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Gov. Malloy Accused of Condoning State Sanction Terrorism


hartford adHARTFORD — For about two and a half years, Gov. Dannel Malloy has been governing a state that promotes state sanctioned terrorism. And he has yet to intervene on behalf of a journalist who has been suppressed and subjugated.

As a result, there is a United Nations report filed against the state of Connecticut and the United States for, among other things, failure to protect a citizen under the 14th Amendment.

At press time, The Hartford Guardian was still waiting for comment.

According to the report by the person who wants to remain anonymous,  her privacy has been invaded since 2013. That’s because she was invited by several Connecticut residents to learn about what the state and rogue police officers had done to them. They wanted her to “tell the story,” so that the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division could intervene.

After a year and a half of investigating the story,  several  officers from the Avon Police Department, the Hartford Police Department and other government agencies have had the journalist under surveillance to monitor coverage of that and other stories.

According the report file on Nov. 17 with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the police have tried to kill her in “innocuous ways,”  interfered with her writing style and her journalistic integrity.

Using high-tech devices, they have stopped her from writing stories about education and politics in the state, primarily because Malloy touts himself as “the education governor,” sources said.

They have also allegedly blocked her from other job opportunities, damaged her property, stole her money, phones and computer.

Sources said the reporter, who has reached out to several agencies to investigate this matter, has been asked to leave the state by others who are watching and said they fear for her losing her life.

The Hartford Guardian will have more of this story in the coming weeks.

 

 

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Hilary Clinton Leads in Polls After South Carolina Democratic Debate


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
CHARLESTON, S. C. – After a contentious debate between the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, Hilary Clinton emerged as a leader in the polls, pushing back an insurgent candidate from Vermont.

 
Clinton sparred with the Sen. Bernie Sanders, who brands himself as a Democratic Socialist. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley came in a distant third after the fourth debate in Charleston, South Carolina. The debate was moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell.

 
According to polls released on Sunday by NBC News/Wall Street Journal, the former secretary of state received 59 percent support from Democratic primary voters, while 34 percent support the Vermont senator. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley received 2 percent support.

 
Before the debate, another poll two weeks before the first votes in Iowa, 79 percent of Democratic primary voters say they would support Clinton. And of those same pollers, 66 percent say they would support Sanders.

 
Historically, the South Carolina primary election has been more important to the Republican Party’s nomination process, used to eliminate serious contenders facing the party’s frontrunner.

 
Clinton challenged Sanders on his policy shifts on universal health care, one of President Barack Obama’s signature achievements. Sanders said he would also build on Obamacare and tweak it to be Medicaid for all who are eligible, instead getting rid of Obamacare.

 
Positing herself as someone who can do “all aspects of the job,” the second-time presidential candidate also questioned Sanders policy shift on gun control. She also labeled Sanders as a fringe candidate, saying he would be unelectable.

 
Sanders pushed back with poll numbers, which puts him closer to Clinton before the South Carolina debates.

 
“When this campaign began, she was 50 points ahead of me,” he said. “We were all of three percentage points. Guess what? In Iowa and New Hampshire, the race is very, very close.”

 
He also cited his close tie in a general election against Trump.

 
Sanders beats Trump by 54 percent to 39 percent. And Clinton polled with 51 percent to 41 percent.

 
The two candidates took center stage because of Sanders gains in the polls before the Iowa caucuses. They also argued on who would be best to build on Obama’s legacy on healthcare and gun control, two hot-button issues fought vigorously in the Republican-led House and Senate.

 
Clinton proposed to build on Obama’s legacy and Sanders said he would be the right candidate that appeals to the current sentiments of the Democratic Party.

 
Sanders tried to present himself as the bolder choice to build on Mr. Obama’s legacy.

 
Despite the impressive showing by Sanders in these polls, one thing is clear: Clinton is leading Sanders.

 
O’Mally got feisty in the last democratic debate before the Iowa caucus, criticizing the two leading and “tested” candidates and show his support for privacy rights.

