Report: Harry Reid Personally Intervened To Reverse Visa Denials For Asian Finanicers Of Vegas Development Project – A Project Retaining The Services Of Son Rory’s Law Firm

“This one is going to be a major headache for us all because Sen. Reid’s office/staff is pushing hard and I just had a long yelling match on the phone.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) legislative affairs official Miguel Rodriguez wrote those words one year ago, steadying himself against the corrupt favor call-in he’d allegedly just been handed down from on high.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had suddenly become interested in the visa status of several Asian investors in the SLS Hotel, an in-process Las Vegas casino redevelopment known, in its Rat-Pack heyday, as the Sahara.

The urban redevelopment project centering on the SLS Hotel is served by the law firm of Lionel, Sawyer & Collins. One of that firm’s shareholders – and a key part of the SLS redevelopment project – is lawyer, former Clark County Commissioner and failed Nevada gubernatorial aspirant Rory Reid.

Rory Reid is also the son of Senator Harry Reid.

The Asian investors attached to the SLS project had applied for visas, but SLS’ efforts at swiftly expediting their applications instead ended in an unequivocal rejection, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declaring the case did not meet criteria for an expedited decision.

According to The Washington Times, which first reported Tuesday on the political connections behind Senator Reid’s intervention with the visa process, “The decision, dated Dec. 17, 2012, stated flatly that ‘there is no appeal or reconsideration of this decision.’”

The Times’ riveting story, which did not mention Rory Reid or his law firm by name, opened a floodgate of fresh diligence from news outlets eager to take their own peek into the political background of the SLS project.

What Nevada journalist Jon Ralston quickly found was Rory Reid.

From Ralston|Reports Thursday:

The SLS hotel/casino, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went out of his way to help, is represented by his son, Rory Reid.

One day after The Washington Times reported that the majority leader had pushed Homeland Security officials to overrule a decision not to award visas to Asian investors in the SLS (where The Sahara once stood), I discovered that Reid’s son was representing the owners at the same time this was occurring in 2012. The majority leader’s office portrayed his intervention, as expected, as Reid just doing his job to help create jobs. But did his son push him to intervene?

Reid’s office says no. “The SLS project creates nearly 9,000 badly needed jobs and has the support of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval,” the majority leader’s spokeswoman, Kristen Orthman, told me. “That is the calculus in Sen. Reid’s support of the project. We have a long-standing office policy that strictly bars any member of the staff’s family or the Senator’s family from lobbying our office on behalf of their clients. That policy applies in this case.”

How does it apply in this case? More to the point, how is that particular standing policy even the one in question? Sure, Rory Reid doesn’t have to pick up his smart phone and txt his dad abt his prblmz wit SLS prjct, but why on Earth would he have to? Orthman said nothing in the Ralston story about Senator Reid’s office having a standing policy that prohibits the Senator from meddling in the affairs of cabinet-level offices on behalf of his son.

If the Times’ email sources tell the whole story, Senator Reid expressly intervened to get a DHS decision reversed:

But that [flat visa rejection] simply prompted Mr. Reid to personally reach out to the top official at USCIS, Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, setting into motion a process that consumed top political officials inside the Homeland Security and Commerce departments and ultimately resulted in a ruling that granted expedited status to the hotel over the objections of career officials.

“Ali had a call with Sen. Reid on these I-526 cases on Tuesday of this week,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote top officials on Jan. 11. “While no guarantees were made on the call, Ali did promise the Senator that USCIS would take a ‘fresh look’ at the expedited request.”

Government officials did a lot more than give a fresh look — forwarding from Mr. Reid’s office the names of people involved with the hotel project that could help the federal agency change its mind on the expedited status request. Mr. Reid’s staff repeatedly made the case that the hotel would lose its potential funding for its renovation if Homeland Security’s USCIS didn’t expedite the visas.

Orthman cited 9,000 reasons – “badly needed jobs” – as well as the prior support of Nevada’s Republican Governor to suggest a justification for Senator Reid’s sudden involvement. There are, perhaps, at least 300 million more reasons she didn’t cite: the $300 million financial instrument Rory Reid’s firm helped SLS secure, either in part or in whole, through the Asian investors – financial backers whose visa status dictated whether their money “could be brought into the country and paired with the JP Morgan financing to underwrite the renovation of the hotel,” according to the emails obtained by The Washington Times.

HHS Reveals 365,000 Have ‘Selected’ Obamacare; Still No Word On How Many Have Actually Purchased

A two-month report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claims a combined 364,682 people had “selected” an Obamacare insurance plan through either the Federal Healthcare.gov website or through one of the State-managed exchanges, as of Nov. 30.

The report doesn’t say how many among that tiny group had actually committed to buying the insurance they’d placed in their online shopping carts.

For perspective, there are roughly 200,000 more people living in Wyoming, the Nation’s least populous State, than the almost 365,000 who took their potential Obamacare purchase at least as far as the virtual cash register. In order to actually enroll in Obamacare, as with any coverage, a customer has to enter into a contract agreement with an insurer that discloses to the customer what they’re paying and what they’re getting and that assures the insurer that the customer is committed to paying.

HHS hasn’t made those figures public yet — if it even knows them at all.

