Today in History: August 30

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy became the first president to have a direct line to the Kremlin in Moscow

Call it groundbreaking.
Call it groundbreaking.
National Archive/Newsmakers

Aug. 30, 1963: Kennedy was frustrated that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which occurred in the fall of 1962, he could not communicate quickly enough with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev: Each used encrypted messages that had to be relayed by telegraph or radioed between the Kremlin and the Pentagon. JFK feared such a cumbersome system might lead to misunderstandings or delays in communicating during a future crisis. In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly led to nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy became the first president to have a direct phone line to the Kremlin in Moscow. The so-called “hotline” was designed to speed up communications between U.S. and Soviet leaders.

The hotline would allow the president to call the Pentagon with a message, which would be immediately typed into a teletype machine and fed into a transmitter. The message could reach the Kremlin within minutes, as opposed to hours. In 1963, it was regarded as a communications marvel — today, not so much.

Quote of the Day

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” -John F. Kennedy

10 Things You Need to Know Today: August 30, 2013

Fast-food workers strike, Kim Jong Un’s girlfriend is allegedly executed, and more

Protesters gather outside a Seattle Subway restaurant during a strike aimed at the fast-food industry and the minimum wage on Thursday.
Protesters gather outside a Seattle Subway restaurant during a strike aimed at the fast-food industry and the minimum wage on Thursday.
 REUTERS/David Ryder

1. Hollande offers support for potential U.S. strike on Syria
French President François Hollande on Friday offered strong support for international military action against the Syrian government, just a day after the British Parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for intervention. A chemical attack last week attributed to Syrian forces “must not go unpunished,” Hollande said in an interview with Le Monde. Germany, meanwhile, has no plans to offer such support. President Obama is said to be preparing for a surgical strike in Syria despite U.S. officials’ remarks that the evidence against Assad is “not a slam dunk.” [The New York Times]
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2. Same-sex married couples will get federal tax recognition
The U.S. Department of Treasury announced Thursday that it will recognize same-sex couples’ marriages for tax purposes even if they live in a state that does not. The decision was prompted by the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act in June, and provides a uniform policy for the IRS. [Huffington Post]
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3. Cooler weather aids firefighters battling California’s Rim Fire
Fire crews battling the massive Rim Fire near California’s Yosemite National Park are taking advantage of cooler weather and lighter winds, which is slowing the spread of flames just before holiday weekend crowds arrive. Progress came Thursday as containment lines were extended around 30 percent of the fire’s perimeter. The fire has a footprint that exceeds the land area of Chicago and ranks as the sixth-largest California wildfire on record. [Reuters]
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4. The Obama administration won’t block Colorado’s and Washington’s marijuana laws
The Obama administration said Thursday that it would not challenge laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state as long as those states maintain strict rules involving the sale and distribution of the drug. Last fall, Washington and Colorado approved initiatives to become the first states to legalize the drug for recreational use. Until Thursday, the administration had remained silent about those initiatives. [The Washington Post]
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5. Fast-food workers stage largest demonstration to date
Fast-food workers formed picket lines in about 60 U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago, and Detroit, on Thursday, marking the largest protests yet in their quest for higher wages. Workers are calling for the right to unionize without interference from employers and for pay of $15 an hour. That’s more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for full-time employees. [Associated Press]
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6. Johnson & Johnson plans to add new warnings to Tylenol bottles
Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that it will add a red warning to caps of Tylenol to reinforce the risks of taking too much of the painkiller. The alerts, which read “Contains Acetaminophen” and “Always Read the Label,” will appear on the caps of Extra Strength Tylenol beginning in October. The message will reinforce existing warnings that the over-the-counter pill contains the ingredient acetaminophen, which has been linked to fatal liver failure. Acetaminophen overdose is the most-common cause of liver failure in the U.S. [Bloomberg]
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7. Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney dies
Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s foremost poet and winner of the Nobel literature prize in 1995, died Friday at 74. He had been recuperating from a stroke since 2006. The Northern Ireland-born Heaney was widely considered Ireland’s greatest poet since William Butler Yeats. He wrote 13 collections of poetry, two plays, four prose works on the process of poetry, and many other works. Heaney was the third Irishman to win the Nobel Prize for literature, joining Yeats and Samuel Beckett. [ABC News]
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8. Kim Jong Un’s girlfriend was allegedly executed by firing squad
An unconfirmed report out of South Korea alleges that an ex-girlfriend of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un was executed by a firing squad for violating national laws against pornography by”videotaping [herself and Kim] having sex and selling the videos.” The story ran in South Korea’s English-language newspaper Chosun Ilbo, which reported that Hyon Song Wol, a singer best known for her 2005 pop hit “Excellent Horse-Like Lady,” was one of 12 well-known North Korean performers who were executed on Aug. 20. [NBC News]
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9. Rafael Nadal advances to the third round of the U.S. Open
Rafael Nadal beat his his second-round opponent, Rogerio Dutra Silva, Thursday night at the U.S. Open, taking the final 12 games. He will face Ivan Dodig in the third round. [USA TODAY]
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10. Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife split up
Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife of six years, 23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki, have split up. A reported prenuptial agreement means there will be little, if any, impact on Google’s financials if they ultimately divorce. The couple, who have two children, had been living apart for several months. Sources also say that Brin has become romantically involved with another employee at Google. [Forbes]

