The Richest Rich Are in a Class by Themselves

econ_onepercentchartThe rallying cry of the Occupy Movement was that the richest 1 percent of Americans is getting richer while the rest of us struggle to get by. That’s not quite right, though. The bottom nine-tenths of the 1 Percent club have about the same slice of the national wealth pie that they had a generation ago. The gains have accrued almost exclusively to the top tenth of 1 Percenters. The richest 0.1 percent of the American population has rebuilt its share of wealth back to where it was in the Roaring Twenties. And the richest 0.01 percent’s share has grown even more rapidly, quadrupling since the eve of the Reagan Revolution.

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Judge said du Pont heir ‘will not fare well’ in prison

A Superior Court judge who sentenced a wealthy du Pont heir to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter noted in her order that he “will not fare well” in prison and needed treatment instead of time behind bars, court records show.  Judge Jan Jurden’s sentencing order for Robert H. Richards IV suggested that she considered unique circumstances when deciding his punishment for fourth-degree rape. Her observation that prison life would adversely affect Richards was a rare and puzzling rationale, several criminal justice authorities in Delaware said. Some also said her view that treatment was a better idea than prison is a justification typically used when sentencing drug addicts, not child rapists.

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Far-Right Nationalist Victory In French Polls Leads To Violent Clashes

NF France ProtestsAs we noted last night, French President Hollande’s first election since his gaining power was not going well for the ruling Socialist people. The municipal elections, especially in the South of the country, saw victories for the far-right National Front (FN) party (which is specifically anti-immigration and anti-Europe and often accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim) as widespread disappointment with the Socialist Party was clear. However, as The Mail reports, riot police were called in several towns on the south coast to guard the winning right-wing party’s offices as “demonstrators are trying to get at the Front representatives and starting fights.” Riot police were also out in force in other parts of the country as anti-fascist demonstrators threatened FN candidates with violence.

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The escorts who want to rebrand male prostitution as a business

josh624

Most people think of male prostitution as dangerous, degrading and exploitative work. But there are some who are attempting to reinvent it as a profession free of stigma by using all the tools of modern business, writes Mobeen Azhar.  ”The aim is to be the best escort in the world.” Josh Brandon’s conviction is punctuated by a strong Welsh valleys accent. The twentysomething moved to London four years ago with dreams of modelling and celebrity.  But soon after his arrival he began working as an escort. Now he has a price list which includes hourly rates and a discount for block booking. He issues loyalty cards so customers who pay for nine “appointments” get their tenth free.  ”I have a very professional booking system and I offer complete discretion,” he says. “My business model serves my clients and it serves me.”

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Al-Qaeda’s brutal tactics in Syria forces out moderates

“I was handcuffed, blindfolded when I was taken to their base. Like the six other detainees with me, we were whipped 70 times every day.”  “We were mostly accused of setting up ‘Sahwa’ – Awakening Councils – against the state.”  Mohammed’s horrific tale of torture from Syria might not sound that unusual if the “state” his captors’ were referring to was the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  But they were from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an al-Qaeda affiliate that has become an equally feared force in rebel-held areas.  Mohammed, an engineer in his early 50s who is the father of four children, joined the peaceful protest movement against Mr Assad when the uprising in Syria began in 2011.  When Raqqa province fell under rebel control, he helped set up a local council to provide basic services in the absence of the state.  On 9 July 2013 – the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – Mohammed and six other members of the council in the border town of Tal Abyad were detained by members of ISIS, who handcuffed and blindfolded them and took them to the city of Raqqa.  Over the next 33 days, Mohammed was tortured on a daily basis by the jihadists

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Hundreds of Turks join Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria

Five hundred Turks have crossed the border into Syria to fight with Al-Qaeda linked jihadists against the government, according to a Turkish interior ministry report.  Turkey’s government, which is fiercely opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, has come under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to militants and weapons crossing the long border into Syria.  The interior ministry report, published in several Turkish newspapers on Wednesday, said about 500 Turkish citizens had joined the ranks of the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  “Some have received training in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the report said, according to Today’s Zaman newspaper.

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Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report

In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell sharply — raising eyebrows from Wall Street to Washington.  The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.  And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it.  Just two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy.  And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.