In the buildup to the Oct. 1 launch of Obamacare, HHS had projected 1.2 million people would enroll during the law’s first two months of implementation, with a total of 7 million enrolled by the March 31, 2014 closing bell for open enrollment.

In the meantime, 5 million healthcare plans (so far) have been canceled in the first Obamacare wave, as insurers drop individual policies that don’t conform to the law’s one-size-fits-all benefits scheme.

Lawsuit: NYPD Breaks Windows, Enters Home, Beats Family, Crushes Parakeet, Files Charges That Don’t Stick

A New York City woman is suing the New York Police Department for officers’ behavior in a Labor Day 2012 incident in which police allegedly broke windows to gain warrantless access to her home, beat and pepper sprayed her family members, and intentionally killed her pet parakeet by crushing it underfoot.

According to the lawsuit, Evelyn Lugo, who lives on Staten Island, was entertaining some of her sons and daughters at her home when police stopped and questioned one of her sons, Edwin Avellanet, who had briefly gone outside to take out the trash. The cops wanted to know about a traffic cone someone in the family allegedly had placed in front of the house to reserve a parking space.

When Avellanet refused to provide the identification the officers demanded (on the grounds he’d done nothing wrong), they allegedly attempted to detain him by grabbing his arm. Avellanet managed to break free and run into the house, with the police in alleged pursuit.

The police allegedly responded by breaking out several first-floor windows. Lugo went to the door to see what all the commotion was about; but, she said, the police charged into the home the second she opened the door — and threw her to the ground.

The suit states the cops then went inside, struck Avellanet two or three times with a hard object and beat and pepper sprayed at least two other people, including a woman who allegedly was thrown into a dresser. Atop that dresser was a birdcage that held Lugo’s parakeet, Tito. The impact knocked the cage off the dresser and sent Tito onto the floor.

“I screamed, ‘The bird!’ ” Lugo’s daughter, Anna Febles, told the New York Daily News a week after the incident. “And he [the officer] said, ‘F— the bird,’ and he, like, stepped on it.”

From New York DNA Info:

Lugo’s son, daughter and family friend were arrested and all three were taken to Staten Island University Hospital in custody.

They were treated for multiple facial lacerations and lacerations to the head. Lugo’s daughter was also treated for an asthma attack, the court papers say.

Those arrested included two of Lugo’s adult children and a family friend. Avellanet himself was never arrested or charged with a crime. The charges against the three who were arrested were later dismissed and the records sealed by the Richmond County Supreme Court.

“It was completely uncalled for,” said Jason Leventhal, Lugo’s attorney. “There was no excuse for going into the house without a warrant.”

Lugo is suing the department for unlawful search and seizure, excessive force and malicious prosecution.

Snowden Trove: NSA Uses Browser Advertising Cookies To Track, Hack Targets

Another day, another not-at-all shocking revelation about the NSA’s spy dragnet from the trove of classified information Edward Snowden supplied to The Washington Post and The Guardian.

The latest reveal comes from the Post, which reported Tuesday the National Security Agency tracks and singles out targets for hacking by following the same modus operandi advertisers use to tailor their Internet come-ons to the preferences and habits of individual computer users.

That involves placing third-party tracking cookies – small files that remain on a computer after a browser has visited, and then left, a website – which can relay information about the user’s browsing habits and history the next time he visits the same site. They’re used by advertisers to create long-term browsing histories for what companies presume to be a single individual, or small number of individuals using a single device, so that the ads that appear on a website continually reflect advertisers’ best guesses, based on the user’s browsing habits, at what that person is most likely to want to buy.

The NSA is, of course, not interested in selling anything. But by using a proprietary, Google-developed iteration of cookie – coupled with GPS location data—on unsuspecting computer or mobile phone users, government spies can identify a target and even create a gateway for warrantless, secret hacking.

From the story:

According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files or “cookies” that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have found particular use for a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the “PREF” cookie. These cookies typically don’t contain personal information, such as someone’s name or e-mail address, but they do contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person’s browser.

In addition to tracking Web visits, this cookie allows NSA to single out an individual’s communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person’s computer. The slides say the cookies are used to “enable remote exploitation,” although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in these documents.

By using the GPS location data Apple and other computer and smartphone software companies pre-install on computing devices, NSA can link an individual’s physical whereabouts with their internet activities, giving the government, under most circumstances, a very refined idea of who you are and what you’re doing.

Read the story, including some newly-released slides that show how the NSA characterizes its track-and-hack abilities for employee training, here.

Half Of Uninsured Americans Now Think Obamacare Was A ‘Bad Idea’

It’s increasingly apparent that Obamacare is failing to lure the very demographic that its advocates have long pledged the health care law will most benefit: people without health insurance.

A poll conducted last week by NBC and The Wall Street Journal finds that uninsured Americans in particular believe, now more than in the past, that Obamacare should never have happened.

From the summary:

In a sign that may not bode well for the president, the law’s unpopularity jumped the most among the uninsured, who stand to be among the main beneficiaries of the law. Fully half of uninsured Americans now think the law was a bad idea. In September, 34% saw it that way.

The failed rollout of Obamacare – both as a functional product and as a beneficial policy – has simultaneously derailed Obama’s second-term political leverage and diminished public trust in his transparency as an honest leader.

