Today in History: July 31

In 1875, America lost its 17th president

Andrew Johnson was saddled with the ignominious distinction of being the first president to be impeached.
Andrew Johnson was saddled with the ignominious distinction of being the first president to be impeached.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

July 31, 1875: Andrew Johnson died. He was the 17th president, serving from 1865 to 1869. Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after Lincoln’s assassination, became the first president to be impeached. The House voted to do so on 11 counts of trying to illegally remove Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office and for violating several post-war Reconstruction Acts. The House also accused the president of hurling libelous “inflammatory and scandalous harangues” against Congressional members.

In a dramatic Senate trial, Johnson was acquitted by just one vote. Bill Clinton is the only other president to be impeached.

Quote of the Day

“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.” –Andrew Johnson

10 Things You Need to Know Today: July 31, 2013

Zimbabwe votes for president, San Diego votes to sue its mayor, and more

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has been accused by several women of making unwanted sexual advances.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has been accused by several women of making unwanted sexual advances.
Bill Wechter/Getty Images

1. CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS REJECT OBAMA’S TAX AND JOBS PROPOSAL
In a speech in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, President Obama backed a cut in corporate tax rates in return for a pledge from Republicans to invest in more programs to generate middle-class jobs. The proposal came as Obama and his congressional opposition head toward a showdown in the fall over taxes and spending. Congressional Republicans quickly refused the offer. [ForbesThe New York Times]
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2. MANNING CONVICTION MAKES PROSECUTION OF ASSANGE SEEM MORE LIKELY
Civil liberties groups and Bradley Manning’s attorney believe his conviction on espionage charges makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a co-conspirator. Military prosecutors in the court-martial portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist” who encouraged Manning to leak classified documents. [The Washington Post]
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3. EGYPT ALLOWS TOP EU OFFICIAL TO SEE MORSI
Europe’s top diplomat had a “friendly” meeting with deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi this week. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was the first outsider to see Morsi in his unknown whereabouts since he was deposed by the army on July 3. His fate has raised global anxiety about a possible bid to crush his Muslim Brotherhood. [Reuters]

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4. DRIVER IN DEADLY SPANISH TRAIN CRASH WAS ON THE PHONE
Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, the driver of a train that derailed in Spain last week, killing 79 people, was on the phone to a co-worker at the time of the accident, while the train was racing at nearly twice the speed limit. Garzon, who admitted to recklessly speeding, was also consulting a map at the time of the accident. [CBS News]
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5. NYC APPEALS COURT RULES BIG SODA BAN UNCONSTITUTIONAL
A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that New York City’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority when it voted last year to put a 16-ounce size limit on high-calorie soft drinks served in restaurants, theaters, stadiums, sidewalk food carts, and many other places. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the driving force behind the regulation, promised a quick appeal. [NPR]

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6. ZIMBABWEANS VOTE FOR PRESIDENT
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 89, said he will step down after 33 years in power if he and his Zanu-PF party lose the election in his country today. People are waiting in long lines to vote in the fiercely contested elections, which have already been hit by fraud allegations. Mugabe’s opponent is Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. [BBC]

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7. SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL TO SUE MAYOR
San Diego’s City Council voted Tuesday to sue Mayor Bob Filner to recover costs the city may incur over the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director, as an eighth woman publicly accused the mayor of unwanted advances. The unanimous vote came hours before the council took up Filner’s request to have city taxpayers pay his legal fees. [USA Today]

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8. STUDENT FORGOTTEN IN DEA CELL SETTLES WITH FEDS
A University of California San Diego student left unmonitored in a holding cell for five days by the DEA settled a lawsuit for $4.1 million, his attorney said Tuesday. Daniel Chong, 25, drank his own urine to survive and even wrote a farewell note to his mother before authorities discovered him severely dehydrated after a 2012 drug raid in San Diego. [CNN]
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9. MICROSOFT RELEASES DISAPPOINTING SURFACE NUMBERS
Microsoft released its first revenue report for its Surface tablets on Tuesday, revealing a disappointing $853 million sales figure. The number, for the year ended June 30, was a smaller amount than the $900 million charge that Microsoft recently took on on the product line. The company started selling Surface last October. [The Wall Street Journal]
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10. ACTRESS EILEEN BRENNAN DIES
Eileen Brennan, a Broadway actress who also starred in movies such as Private Benjamin and Clue, died Sunday in Burbank, Calif. She was 80. Brennan’s managers said she died at home after a battle with bladder cancer. [People]

