Thursday, October 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”
The federal government does.
Jordan continues his Wheel of Time saga (after The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt ). Three thousand years ago the Dragon led the male mages of the world into entrapping the Dark One, but the cost was high: all male mages, then and thereafter, were driven mad. Now the Dark One is breaking free, and the only salvation may come through Rand al'Thor who may be a reincarnation of the Dragon and who must obtain the sword Callandor, held in the city of Tear. All of Rand's companions from the previous books find themselves, willing or not, moving toward Tear for a confrontation with evil traps.
Monday, October 27, 2014
"A Journey Into The Movies" ride at Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in Orlando, Florida.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Most Americans probably believe that the government must first convict you of a crime before it can impose a sentence on you for that crime. This is incorrect: When federal prosecutors throw a bunch of charges at someone but the jury convicts on only some of those charges, a federal judge can still sentence the defendant on the charges for which he was acquitted. In fact, the judge can even consider crimes for which the defendant has never been charged.
During his 60 Minutes interview late last month, President Obama put an old and familiar rhetorical question to the voters: “Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’…And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office.”
Most members of the public do not share this view, according to this week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. Only 22 percent surveyed agreed that they are “better off financially” than they were when Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 — including only 37 percent of Democratic partisans. This says a lot about how people feel, because six years ago, the nation was embroiled in the very financial crisis that Obama still cites to absolve himself from blame for America’s continued economic doldrums.
When pressed in the same interview, Obama had to concede that most Americans aren’t feeling the recovery he has been touting ever since the so-called “Recovery Summer” of 2010. That’s because for workers, there hasn’t been much of a recovery.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Jake Lloyd (Anakin) during Star Wars Weekends 2005 at Disney MGM Studios (Now Hollywood Studios).
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
It is said that all England mourned the heartbreaking fate of little Paul Dombey, but it is the ordeal of his loving and long-suffering sister, Florence, that carries the full emotional weight of the story. Their father’s cold obsession with the future of his business empire, the malevolent plotting of his greedy manager, Mr. Carker, and the tragic self-contempt of his proud second wife, Edith, cast a dark shadow over the life of the motherless girl. But as the world of Dombey and Son begins to fall to pieces, Florence is sustained by the warmth and brightness of humbler allies: her fiercely loyal nurse, Susan Nipper; her haplessly devoted suitor, Toots; the rough but loveable old salt Captain Cuttle and his friend Sol Gills; and her fervent admirer, the orphan Walter Gay. In its locomotive power and its transcendent moments of suspense and revelation, Dombey and Son is a superb example of Dickens’s ability to combine the qualities of a social historian, a theatrical artist, and a poet of the utmost tenderness and insight.
Charles Dickens set this tale of a hard-hearted businessman, the son he pins all his hopes on, and the daughter he cruelly neglects in a country undergoing the storms of change brought by the Industrial Revolution.
Friday, October 17, 2014
The Freedom Socialist Party wants the minimum wage to be $20 an hour. However, they don’t feel compelled to compensate their own workers with that kind of cash.
The party is looking for a web developer, and posted a job listing on Craigslist a week ago and Indeed.com yesterday, and it’s been raising eyebrows on social media.
Although the average annual salary of a web developer in the U.S. is around $62,500, the Freedom Socialist Party only wants to pay $13 an hour, which would be $26,000 a year. Except that the party won’t hire someone full-time, so their next web developer’s total compensation won’t even be that modest chunk of change.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
A family’s secret, a ruthless fanatic, and a covert arm of the American government—all are linked by a single puzzling possibility:
What if everything we know about the discovery of America was a lie? What if that lie was designed to hide the secret of why Columbus sailed in 1492? And what if that 500-year-old secret could violently reshape the modern political world?
Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when one of his stories from the Middle East is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and a shocking truth he can never prove: that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger. This stranger forces Sagan to act—and his actions attract the attention of the Magellan Billet, a top-secret corps of the United States Justice Department that deals with America’s most sensitive investigations. Sagan suddenly finds himself caught in an international incident, the repercussions of which will shudder not only Washington, D.C., but also Jerusalem. Coaxed into a deadly cat-and-mouse game, unsure who’s friend and who’s foe, Sagan is forced to Vienna, Prague, then finally into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica—where his survival hinges on his rewriting everything we know about Christopher Columbus.
Introduction of Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) during Star Wars Weekends at Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in 2004.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
The FBI director James Comey has expressed concern that Apple and Google are making phones that cannot be searched by the government.
Speaking to reporters in a briefing Thursday, Mr. Comey said he is worried that such phones could place users “beyond the law,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He added that he’s been in talks with the companies “to understand what they’re thinking and why they think it makes sense.”
It’s worth noting that earlier this year, law enforcement argued to the Supreme Court that it shouldn’t actually need that court order to search someone’s phone, but the high court disagreed.
Comey had already expressed concern about Apple’s new iCan’tOpenThisOS to the press last month, so I’d hoped that 60 Minutes interviewer Scott Pelley would push Comey more on what law enforcement might do to try to force Google and Apple’s hands. He did not, instead leaving the topic with Comey suggesting that Apple is making us all live in a more dangerous global neighborhood with its new encrypted operating system. Pelley failed to make the point that a locked trunk or locked home could have inside a hostage, a body, or contraband that needs to be seized. Phones can’t store those things for us (yet). They contain only our self-incriminating data.