“The President is being weighed down by one issue, his health-care law,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who helped direct the poll. “It’s probably fair to say that as goes health care, so goes the Obama presidency for the next year.”

Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the poll alongside Mr. Yang, said the damage to the President’s standing could linger. “When you dent a President on honesty and straightforwardness,” he said, “you have done major damage that can be difficult and time-consuming to repair.”

Worse for Democrats, Obamacare – President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation – has become a political albatross around the Democratic Party’s neck. “For the first time since 2011, participants gave the GOP a slight edge, 44% to 42%, on which party they would like to see control Congress next year,” the authors observe.

TSA’s Latest Heroics: Disarming Passenger’s Sock Monkey Puppet

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) averted a potential tragedy last week when a security agent in St. Louis managed to confiscate a 2-inch toy pistol from the holster of one air passenger’s sock monkey puppet before she boarded her plane.

According to Seattle-based King 5 News, Phyllis May — a Redmond, Wash., resident who owns a small business selling sock monkey puppets — was attempting to board a Seattle flight in St. Louis with her spouse when a TSA agent spotted one of her dolls, a cowboy-themed creation she’d named “Rooster Monkburn” in commemoration of the famous fictional True Grit character.

May had the outlaw monkey in a carry-on bag that also contained another sock monkey and some monkey-making sewing supplies.

“[The agent] held it up and said, ‘whose is this?’ I realized oh, my God, this is my bag,” May told King 5:

“She said, ‘This is a gun.’ I said, ‘No, it’s not a gun; it’s a prop for my monkey.’”

“She said, ‘If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn’t know if it was real or not,’ and I said ‘Really?’”

The TSA agent told May she would have to confiscate the tiny gun and was supposed to call the police.

“I said, ‘Well go ahead.’ And I said, ‘Really? You’re kidding me right?’ And she said, ‘No, it looks like a gun.’”

In a classic dereliction of duty and lapse of judgment, the unnamed TSA agent never did call the cops, instead returning to May all of the doll-making supplies that had momentarily been confiscated — minus the “pistol.”

“I understand she was doing her job,” said May, “but at some point doesn’t common sense prevail?”

The TSA released a statement concerning the incident Monday, predictably standing behind the agent’s actions and reiterating the agency’s policy on confiscating “realistic” fake weapons.

“TSA officers are dedicated to keeping the nation’s transportation security systems safe and secure for the traveling public,” the agency said. “Under longstanding aircraft security policy, and out of an abundance of caution, realistic replicas of firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags.”

Outgoing Mayor Bloomberg Pushes Mandatory Flu Vaccinations For All NYC School Kids

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will hand the city’s leadership to Bill de Blasio in three weeks, is making a last-minute push that, if successful, will force all children who attend public schools or licensed daycares to get annual flu vaccinations – regardless of their parents’ possible objections.

The New York City Board of Health will vote today whether to implement rules that compel school-age children, as well as infants six months old and older who attend licensed day cares, to receive flu immunizations every year. The Board of Health is stocked with Bloomberg appointees with a history of green-lighting the mayor’s other public health initiatives like big soda bans and new smoking regulations.

The Autism Action Network (AAN), a Nationwide advocacy group for autistic people of all ages, plans to protest the vote today. AAN Executive Director John Gilmore told the New York Observer the organization doesn’t simply oppose the mandate because of any belief in a connection between vaccinations and the onset of autism, but rather because it places in the state’s hands a decision fraught with costs and benefits that parents, more properly, should make.

“The Bloomberg administration is wildly exaggerating the benefit of the flu shot and we think they are wildly underestimating the risks involved with it,” said…Gilmore.

…“There are risks associated with every medical procedure,” he said, citing allergic reactions, toxic mercury used as a preservative and questions as to whether the Board’s move is legal given state government jurisdictions.

Although the proposal did get a public hearing two months ago, Gilmore criticized Bloomberg’s 11th-hour strategy for getting the flu vaccine mandate approved, and portrayed today’s protest as a warning shot Mayor-elect de Blasio should heed before embracing the public health policies of his predecessor.

“This is basically to put the mayor-elect [on alert], make him aware that this is an issue that he’s going to have to deal with it. It’s not going to go away,” Gilmore told the Observer. “He is kind of doing this in a stealth fashion. He just proposed this about 6 weeks ago. I don’t think there was any announcement.”

‘Power Mourners': Obama, Congressmen, Global Pals Milk Mandela Memorial For Photos, Networking, Sanctimony

There are pictures of First Lady Michelle Obama looking nonplussed as her husband yaks it up with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. There’s an Obama selfie, taken with Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron. There’s a picture of Obama deferentially shaking hands with budding Cuban dictator Raul Castro; another of Obama and de facto Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe.

Narcissus couldn’t have gotten arrested at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service Tuesday in South Africa, where cheesy gladhanding and sanctimonious speechifying prevailed over decorum and dignity.

In a political culture where having any name at all matters more than having a good name, Monday’s Mandela service didn’t merely attract the President and his entourage. With the exception of George H.W. Bush, all former living U.S. Presidents made the trip – though none managed Cameron’s or Obama’s feat of luring the spotlight toward themselves.

