NYC Pushes For A Settlement In (Non) ‘Chokehold’ Death

From a gleeful Associated Press:

NYC pushes for settlement in chokehold death

December 17, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — The city said Wednesday that it is trying to negotiate a settlement with Eric Garner’s family as scores of defense attorneys protested the criminal justice system’s handling of police killings of unarmed black men by participating in marches and die-ins.

And never mind that there was no ‘chokehold’ used on Mr. Garner. And never mind that Mr. Garner did not die from asphyxiation. (And, while we’re at it, Michael Brown was only unarmed because he couldn’t wrest Officer Wilson’s gun from him.)

Officials in Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office said the push to reach a settlement of the $75 million civil rights claim brought forth by Garner’s family is part of Stringer’s strategy to settle major civil rights claims before lawsuits are filed.

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VT Quits Single Payer, NY Bans Fracking, WA Caps Carbon

The blue state governors are suddenly really busy, now that nobody is paying attention. (And to think some people wonder why there are now more Republican governors and Republican controlled legislatures since the end of the Civil War.)

First we have this from the Associated Press:

Governor abandons single-payer health care plan

By DAVE GRAM | December 17, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Calling it the biggest disappointment of his career, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday he was abandoning plans to make Vermont the first state in the country with a universal, publicly funded health care system. Going forward with a project four years in the making would require tax increases too big for the state to absorb, Shumlin said. The measure had been the centerpiece of the Democratic governor’s agenda and was watched and rooted for by single-payer health care supporters around the country.

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Amnesty Activists Sue Over Illegals Drivers Licenses Data

From a terribly concerned Associated Press:

Lawsuit over immigrant license data

By AMY TAXIN | December 17, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Immigrant advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday over concerns that federal immigration agents could use state driver’s license databases to track down people for deportation.

The National Immigration Law Center sued the Department of Homeland Security demanding documents detailing how federal immigration agents access and use driver’s license data.

The lawsuit comes after immigrant advocates in Maryland received reports that federal agents earlier this year arrested several immigrants with prior deportation orders after apparently identifying them with help from a driver’s license photo and vehicle information…

And we can’t allow authorities to have any way to enforce our laws. And bear in mind that, thanks to Obama, the only people getting deportation orders these days are hardened criminals.

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Jeff Sessions ‘Yields’ Budget Chairmanship To Mike Enzi

From an amused Reuters:

Sessions yields to Enzi as U.S. Senate Budget chairman

By David Lawder | December 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Mike Enzi said on Wednesday he will take over as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee next year after the panel’s current top Republican, Jeff Sessions, agreed to step aside…

Why isn’t the news media talking about the Republicans war on its own base? — Unlike the fantasy of the Republican ‘War On Women,’ this is actually real.

Enzi, who had previously served as the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, had decided to exert his remaining seniority to become the Budget Committee chairman instead.

That seniority literally came from the luck of a draw. When Sessions, an outspoken conservative from Louisiana [sic], and Enzi, a more moderate senator who shuns the media limelight, both joined the Senate in 1997, they drew straws to determine who had greater seniority.

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Obama Commutes Crack Dealers, Rolls Back Guidelines

From a cheering Associated Press:

Obama commutes sentences for 8 drug inmates under new policy

By NEDRA PICKLER | December 17, 2014  

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday cut short prison time for eight drug convicts as part of his new initiative to reduce harsh sentences under outdated guidelines, a step that could lead to a vast expansion of presidential clemency in his final two years in office.

Is Obama the second term of Jimmy Carter or the third term of Bill Clinton?

The president also is pardoning 12 convicts for a variety of offenses. But the commutations are particularly significant because they are the first issued under new guidelines announced earlier this year designed to cut costs by reducing the nation’s bulging prison population and grant leniency to nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to double-digit terms…

The old sentencing guidelines subjected tens of thousands of blacks to long prison terms for crack cocaine convictions while giving far more lenient sentences to those caught with powder who were more likely to be white.

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US Confirms North Korea Behind Sony Hack, Sony Caves

From CNN:

U.S. to announce that North Korea behind Sony hack: CNN

December 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official says federal investigators have now connected the Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. hacking to North Korea and are expected to make an announcement in the near future. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to openly discuss an ongoing criminal case…

Has Obama offered to put the filmmakers in jail yet? Has he told the UN that ‘the future must not belong to those who would slander the Dear Leader’?

From Variety:

Sony Cancels Theatrical Release for ‘The Interview’ on Christmas

By Brent Lang | December 17, 2014

With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview.” In announcing the decision to cancel the holiday debut, Sony hit back at the hackers who threatened movie theaters and moviegoers and who have terrorized the studio and its employees for weeks.

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Hillary & Obama Agree: Economic Sanctions Don’t Work

From the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton agrees with Obama on Cuban embargo

By Anne Gearan | December 17, 2014

President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba is almost certain to be supported by his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said earlier this year that  the half-century-old embargo was outdated and counterproductive.

That’s funny, in 1999, President Bill Clinton expanded the trade embargo even further by also disallowing foreign subsidiaries of US companies to trade with Cuba. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton was too busy trying to contain the ‘bimbo eruptions’ preparing to run for the Senate to notice.

She has also called the failure to win the release of prisoner Alan Gross, who was freed Wednesday, one of the regrets of her tenure…

One of many, we hope.