Friday, October 10, 2014
In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
When Teresa Hooks looked outside the craft room window of her Georgia home one night last week, she saw hooded figures wearing camouflage standing outside.
The East Dublin woman woke up her husband, David Hooks, who grabbed his shotgun, believing burglars who had recently targeted the couple had come back again, reported WMAZ-TV.
The sheriff’s deputies burst through the back door about 11 p.m. on Sept. 24 and, seeing David Hooks holding the weapon, fired 16 shots – killing the 59-year-old grandfather.
Authorities said Hooks met deputies at the door and pointed his weapon aggressively at officers as they announced themselves.
But Teresa Hooks said the officers did not knock and never identified themselves as law enforcement, and her attorney said David Hooks was killed behind a wall in the home — not at the door.
Deputies were executing a search warrant as part of a drug investigation based on a tip from one of the burglars accused of stealing a vehicle from Hooks.
John Yoder and Brad Cates, who headed the Asset Forfeiture Office at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1983 to 1989, slammed civil forfeiture as a “complete corruption” and “fundamentally at odds with our judicial system and notions of fairness,” in an op-ed for The Washington Post. Thanks to civil forfeiture laws, police and prosecutors don’t need to charge someone with a crime to seize and keep their property. Yoder and Cates “were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department,” they write, but after seeing civil forfeiture become a “gross perversion of the status of government amid a free citizenry,” the two now believe it should be “abolished.”
Their criticisms come on the heels of an extensive, three-part investigation by The Washington Post into highway interdiction. Since 9/11, without warrants and despite a lack of criminal charges, law enforcement nationwide has taken in $2.5 billion from 61,998 cash seizures under equitable sharing. This federal civil forfeiture program lets local and state law enforcement literally make a federal case out of a seizure, if they collaborate with a federal agency. Not only can they then bypass state forfeiture laws, they can pocket up to 80 percent of the proceeds. So of that $2.5 billion seized through equitable sharing, local and state authorities kept $1.7 billion for their own uses.
The beginning of the hilarious and irreverent series that has more than 80 million copies worldwide, The Color of Magic is where we meet tourist Twoflower and wizard guide Ricewind, and follow them on their always-bizarre journeys.
A writer who has been compared to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams, Sir Terry Pratchett has created a complex, yet zany world filled with a host of unforgettable characters who navigate around a profound fantasy universe, complete with its own set of cultures and rules.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014
Thursday, October 2, 2014
The Federal Reserve, which was just caught paying footsie with Goldman Sachs, is as shadowy as it is powerful. So why can’t Congress bring itself to actually audit the damn thing?
If you want to get a sense of just how incredibly powerful the Federal Reserve really is, forget about interest rates, reserve requirements, or even the ways in which a random nose-pick or burp by Janet Yellin during lunch at a Jackson Hole delicatessen might send markets soaring or crashing.
Instead, think about this: In an age utterly bereft of bipartisanship, auditing the nation’s central bank is one of the few issues on which Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren agree. So does everyone else. Polls consistently show anywhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of Americans supporting an audit that would not just open the Fed’s ledger books but peer into exactly how monetary policy gets set.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed The Federal Reserve Transparency Act by an overwhelming vote of 333-92; a majority of House Democrats voted for an audit while just one Republican voted against the bill.
Yet despite overwhelming public and congressional support for an audit, it’s just not going to happen.
What is it about the Fed that inspires such solidarity among its critics? Ever since its creation during the Woodrow Wilson era, it’s been a favorite target of everyone from right-wing conspiracists who fear the Fed is simply another cog in an international Jewish banking conspiracy to left-wing populists who see it as both a cause and effect of globalized capital. Because it controls the money supply of the planet’s biggest economy and because it operates so opaquely, it’s an obvious place to project all sorts of anxieties about large, impersonal forces beyond our reach that sharply affect, if not actually control, virtually all aspects of our daily lives.
But one needn’t wade into the fever swamps of conspiracy to see the Fed as an inherently problematic institution. The central bank is explicitly tasked with the fundamentally incompatible duties of conducting stable monetary policy, promoting full employment, acting as a lender of last resort, and regulating the banks it works with. Good luck with all that. Also, while it’s technically independent, the federal government exerts massive political pressure on the Fed and appoints its chair and board of governors.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
In this, the riveting second installment in Stephenson and company’s epic tale, we witness the aftermath of the world-shattering Mongolian invasion of 1241 and the difficult paths undertaken by its most resilient survivors.
The Shield Brethren, an order of warrior monks, search for a way to overthrow the horde, even as the invaders take its members hostage. Forced to fight in the Mongols’ Circus of Swords, Haakon must prove his mettle or lose his life in the ring. His bravery may impress the enemy, but freedom remains a distant dream.
Father Rodrigo receives a prophecy from God and believes it’s his mission to deliver the message to Rome. Though a peaceful man, he resigns himself to take up arms in the name of his Lord. Joining his fight to save Christendom are the hunter Ferenc, orphan Ocyrhoe, healer Raphael, and alchemist Yasper, each searching for his place in history.
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'Hey You' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.