Anti Gun Group Using Children and Lemonade Stands to Push Anti Gun Agenda

MomsDemandAction_Logo-375x300 (1)

As if Moms Rising’s ploy to dress their children up in cow costumes and parade them around the Capitol wasn’t ludicrous enough, Moms Demand Action, another anti-gun group, is looking to out do them.

MDA is apparently going to try to use lemonade stands to push their anti-gun agenda.

According to press release on PR Newswire,

INDIANAPOLIS, July 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — As Congress prepares to leave for its summer recess on August 1, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are holding lemonade stands across the country to pressure Congress to pass background check legislation when they return in the fall. The first lemonade stand will open on Aug. 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Upper Senate Park on the U.S. Capitol Grounds (Constitution Ave NE & Delaware Ave NE). Legislators will stop by for a glass of lemonade between 10 a.m. and noon.

Lemonade stands will be held in cities at or near legislators’ in-district offices across the country, including Washington, DC; Tucson and Phoenix, AZ; San Diego, CA; Atlanta and Savannah, GA; Indianapolis, IN; Fancy Farm, KY; Tampa, FL; Boston, MA; Charlotte, Clemmons, Winston-Salem, and Durham, NC; Monmouth County and Morristown, NJ; Brooklyn, Rockland County and Hudson Valley, NY; Cleveland and Columbus, OH; Portland, OR; Harrisburg, PA; Nashville, TN; Austin and Houston, TX; Falls Church, VA. Additional lemonade stand locations will be added throughout August. For more information on lemonade stand locations and times, go to: http://momsdemandaction.org/lemonade-stands-2013/.

“It is vitally important that we continue to beat the drum on common sense gun legislation, like background checks, that will help make our communities safer from gun violence. We have to continue to work to make our voices heard if we want to build the momentum we need to get Congress to act,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly. “I support Moms Demand Action’s lemonade stand initiative, which is a novel way to refocus the nation’s attention on the need for common sense gun reform.”

“We are not going give up when it comes to passing common-sense legislation that will keep guns from criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill,” said House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson. “The only thing more shameful than the minority of the Senate voting down background check legislation is the House refusing to vote at all. The bipartisan background check bill I’ve introduced respects the Second Amendment and will save lives. It deserves a vote.”

About Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created to change laws regarding drunk driving, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (www.momsdemandaction.org) was created to build support for common-sense gun reforms. The nonpartisan grassroots movement of American mothers is demanding new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our children and families. In just seven months, the organization has more than 100,000 members with more than 90 local chapters in 40 states across the country.

SOURCE Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

The Secret to Smarter (and Happier!) Spending

For starters: It can be kind of painful to fork over the cash a month in advance for something, but then it can feel like it’s free by the time you get it

By Anna Williams
Saving for a dinner out: Yum!
Saving for a dinner out: Yum!
Thinkstock

When it comes to money, we tend to think that the more we earn, the happier we’ll be.

Yes, life satisfaction does increase with an uptick in income — but only up to a point. In fact, research shows that once Americans earn beyond $75,000 a year, additional income doesn’t make them any happier.

So how can money buy us everyday happiness? In their new book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, behavioral scientists Dr. Elizabeth Dunn and Dr. Michael Norton stress that the secret is not how much money you have — it’s how you use it.

So we spoke to Dr. Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, to find out what little tricks we can do — like splurging on a nice dinner out with friends, instead of shelling out for a high-def TV — to score the most happiness bang for our buck.

The common belief is that having more “stuff” makes us happier, but you say it isn’t true. How do we get past this?