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Obama Claim Gross Wasn’t Traded For Spies – Tough Sell

From the Washington Post, of all places:

Obama says Alan Gross wasn’t traded for Cuban spies. That’s a really tough sell.

By Aaron Blake | December 17, 2014

Regardless of how popular polls say diplomacy with Cuba is, President Obama has a very significant sales job in front of him. He needs to make the case that normalizing relations with an often-antagonistic communist neighbor is in the best interests of the United States…

"Often antagonistic" is one way of describing a country that was even willing to house nuclear missiles aimed at the US. — And, besides some cigars, what exactly are we getting out of normalizing relations with Cuba? (And we thought tobacco products were bad, anyway.)

One early stumbling block in building bipartisan consensus, though, is Alan Gross.

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After 5 Years In Prison, Gross Praises ‘Generous’ Cubans

From an unquestioning Associated Press:

Alan Gross praises ‘generous’ Cubans

December 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — Alan Gross emerged Wednesday from five years of captivity in Cuba praising the Cuban people and offering a lesson he said he learned: Freedom is not free.

We don’t see where the AP got that from his remarks. At least not from the ones they quote. ‘Freedom is not free’ usually means it has to be fought for. But Mr. Gross seems to be of the opposite opinion.

In his first public remarks after arriving in the U.S., Gross also spoke supportively of President Barack Obama’s move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of discord. He said that more than five decades of history had shown that the previous U.S.

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Politico: Price of US-Cuba Deal Is Releasing A Murderer

From the Politico:

Price of U.S.-Cuba deal: Releasing a murderer

By JOSH GERSTEIN | December 17, 2014

The deal President Barack Obama announced Wednesday setting in motion the most significant warming in U.S.-Cuba relations in half a century comes with an American concession that may be a tough sell for the White House: releasing from a U.S. prison a Cuban spy serving a life term for murder.

Except that most of the MSM, perhaps apart from the Washington Post and some Florida based outlets, are dancing in the streets.

One of the three Cubans whose sentences Obama commuted Wednesday as part of the groundbreaking  agreement between Washington and Havana is Gerardo Hernández, who was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes over Cuba in 1996, in which four Cuban émigrés aboard the aircraft were killed…

White House officials declined to answer questions Wednesday morning about the release of Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero or whether Obama granted them formal commutations.

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Meet ‘The Cuban Five': Castro’s KGB-Trained Terrorists

From an article back in February by Humberto Fontova, via Discover The Networks:

The Cuban Five

By Humberto Fontova | February 3, 2014

Here’s what Castro’s KGB-trained terrorists (“The Cuban Five”)—convicted by U.S. Federal jury and upheld all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—are actually guilty of…

On September 14, 1998, the FBI uncovered a Castro spy ring in Miami and arrested ten of them. Four others managed to scoot back to Cuba. These became known as the “Wasp Network,” or “The Cuban Five” in Castroite parlance. According to the FBI’s affidavit, the 26 charges against the convicted Castro-spies…

• Gathering intelligence against the Boca Chica Air Naval Station in Key West, the McDill Air Force Base in Tampa and the headquarters of the U.S.

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Obama Seeks To Reward Cuban Spying, Hostage Taking

From a cheering Associated Press:

AP sources: US, Cuba seek to normalize relations

December 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday. The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American Alan Gross and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the U.S…

Confidence building measures like Cuba sending five spies to the US to kill anti-Castro protesters, and Cuba taking an American hostage for five years.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said the U.S. and Cuba were moving toward normalized banking and trade ties. He also said the U.S.

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Obama Releases Cuban Spies In Exchange For Alan Gross

From a cheering Associated Press:

AP sources: Cuba releases US prisoner Alan Gross

By JULIE PACE and MATTHEW LEE | December 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — American Alan Gross has been released from a Cuban prison after five years, as part of an agreement that also includes the release of three Cubans jailed in the United States, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday…

Obama administration officials have considered Gross’ imprisonment an impediment to improving relations with Cuba, but the surprise deal could help clear the way for broader discussions on strengthening ties and perhaps ending the decades-long U.S. economic embargo against its long-time communist foe…

This is another consequence of the midterms being over. Obama no longer needs to care about the Cuban vote. So he is doing what he has always wanted to do — make nice with the dictator Castro brothers.

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Sony Hackers Vow Terror Attacks, NYC Premier Cancelled

From Variety:

Sony Hackers Threaten 9/11 Attack on Movie Theaters That Screen ‘The Interview’

Brent Lang | December 16, 2014

The Sony hackers have threatened a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen Seth Rogen and James Franco’s North Korean comedy “The Interview,” substantially escalating the stakes surrounding the release of the movie…

Here is the full message:

Warning

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.

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CA Union Pensions Unfunded By $72B, Could Divest Coal

First there is this from a suddenly concerned Reuters:

California controller warns of $72 billion unfunded retiree benefits

By Robin Respaut | December 16, 2014

(Reuters) – California State Controller John Chiang warned on Tuesday of a growing $71.8 billion unfunded liability to cover the state’s retiree health and dental benefits…

How is that possible? We’ve been told that California is flush since they raised taxes on their residents with their blessing. Were we lied to?

The retiree healthcare liability has been a priority for Chiang, who began writing about the issue in 2007 when the unfunded cost was $47.8 billion.

So it’s almost doubled in seven short years.

"We remain dangerously complacent about a liability that has grown by a stunning $24 billion in just the past eight years.

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