 
In response to the YouTube viewer about his stance on privacy versus security.

 
“I believe whether it’s a backdoor or a front door that the American principle of law should still hold our federal government should have to get a warrant, whether they want to come through the backdoor or your front door,” O’Malley said.

 
South Carolinians are expected to vote on Feb. 27.

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GE Moving Global Headquarters From Fairfield to Boston


General Electric will relocate its global headquarters from Fairfield to Boston, the company said Wednesday, setting off a scramble to frame the decision as either a political failure by Connecticut or simply a hard-nosed business move by one of the world’s largest conglomerates.

“Boston was selected after a careful evaluation of the business ecosystem, talent, long-term costs, quality of life for employees, connections with the world and proximity to other important company assets,” Jeff Immelt, the company’s chief executive, said Wednesday afternoon in a statement about the move.

GE has about 800 employees in Fairfield. The Boston Globe, which reported the story first Wednesday morning, wrote that, while some executives are expected to relocate this summer, the “full move” from Fairfield will take place over the next few years.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who returned to the state late Wednesday morning after attending the State of the Union address, met with reporters at 2 p.m. at Pegasus Manufacturing, a growing company in Middletown undoubtedly chosen as a favorable place to begin damage control.

“We win some, we lose some,” the governor said. “This hurts.”

Malloy said despite this setback, Connecticut’s economy is making progress, adding that three companies recently committed to move here, creating about 700 jobs.

The governor also said he would continue to work on stabilizing Connecticut’s long-term pension obligations, calling it a broader issue both for all businesses and for the state’s overall fiscal health.

The reaction from elsewhere was fast and largely negative.

“I think GE leaving is cataclysmic, really,” said Rep. John H. Frey, R-Ridgefield, who has emerged as an informal voice of GE since June, when the company first broached leaving. “I do think it is a defining moment for Gov. Malloy, and it’s not a good one.”

“It is terribly disappointing,” said Joseph F. Brennan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. “They are great corporate citizens. They add a lot to the fabric of Connecticut.”

One of the key questions for the state will be the extent to which GE elaborates on its rationale for a move to a state without an obvious advantage in taxes or overall cost of business. GE has been rebranding itself as a tech company, making Boston a more attractive headquarters location.

“My understanding is what they found in Massachusetts is a supportive state and local government, which they didn’t find here, going back to the call I got from GE in late May or June,” said Frey, who is friends with Jeffrey S. Bornstein, the company’s chief financial officer.

Massachusetts has its own fiscal issues, but business leaders — including officials with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association — insisted GE’s primary concern about the Nutmeg State lay with broader questions about the long-term fiscal stability of Connecticut.

Connecticut already has one of the largest bonded debt burdens, per capita, of any state, owing more than $22 billion. But an even larger threat looms in the area of “soft debt,” specifically, more than $47 billion in unfunded retirement benefit obligations.

Connecticut was rated the third-worst state last year on unfunded pension liability by Bloomberg. Massachusetts was 11th.

Connecticut’s annual required contribution to its pension fund for state employees, which stands at $1.5 billion now, could spike by 2032 to $3.8 billion, according to Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, or $6.65 billion according to Malloy.

“It was the lack of predictability, the uncertainty when we’re going from deficit to tax increase to deficit to tax increase,” Brennan said. “It makes it more difficult to plan. These are all things we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

“GE leaving is a shocker for the state of Connecticut,” Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said. “… It certainly is not a surprise, unfortunately.”

“It’s a very sad day for the state of Connecticut, but not a surprise to any of us who have been involved in government, or — quite frankly — to anyone who has been in business in the state of Connecticut,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby.

Brennan did note that “Boston has been growing by leaps and bounds” and that recent economic development centered on its colleges and universities has gotten the attention of many corporations.

“That’s where the game is right now,” he added. “It’s about attracting talent.”