The spillover of American dignitaries meant the Air Force had to provide a second plane. Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock (yes, this Aaron Schock ) even shouted this out to his peeps – er, constituents – on Instagram:

All aboard! Taking off with 23 of my colleagues to Nelson Mandela’s memorial services. #amazinglife #mandela

“A big-ticket funeral can become a great theater for preening and networking and peacocking, the kinds of things that people in media and politics are known for,” Mark Leibovich, chief correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, told The Daily Caller Tuesday. “…Is this about the departed or is this about you?” Leibovich famously referred to the hangers-on at deceased NBC journalist Tim Russert’s memorial service as “power mourners” in his recent D.C.-insider book, an appellation that again applied to many of the dignitaries at Tuesday’s service.

Maybe there’s a silver lining when pop culture showboats like Obama blows off solemn occasions like Margaret Thatcher’s state funeral or the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Gettysburg Address: those events get to preserve decorum and remain true to their purpose, without commanding a disgraceful Internet audience based on vapid star appeal.

Zero Tolerance: Kid Suspended For Pantomiming Bow And Arrow Shot With His Hands

In October, a Pennsylvania boy was suspended from school for playing make-believe with a classmate. The silly tale involves no props or weapons — just hands, imagination and the ruinous intervention of adults to quash what should be free, unremarkable and productive child’s play: the unencumbered, improvised activity kids crave as they learn to share the world with others kids.

Instead, the lesson 10-year-old Johnny Jones is learning is that he has to share the world with idiots — adult ones. The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties nonprofit, learned of his suspension and decided to take on the South Eastern School District in Fawn Grove, Penn., for its overzealous enforcement of the system’s zero-tolerance weapons policy.

Here’s the Rutherford Institute’s synopsis of what transpired:

The incident took place the week of October 14th, when fifth grader Johnny Jones asked his teacher for a pencil during class. Jones walked to the front of the classroom to retrieve the pencil, and during his walk back to his seat, a classmate and friend of Johnny’s held his folder like an imaginary gun and “shot” at Johnny. Johnny playfully used his hands to draw the bowstrings on a completely imaginary “bow” and “shot” an arrow back. Seeing this, another girl in the class reported to the teacher that the boys were shooting at each other. The teacher took both Johnny and the other boy into the hall and lectured them about disruption. The teacher then contacted Johnny’s mother, Beverly Jones, alerting her to the “seriousness” of the violation because the children were using “firearms” in their horseplay, and informing her that the matter had been referred to the Principal. Principal John Horton contacted Ms. Jones soon thereafter in order to inform her that Johnny’s behavior was a serious offense that could result in expulsion under the school’s weapons policy. Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.

Attorneys from the Rutherford Institute are asking that South Eastern School District Superintendent Rona Kaufmann rescind Johnny’s suspension and remove all references to the incident from his permanent record, giving the district until Dec. 13 to respond before considering possible legal action.

The school district’s code of conduct prohibits the possession of weapons, as well as “replicas” or “look-alikes” on school grounds. In Johnny’s case, the school’s faculty and administration allegedly construed the pantomiming action of drawing an imaginary bow as an act that, in some transubstantial fashion, replicated the real weapon. Even more absurdly, they regarded the exchange between the two boys as adversarial, threatening and indicative of imminent violence.

“No reasonable argument can be made that the imaginings of a 10-year-old boy, completely lacking any actual, tangible device, represented a ‘replica’ or a ‘look-alike’ of an actual gun,” attorney Douglas R. McKusick wrote in a letter to the superintendent. “… This atrocious misapplication of rules originally intended to protect students while on school grounds is foolish and actually damages the future of the children meant to be protected… There is no reason that Johnny should be stigmatized and branded a miscreant due to the school’s unreasonable application of its zero tolerance policy against him.”

NYPD Revokes Media Access To Precinct Offices

The New York Police Department will no longer allow local precincts to release to the media information about crime in communities they serve. Taking the place of that long-standing practice is a new one: talk to the PR guys at headquarters.

News website DNAinfo New York reports that “the city’s 77 police precincts [are] to stop giving out any information to the media about crimes taking place in their neighborhoods, cutting off a long-standing source of information for New Yorkers.”

According to a terse NYPD edict transmitted citywide, precinct commanders were instructed: “Any requests by media to view complaint reports be referred to the office of the Deputy Commissioner For Public Information.”

The NYPD’s public information office, known as DCPI, typically disseminates only select major crimes such as murders, sexual assaults and grand larcenies, but often does not include lower level neighborhood crimes. Those complaints could traditionally be found at the precinct, a reliable source for information of interest for residents.

To the frustration of cop-beat reporters in many towns across the country, this sort of thing is common among police departments whose commissioners, chiefs and sheriffs figured out long ago that the best way to maintain narrative control of raw information is to launder it through a bottleneck public relations official. In smaller cities, reporters often put up with it, because they typically have the cell phone number of the local police chief or county sheriff, and can develop a personal rapport that keeps them in the know about what’s going on – even if the real version of events never makes it into print.

But in a city the size of New York, siphoning all information through a centralized bureaucracy effectively ends street-level crime reporting, because the time required to get a statement is too great to serve a newspaper or web site’s interest. And, the quality of that statement will almost certainly veer toward that of a sanitized press release – or good-cop propaganda.