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Seattle elects socialist candidate to city council

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle voters have elected a socialist to city council for the first time in modern history.  Kshama Sawant’s lead continued to grow on Friday, prompting 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin to concede.  Even in this liberal city, Sawant’s win has surprised many here. Conlin was backed by the city’s political establishment. On election night, she trailed by four percentage points. She wasn’t a veteran politician, having only run in one previous campaign.  But in the days following election night, Sawant’s share of the votes outgrew Conlin’s.  “I don’t think socialism makes most people in Seattle afraid,” Conlin said Friday.  While city council races are technically non-partisan, Sawant made sure people knew she was running as a socialist — a label that would be politically poisonous in many parts of the country.

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Black mobs plague nightclubs coast to coast

They call them “Let Out Fights:” The black mob violence that is a regular feature of life at nightclubs, coast to coast, especially at closing time. All the time.  Sometimes the fighting is just a few people. Other times as many as 500. Gunfire is common. So is video. Arrests are not.  Some recent examples:  In Portland last weekend, a “riot” and triple shooting left one man dead and two wounded outside of a black nightclub – so dangerous even its own bouncers recently had to call police because they feared for their lives during an  after-hours party.  Local media report that early Saturday morning, hundreds of people were fighting and shooting in the streets of Northeast Portland – a euphemism for the black part of town.   KGW-TV news reported the attacks on police as well. Everything except the black part: “‘Very hostile crowd – people saying things like, you know, ‘shoot the cops,’ and they were trying to secure the scene so they called for a city-wide Code 3 response, which means every available car in the city should respond to that area,’ said Sgt. Pete Simpson with the Portland Police Bureau.”

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Gunman told police he acted alone in LAX shooting

LOS ANGELES —The 23-year-old charged as the gunman in the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport told authorities at the scene that he acted alone and had been dropped off by a friend, a law enforcement official who has been briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on Sunday.  Authorities do not believe the friend knew that Paul Ciancia, the man charged in the attack, planned to open fire inside LAX’s Terminal 3 just moments later, killing one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding three other people, including two more TSA workers, said the official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and requested anonymity.  Ciancia was dropped off in a black Hyundai and was not a ticketed passenger. He was able to respond to investigators’ questions at the scene Friday, the official told the AP exclusively.

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$5B food stamp cut hits Friday

Poor families across the country will have a harder time stretching their food budgets after Friday, as stimulus funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) automatically expires. The 13.6 percent boost in SNAP benefits the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act instituted in April 2009 ends Nov. 1.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the cuts translate into $29 per month less for an average family of three. They will be left with $319 per year or $1.40 per person per meal, based on cost estimates from the Department of Agriculture’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”  Since the funding increase came from federal dollars, every SNAP recipient will experience reduced benefits. (See GovBeat’s maps of SNAP cuts by state and SNAP participation by state and congressional district).

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Wave of attacks kills at least 66 people in Iraq

BAGHDAD —A series of attacks including car bombings in Baghdad, an explosion at a market and a suicide assault in a northern city killed at least 66 people Sunday across Iraq, officials said, the latest in a wave of violence washing over the country.  Coordinated bombings hit Iraq multiple times each month, feeding a spike in bloodshed that has killed more than 5,000 people since April. The local branch of al-Qaida often takes responsibility for the assaults, although there was no immediate claim for Sunday’s blasts.  Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest single-day series of assaults since Oct. 5, when 75 people were killed in violence.  Police officers said that the bombs in the capital, placed in parked cars and detonated over a half-hour period, targeted commercial areas and parking lots, killing 42 people.

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After JPMorgan $13B Deal, Banks Seek Protections in Future Bailouts

As the U.S. government closes in on a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. over its mortgage practices, lawyers specializing in bank mergers are looking for ways to protect their clients from big losses in similar cases in the future.  A big chunk of the record settlement is attributed to bad mortgage loans at Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns – two banks that U.S. financial regulators encouraged JPMorgan to buy during the 2008 financial crisis.   That has triggered discussions among bank merger lawyers about how they can get indemnification clauses into future bailout deals, and obtain greater protection from losses from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which seizes and sells troubled banks.  When the FDIC coordinates the sale of such banks, it often agrees to limit the losses that the acquiring bank may face on troubled assets. It did this, for example, in 2008 to help Citigroup Inc. buy parts of Wachovia Corp., which was ultimately bought without government assistance by Wells Fargo & Co.