252 Documented Examples of Barack Obama’s Lying, Lawbreaking, Corruption, Cronyism, etc.

The following is a contribution from Dan from Squirrel Hill. The original title of the article is “Obama supporters will go hysterical over this well sourced list of 252 examples of his lying, lawbreaking, corruption, cronyism, etc.” it’s lengthy, but is a ‘one-stop shop’ for all the dirty details on the Obama presidency.

Every President, every politician, and every human being tells lies and engages in acts of hypocrisy. But Barack Obama does these things to a far greater degree than anyone else that I have ever known of. His campaign promises were so much better sounding than anyone else’s – no lobbyists in his administration, waiting five days before signing all non-emergency bills so people would have time to read them, putting health care negotiations on C-SPAN, reading every bill line by line to make sure money isn’t being wasted, prosecution of Wall St. criminals, ending raids against medical marijuana in states where it’s legal, high levels of transparency. Obama’s promises of these wonderful things sounded inspiring and sincere. They sounded so much better than the promises of any other President. So when Obama broke these promises, it felt so much worse than when other Presidents broke their promises.

In the 2008 United States election, I wrote in Ron Paul for President. In the 2012 election, I voted for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Those who are of a more leftist persuasion than myself might want to consider voting for the Green Party in future elections.

Some of the things on this list are major events that should scare the daylights out of any true liberal who cares about civil liberties.

Other things on this list are medium things that some Obama supporters may dislike, but would be willing to overlook in light of the things that Obama has done which they like.

And some of the things on this list may seem trivial, but I still think they are an interesting reflection of the kinds of policies that Obama supports.

Every claim that I make in this list is sourced. Click on the blue text to see the sources. I have cited a wide variety of sources, from right wing, to left wing, to middle of the road.

I welcome any comments and criticisms that you may have. If you say my list is wrong, please back up your claim by citing specific examples.

And now, on with the list:

1) Carried out military interventionism in Libya without Congressional approval In June 2011, U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said that Obama had violated the Constitution when he launched military operations in Libya without Congressional approval.

2) Gave a no-bid contract to Halliburton – just like Bush did In May 2010, it was reported that the Obama administration had selected KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, for a no-bid contract worth as much as $568 million through 2011, just hours after the Justice Department had said it would pursue a lawsuit accusing the Houston-based company of using kickbacks to get foreign contracts.