Outgoing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has a history of pushing even the city’s major media providers to the margins when it comes to access of information. “Under his stewardship, DCPI has systematically diminished the type of information it provides as well as overall access to department personnel,” reports DNAinfo, which has already had its precinct access revoked, along with other outlets. “The clampdown evolved even though Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a media mogul, pledged that his administration would be a beacon of open government and transparency.”

Report: 70 Percent Of California Doctors Won’t Participate In Obamacare

The California Medical Association (CMA), the State’s largest physician’s organization, estimates that 70 percent of doctors won’t participate in Covered California, the State’s Obamacare health insurance exchange.

That prediction comes after the CMA reviewed Obamacare coverage forecasts provided by independent insurance brokers, even though Covered California is touting an expected 85 percent doctor participation rate.

CMA’s vice president of medical and regulatory policy, Lisa Folberg, told the Washington Examiner that Covered California comes by its 85 percent participation figure through some optimistic statistical legerdemain.

“Some physicians have been put in the network and they were included basically without their permission,” she said.

That’s because Covered California is using a pre-deployment document released in May that came out before doctors had a chance to respond to a memo of understanding with Obamacare insurers. The doctors’ reticence then was understandable – they hadn’t seen a rate schedule, so they had no idea what kind of compensation they were being asked to accept.

“Only in September did insurance companies disclose that their rates would be pegged to California’s Medicaid plan, called Medi-Cal,” reports the Examiner’s Richard Pollock. “That’s driven many doctors to just say no.”

Alameda County Health Care Services Agency director Alex Briscoe said he’s not shocked that doctors aren’t lining up to take a pay cut under Obamacare.

From the report:

“Enrollment doesn’t mean access, because there aren’t enough doctors to take the low rates of Medicaid,” [Briscoe] said. “There aren’t enough primary care physicians, period.”

Briscoe hopes his eight community health centers can handle the 200,000 uninsured individuals he said reside in his county, but he warned that “there is a doctor shortage. It is going to get worse as more people enter the market.”

Briscoe professed not to be surprised by the refusal of doctors to participate in Covered California. “It rings true. I’ve been kind of wondering in my head, ‘How are they offering such low premiums?’”

In addition to low doctor participation, Obamacare is compounding the access problem by incentivizing another way for doctors to opt out: retirement.

“I just turned 55, and a lot of us are kind of going, ‘Maybe there’s something else we can do in the last 10 years,’ because this is just getting too onerous to keep on going,” San Diego ENT specialist Theodore M. Mazer told the Examiner.

Even Al Sharpton Acknowledges The Knockout Game Is Real

A bevy of usual suspects who style themselves as spokesmen for black Americans have come out against the knockout game, with none other than Al Sharpton leading the charge to decry the violent street fad.

Don’t know what the knockout game is? Here you go.

If the pervasiveness of the racial component of the knockout game were nothing more than a racist Tea Party fabrication, wouldn’t the Rev stay quiet, sit back and watch his ideological adversaries make fools of themselves on national TV by overreacting to a few isolated incidents of random, unprovoked black-on-white crime?

Instead, Sharpton and some other people who claim to have their finger on the pulse of American black culture — National Urban League president Marc Morial and rap grandpa Russell Simmons — are joining together in denouncing the attacks and calling on would-be perpetrators to eschew “ugly” racial violence.

Here’s Al in two of his finest smoking jackets, laying nine seconds of smack down on the gamers:

“These kids are targeting innocent people, and in many cases specifically targeting Jewish folks,” Sharpton said in a statement. “We would not be silent if it were the other way around, and we will not be silent now. This behavior is racist, period. And we will not tolerate it.”

According to CBS New York, Simmons has spread a similar message. “This knockout game is some bulls**t,” Simmons offered in a video clip that he later removed from YouTube. “I mean, it’s terrible. I mean, how come you all want to hit people that look like they’ve got on devotional clothing and might not hit you back? Why don’t you hit somebody that might hit you back? I mean, the knockout game is for cowards.”

Sharpton’s acknowledgement comes with an evident qualifier, as does Simmons’. Both men are New York natives, and their anti-violence messages zero in on the Brooklyn version of the knockout game, which in local news reports appears to have been aimed predominantly at Orthodox Jews.

For perpetual minority victims like Sharpton, it would be a stretch to call out thugs nationwide for attacking just any old white guy. But it’s much easier to see the injustice when both perpetrator and victim can, in Sharpton’s eyes, claim special disenfranchised status.

Still, other than his predictable, and presumptuous, supposition that all black Americans have a will to participate in racial gripes (“we” this; “we” that), Sharpton’s statement is more levelheaded than the majority of his typically divisive rhetoric.

And it’s not surprising that Sharpton first dipped his toe into waters critical of the knockout game on Nov. 23, two days after Allen West called him and other race ideologues out in public for their deafening, hypocritical silence.

Confiscate: New York City Coming For Guns That Hold More Than 5 Rounds

New York City is sending notices to gun-owning residents — who already must register their weapons and obtain city-specific ownership permits — telling them they must turn in, dispose of or modify any rifles or shotguns equipped to fire more than five rounds of ammunition.

The NYPD is stepping up enforcement of a local gun law that’s been in place for three years, sending out letters to lawful gun owners giving them one of the three options.

