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WATCH LIVE: Boston Bombing: AP 2 More Explosive Devices Found; 3rd Explosion Confirmed; Report — ATF Agents Descend on Hospital for Suspect

April 15, 2013 in Blogs

By AlterNet



WATCH LIVE COVERAGE BELOW

Update 3:35 PM PST: “The Boston Marathon honored the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting with a special mile marker in Monday's race,” the AP reminds us

Update: 3:26 PM PST: According to the AP, “A senior U.S. intelligence official says two more explosive devices have been found near the scene of the Boston marathon where two bombs detonated earlier.”

Update 3:22 PM PST:According to ABC News, “ATF agents have descended on Brigham and Women’s hospital where they’re questioning one potential person of interest.”

Update 3:19 PM PST: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tells ABC News: “It is a terrorist incident…   It could be foreign, it could be home grown.”  She said the attack had the “hallmarks” of a terror attack.

Update 3:12 PM PST:NBC News reports that police are “guarding” a wounded man as a “possible suspect.”

Update 3:00 PM PST: Watch Obama speaking live to the nation.

Update 2:56 PM PST: TalkingPointsMemo reports that Boston police spokesman says that no suspects are in custody. The statement seems to be at odds with the New York Post's report that investigators have a 'Saudi National' suspect under guard.

Meanwhile, Fox News reported that a suspect suffered severe burns. The man was caught less than two hours after the 2:50 p.m. bombing on the finish line of the race, in the heart of Boston.

Update 2:49 PM PST: Third explosion confirmed at JFK library the Boston Herald reports.

Update 2:46 PM PST: According to CBS News correspondent Bob Orr, two bombs were inside trash cans near the viewing area close to the finish line.

Update 2:38 PM PST:The Boston Globe is reporting that 100 are being treated at Boston hospitals.

Update: 2:23 PM PST: The Boston Globe is reporting over 100 injured.

Update: 2:20 PM PST:The New York Post reports:

Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national — in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The Post has learned.

Law enforcement sources said the 20-year-old suspect was under guard at …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Nobel Prize-Winner Joe Stiglitz Blasts America's 1 Percent-Coddling Tax System

April 15, 2013 in Blogs

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism



It’s a sign of how well relentless propagandizing works that Joe Stiglitz has to devote a lengthy op-ed in the New York Times to debunking the idea that our income tax system, whose salient characteristic is low tax burdens for the rich, is good for anyone other than the rich. Economists have increasingly taken note of the fact that the US experiment in lowering taxes produced the opposite of the outcomes that were claimed for it, namely, spurring growth and increasing incomes in all cohorts (the barmy “trickle down” theory). Cross-country comparisons show that advanced economies with higher growth rates, like Germany, typically tax their wealthy more, showing that high taxes on the rich are not a negative for growth. Instead, giving tax breaks to the rich has turbo-charged rentier capitalism:

Remember, the low tax rates at the top were supposed to spur savings and hard work, and thus economic growth. They didn’t. Indeed, the household savings rate fell to a record level of near zero after President George W. Bush’s two rounds of cuts, in 2001 and 2003, on taxes on dividends and capital gains. What low tax rates at the top did do was increase the return on rent-seeking. It flourished, which meant that growth slowed and inequality grew. This is a pattern that has now been observed across countries. Contrary to the warnings of those who want to preserve their privileges, countries that have increased their top tax bracket have not grown more slowly. Another piece of evidence is here at home: if the efforts at the top were resulting in our entire economic engine’s doing better, we would expect everyone to benefit. If they were engaged in rent-seeking, as their incomes increased, we’d expect that of others to decrease. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. Incomes in the middle, and even the bottom, have been stagnating or falling.

Stiglitz provides a compelling summary of how the rich get favored treatment:

The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes — far lower than mere millionaires, who …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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The Cyprus 'Bail-In' Exposes 'Too Big To Fail' as All Too Timid

April 15, 2013 in Economics

By Louise C. Bennetts

Louise C. Bennetts

The Cyprus bank “bailout” drama contains one major positive for U.S. observers: finally someone has found the courage to execute a credible solution to large bank failure that is not backstopped by taxpayers.