The Massachusetts governor’s office also disclosed some of the incentives Massachusetts and Boston offered the company to move, including:

  • Up to $120 million in state grants and programs.
  • Up to $25 million in municipal property tax relief.
  • Up to $5 million for an innovation center to forge connections between GE, innovators from Massachusetts research institutions and the higher education community.
  • A commitment to existing local transportation infrastructure improvements in the Seaport District to which GE would locate.
  • And appointment of a relocation team and other assistance to aid GE employees looking to buy homes in Boston.

Leaders of the Democratic majorities in Connecticut’s legislature insisted GE’s departure was not a response to budget decisions here while trying to put the best possible face on the local economy.

“It is clear that GE’s decision has nothing to do with taxes, or even business costs, and cannot fairly be viewed as a referendum on Connecticut’s growing economy,” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said. “Connecticut’s unemployment rates have dropped to the lowest level since March 2008. In 2015, Connecticut saw the sixth-largest unemployment drop in the country. In fact, GE just increased its workforce in Connecticut after purchasing Alstom Energy, adding 1,200 jobs in Windsor and Bloomfield.”

“While I am disappointed that GE is moving approximately 200 jobs to Boston, it is, however, an undeniable fact that Connecticut’s economy is growing and creating jobs and we are training our workforce to compete in a global economy,” added Senate Minority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.

“GE’s decision to relocate across the border to downtown Boston is certainly disappointing, yet we remain a favored location for companies to thrive,” said House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. “It appears, particularly from GE’s advertising, that their decision is not about taxes but more about rebranding into a high-tech company, and Boston is well known as a high-tech industry hub.”

Democratic U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, whose 4th District includes Fairfield, issued a joint statement calling GE’s announcement “disappointing news” but saying that “General Electric is committed to keeping thousands of manufacturing jobs and other high-paying positions in our state. That is important to Connecticut families and our economy.”

Malloy made pitches to GE both last summer and in December to keep the company headquarters here. And though he didn’t release details, the Connecticut governor did confirm previously that some package of financial incentives was offered.

“What we have indicated is a willingness to work with them on – if you want to call it a package, you can call it a package – in general, and in some cases, specific terms of what we thought we could do,” the governor said back on Aug. 24. “… They had us in. We made a presentation.”

GE was one of several major corporations that complained loudly this past June when legislators and Malloy agreed on a new two-year budget that increased state taxes by more than $1.3 billion over the biennium.

Despite warnings from nonpartisan analysts throughout much of 2014 that state government faced a major deficit after the November elections, Malloy insisted there wasn’t a shortfall and had pledged not to increase taxes.

After negotiating a tentative budget deal in early June 2015 that included a $1.5 billion tax hike – and also canceled previously approved tax cuts worth close to $500 million over the biennium – the Malloy administration reversed itself after the Democrat-controlled legislature narrowly approved the budget.

In a June special session, the governor and legislature peeled back about $178 million of those tax hikes, focusing largely on hikes aimed at businesses.

And while another special session was held in December to close a relatively small hole in the current fiscal year, more than $300 million in red ink looms in 2016-17, while a shortfall topping $1.5 billion still is forecast for 2017-18.

The December deficit-mitigation effort, which GOP lawmakers opposed for not cutting spending more deeply, lacked “the structural changes that the I think the state of Connecticut needed to show businesses like GE,” Fasano said. Republicans particularly pressed harder for labor concessions and other changes to tighten personnel costs.

Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, said Wednesday that he was sorry, but unsurprised, to see the company leave, and said the decision to move was probably made “before they started gnashing their teeth.”

While he expects the company to blame Connecticut, Godfrey said doing so was “kind of childish, in my opinion.”

“Interestingly enough, they’re now moving to a place where taxes are higher,” he said. “It’s not called ‘Taxachusetts’ for nothing.”

While some have suggested the company’s decision would probably take into account the state’s long-term liabilities and fiscal stability, Godfrey said he didn’t buy it. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “The state, aside from GE, is taking a good hard look at our pension system.”

Will the move bring repercussions during the next legislative session, which begins Feb. 3?

“There’ll be a lot of noise,” Godfrey said. “But it’ll be more sound and fury than it is, I think, actual changes.”