This is one of those stories that best unfolds by letting the subject do the talking. Here’s what the letter actually says, with a hat tip to The Truth About Guns blog for posting its contents (the boldface from the original letter is preserved):

It appears that you are in possession of a Rifle and/or Shotgun (listed below) that has an ammunition feeding device capable of holding more than five (5) rounds of ammunition.

Rifles and Shotguns capable of holding more than five (5) rounds of ammunition are unlawful to possess in New York City, as per NYC Administrative Code 10-306 (b).

You have the following options:

1.  Immediately surrender your Rifle and/or Shotgun to your local police precinct, and notify this office of the invoice number. The firearm may be sold or permanently removed from the City of New York thereafter.

2.  Permanently remove your Rifle and/or Shotgun from New York City and provide the following:

  • Disposition Report/Registration Certificate (PD Form 641-121)
  • Notarized statement of permanent removal and statement of where the firearm will be stored outside the City of New York
  • Utility bill or other proof of residency regarding the address where the firearm will be stored outside the City of New York

3.  You may call to discuss the matter if you believe your firearm is in compliance, or you may request the option to bring your firearm to a licensed gunsmith for a permanent modification and certification proving that it is permanently modified and is in compliance. If you are granted the option of seeking a permanent modification, you must provide proof that the firearm is in the possession of a licensed gunsmith in a timely manner.

The letter goes on to list whichever offending firearms the resident may be guilty of owning.

The administrative code and ordinances governing New York City gun ownership is more restrictive than even that of New York State, which adopted the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act while the shock of the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting was still fresh. The city’s confiscation letter pertains not to the SAFE Act, but to city code.

But the NYPD’s approach could have what New York State Assemblyman James Tedisco described to FOX News as an emboldening effect on local police forces statewide to step up hands-on enforcement of the SAFE Act.

“These letters appear to be another example of the Nanny State,” Tedisco said. “Hypothetically, it can start with a letter, and then that can lead to someone knocking on your door saying, ‘I want to see your gun.’”

Another Obamacare Tax That Insurers Are Forced To Pass Along To You

An Obamacare tax that will dump money into the general treasury was finalized last week with little fanfare, locking in a Federal revenue stream that, at least in theory, was set in place to cover the gap in “United States health risks” that Obamacare’s regressive, market-defying structure creates.

The Health Insurance Tax was published Nov. 27, mandating a tax on insurance companies that analysts expect will lead to an additional three percent increase in the cost of already-inflated premiums for Obamacare buyers. The goal for 2014 is to hit a Federal revenue target of $8 billion ($14.3 billion by 2018), even though there’s not a set rate at which insurers themselves can anticipate being taxed.

How does that work?

“It’s an odd sort of tax,” Heritage Foundation Fellow David R. Burton told the Washington Free Beacon. “It’s not at a specific rate, but it raises a specific amount of revenue from insurers who underwrite health insurance outside of the exchanges. You basically have a set amount of money and then it’s allocated among the insurers based on the amount of health insurance premiums they actually wrote.”

In other words, the government is gonna get its money without providing insurers a strategic roadmap that affords them any knowledge of how much each company will be forced to contribute. Worse, the government’s dollar goal is fixed, even though Obamacare’s terrible enrollment rate indicates insurers may not even profit from the few policies they’re able to sell.

Those Americans who do buy an Obamacare plan won’t see the tax itemized on their statements. But they’ll be paying it. The New York Business Council has estimated the Health Insurance Tax will cost participating residents an average of $270 in increased premiums for 2014 – the “cheapest” tax year.

The Health Insurance Tax is just one of many Obamacare taxes. Here’s a long list of others, compiled by The Heritage Foundation.

Obama Will Never Be Found At The Center Of A Lie: White House Throws Staffers Under The Bus To Shield President From Kenyan Uncle Omar Bombshell

President Barack Obama isn’t to blame for a festering lie about his past – his handlers are.

On Thursday, The Boston Globe reported that Obama said he did live with his Kenyan uncle, Onyango “Omar” Obama, for three weeks just before young Barack began his career as a Harvard Law student. The White House had told the press in 2011 that the President had never met the man.

That was an inadvertent lack of diligence on the part of Obama’s staff, said Press Secretary Jay Carney Thursday. “Back when this arose, [White House staff] looked at the record, including the President’s [autobiographical] book, and there was no evidence that they had met,” Carney said.

“However,” The Daily Caller quotes Carney as saying, “nobody spoke to the President.”

“I thought it was the right thing to do to go ask him,” Carney continued. “[A]nd the President said that he, in fact, had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school.”

Flash back to January 7, 2012, when The Boston Globe ran a story about Omar’s legal travails, set against the backdrop of the Obamas’ common Kenyan heritage.

A solemn figure as he strides into his court appearances, [Omar] Obama never married or had children during the years he has been in the United States, according to his lawyer, P. Scott Bratton. He lives with a Kenyan family in Framingham near the liquor store where he has worked as a clerk for 10 years. Although he has a vast number of relatives living near Lake Victoria in western Kenya, many know nothing of him. He has never met his famous nephew, according to the White House.

“The White House never moved to correct the record, until the President’s famously private uncle took the witness stand in Boston immigration court two days ago,” the Globe reported Thursday.