3) Has an administration full of lobbyists, after promising he wouldn’t have any While running for President, Obama had promised that, unlike Bush, he would not have any lobbyists working in his administration. However, by February 2010, he had more than 40 lobbyists working in his administration.

4) Has close ties to Wall St., but pretends to support Occupy Wall St. Although Obama claims to support the Occupy Wall St. movement, the truth is that he has raised more money from Wall St. than any other candidate during the last 20 years. In early 2012, Obama held a fundraiser where Wall St. investment bankers and hedge fund managers each paid $35,800 to attend. In October 2011, Obama hired Broderick Johnson, a longtime Wall Street lobbyist, to be his new senior campaign adviser. Johnson had worked as a lobbyist for JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, Comcast, Microsoft, and the oil industry.

5) Broke his promise to close Guantanamo Bay Obama broke his promise to close Guantanamo Bay.

6) Supported the $700 billion TARP corporate-welfare bailout just like Bush While Senator, Obama voted for the $700 billion TARP bank bailout bill. The bailout rewarded irresponsible and illegal behavior. It redirected resources from more productive uses to less productive uses. It punished the hard working taxpayers who had played by the rules and obeyed the law. It created horrible incentives, and sent the wrong message. The bailout was evil because it rewarded the bad people and punished the good people. No society that does this can expect to remain free or prosperous. Instead of bailing out these corrupt corporations, we should have let them cease to exist, like we did with Enron.

7) Waged the biggest war against medical marijuana of any president, which was the opposite of what he had promised……………Click Here for Full List………..

Obama Orders 2 More Anti-Gun Executive Actions, Will Affect Numerous Gun Owners

Just days after promising a group a mayors more executive action on gun control, President Obama has made good on his threat.

According to the Washington Times, the president has ordered two executive actions.

1) Banning the re-importation of military surplus firearms to private entities

This effectively cuts off a source of quality, inexpensive firearms to the American public. For instance, there are literally tons of good condition M1 Garand and M1 Carbine rifles sitting in legal limbo, left over from the Korean War.

This new executive order will insure that the American people will never see these beautiful weapons again.

2) Changing the way NFA items (silencers, short barreled rifles, machine guns) are registered to trusts and corporations, making the process stricter.

“ATF reports that last year alone, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations,” the White House said.

Currently, many people register NFA items to trusts rather than themselves individually.

This has several benefits. One is that if your local chief law enforcement officer won’t sign off on an individual tax stamp application you can go the trust route.

Trusts can also offer some level of estate planning when done correctly, insuring that your expensive firearms are legally transferred to the next generation.

It is expected that, at minimum, the person submitting an application in the name of a trust will have to submit more personal information, possibly including photos and finger print cards.

Today in History: August 29

In 1945, President Truman began demobilizing the military in the wake of Japan’s surrender

American troops in France read news of the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
American troops in France read news of the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
Keystone/Getty Images

Aug. 29, 1945: Two weeks after Japan’s surrender in WWII, President Truman issued an executive order allowing voluntary military enlistment. Truman also ordered the Navy to seize control of oil refineries, to head off a planned strike by civilian workers. The president knew it would take an enormous amount of oil to help the military demobilize as the war came to an end.

Quote of the Day

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

10 Things You Need to Know Today: August 29, 2013

World leaders debate military strikes on Syria, California enlists drones to fight a massive wildfire, and more

