining the situation to Robinson, and offered to let the officer follow him into the home if he holstered his weapon. Instead, the officer allegedly told him to stay in his car while he went to the home. At that point, Taylor said, he called the police department, and was threatened with felony charges by an unidentified lieutenant.
Meanwhile, Katie Taylor met Robinson at the door and confirmed her husband’s story.
“My wife said, ‘I need my husband to come here,’” Samuel Taylor said. “‘I’m going into labor. Please tell me what is going on. I need help.’”
Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson told WKYC that Robinson only had his gun drawn for two minutes during the encounter, then holstered it after “evaluating the situation.” Robertson also said that the officer arranged for a city ambulance to take the Taylors to the hospital.
The couple drove themselves to the hospital, instead, where Katie Taylor delivered a boy. Though the child, Jonah, was born healthy, Katie Taylor was briefly hospitalized for complications surrounding the pregnancy. Both have reportedly been allowed to return home. Samuel Taylor was cited for speeding and failure to yield for an emergency vehicle.
“Upon initial review we are comfortable that the officer followed CHPD protocol appropriately and he conducted himself in a professional manner,” Cleveland Heights City Manager Tanisha Briley said regarding the incident.
Key Witness Who Corroborated Darren Wilson’s Testimony Exposed As A Total Fraud
By: Justin Baragona
Tuesday, December, 16th, 2014, 2:42 pm
On Monday, The Smoking Gun published a lengthy report exposing “Witness 40,” a woman who testified before the St. Louis County grand jury who corroborated all of the main details of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s story regarding his encounter with unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August. TSG was able to identify “Witness 40″ as Sandra McElroy, a 45-year-old St. Louis resident who has a history of making false statements and previously interjected herself in a high-profile case in the St. Louis area. McElroy’s testimony has been used by a number of conservative pundits, most visibly Sean Hannity, to bolster their support of Wilson’s account.
Earlier this month, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes showed how often Hannity has pointed to “Witness 40’s” testimony as the absolute truth.
After St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Brown, he publicly released all of the evidence and testimony from the grand jury proceeding. News outlets started sifting through all of the pages. Outside of Wilson’s own testimony, it was noticed that there was really only one other witness who fully supported his story: “Witness 40.” However, right off the bat, it was apparent that there was something awful fishy about her testimony, especially how she ended up on the street at the exact time Wilson shot Brown, despite not living anywhere near the neighborhood.
What makes TSG’s report so damning isn’t that it shows how ludicrous McElroy’s testimony is, as others have already ripped it apart, but that it identifies her and questions why someone with her mental issues and criminal past would even be brought forth by the prosecution to speak to the grand jury. What good would her testimony be other than to help the accused’s case? After being initially questioned, wouldn’t a prosecutor know that she was a complete fraud and not even bother putting her out there to give her testimony? It would seem McCulloch only wanted her up on the stand to lend even a slight bit of credence to Wilson’s account.
In their report, TSG pointed out that Fox News and others have clung to McElroy’s testimony to refute that of Dorian Johnson’s. Johnson was Brown’s friend who was with him when Wilson stopped them for jaywalking on Canfield Drive in Ferguson. The sleuthing site also provided details on how they were able to accurately identify McElroy.
While the “hands-up” account of Dorian Johnson is often cited by those who demanded Wilson’s indictment, “Witness 40″‘s testimony about seeing Brown batter Wilson and then rush the cop like a defensive end has repeatedly been pointed to by Wilson supporters as directly corroborative of the officer’s version of the August 9 confrontation. The “Witness 40″ testimony, as Fox News sees it, is proof that the 18-year-old Brown’s killing was justified, and that the Ferguson grand jury got it right.
However, unlike Johnson, “Witness 40″–a 45-year-old St. Louis resident named Sandra McElroy–was nowhere near Canfield Drive on the Saturday afternoon Brown was shot to death.