Why not? At the start of an election year, wouldn’t the President want to avoid any political landmines – particularly from the birther crowd – by getting in front of misinformation as quickly as possible instead of letting stories like this sit dormant indefinitely? That he kept quiet about a Boston Globe report that surely must have come to his attention, courtesy of anxious handlers looking toward November 2012, calls into question the President’s own role in allowing the lie to make it through to the Globe’s reporter.

The 2012 article also mentions that Omar had been living illegally in the U.S. for decades. Omar had a deportation hearing earlier this week – an event brought about by his August 2011 drunk driving arrest in Framingham, Massachusetts. At the hearing, Omar revealed that the future President had, in fact, stayed with him before attending Harvard.

Omar was granted legal residency by an immigration judge Tuesday, thanks to his “good moral character and a section of federal law that allows him to get a green card because he arrived before 1972.”

Prize-Winning Obamacare Promo Encourages Crazy Kids To ‘Forget About The Price Tag’

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded a $2,000 prize to the winner of a do-it-yourself advertising contest aimed at promoting Obamacare enrollment among young people. The video that took the pot has at least one thing going for it: truth in advertising.

“Don’t worry ’bout the price tag,” sings Erin McDonald, whose submission won the prize by shoehorning an Obamacare message into an arrangement of British pop star Jessie J’s 2011 single “Price Tag.”

The contest stems from a collaboration between HHS and Young Invincibles, a nonprofit that seeks to channel the political will of millenials.

“Back in August 2013, Young Invincibles, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, launched the Healthy Young America Video Contest, an effort to mobilize young people to help educate and inform one another about the Affordable Care Act,” the official White House blog explains.

Here’s McDonald’s prize-winning hook, transcribed with admirable phonetic accuracy by The Daily Caller:

Ain’t about the, uh, cha-ching cha-ching. Ain’t about the, yeah, bla-bling bla-bling. Affordable Care Act. Don’t worry ’bout the price tag.

What will the Obama Administration resort to next in its surreal effort to mainstream his onerous health care mandate — staging Obamacare-themed happy hours at bars? Oh, wait — they’re already doing that.

Harry Reid Becomes The Only Congressional Leader To Exempt Staffers From Obamacare

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been almost as strong an advocate for Obamacare as President Barack Obama himself, and for just as long. But he’s no fan of watching those close to him endure Obamacare policies and premiums, now that the Affordable Care Act’s implementation is a reality.

CNN reported Wednesday that Reid has exempted some of his staffers from buying health coverage through Obamacare exchanges, allowing them instead to keep their Federal employee insurance plans.

That makes Reid the one and only top Congressional leader to break the spirit of the near-universal pledge among Washington lawmakers to hew to the same Obamacare mandates that Congress has forced upon the rest of the Nation. Fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Republican leaders in both legislative chambers have at least remained in character by requiring their staffs to go on the healthcare exchanges.

But not Reid — despite proclaiming in September that Congress and its staff “are going to be part of the exchanges, that’s what the law says and we’ll be part of that.” Reid himself, along with his personal staff will indeed be on the exchanges. But, according to CNN:

But it’s also true that the law lets lawmakers decide if their committee and leadership staffers hold on to their federal employee insurance plans, an option Reid has exercised.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson emphasized, “We are just following the law.”

Back in April, Jentleson had emphatically denied that Reid and some members of Congress were discussing, behind the scenes, ways that Congress and staffers could dodge Obamacare. “There are not now, have never been, nor will there ever be any discussions about exempting members of Congress or congressional staff from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care,” Jentleson told The Hill.

So much for that. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had the snappy comeback on Twitter, where he linked to the CNN article and questioned why Reid wouldn’t want to inflict Obamacare on select staff members:

Ready For Another Snowden Revelation? NSA Collects 5 Billion Cell Phone Location Records Each Day

The latest leak in the ongoing trickle of information Edward Snowden supplied to newspapers about the National Security Agency (NSA) is a whopper: worldwide, the NSA gathers close to 5 billion records on the whereabouts and digital “relationships” of cell phone users each day.

According to The Washington Post, which broke the story Wednesday, the NSA taps directly into the physical backbone of the global telecommunications infrastructure, “enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.”

Here’s more:

The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.

One senior collection manager, speaking on condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data is often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.

In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among individuals using them.

The government, of course, says the surveillance is perfectly legal, since learning things about people’s personal lives – such as whom they’re contacting and what their daily habits are – isn’t a goal, but rather a side effect, of the terror-oriented spying.

“[L]ocation data, especially when aggregated over time, is widely regarded among privacy advocates as uniquely sensitive,” the Post story interjects. “Sophisticated mathematical techniques enable NSA analysts to map cellphone owners’ relationships by correlating their patterns of movement over time with thousands or millions of other phone users who cross their paths. Cellphones broadcast their locations even when they are not being used to place a call or send a text.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was among the first of what’s certain to be many civil liberty groups to respond to the news Wednesday afternoon, releasing this statement:

It is staggering that a location-tracking program on this scale could be implemented without any public debate, particularly given the substantial number of Americans having their movements recorded by the government. The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships. The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cell phones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike. The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrongdoing, not assembling massive associational databases that by their very nature record the movements of a huge number of innocent people.

Proof That Progressives Have Finally Gone Bananas

It’s not in the Constitution — at least not verbatim — but most of us would agree that each able-minded, law-abiding American citizen is a “cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental right not to be imprisoned.”