A firefighter tries to douse part of the Rim Fire on Aug. 24 near Groveland, Calif.
A firefighter tries to douse part of the Rim Fire on Aug. 24 near Groveland, Calif.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. Obama still undecided on Syria strike
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that U.N. experts collecting evidence from an apparent chemical attack in Syria will report to him as soon as they leave the country Saturday. Meanwhile, President Obama said Wednesday that he had not yet made a decision on whether he would order a military strike against Syria. However, administration officials have added that even without hard evidence tying Assad to the attack, the Syrian leader bears ultimate responsibility and should be held accountable. In Britain, opposition leaders forced Prime Minister David Cameron to back down on calls for an immediate strike. [The New York TimesThe Washington PostAssociated Press]
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2. Military drone now helping fight California wildfire
An unmanned military Predator drone is now helping battle a California wildfire that has been raging since Aug. 17. The aircraft is helping to provide round-the-clock information to firefighters; helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours previously provided firefighters with their air information. Crews contained 30 percent of the fire on Wednesday, but at least 4,500 structures remain threatened, as do the power and water utilities for San Francisco and the Bay Area.[NBC News]
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3. Jury recommends death penalty for Fort Hood shooter
A military jury on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for convicted Fort Hood, Texas, shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was behind a 2009 massacre that left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded. [CNN]
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4. Fast-food strikes set for cities nationwide
Thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities on Thursday, as part of a push to get chains such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell to pay workers more than double the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. It’s expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers. The move comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress, and economists to hike the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009. [ABC News]
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5. Obama echoes MLK’s words in Lincoln Memorial speech
Tens of thousands of Americans thronged to the National Mall Wednesday to join President Obama, civil rights pioneers, and performers in marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. President Obama challenged new generations to seize the cause of racial equality and honor the “glorious patriots” who marched to the Lincoln Memorial. “The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own,” Obama said. [Huffington Post]
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6. Verizon and Vodafone in buyout talks
Verizon and Vodafone have rekindled talks about a buyout of the U.K. company’s stake in their U.S. wireless joint venture, in a deal that may cost Verizon over $100 billion. Verizon has sought for years to buy out Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in the largest U.S. cellphone carrier, but the companies have never agreed on price. [The Wall Street Journal]
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7. Swedish scientists confirm new periodic table element
Scientists in Sweden have finally confirmed a new element that was first proposed in 2004. The element with the atomic number 115 has yet to be named, but is currently called ununpentium.”Scientists hope that by creating heavier and heavier elements, they will find a theoretical ‘island of stability,’ an undiscovered region in the periodic table where stable super-heavy elements with as yet unimagined practical uses might exist,” according to Live Science[NPR]
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8. “Twerk” gets Oxford’s blessing… sort of
The Oxford University Press announced Wednesday that twerk and selfie, among other words, are being added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online. A misunderstanding caused an internet uproar when readers believed that the newfangled words were being added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries Online focuses on contemporary English, a distinction that the Oxford University Press noted in its press release. [Slate]
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9. Manziel suspended for first half of Saturday’s game
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy last year, will be suspended for the first half of the team’s season-opening game against Rice on Saturday for an “inadvertent violation” of NCAA rules regarding autograph signing. A&M senior associate athletic director Jason Cook said both the school and the NCAA found that “there is no evidence Manziel received monetary reward in exchange for autographs,” but added that student-athletes know that autographs are likely to be sold for commercial purposes. [USA TODAY]
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10. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones reportedly split up
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are reportedly separated and living apart, though neither has filed for divorce or moved toward a legal separation. The pair, who wed in 2000, have two children. Sources told People that the stresses from Douglas’ 2010 cancer diagnosis and Zeta-Jones’ struggles with bipolar II disorder played a role in the split. [People]

10 Secret Menu Items From Fast Food Restaurants

1. This one might be my favorite. At some Fatburger locations, you can order a Hypocrite — a veggie burger with crispy strips of bacon.

2. In-N-Out Burger‘s “secret menu” isn’t so secret; in fact, they’ve posted it on their website. But in case you’re not in the habit of surfing fast food sites, here’s the skinny on the rather un-skinny items: ordering something “Animal Style” at In-N-Out means you’re going to get it with lettuce, tomato, a mustard-cooked beef patty, pickles, extra spread (it’s sort of Thousand-Islandy) and grilled onions. You can even get your fries Animal Style. “Protein Style” is a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun. A Grilled Cheese is two slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato and spread on a bun (grilled onions if you so choose). And you can get just about any combo of meat and cheese that you want if you order it like you’re ordering lumber: 3×3 gets you three beef patties and three slices of cheese, 4×4 gets you four of each, and so on. It doesn’t stop there. One gluttonous patron requested a 100×100 at a Las Vegas store a couple of years ago. One item not listed on the website secret menu: the Flying Dutchman, which is two slices of cheese sandwiched between two patties, hold the bun.