Though prosecutors have sought to cloak the identity of grand jury witnesses, a TSG investigation has identified McElroy as “Witness 40.” A careful analysis of information contained in the unredacted portions of “Witness 40″‘s grand jury testimony helped reporters identify McElroy and then conclusively match up details of her life with those of “Witness 40.”
TSG examined criminal, civil, matrimonial, and bankruptcy court records, as well as online postings and comments to unmask McElroy as “Witness 40,” the fabulist whose grand jury testimony and law enforcement interviews are deserving of multi-count perjury indictments.
Throughout the body of the report, TSG gives details of McElroy’s life, through public records and social media activity, to prove without a doubt McElroy is indeed “Witness 40.” They also show how McElroy involved herself in the high-profile case of Shawn Hornbeck, a St. Louis boy who was kidnapped and held hostage for more than four years by Michael Devlin before being rescued in 2007. After Hornbeck’s rescue and Devlin’s arrest, McElroy spoke to local news station KMOV and claimed that she had known Devlin for 20 years and had gone to the police after Hornbeck went missing to tell him she had seen the boy with Devlin. She also claimed that she knew that another missing boy from the early ’90s was taken by Devlin. Police regarded her claims as completely fraudulent.
It appears that McElroy did the same thing with the Ferguson case. With it being a very big case, and her sympathies lying with Wilson, McElroy decided to put together false testimony and claim she was a witness based solely on public accountings of Wilson’s story. She fabricated a diary in which she documented her travels to Ferguson to get to know black people so she wouldn’t be so racist anymore. (McElroy has a long history of making racist statements.) She then gave an incredulous account of how she ended up on Canfield Drive the very moment Wilson shot Brown, claiming she saw Brown rushing at Wilson like a football player, just as Wilson had claimed.
Once again, one has to wonder how a crazy racist with a criminal past and a penchant for lying to get attention somehow finds herself testifying before a grand jury in one of the most explosive cases in recent American history. How in the heck does a prosecutor, who is supposed to be trying to get an indictment against the accused, allow somebody to spin obvious fairy tales to bolster a defendant’s story? Of course, we all know why — McCulloch planned from the get go to throw this case and make sure Wilson never saw a trial.
One would like to see this bombshell about “Witness 40″ lead to something, like perhaps another grand jury proceeding with another prosecutor. But, it seems like the political machine in St. Louis and Missouri won’t let that happen.
Bill Clinton Says Eric Garner “Didn’t Deserve To Die” For Selling Untaxed Cigarettes
By: Justin Baragona
Tuesday, December, 16th, 2014, 6:19 pm
In an interview with Fusion that will air in its entirety Tuesday evening, former President Bill Clinton told interviewer Jorge Ramos that Eric Garner did not deserve to die for the minor crime of selling untaxed cigarettes. Clinton expressed sympathy for Garner’s family and echoed many of the same points that his wife Hillary touched on earlier this month when she discussed the Staten Island grand jury decision surrounding Garner’s death. On December 3rd, the grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Garner, even though there was video evidence showing Pantaleo using an illegal chokehold and a medical examiner had ruled Garner’s death a homicide.
In the aftermath of the grand jury decision, protests have flared up all across the country, demanding justice for Garner and other unarmed black men who have been unjustly killed by law enforcement. This past weekend, tens of thousands gathered in New York City, Washington, D.C and elsewhere to take part in protest marches. Prior to the Garner decision, demonstrations had been ongoing in relation to the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. A St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Wilson last month, leading to violent protests in Ferguson and demonstrations in cities nationwide.
In his interview with Fusion, Clinton spoke at length on the Garner decision and the issues it has brought to the forefront of our national conversation. When discussing the arrest that led to Garner’s death, Clinton said the following:
“He was obviously not well, he was overweight and vulnerable therefore had lung problems, heart and lung problems. He was doing something he should not have been doing. That was illegal. He was selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in small volumes, trying to make a little extra money.