It also contains a warning: uncoordinated ad hoc measures don’t work well in a crisis. This should serve as a call to action for creating a workable bankruptcy procedure for U.S. megabanks.

The “bail-in” model used to address the insolvency of Cyprus’ two largest banks has its roots in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s megabank “recapitalization” proposal. Importantly, this is the first time that the model has been used where the banks in question are “too big to fail” in their local economy. And, as it turns out, banks aren’t too big to fail, and “bail-in” works rather well to limit the systemic effects of a bank failure and to shield taxpayers. It is also a warning to creditors: be more vigilant about the institutions you do business with.

Finally someone has found the courage to execute a credible solution to large bank failure that is not backstopped by taxpayers.”

Admittedly, Cyprus is not the ideal poster child for bail-in as a crisis management tool. For one thing, the FDIC model doesn’t quite work in Cyprus because Cypriot banks have hardly any bondholders, leaving uninsured depositors to absorb the blow. For another, the promised $10 billion capital injection from the EU and IMF is likely to be perceived as a bailout even though the banks receive only temporary liquidity.

But what really let Cyprus down was poor planning and communication. The European bail-in proposal was floated over a year ago and analysts waited anxiously for European authorities to release detailed rules about how it would work. The rules never came, adding to the general chaos and confusion when the time arrived to apply them.

The FDIC is looking to be more prepared with rules promised this summer. But there is a problem. The FDIC’s recapitalization proposal works within the Dodd-Frank Act’s “orderly liquidation authority” (OLA). As with anything related to Dodd-Frank, this authority is flawed at best, and possibly unconstitutional. Dodd-Frank gives unprecedented power to the Treasury secretary to determine whether an insolvent financial company will be subject to OLA. The Act sets a high standard for invoking the authority, but the process is unnecessarily tainted by the involvement of a political appointee, even if he or …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Fed Seen Paying Banks $77 Billion

April 15, 2013 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

Interest payments to banks (for money held on account wit the Fed) could rise from $1 billion in 2012 to $77 billion in 2016. Link to Bloomberg article.

“Essentially the Fed paid the banks $4 billion last year, which is about $12 per American,” David Howden, a professor of economics at Saint Louis University’s campus in Madrid, Spain, said in an e-mail.

Howden analyzed interest on reserve payments so far for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, named for an Austrian free-market economist and philosopher.

“If your bank called you up and said you have a new service fee of $12 because they screwed up in the crisis, you’d be livid, but that is basically what they are doing and no one knows about it.”

William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, has said interest payments on excess reserves are “not a subsidy to the banks.”

…read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Stockman on the Greatest Bond Bubble

April 15, 2013 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

Here is a great 5 minute video where David Stockman is interviewed. It provides the historical backdrop of Ronald Reagan and the “deficits don’t matter” Republican ideology. The Fed’s bond bubble is discussed. It would make a great classroom video presentation and discussion. Most online versions of this video have the host’s final comments deleted.

…read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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5 Ways Our Tax Code Benefits the Rich and Screws Everyone Else

April 15, 2013 in Blogs

By Travis Waldron, Think Progress



 

Today is Tax Day, the day on which federal and state taxes are due for all Americans. Republicans have, of course, spent the year since Tax Day 2012 arguing that tax rates are too high and pushing for tax cuts for the wealthy at both the federal and state level. In reality, however, America’s tax code provides substantial benefits to the rich that working class Americans don’t get to enjoy.