3. Jamba Juice doesn’t officially list these on their in-store menus, but Mighty Foods assures us that the secret flavors exist. The ones they confirmed with the company’s headquarters include Strawberry Shortcake, White Gummy Bear, PB&J, various flavors of Starbursts, Fruity Pebbles, Push-Up Pops, and Skittles. Other tantalizing flavors that are rumored to exist: Chocolate Gummi Bear, Apple Pie, Sourpatch Kid, Tootsie Roll, Chocolate-covered strawberries, and Now and Later.

4. Chipotle has a whole secret menu that is limited only by your imagination — they have a store policy that says that if they have the item available, they will make it for you. Things that have been tested include nachos, quesadillas, taco salads, and single tacos. Some stores are testing out quesadillas as a regular menu item, however, so maybe someday soon you won’t need a super-secret handshake to order one.

5. If you’re at Wendy’s and you’re really hungry — like, three-patties-just-won’t-cut-it hungry — go ahead and order the Grand Slam, which is four patties stacked on a bun. It’s also known as the Meat Cube. Gross.

6. Several places, including McDonald’s and In-N-Out, will serve you the Neapolitan milkshake. It’s just what it sounds like — chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry shakes layered in a cup. I wonder if they would make me a mint-chocolate shake when they have the Shamrock Shake in March. Hmmm. 

7. Feeling a little health-conscious at Popeye’s? If you are, you really should have gone somewhere else. But there’s a little hope for you. Ordering “naked chicken” will get you breading-free poultry. The word is that this is on the menu at some Popeye’s, but not all of them, although it is an option at all of them.

8. Like Chipotle, Taco Bell will make you just about anything within reason as long as they have the ingredients for it. Since most of the food at Taco Bell is made out of the same basic items, that means you can probably ask for most discontinued items and get them. One “secret,” though, is that they have a not-advertised green chili sauce at most locations, and apparently it’s excellent.

9. Some Subway locations will still make you the popular pizza sub from the ’90s. Once the chain decided to make their focus healthy eating, the pizza sub disappeared from the menu in most places (the word is that Canadian and Mexican Subways still offer them on a regular basis). But if you ask, lots of places will still make it for you. Be warned, though. Jared would not approve of the nine slices of pepperoni and copious amounts of cheese slathered in marinara sauce.

10. If you’re at Starbucks and in need of just a little caffeine, don’t worry — there’s a tiny option for you. It’s the Short size. It’s like a little baby cup of coffee. It also comes in handy when you’re scrounging for change and don’t have enough for a tall. Not that that has ever happened to me.

How Bad is it? Death (certificates) Took a Holiday in Wake of Detroit Bankruptcy Filing

City couldn’t issue death – or birth – certificates because skittish vendor wanted cash to supply paper

The Rev. Gleo Wade, Stinson Funeral Home director, received the text message.(caption info)Photos of Rev. Gleo Wade, funeral director of Stinson Funeral Home in Detroit with a text message he received stating that the city was unable to print up death certificates. Something he had dealt with earlier that day. (Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News) 2013 (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)

Detroit’s funeral directors received this unusual text message last month. “FYI, city of Detroit can’t process death certificates because they have no paper and don’t have money to buy any.”

The message, from a fellow funeral director, was mostly true: The city did stop issuing certified copies of birth and death certificates on July 23, days after the July 18 bankruptcy filing. That day, a nervous paper vendor demanded cash — and the city wanted to do business as usual, on credit.

FYI: In bankrupt and frequently bizarre Detroit, dying is easy. It’s proving you are dead that’s hard.