It’s a great question because it’s very hard for us to get away from the idea that stuff is a good way to make us happy. We want to know if we are making progress in our lives or doing better than others — both of these things are deeply human tendencies. I can say, “I have a bigger house than I used to, so I must be doing better in my life.”

The problem — as research shows — is that these things [like having a larger home] don’t actually make us happier. We like things that we can count, such as square feet and income, but we need to stop counting and really focus on things that you can do to make yourself happier instead.

So what’s the biggest takeaway from your research?

The first principle that we discovered is what we call “buy experiences.” If you ask people how they spend their money, it’s very often on stuff that tends not to make us any happier. So if stuff isn’t changing our lives, what is? The answer: buying experiences, which can lead to more happiness, on average.

We look forward to experiences more than we look forward to stuff. So pining for a vacation for a month is great because it generates anticipation and excitement. Plus, vacations are more interesting than watching TV — the experience itself is better. And, after we have experiences, we have great memories. That’s another source of happiness: We don’t usually look back on buying a TV in the same way as an interesting trip!

What kind of experience should we buy more often to increase our happiness?

The easiest one is to go out for a nice dinner with someone who you care about. Of course, people often say, “I don’t have the money for a special dinner.” But they’ll go to Starbucks and spend $5 each day. Well, there’s $25 to put toward dinner.

We’ve also done a lot of research on investing in others — how spending on other people can make you happier. So if you can treat someone to an experience, and also have the experience yourself, you are likely doubling your happiness.

How can we boost satisfaction with each buy?

One of the things that we talk about in the book is the “make it a treat” principle: The idea here is that the things you love the most are exactly the ones you should give up. So if you love buying a coffee every day, take a break from it for a week … and you’ll actually be much happier. So we’re not telling people to give up things entirely — research shows that you’ll be happier with just a temporary break.

Your research also shows that paying up front makes us happier. How so?

Usually, it’s for financial reasons that we pay more now instead of later — you don’t want to go into debt, and then not be able to pay it off. But, it turns out, paying now is also a great source of happiness. And we’re also happier the more in advance we pay. It can be kind of painful to fork over the cash a month in advance for something, but then it can feel like it’s free by the time you get it. And that can be really exciting.

Dr. Dunn, the co-author of my book, took a related approach to her destination wedding in Mexico, encouraging her guests to spend several days at an all-inclusive resort. Because the guests paid for their stay months in advance, they could enjoy meals, drinks, and activities without ever reaching for their wallets. Of course, the drinks weren’t free, but because the all-inclusive trip had been paid for months earlier, they tasted free.

How can someone make charitable giving a happy experience?

With charitable giving, we try to encourage people to figure out ways that they can feel like they are having a specific impact. If you are an accounting firm, you don’t send your employees to build a house. Rather, you have them help low-income people with their taxes. It’s the same amount of time volunteering, but you’re going to feel so much more effective helping.

We’ve seen this in our research. For example, if it’s a charity that has a very targeted purpose — like “for every X dollar you give, we will do this specific thing to help this specific person” — it makes us happier when we give to these places because we feel like we are having a direct impact. When we donate to big, nebulous organizations, we are still happy — but we don’t have the same great feeling of having a specific impact.

Is it possible to increase happiness while saving?

Saving is really hard because, for the most part, it’s not fun. In general, the money comes out of a paycheck — and goes straight into some account. And that’s really, really boring. We may know that the saving is going to make us happy later, but we’re really not good at “later.”

So we’re actually doing research now to make saving more fun. We already do this with kids: The piggy bank is a product that makes no sense, but how else do we teach kids how to save? You can tell them, “You can use it for retirement,” but they’re not going to care or understand. Or you can say, “The pig is hungry.” When you put money in, the pig smiles. So we are trying to think of similar ways for grownups to make saving not just rational but fun.

[Video] Lawyer for Gun Group Crushes Piers Morgan in Interview on Donation to Zimmerman for Guns

As we’ve reported, the Buckeye Firearms Foundation has raised $12,000 for George Zimmerman which the group intended to be used for the purchase of guns and other types of security to help Zimmerman insure his safety.