But he didn’t deserve to die because of that.”
Below is video of the interview excerpt, courtesy of Fusion:
Clinton’s words were far more sympathetic than those uttered by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) the day the Staten Island grand jury handed down its decision. King, whose Congressional district is in Staten Island, blamed Garner for his own death. The following is from the article I wrote regarding King’s comments.
King was interviewed on CNN hours after the grand jury announced its decision. In a moment that can only be described as disgustingly crass, King claimed that the police officer was “just doing his job” and that Garner is dead because of his weight and his bad health, not from anything the cop did. King said, “If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition, and was so obese, he would not have died from this.” King even insinuated that Garner was lying when he repeatedly stated “I can’t breathe,” since if someone can talk, they can breathe.
The interview will also feature Clinton discussing issues of race as it involves law enforcement and how racial tension has been exacerbated by these two grand jury decisions and the feeling among the black community that they are being targeted by police. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touched on this the day after the Garner decision was announced.Prior to a scheduled speech in Massachusetts that day, Mrs. Clinton offered these remarks:
“Each of us has to grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America. Because despite all the progress we’ve made together, African-Americans, and most particularly, African-American men, are still more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charge with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms.
The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, yet we have almost 25% of the world’s total prison population. It is because we have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance. And I personally hope that these tragedies give us the opportunity to come together as a nation to find our balance again. …
These tragedies did not happen in some far away place. They didn’t happen to some other people. These are our streets, our children, our fellow Americans, and our grief.”
Besides the Garner and Brown cases, another tragic killing that has gathered national attention is the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last month. Police shot and killed the young black child seconds after confronting him near a playground. Rice was holding a toy airsoft gun. A grand jury has been convened to decide the fate of Officer Timothy Loehmann. Records indicate Loehmann had been recommended for termination at his former department due to his inability to handle pressure before being hired by the Cleveland force.
Americans Love Their Obamacare: The ACA Is On Pace To Smash 2015 Sign Up Target
By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, December, 16th, 2014, 3:50 pm
The latest estimated enrollment numbers show that the ACA is on pace to blow past the Obama administration’s goal of 9.1 million enrolled Americans by 2015. These numbers demonstrate that Americans love their Obamacare.
Politico reported, “HealthCare.gov appeared to withstand a surge of consumer traffic ahead of Monday’s deadline for Jan. 1 coverage amid growing confidence that the administration will meet or surpass its scaled-back goal of having 9.1 million people covered in the exchanges in 2015…Consulting firm Avalere Health estimated Tuesday that 10.5 million people would be enrolled in the exchanges by the end of 2015, with some fluctuation during the year. As of mid-October, 6.7 million people were fully enrolled, meaning they had chosen a plan and were paying their premiums.”
The Obama administration’s goal was to have 9.1 people enrolled in 2015, but it looks like consumer demand will smash those goals by roughly 1.4 million. According to the website ACAsignups.net, 4.5 million more Americans have gotten affordable healthcare coverage during the 2014 open enrollment period. 3.38 million of those individuals purchased their coverage on healthcare.gov.
December 15 was the deadline for enrollment using the federal ACA website, but states that set up their own exchanges have different deadline dates for 2015 coverage. This is all bad news for Republicans who are still dreaming of killing the Affordable Care Act. It should come as a shock to no one who isn’t a Republican, but Americans want access to affordable healthcare.
The numbers for the January 2015 deadline reveal that Americans love their Obamacare. This development will also put political pressure on the Supreme Court when they hear arguments in a case that challenges the constitutionality of the federal subsidies for residents of states that didn’t set up their own exchanges.
The Republican fight to destroy Obamacare is only serving to make the party less party with mainstream voters. The Obama administration will be thrilled that the president’s signature policy achievement is popular with the millions of people who are gaining access to health insurance. Republicans turned Obamacare into a slur, but the popularity of the Affordable Care Act will make it nearly impossible for Republicans to legislatively kill.