Cutbacks in hours, balky vendors, and the news that Herman Kiefer Complex will close Oct. 1 are all affecting the city’s death and dying business. The city’s vital records department will close and Wayne County will assume responsibility for issuing birth and death certificates, according to Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

“Have you ever heard such a crock?” asked Wallace Williams, president of the Michigan Select Funeral Directors Association, when asked about the paper shortage. “They told us they ran out of paper and it might take five days to get some.” Williams, who texted his 20 or so funeral director members, says the potential impact of a death certificate shortage was dire.

Without certified copies of death certificates, families couldn’t access bank accounts, file insurance claims, or access probate court. The families are often struggling financially, grieving and frustrated by any bureaucratic delay. And although funeral homes provide copies as a service to families, they wind up taking the heat.

While funeral homes and hospitals could file birth and death certificates on July 23, the city requires a special embossed paper for certified copies. Because the forms are unique to each jurisdiction, the paper couldn’t be borrowed — although some funeral directors tried to lend paper to the records department.

“Employees (at the vital records department) were sitting outside because they didn’t have anything to do,” says the Rev. Gleo Wade, Stinson Funeral Home director, who drove to the vital records department that day to see what was going on. “I’ve never seen the employees just sitting outside like that before.”

Funeral directors and employees had never witnessed a death certificate system collapse, either. Funeral home officials say the department is already understaffed and stretched thin. “People don’t understand that families become very upset when they can’t get the certificate.”

Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, says the problem was short-lived, once the vendor was assured payment. It was the kind of scenario Orr knew could occur from the beginning of his tenure here. Calming nervous vendors — the ones whose services are needed as part of the city’s function — is a new skill set for city officials.

Not long after running out of death certificate paper, the county told funeral directors it would no longer release bodies from the Wayne County morgueon Sundays, explaining that Sunday was a slow day for funeral homes anyway. The medical examiner’s office is now closed on holidays, too, but will make exceptions for religions that require immediate burial.

Funeral directors are not pleased.“Back in the day, they’d release bodies all day long,” said Williams, the funeral director association president.

“Death doesn’t take any holidays,” he said. “Death happens every day of the week and especially on weekends.”

WWII Vet Murderer Family: ‘It’s Summer And Ain’t Nothing To Do Here.’

 

It’s the “he fell in with the wrong crowd” defense. Because normal kids brutally beat old men to death when they’re bored.

Via Daily Mail:

On the day that the second teenager charged with the vicious murder of a WWII veteran in Spokane, Washington, is due in court, police revealed the sickening brutality inflicted on the helpless 88-year-old victim.

Attacked in his car on Wednesday in the parking lot of Eagles lodge, Delbert Belton was found wedged between the two front seats of his car on Wednesday and was battered so badly he sustained brain damage and had lost too much blood to survive the violent attack.

Kenan Adams-Kinard and Demetrius Glenn, both 16, are accused of battering the war hero to death with flashlights after he fought back during a robbery and according to Belton’s daughter-in-law ‘They just kept hitting and hitting him.’

‘He was an 88-year-old man,’ said Barabara Belton to NBC News.

Even if they wanted his money and he didn’t want to give it to them, they didn’t need to do that.’

‘They did a horrendous thing and they need to pay the consequences.’

And speaking one day after the dawn arrest on Monday of 16-year-old Kenan Adams-Kinard following a four-day manhunt for the killing of 88-tear-old, Delbert Belton, his uncle said that living in a small town narrowed his ability to make friends.

‘He hung around with the wrong people and made the wrong choices,’ Odell Kinard said of his nephew, Kenan Adams-Kinard. ‘It’s the summer and ain’t nothing to do here.’

Keep reading…

 

 

Cops Nationwide Stealing Cash, Jewelry, Valuables from Innocent Citizens Under ‘Civil Forfeiture’ Laws

If you’ve never heard of “civil forfeiture laws,” you’re about to get an eye-opening education. What’s more, you’re going to be disappointed that far too many local police departments – maybe even your own – are using these laws to rip off innocent citizens and help fund their own operations.