State tax codes are heavily slanted toward the rich, as we’ve highlighted before. At the federal level, huge tax expenditures also make the tax code friendlier to the wealthiest Americans. The United States spends more than $1.3 trillion a year on tax expenditures, and while some of them help the middle class, many of them are aimed specifically at the wealthy, who receive an extra $250,000 a year in income thanks to tax breaks. Here are five ways the tax code benefits the wealthy:

1. Deductions: The majority of tax breaks come through deductions, and while several deductions have substantial benefits for working class Americans, the advantages for the wealthy are much larger. Because of the way they are structured, popular deductions like those for mortgage interest, retirement savings, and charitable giving provide far bigger benefits for the wealthy than they do for average Americans, creating an “upside-down” effect that gives the biggest tax breaks to those who need them least and making the tax code look “more progressive than it actually is.” President Obama has proposed capping individual deductions at 28 percent, meaning the wealthy would get the same benefit as taxpayers in the middle class tax bracket. Other proposals, such as converting all deductions to tax credits, would make the tax code even more fair for middle- and lower-class families.

2. Capital gains: The capital gains preference taxes income from investments at a lower rate than ordinary wage income, providing a huge tax break to investors. Republicans argue that the low capital gains rate boosts the economy, but there is little evidence that higher capital gains rates hurt the economy. Instead, the preference increases income inequality, since capital gains income is earned almost solely by the wealthy. Cuts to the …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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America Needs an Alternative Maximum Tax

April 15, 2013 in Economics

By John H. Cochrane

John H. Cochrane

They keep coming back, like the villains of a good zombie movie, chanting “more taxes, more taxes.” Long ago, Congress passed the alternative minimum tax, or AMT—a simple flat rate to ensure that in an insanely complex tax code, no one escapes paying something. Now we need an alternative maximum tax as a simple, rough-and-ready way to limit the tax zombies’ economic damage. Call it the AMaxT.

With Monday’s deadline for filing tax returns looming, let’s start a national conversation: How much is the most anyone should have to pay? When do taxes indisputably start to harm the economy and produce less revenue—when government takes 50% of people’s income? 60%? 70%?

I like half, but the principle matters more than the number. Once the country settles on a number, each of us gets to add up everything we pay to government at every level: federal income taxes, yes, but also payroll (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) taxes, state, city and county taxes, estate taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes and unemployment insurance for nannies, household workers, or other employees, excise taxes, real-estate transfer taxes, and so on and on, right down to your vehicle stickers and those annoying extra taxes on your airline tickets.

They keep coming back, like the villains of a good zombie movie, chanting ‘more taxes, more taxes.’”

On April 15, once this total hits the alternative maximum tax, you’ve done your bit and federal income taxes can take no more. You compute federal income taxes as usual, but then you get to reduce the “tax due” that the total is less than the alternative maximum.

The zombies howl that the top federal tax bracket is still “only” 40%. Surely “the rich” can contribute a bit more? They forget that the economic damage of taxes comes from the total tax bite, not just the federal income tax.

Marginal taxes are a purer measure of economic damage. If you earn one more dollar, how much do you get to keep? Marginal rates are higher than average rates in a progressive system: If the government takes 100% of income above $100,000, then somebody earning $150,000 pays a 33% average tax rate but has no incentive to work at all after he reaches $100,000. Ideally, we would limit marginal rates, but this is not practical in a simple backstop like the AMaxT.

American governments also like to hide taxing …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Georgia Governor Derides Effort to End Whites-Only Prom

April 15, 2013 in Blogs

By Alex Kane, AlterNet



A group of teens backed by a liberal group in Georgia want to end the segregated prom that exists in Wilcox County. But the governor thinks that effort is “ a silly publicity stunt,” as Think Progress notes.

In response to inquiries from Georgia news outlet 13 WMAZ about whether he supports efforts to end the segregated, whites-only prom that parents have organized in Wilcox County, the governor’s spokesman said: “This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic party and we're not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt.” The “front group” referred to is Better Georgia, a progressive group in the state. They were pushing for officials in the state “to publicly support the students of Wilcox County who are fighting to end a 'separate-but-equal' high school prom.”

The practice of segregated proms in the Georgia county has garnered attention and controversy in recent days. A group of white and black friends who attend Wilcox County High School have organized against the segregated proms. The school is reportedly not violating civil rights laws since the high school does not organize the prom itself; instead, parents do.