The Yankee Institute for Public Policy suggested more needed to be done.

“The people of Connecticut have three options,” President Carol Platt Liebau said in a statement. “We can continue to pretend nothing is wrong. We can wallow in despair. Or we can transform our policies so that they welcome employers and increase opportunity for everyone.”

And while Brennan said he hoped that GE’s move would serve as a “wake-up call” at the Capitol to reform state spending, Klarides and Fasano said they aren’t optimistic things will change when the regular 2016 legislative session begins in three weeks.

“I can’t believe the wake-call didn’t happen several years ago,” Klarides said, adding that Malloy and his fellow Democrats in the legislature’s majority “have their heads in the sand.”

Washington Correspondent Ana Radelat contributed to this story.

 

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President Obama Delivers Final SOTU Address


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama delivered his eighth State of the Union address before a packed House chamber on Tuesday, pushing back on “negative attacks” toward his policies and the typical moniker that comes at the end of an incumbent president’s second term: lame duck.

Obama’s 58-minute speech illuminated his top priorities and challenges for the last seven years. He also honed in on his agenda to fix a broken immigration system, to push climate change and to tackle criminal justice reform, especially gun violence. Also, the Obama administration is aiming to expand the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States.

Recently, the president signed an education bill that he said will “fix some of the challenges of the No Child Left Behind and promises to invest more in early childhood education.” On December 10, 2015, Obama signed into law  a new education reform bill that shifts power from the federal government to the states. Each state will now set the agenda on issues of school performance and accountability. Under the Every Child Achieves Act, local districts will once again have power to determine how to improve troubled schools. In all, the new bill minimizes federal oversight of schools and doesn’t have an ambitous goal for education reform.

Margaret Spellings, who served as former Pesident George Bush’s education secretary from 2005 to 2009, sounded an alarm, saying Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, shephered a bill that removed the consequences to local school districts for failing to meet a federal educational standard or take the pressure off local officials to effectively fix low-performing schools.

Before Obama’s new bill, there was strict federal control on education. Now, the Senate bill nixed most of NCLB’s major accountability provisions.

RELATED: CNN’s State of the Union 2016: Full text

Obama also touted additional achievement, especially his health care bill. To date, six million people have signed up for Obamacare, which was passed in Congress and came into law in March 2010. And nearly 18 million people have gained access to healthcare, Obama said.

He also touted his accomplishments with the economy, climate change and bringing China, one of the world’s largest emission centers, to the table.  America signed a climate change deal at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change last month. The agreement calls for countries to reduce greenhouses emissions. Additionally, White House officials said unemployment was cut in half.

However, Obama signed a bill that aims to cut food stamps by $8.7 billion in the next 10 years. The cut was a part of the 2014 Farm Bill.

“All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done,”  he said.

He did not, however, set the agenda for the 2016 election as other presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower have done in the past. And he was faced with obstruction on many other issues, including Federal and Circuit Court judge appointments. On Monday, his last appointment, Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, became the only the second Circuit Court judge approved in 2015. Restrepo was Obama’s last nominee to be confirmed.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration also said it would join a new push with the United Nations to allow police agencies help respond to terrorism. The Obama administration said Islamic terrorism is less worrying than “homegrown” terror. But reports are finding that domestic terrorism is just as dangerous as foreign terrorism. The Obama administration has issued reports that claim Tea Party groups and nativist groups are possible domestic terrorists.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was one of several guests who personify President Obama’s tenure in office.

While Malloy was with First Lady and Congressman John Larson (D-1) was also joined by a special guest: Geoffrey Tillman, who was wrongfully convicted of a crime and served more than 15 years.

Viewers, for the most part, saw an energetic president who pushed proposals for the coming year ending with a deep resolve that “America is emerging stronger and better.”

The speech was well-received.