The group has obviously taken some heat over the decision to hold the fundraiser, and even had their website attacked by hackers. Ken Hanson, legal counsel for the organization went on, Piers Morgan of all shows, to defend the group’s actions. Despite Morgan’s extremely anti gun stance, Mr. Hanson handled the questions very well.

Here are some of the highlights from the interview.

“What if Trayvon Martin’s older brother is walking in the same area in a few months time, George Zimmerman happens to be passing, finds him suspicious as he did Trayvon…and decides to shoot him as well?” Morgan asked. “Where does that leave you, if you’re the one who supplied the gun?”

“Well, if we’re the ones that supplied the gun, and again remember, we provided money, not a gun,” Hanson replied. “But if someone is on top of Mr. Zimmerman, again repeatedly bashing his head into the concrete, and he acts in self defense, that’s incredible bad luck he found himself in that situation twice. But we’ll sleep soundly.”

 “Two different levels of government review have found no fault with Mr. Zimmerman’s actions. We can go through all the hypotheticals you’d like to go through, what it comes down to is that he’s gone through a government review,” Hanson lectured.

Hanson summed it up pretty succinctly, “This isn’t an issue of race, it’s an issue of self defense law.”

Zimmerman was found not guilty of both second degree murder and manslaughter in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin. The all female Florida jury found that Zimmerman acted in self defense during the incident.

Stand Your Ground Law Changed to Duty to Retreat?

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said Wednesday that she would soon introduce legislation that would cut federal funding to any state that doesn’t require neighborhood watch programs to register with police.

Jackson Lee said her Justice Exists for All Act is a response to the trial of George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges after shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch coordinator in the Florida neighborhood where the shooting took place.

“We will … decrease the incidence of gun violence resulting from vigilantes by reducing by 20 percent the funds that would otherwise be allocated … to any state that does not require local neighborhood watch programs to be registered with a local [law] enforcement agency,” Jackson Lee said on the House floor.

She said her bill would also use the threat of less federal money to entice states to change their “stand your ground” laws. Jackson Lee said her bill would only allow states to avoid a cut if their laws are amended to include a “duty to retreat.”

“For states that do not require a duty to retreat, we will question their federal funding and assess their Justice Department funding and reduce it by 20 percent,” she said. She was not specific about what the change might mean for state laws.

Florida has a “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force against others when they think their lives are in danger in certain cases.

In his trial, Zimmerman did not rely on Florida’s “stand your ground” law, and instead used a traditional self-defense argument. Leaning on “stand your ground” could have allowed the court to decide early on in the case that Zimmerman’s actions were protected, which would have ended the prosecution’s option of pursuing criminal or civil charges.

Jackson Lee said her bill would also require the U.S. attorney general to study state-level “stand your ground” laws.

“Let’s speak to the pain of the American people,” she said. “Let’s look at ways of fixing the law.”

Facial Recognition & Iris Scanning – The Government’s Surveillance Includes the Rapidly Expanding Use of Biometrics

With all the furor over NSA surveillance, a lesser-known type of surveillance has been expanding exponentially. Various law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have begun using biometrics, such as facial recognition, in an attempt to fight crime and terrorism. It is estimated that 120 million facial images are stored in searchable databases across the country. Currently, in 26 states, law enforcement authorities are able to search these images for crime suspects, victims and witnesses.

The faces of millions of people are in searchable photo databases that state officials initially assembled to prevent driver’s license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects and accomplices. They are also being used to identify innocent bystanders in various criminal investigations.

Facial databases have expanded rapidly in recent years and generally function with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for “law enforcement purposes.”

The most commonly used systems were honed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan as a way of seeking out and identifying insurgents. The increasingly widespread deployment of the technology in the United States has assisted law enforcement with locating bank robbers, murderers and drug dealers. Of those, many leave behind images on surveillance videos or social-media sites that can be compared against official photo databases.

Police use of facial databases, however, is obscuring the conventional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, allowing images of people never arrested in what could be described as digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities.