While the governor isn’t speaking out, other lawmakers are. Four Democrats and three Republicans from the state have supported Better Deal’s efforts.

School officials say they will discuss the option of holding an official, integrated prom next year.


Mon, 04/15/2013 – 07:24

…read more
Source: ALTERNET

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The Immigrant 'Welfare Queen' Myth

April 15, 2013 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

A common conservative refrain is that immigrants, once they enter the U.S., “immediately begin to depend on government welfare,” as Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama recently put it.

That’s simply not true, according to a Cato Institute study by Professor Leighton Ku and lecturer Brian Bruen, both of George Washington University’s health policy department.

Ku and Bruen looked at social welfare programs ranging from Medicaid to the food stamp program to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Their findings: Poor immigrants consistently utilize welfare programs less than their native-born counterparts. Furthermore, when poor immigrants do participate in welfare programs, the cost is less, resulting in a lower bill for the taxpayer.

Poor immigrants are a welfare bargain compared to poor natives.”

Take Medicaid. Non-citizen immigrant adults and children are about 25 percent less likely to be signed up for Medicaid than their poor native-born equivalents. When they do sign up, poor immigrant adults consume $941 less on average than poor native adults every year. The story is the same for poor immigrant children. Looking at CHIP data, the study finds poor immigrant children consume $565 fewer dollars than poor native-born children.

One-hundred native born adults eligible for Medicaid will cost the taxpayers about $98,000 a year. A comparable number of poor non-citizens — immigrants who have not naturalized — cost approximately $57,000 a year — a 42 percent lower bill than for natives. For children, citizens cost $67,000 and non-citizens cost $22,700 a year — a whopping 66 percent lower cost.

Average food stamp use tells a similar story.  A poor native-born adult on food stamps receives about $1091 a year worth of benefits while a non-citizen adult receives $825 — a 24 percent savings. Immigrants are also much less likely to receive food stamps: a non-citizen child is 37 percent less likely than a poor native-born child to receive food stamps.

Certainly it is true that immigrants use fewer benefits because they are not eligible for them. Legal immigrants cannot get welfare for their first five years of residency with few exceptions. Unauthorized immigrants, of course, are not eligible for welfare at all. But doesn’t this in itself undermine the notion that new immigrants “immediately” become government-dependent, as claimed by Sen. Sessions and his ilk?

Furthermore, even when immigrants are legally eligible for welfare, few of them take advantage of it. Immigrants are drawn to America’s labor markets, not …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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"I Do Not Want to Die Here": Gitmo Detainee Describes Horrific Hunger Strike, Violent Force Feedings

April 15, 2013 in Blogs

By Alex Kane, AlterNet



Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel has never been charged with a crime, yet he has languished in Guantanamo Bay for over 11 years. Now, he’s on hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention and how military guards have searched the Qu’rans of the Muslim prisoners locked up there. He says he will not eat “until they restore my dignity.”

Moqbel’s story was published today in theNew York Times, and is based on a telephone call he had with his British lawyers from the organization Reprieve. It is a harrowing account of the current conditions at Guantanamo as a mass hunger strike continues. Over the weekend, reports emerged that clashes had broken out between military guards and prisoners at the camp over the decision to close a communal camp in Guantanamo and isolate prisoners in individual cells. One detainee was reportedly injured by a rubber bullet.

Moqbel, the 35-year-old hunger-striking prisoner, isn’t sure how much weight he’s lost. But he’s sure of other things: that he’s been vomiting blood; that he’s been brutalized by what’s known as a Extreme Reaction Force; and that being force-fed is extremely painful.

“I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up,” Moqbel writes. “I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

Moqbel also relays the story of one specific instance where he was force-fed: “During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily…It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me. As they were finishing, some of the ‘food’ spilled on my clothes. I asked them to change my clothes, but the guard refused to allow me to hold on to this last shred of …read more
Source: ALTERNET