According to a CNN poll, 53 percent of viewers had favored the President’s speech, matching the highest rating of his presidency reached following his 2013 address. Only 20 percent of viewers said they had a positive reaction to his speech and 25 percent reported a negative view.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gave the Republican response, in which she criticized Obama’s policies and critiqued Trump for leading the campaign trail with anger and showmanship.

Haley also cast Obama and his administration in an unflattering light, saying  America “would soon have a chance to turn the page.”

“The President’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words,” Haley said.

 House Speaker Paul Ryan also debut as House Speaker alongside Biden.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was designated as the Cabinet member who did not attend the State of the Union address.

Photo Courtesy of VOA.

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Obama’s Tears for Ableist Fears


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President Barack Obama has announced executive actions in response to the “outbreak” of gun violence. In particular Obama has said he’ll increase the efficiency of background checks. Obama’s reasoning comes from the belief that gun violence is on the rise.

But as Reason‘s Jesse Walker reported in early December, “More people die in mass public shootings now than in previous decades, but if you adjust for population growth that increase basically disappears.” In addition, the Pew Research Center found in October 2015 that, “Between 1993 and 2000, the gun homicide rate dropped by nearly half, from 7.0 homicides to 3.8 homicides per 100,000 people. Since then, the gun homicide rate has remained relatively flat.” And while Pew highlights an increase in suicides, I doubt this is the impetus behind Obama increasing the ability of the national background check to, “…track people who are banned from obtaining firearms for specific mental health reasons” as Policy.Mic reports.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionInstead, this executive action stems from misguided fears about disabled people and their relation to firearms. As opposed to letting neurodivergent folks decide their own fate, they must instead comply with debilitating bureaucracy.

An email that the blogger Autistic Hoya received from Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement promisingly notes the stigma that individuals with mental illness face. Yet, at the same time, the email encourages us to make sure that guns don’t fall into “the wrong hands”. Presumably, individuals with mental illness fit this description which, in effect, further stigmatizes them.

Background checks in of themselves are troublesome ways of preventing gun violence because they rely on prior arrests and convictions. This means that communities that are more heavily policed will likely face the brunt of these regulations. In particular communities made up predominately of low-income earners and people of color will be more at risk of being disarmed.

Most intrusively, as Hoya notes, this executive action would create exceptions for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) which often keeps, “…the prying minds of anyone who randomly wants to know what STI’s or STD’s you have, when you’ve ever been prescribed psychiatric meds, etc.”

This violation of privacy could also open the way for employers and service providers to know more than mentally ill people want them to know. Perhaps they’ve taken anti-psychotics for the past few months but they’ve never been a danger to themselves or others. But the service provider in question may conflate these two things and deny them service, leading to a worsening of the individual’s mental health. And although Obama promises more funding for mental health services, details in the email are sparse. Does this mean more hospitals where abuse can happen all too easily? It’s true that prisons have become less in vogue to deal with the mentally ill, but what good is ridding ourselves of one confinement, only to replace it with another?

As Hoya notes, if we’re going to decrease the level of violence we should focus on the police and demilitarizing them. Estimates vary but according to Killed by Police‘s website around 1,200 individuals were killed by the police in 2015. And via The Guardian’s program The Counted 1,000 were murdered by mid-November while The Washington Post counted nearly 1,000 overall in 2015.

Regardless of the numbers, it’s clear that ending gun violence means starting with police violence. But it doesn’t stop there.

Ending gun violence is also about challenging notions of neuro-supremacy in this culture. One of which is the idea that people who aren’t neurotypical are somehow sharply inclined towards violence. This faulty premise leads to harassment of and violence against the mentally ill while justifying much of it under the law out of “necessity” and “safety”.

Let’s treat the mentally ill as the autonomous individuals they are, not scapegoats for the state.

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Letter To My Sikh Son: Be Proud of Your Identity


I agree with you that it’s a little ironic that we Sikhs are being mistaken for Muslims in the U.S. today, when the very idea behind our distinctive appearance was to distinguish us from Muslims and Hindus. I wish more people knew about the role of the Sikhs in the fight against the Mughal tyranny in 17th century India, and the sacrifices the Sikhs made to protect the common man’s right to practice their religion during Aurangzeb’s misguided attempts to convert the entire Mughal empire to Islam.