In a recent lengthy piece for The New Yorkermagazine, Sarah Stillman described in detail how these laws have been abused by police agencies all over the country to extort money and valuables from people whose only “crime” was traveling through their jurisdictions:

The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stencilled with the words “This Used To Be a Drug Dealer’s Car, Now It’s Ours!” In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone, which might be deployed to catch fleeing suspects, conduct rescue missions, and, perhaps, seize more drug money. Hundreds of state and federal laws authorize forfeiture for cockfighting, drag racing, basement gambling, endangered-fish poaching, securities fraud, and countless other misdeeds.

In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence.

Adds the American Civil Liberties Union:

Every year, federal and state law enforcement agents seize millions of dollars from civilians during traffic stops, simply by asserting that they believe the money is connected to some illegal activity and without ever pursuing criminal charges. Under federal law and the laws of most states, they are entitled to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property they seize.

So much for your constitutional protections

Needless to say, a number of legal experts can see no intrinsic constitutional applications for such laws – and yet, they are used constantly by law enforcement agencies in a manner reminiscent of cops in third-world countries.

“The protections our Constitution usually affords are out the window,” Louis Rulli, a clinical law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading forfeiture expert, says.

And why? Because property doesn’t have the same rights as a person. There is no right to an attorney and, in the majority of states, there is no “innocent until proven guilty.” You can tell that just by the title of the court cases: United States v. One Pearl Necklace and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.

Cops have their victims at a distinct disadvantage in a number of ways. First, they have the guns and badges. Second, civil asset forfeiture doesn’t have to meet the standard of “probable cause” (it barely reached the level of “reasonable suspicion”). And third, they know that, oftentimes, hiring a lawyer and taking the department to court would far exceed the cost of the confiscated money and valuables.

“Washington, D.C., charges up to twenty-five hundred dollars simply for the right to challenge a police seizure in court, which can take months or even years to resolve,” Silverman writes – and this is in a city overwhelmingly dominated by “fair-minded” liberals.

In fact, Silverman explains, the D.C. system has impoverished hundreds of poor citizens caught in this civil forfeiture nightmare. Cops there will confiscate anything and everything – including the automobiles these people use to get back and forth to low-paying, menial labor jobs (another sad but true fact about “progressive” D.C.). It is so bad there, in fact, that the city’s Public Defender Service has filed suit on behalf of 375 car-owners, calling the city P.D.’s policy “devastating for hundreds of families who depend on their cars for many of the urgent and important tasks of daily life.”

Signing off on theft made legal

Astonishingly, many police departments defend this abomination.

“We all know the way things are right now – budgets are tight,” Steve Westbrook, the executive director of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, told Silverman.

“It’s definitely a valuable asset to law enforcement, for purchasing equipment and getting things you normally wouldn’t be able to get to fight crime,” he said.

Other officers said, if the practice of civil forfeiture becomes too heavily regulated to use, their departments would collapse economically – and, of course, that would endanger public safety (can you say fearmongering).

Per Silverman:

But a system that proved successful at wringing profits from drug cartels and white-collar fraudsters has also given rise to corruption and violations of civil liberties. Over the past year, I spoke with more than a hundred police officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and forfeiture plaintiffs from across the country. Many expressed concern that state laws designed to go after high-flying crime lords are routinely targeting the workaday homes, cars, cash savings, and other belongings of innocent people who are never charged with a crime.

This pathetic use of the law amounts to little more than legalized theft. If a private citizen were to do something like this, he or she would go to jail.

Civil forfeiture in the case of a convicted criminal is one thing; stealing from innocent people to fund your police department is quite another.

And quite despicable.

Sources:

http://www.newyorker.com

http://books.google.com

http://www.aclu.org