So what about this guy?

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For the first time, making legal people out of monkeys has become a thing. According to Reuters, an animal rights group has filed the Nation’s first lawsuit to establish the “legal personhood” of chimpanzees, seeking to have a 26-year-old monkey named Tommy, along with three of his monkey colleagues, set loose from monkey jail in a research facility at Stony Brook University in New York.

From Reuters:

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Tommy’s “detention” in a “small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed” in central New York is unlawful and demands his immediate release to a primate sanctuary.

Chimpanzees “possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they’re found in human beings,” Steven Wise, the president of Nonhuman Rights Project, told Reuters.

“There’s no reason why they should not be protected when they’re found in chimpanzees,” he added.

The lawsuit on Tommy’s behalf is among three the group is filing this week on behalf of four chimps across New York. The other chimps are Kiko, a 26-year-old chimp living on a private property in Niagara Falls, and Hercules and Leo, two young male chimps used in research at Stony Brook University on Long Island, the group said.

Wise said the Nonhuman Rights Project is just warming up, pledging to sue and sue and sue until animals are granted legal rights under U.S. law. “These are the first cases in an open-ended, strategic litigation campaign. We’re just going to keep filing suits,” he said.

But Wise didn’t discuss the group’s discriminatory practice of advocating to establish legal rights for some — but not all — members of the animal kingdom. Nor did he divulge whether the group had struck upon a course of action for other inscrutable nonhuman entities such as plants, minerals, solar radiation, television characters, abandoned shipping containers, orphaned websites and baby dolls — which, for all anybody knows, could have people claim, on those entities’ behalf, equally defensible standing for the “legal personhood” designation.

The lawsuit relies on the habeas corpus argument; that is, that a person has the right not to be detained without due process. Problem is, chimps aren’t people. So the Nonhuman Rights Project is seeking to use New York’s (relatively) liberal body of precedent law on the matter in the hope that Tommy and his chimpanzee cohorts will be legally reborn as people — people with inalienable rights.

“The focus here is whether a chimpanzee is a ‘person’ that has access to these laws,” animal law expert David Favre told Reuters.

Americans Believe U.S. Has Lost Respect At Home And Abroad

The second-term slide of President Barack Obama continues to mirror that of his Republican predecessor. The latest parallel between the faltering Obama Administration and the rocky second term of George W. Bush comes courtesy of a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Released Tuesday, the poll finds a majority of Americans believe that, under Obama, the United States is experiencing a loss of international prestige that closely mimics a similar dip in confidence about America’s place in the world during Bush’s second term.

According to Pew, 70 percent of Americans believe the U.S. has lost the respect of the international community compared with its status a decade ago, a number nearly as high as the results of a similar poll conducted during the Bush era.

In addition, the poll shows that 53 percent of Americans think America’s role as a leader in world affairs has diminished over the last ten years. That’s the lowest statistical ebb of Americans’ confidence in their leaders’ diplomacy in three decades. And 56 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the diplomatic strategy of Obama in particular; 52 percent said they felt the U.S. should “mind its own business” in world affairs. By contrast, only 31 percent said the ongoing American presence in Afghanistan has made the U.S. safer from terrorist threats.

Check out a video synopsis of the poll’s key findings below.

Cops Arrest Kids For Following Coach’s Orders To Wait At Bus Stop

After police in Rochester, New York threatened to arrest three Edison Tech High School athletes who were dutifully waiting for a bus their coach had scheduled for them, the kids didn’t know where to turn. They knew the bus was coming, but they had police telling them their presence at a public bus stop was obstructing the flow of pedestrian traffic while they waited.

If they followed the cops’ orders, they’d miss the bus and, in all probability, be chewed out by their coach. If they followed their coach’s instructions, they’d be arrested. And if they did obey the cops and disperse, where would they even go?

According to WROC,  the three boys were among several basketball teammates last week who’d been instructed by their coach, Jacob Scott, to wait for a school bus that he’d arranged to come pick them up for a scrimmage at a local high school. “There was no school that day and their coach had arranged for a pick-up at a central meeting spot,” the report states.

The kids attempted to explain to the police that their options were kind of limited, and that their presence was the product of adult supervision under the aegis of the public school system, but the police began putting people in handcuffs as coach Scott (who’s also a guidance counselor in the Rochester school district) arrived at the scene.

Scott said he pleaded with the officer to let the boys go, saying he was supervising them.

“He goes on to say, ‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well,'” Scott said. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?'”

Scott said a sergeant showed up and backed up his officer.

“One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown,” Scott said.

The original report on the incident doesn’t make an issue of the students’ race, but subsequent reports, as well as readers’ comments, are filled with righteous indignation over the presumption that the cops would never have treated white kids the way they treated these black students.

Maybe they would have; maybe they wouldn’t. Big deal: what happened happened. The police are adhering to form by standing by their original actions, while every representative of the school district involved in the case is denouncing the cops’ actions – not by playing the race card, but on the merits.

“I think the charges should be immediately dropped and I think the district attorney’s office should be stepping in and looking at these kinds of matters,” said school board member Mary Adams, who attended the students’ arraignments.

A trial is scheduled for Dec. 11.