I wish people knew that when Guru Gobind Singhji prepared us for a life as saint-soldiers, sporting a turban and a beard and carrying arms, he made it clear that our fight was against tyranny and injustice, not against any particular religion or sect. 

I am glad you are aware of our proud history. The other day, when talking about the recent hate crimes against the Sikhs in the U.S., you observed, “This is not the time to say we are not Muslims.” I am proud of you for thinking like that. It’s every Sikh’s duty to help those of any religion or race who are weak and cannot defend themselves again injustice. 

But in order to do that, we have to come from a position of strength. While there are organizations fighting hate crimes and working to educate people, we can help by being strong and taking care of ourselves, and helping anybody else who cannot. One way of doing that today is to stand by the side of our Muslim friends.

The Sikh way of life is simple: work hard to earn an honest living, share what you have, and remember God. Our Gurus taught us to be fair, to respect others and their religions. Remember how after 9-11 we rushed to take down the khanda (the Sikh emblem) from our car so people won’t mistake it for an Iranian flag, and felt so bad about it afterwards? I remember doing something similar following the 1984 killings of the Sikhs in India. Maybe it’s time we stop rushing to prove whatever it is we are trying to prove by such acts. It’s time to stop living in fear. Yes, we are not Muslims, but we don’t need to go around announcing it to appease hate mongers looking for a soft target.

So today, even as I join your mother in asking you to be careful when you are out on the road and avoid getting into an argument over religion, I also want you to remember that we are warriors, and must always be ready to fight any bully when all means of a peaceful resolution have failed.

I am happy you are strong in your faith. I’m sure you’ll have questions from time to time. Please don’t hesitate to ask them. 

Love,
Papa

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Consumer Scams in 2015: A Year-End Review


The Federal Trade Commission and its consumer watchdog partners closed 2015 by shutting down alleged fraud in high-complaint categories such as debt collection, home shopping, and services related to employment and immigration.

This is a seven-city digest of initiatives that the FTC, the Better Business Bureau, and state authorities launched or completed in December to halt these kinds of consumer fraud – scams that often victimize immigrants and communities of color.

Seattle, WA: False advertising by “notarius”

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson capped a 2015 campaign against immigration services fraud by filing a lawsuit against a company for allegedly taking advantage of people seeking the legal right to live and work in the country. The lawsuit says the defendant has no law degree and no staff but published at least 73 advertisements as “notarius” offering immigration services in Russian-language publications.

The Russian word notarius literally translates to ‘notary’ in English but it has a different meaning to people from Russian-speaking regions, “where one must be an attorney or complete advanced legal training to become a notary,” the lawsuit says.

“A similar linguistic accident is often taken advantage of by scammers targeting Spanish-speaking communities,” the attorney general said, noting that many Latinos believe notarios or notarios públicos can serve as lawyers. Other communities, “including North and West African, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Ukrainian immigrants, have also been targeted,” he added.

Los Angeles, CA: Mortgage modification scammers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obtained a settlement from a federal district court in Los Angeles that bans four “mortgage modification scammers” from offering relief services, resolving charges that they deceived homeowners facing foreclosure.

The settlements stem from an FTC complaint against HOPE Services and HAMP Services, which are based in Lake Forest, in Orange County. Pretending to be a “nonprofit” with government ties, HOPE and HAMP stole the mortgage payments of consumers who were promised mortgage modifications, deceptions that contributed to homeowner foreclosures and bankruptcies, the FTC said.

The settlement order requires the owners of the companies to pay a judgment of more than $2.7 million, the amount consumers paid.

“These rip-off artists took struggling homeowners’ last dollars, but we’ve shut down their destructive and illegal schemes,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Now, in addition to financial judgments, the court has permanently banned them from the industries and practices they exploited.”