As the databases grow larger and more connected across jurisdictional boundaries, some fear that authorities are developing what is essentially a national identification system. “Where is government going to go with that years from now?” asked Louisiana state Rep. Brett Geymann. Geymann is a Republican who has stood in opposition against these types of systems. “Here your driver’s license essentially becomes a national ID card,” he added.

And, the Supreme Court’s recent approval of DNA collection during arrests further expands use of that technology, with suspects in some cases submitting to tests that put their genetic details in official databases, even if they are never convicted of a crime.

Of the 37 states that now use facial-recognition technology in their driver’s-license registries, at least 26 allow state, local or federal law enforcement agencies to perform searches, or request searches, of the facial recognition databases.

According to the Washington Post:

“That prospect has sparked fears that the databases authorities are building could someday be used for monitoring political rallies, sporting events or even busy downtown areas. Whatever the security benefits — especially at a time when terrorism remains a serious threat — the mass accumulation of location data on individuals could chill free speech or the right to assemble, civil libertarians say.

‘As a society, do we want to have total surveillance? Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are . . . without any immediate probable cause?’ asked Laura Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor who has studied government facial databases. ‘A police state is exactly what this turns into if everybody who drives has to lodge their information with the police.’

Police typically need only to assert a law enforcement purpose for facial searches, whether they be of suspects or potential witnesses to crimes. Civil libertarians worry that this can lead to broadly defined identity sweeps. Already many common but technically illegal activities — blocking a sidewalk, cycling at night without a light or walking a dog without a leash — can trigger police stops and requests for identification, they say.

But the broader trend is toward more sophisticated databases with more expansive access. The current version of the Senate’s immigration bill would dramatically expand an electronic photo-verification system, probably relying on access to driver’s-license registries.”

The State Department has the largest facial database, which includes approximately 230 million images, split almost equally between foreigners who apply for visas and U.S. citizens who hold passports.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has expanded its biometrics source from fingerprint to iris and facial recognition for identity verification. In addition to collecting iris and facial images on suspected illegal immigrants or immigrants arrested at border patrol stations,the DHS has also developed a program called Future Attribute Screening Technology.

In Florida, parents were outraged at finding that students were subjected to iris scans absent their parents’ permission. This violation of privacy took place in at least 3 Polk County, Florida schools.

According to Reason Magazine, by Fall several schools — ranging from elementary schools to colleges — will be implementing an assortment of iris scanning security methods.

Winthrop University (WU) is one example:

“Associate Vice President for Information Technology James Hammond told Campus Reform the school is installing the iris scanners, which cost roughly $2,000 a piece, on buildings throughout the 445-acre campus in order to keep out “bad guys.”

Hammond said the eye scanners, called ‘EagleEye stations,’ will be implemented in several phases and adding that the university has already scanned the eyes of over 1600 students.”

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has been waiting for a year on three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in pursuit of information on exactly what the federal government is up to regarding the use of facial recognition technology. EFF has filed a lawsuit in order to ensure it gets results from the FBI:

“Since early 2011, EFF has been closely following the FBI’s work to build out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database, which would replace and expand upon the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The new program will include multiple biometric identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos, and voice data, and that information will be shared with other agencies at the local, state, federal and international levels. The face recognition component is set to launch in 2014.

‘NGI will result in a massive expansion of government data collection for both criminal and noncriminal purposes,’ says EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch, who testified before the U.S. Senate on the privacy implications of facial recognition technology in July of last year. ‘Biometrics programs present critical threats to civil liberties and privacy. Face-recognition technology is among the most alarming new developments, because Americans cannot easily take precautions against the covert, remote, and mass capture of their images.’”

EFF wants the FBI to reveal information on agreements and discussions between the FBI and various state agencies in regard to the face-recognition program. EFF also seeks records addressing the reliability of face-recognition technology and documentation of the FBI’s plan to merge civilian and criminal records in a single repository. In addition to that, EFF is requesting disclosure of the total number of face-recognition capable records in the FBI’s database, at the present time, as well as the proposed number at deployment.