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Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found.  Three in five workers with defined contribution accounts are “debt savers,” according to the report released Thursday, meaning their increasing mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans are outpacing the amount of money they are able to save for retirement.  The imbalance is expanding even as policymakers are encouraging people to set aside more by offering generous tax breaks and automatically enrolling workers in retirement accounts that in some cases automatically escalate the amount of money over time.  Currently, workers with retirement savings accounts put aside more than 11 percent of their pay for retirement — 5 percent in their own accounts, and 6.2 percent in Social Security.  Despite that — and despite the $2.5 trillion the report says employers have poured into defined contribution accounts from 1992 to 2012 — the retirement readiness of most Americans has been slipping, according to the report by HelloWallet, a D.C. firm that offers technology-based financial advice to workers and conducts research of economic behavior.

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Libya: Who Runs This Place?

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—“It’s shameful that revolutionaries dress one way in Tripoli and another way in Misrata.  It’s a small matter, but to an outside observer it’s symbolic of the danger present and indicates the high degree of instability in the country.”  So said Professor Mohamed Bel-Ruwin from Misrata, a city which lies just east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.  A professor emeritus of political science at Texas A&M International University, Professor Bel-Ruwin is well-known in Libya.  He returned to Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown, and was a contender for the position of prime minister last year.  All along Libya’s two thousand miles of coastline one encounters barriers and skirmishes between various forces. It appears that the armed Jihadist militants hold the most sway here, though the lack of a capable, centralized state is not a problem unique to Libya, with its neighbors in Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt also experiencing similar problems.

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Army warns it could have trouble handling single war

WASHINGTON – Budget reductions could render the Army at “high risk to meet even one major war,” according to documents obtained by USA TODAY, a warning the Army is sounding because it sees another war as inevitable before long.  The dire assessment by top Army officials to Pentagon leaders provides a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes struggle for the future of the military in a time of declining budgets.  The Army provided its assessment as each of the services is conducting a four-year scrub of its strategy and the resources needed to meet it, a process called the Quadrennial Defense Review.  Military budget analysts say the Army is crying wolf. If it changed the way it organizes itself and how it fights, the Army can make do with far fewer soldiers, they say. They say the Army has not fully taken into account President Obama’s 2012 strategic guidance calling for smaller, more agile forces.  “They can get smaller,” said Todd Harrison, a budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “They will just have to fight differently. If you can’t even fight one war, what’s the point of having an Army?”

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Democrats reject proposed US House fiscal plan

US capitol

US Democrats have rejected a proposal from House of Representatives Republicans to extend the debt limit and reopen the federal government.  The White House criticised what it called an attempt to appease a small group of conservatives, but praised a parallel bipartisan Senate plan.  The White House balked at the House’s proposed amendments to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.  The US must raise its $16.7tn (£10.5tn) debt limit by Thursday or risk default.  It remains unclear whether Congress can agree a deal in time to avert the economic calamity in the US and across the world that economists say could result.

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The Russia Left Behind

A few times every day, the high-speed train between St. Petersburg and Moscow barrels through the threadbare town of Lyuban. When word gets out that the head of Russia’s state railway company — a close friend of President Vladimir V. Putin — is aboard, the station’s employees line up on the platform standing at attention, saluting Russia’s modernization for the seconds it takes the train to fly through. Whoosh.  But Vladimir G. Naperkovsky is not one of them. He watched with a cold, blue-eyed stare as the train passed the town where he was born, with its pitted roads and crumbling buildings. At 52, having shut down his small computer repair business, Mr. Naperkovsky is leaving for another region in Russia, hoping it is not too late to start a new life in a more prosperous place. The reasons are many, but his view boils down to this: “Gradually,” he said, explaining his view of Lyuban, “everything is rotting.”

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Rally at World War II Memorial Ends at White House

Protestors of the government shutdown began at the World War II Memorial early Saturday morning and ended at the White House gates and fence Saturday afternoon.  The group was upset with the closure of memorials in Washington due to the shutdown stalemate. The original WWII protest was organized by the Million Vet March group, but took on a more political tone.  According to NBC News, the president was in the White House at the time the protesters arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Video from cameras on the White House lawn showed people carrying barricades, presumably from the WW II memorial, to the fence. The DC Police Department said via Twitter that they were on the scene with the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.

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