New York, NY: Defrauding envelope stuffers

At the request of the FTC, a New York court recently halted a nationwide work-at-home envelope-stuffing scam that took more than $7 million in upfront fees from tens of thousands of consumers. Under these schemes, companies offer lucrative compensation to those willing to pay up-front fees to receive materials that are to be placed in envelopes and mailed.

Many of the victims were promised payment of $20 for each “Get Credit Now” booklet they mailed. Of those who agreed to the terms, only 10 percent of consumers received any payment at all, and their total average earnings were $19.50, far less than the $99 to $399 they had to pay up-front to participate, the FTC said. According to the FTC complaint, the scammers operated under a number of business names – among them is Capital Enterprises Inc.

Cleveland, OH: Bogus job offers

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Cleveland is warning area residents that scammers are preying on people who are conducting job searches or posting their resumes on the internet. In recent weeks, consumers have reported a “steady stream” of such fraud, the Cleveland BBB office said.

“BBB continues to investigate bogus job offers that are victimizing hopeful job seekers,” the Cleveland office said in a statement on its website. “While some of the scammers concoct business names … others mimic legitimate companies based here and abroad. Addresses provided by the bogus companies either do not exist or are actual addresses at which the scammer is not really located.”

The Cleveland BBB office said an Ohio State University student, for example, told its investigators that he found an ad on a website job board offering compensation for mailing material to the company’s agents throughout the U.S. Instead of responding to the offer via the internet link, the student found a phone number for the company referenced in the ad. When he called the company, he learned that the business had not posted the ad and that the offer was a scam.

Chicago, IL: Debt collection fraud

Another scam – debt collection fraud – was halted recently when lawyers at the FTC’s Midwest regional office obtained an order from a federal court in Chicago, banning the activities of a Canadian-based company that billed community-based organizations such as churches, medical offices and retirement homes under a Yellow Pages advertisement scam. Under the court order, the company must pay $1.2 million to reimburse victims.

Using a variety of business names, the FTC said the defendants sent medical practices, churches, and retirement homes invoices with the familiar “walking fingers” image seeking $480.95 for a one-year directory listing that the victims did not request.

“When consumers ignored the invoices, the defendants sent collection warnings demanding payment of more than $2,000,” the FTC said. “When consumers still refused to pay, the defendants sent threatening notices, posing as a third-party debt collector.”

Houston, TX: Bogus e-commerce

The Better Business Bureau in Houston is issuing warnings about bogus e-mails from scam artists posing as retail chains or e-commerce companies such as Amazon or eBay.

“The e-mails claim there is a ‘wrong transaction’ and you are prompted to click the refund link,” the Houston BBB office says. “You are then asked to complete a form with personal information that can be sold to cyber criminals.”

Atlanta, GA: Ponzi scheme for gifts

A new gift-related scam is also the focus of an alert from the BBB office in Atlanta, which cites a “gift exchange” that is actually a pyramid scheme. The BBB office said: “You spot a friend’s post on your Facebook or Instagram feed. It’s inviting you to join a gift exchange, and it sounds like a great deal. If you buy one $10 gift for a stranger, you will receive as many as 36 gifts back … The idea is that you send money (or a gift) to the person at the top of the list, cross them off, add your name to the bottom and send the list to more friends. However, the scheme relies on constantly recruiting new participants, making it mathematically impossible to sustain.”

If you believe you have been defrauded, call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 or report it at the FTC website at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

This column is part of New America Media’s joint project with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). For more information about how to avoid fraud and scams, go to: consumer.ftc.gov.

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President Obama Signs Executive Order to Curb Gun Violence


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Newtown resident Mark Barden took the podium in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday to mark a special occasion that was somewhat rooted in the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.

 
On that cold winter’s day in a tony suburb in Connecticut, Barden’s seven-year son, Daniel, was among 20 first-graders who were shot to death. That’s because Adam Lanza walked into the Newtown elementary school and opened fire on those children and six adults, including his mother. Then Lanza shot himself.

 
Mass shootings has become one of the most polarizing debates since the 1999 Columbine shooting. Since then, more than 30,000 lives have  been lost to gun violence.

 
“As a nation we have to do better,” Barden said before he introduced President Barack Obama. Barden is managing director of the Sandy Hook Promise, one of several groups that have been pressing Congress to pass laws to require background checks.

 
Obama’s executive order comes about three years after his administration sought a resolution to end mass shootings in America. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, there have been more than 25 mass shootings in suburban towns.

 
Obama said that his latest executive order is one in a series of executive actions to tighten up steps that are already in place to curb gun violence.

 
“The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence,” Obama said. “But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.”

 
In April 2013 in the Rose Garden Barden was with Obama to announce a bill that was eventually blocked by some members of Congress.

 
This latest effort aims to, among other things, expand background checks to guns sold online and at trade shows, add more than 230 FBI employees to process background checks, call for 400 million increase in funding for mental health care, and call for $500 million increase in funding for mental health care.

 

Congressman John B. Larson (D-CT) applauded Obama’s move on gun violence.

 

“The most patriotic thing we can do is vote. With respect to universal background checks on gun purchases, the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation and vote—even in the aftermath of Sandy Hook and countless other tragedies,” said Rep.Larson (CT-01). “It is no wonder President Obama has acted where Congress has not. I applaud the President for taking a stand, but I will continue to call for the House to do its job and take up legislation that has broad, bipartisan support.

 
This move marks what will be a series of executive actions by Obama. That’s because the Democrats lost the majority of the Senate in the 2014 election. Executive orders are not as potent as legislation.

 
This move, though, will make Obama fulfill his promise to help “curb gun violence in America,” said White House officials.

 
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy applauded this move.

 

“It’s time to step up – and we deeply appreciate the smart, commonsense steps the White House announced today,” Malloy said. “These actions will no doubt make a difference and make our communities safer.”

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Panel Struggles to Solve State’s Property Tax Woes


The panel studying Connecticut’s taxes off-and-on for two years has wrapped up its work struggling to find consensus on arguably Connecticut’s most onerous levy: the municipal property tax.

Members of the State Tax Panel, composed policy experts from a host of backgrounds, agreed that the property tax hurts the poor, lacks fairness, weakens the business climate and ignores fiscal reality.

But with the exception of a new sales tax surcharge to help communities, most other major proposals to ease burdens on municipal taxpayers bogged down.

Members of the State Tax Panel, composed policy experts from a host of backgrounds, agreed that the property tax hurts the poor, lacks fairness, weakens the business climate and ignores fiscal reality.

But with the exception of a new sales tax surcharge to help communities, most other major proposals to ease burdens on municipal taxpayers bogged down.

“The property tax has gotten short shrift,” Yale Law School Professor Anika Singh Lemar said during the panel’s final meeting on Dec. 15.

Former state Rep. William Dyson, D-New Haven, who co-chaired the panel, said the group was limited — perhaps more than some members realized — by two guidelines established from the beginning:

  • Revenue neutrality. Any proposal to increase one tax should be offset by a matching reduction in another levy.
  • Revenue-only recommendations. Any proposals to change state or local spending were considered outside of the committee’s charge. That meant proposals to increase state grants to municipalities — a revenue boost to cities and towns but an expenditure as far as the state budget is concerned — were off the table.

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Posted in Featured, PoliticsComments Off on Panel Struggles to Solve State’s Property Tax Woes

Immigrant Rights Groups Denounce Deportation Plans


A coalition of immigrant, civil and human rights organizations and faith leaders is calling on the U.S. government to halt plans to deport hundreds of Central American women and children fleeing violence and upheaval in their home countries. Immigrant rights advocates will announce a national campaign to condemn the plan at a press conference on Tuesday.

“It is obscene, shocking, and outrageous for this Administration to be planning the deportation of innocent families who are fleeing violence and persecution in the countries of origin. This plan is heinous and once deported, women and children could face violence and even death,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

Posted in Featured, Nation/WorldComments Off on Immigrant Rights Groups Denounce Deportation Plans

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