A Handy Timeline Of NSA’s Encroachment Into Americans’ Private Lives

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has compiled an extensive timeline of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) progressive intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, dating back to the agency’s creation in 1952.

The EFF, which seeks to defeat illegal governmental surveillance and litigates against the state to establish precedents that favor citizens’ Constitutional rights, explains on its website that the need for vigilance against a government that indiscriminately spies on its own people has never been more urgent:

The US government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001.

Respect for individuals’ autonomy, anonymous speech, and the right to free association must be balanced against legitimate concerns like law enforcement. National governments must put legal checks in place to prevent abuse of state powers, and international bodies need to consider how a changing technological environment shapes security agencies’ best practices.

Check out the full timeline here.

Petraeus At Bilderberg; Unemployment Up ; China Building Bigger, Better ‘Panama’ Canal; NYT Can’t Hate BO; Getting’ Down To Gitmo — Friday Morning News Roundup 6-7-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.


  • Disgraced Former CIA Director David Petraeus is attending this year’s Bilderberg Group meeting, evidently to offer input on how the expansion of surveillance capabilities can be harnessed and coordinated by governments partnering with the private sector.


  • Nicaragua has agreed to a 100-year concession with a Chinese company to build an alternative to the Panama Canal. The project is expected to cost $40 billion, and will track a channel through Lake Nicaragua to create a channel wider and deeper than the Panama Canal, which itself is currently being widened.


  • The national unemployment rate went up in May from 7.5 to 7.6 percent, despite Department of Labor statistics that showed jobs increased slightly more than expected. Most of the new jobs are coming from temporary help agencies and food service.


  • The New York Times quietly revised language in an editorial Thursday condemning President Barack Obama’s Administration for collecting Americans’ phone call data in order to tone down the harshness in the originally-published piece.


  • Elderly Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are joining White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on a trip Friday to Guantanamo Bay prison.


Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Who’s Breaking News On White House Scandals? Not The Mainstream Media

So now the National Security Administration’s (NSA) long-running practice of collecting phone metadata on just about everyone has come to light. Who broke that story? Was it CBS? ABC? Was it even Fox News?

It was Glenn Greenwald writing for the UK paper The Guardian.

As Breitbart pointed out Thursday, almost no mainstream media in the U.S. has been in front of any of the many, many scandals that have emerged in the early sledding of President Barack Obama’s second term.

With the exception of some dogged reporters who’ve essentially had to go rogue within their own organizations in order to delve into the Benghazi scandal (like CBS’ Sharyl Atkisson and CNN’s Jake tapper) – and been persecuted by their own employers as a thank-you – there’s been precious little issues-based reporting, and a truckload of damage control, emanating from the American mainstream press over the IRS scandal; the AP scandal; Benghazi and now Verizon.

Leaks, scoops and whistle-blowing on all these scandals have come either from within (as in the case of the IRS), from members of Congress who realize how subservient the Legislative branch is becoming to the Executive branch (as in the case of Benghazi) – or from newsgathering outfits that lie well outside the American mainstream (as in the case of Verizon).

“Well, if it is Thursday, there must be a new Obama scandal,” writes John Nolte. “But one thing is for damn sure, whatever that scandal is, you can bet the American mainstream media will be playing catch up and not carrying the glory of breaking a story…”

Fact: Over the past few weeks, four major scandals have broken over the Obama administration, and it is a very sad (and frightening) truth that our pathetic, American, lapdog mainstream media is not responsible for breaking even a single one.

… And do you want to know what makes this realization especially pathetic? In three of the four scandals (the AP being the exception), had our media been less interested in protecting Power and more interested in holding Power accountable, these huge, career-making stories were right there for their taking.

Contrast that with the George W. Bush Administration (which opened the door of expanded executive surveillance power that Obama is now exploiting), when the White House Press Corps relentlessly dogged the President and his cabinet at every turn.

“[A]t least Power knew it was being watched,” observes Nolte. “Today, it is the complete opposite and the result is an administration run amok.”

Members Of Congress Got $238k In Welfare Last Year Thanks To Farm Bill

Four U.S. Senators and 11 House Representative were among the beneficiaries of taxpayer-funded farm subsidies last year, according to information compiled by Environmental Working Group (EWG), a health and environmental nonprofit.

The $237,921 the Congressmen received represents a drop in the $20 billion-per-year ocean of Farm Bill direct-subsidy money. A product of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era government expansion, the omnibus piece of budgeting and entitlement legislation now not only pays subsidies to farmers, but also dictates National food policy for both production and consumption, and funds the ever-swelling SNAP food stamp program.

In short, the Farm Bill is an entitlement monster. In socially conservative, rural States, a lot of sworn Republicans’ staunch talk about smaller government and ending welfare melts away to the loudest of Liberal bellyaching when talk of trimming, or ending, the Farm Bill comes up. Being against agricultural subsidies and the lobbying interests that back the farming business is a sure way to be a one-term Legislator in districts dominated by agriculture.

In the case of farmer’s subsidies, you don’t have to be out on the land to qualify. I’ve you’ve got any skin in the farming game at all —  no matter how tenuous the connection — you may qualify. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, for example, owned 16 percent of Racota Valley Ranch until 2008. She received more than $500,000 in subsidies between 1995 and 2012.

President Jimmy Carter’s farm has received $272,000 in subsidies over the same period — and although he arguably has more skin in the game than many of the Congressmen on the list, he’s also a wealthy former U.S. President who doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a needy farmer reaching out for a helping hand.

Politicians make easy targets, but the unchecked largesse of the Farm Bill knows no favorites. People like Ted Turner and Larry Flynt also have received farmers’ “welfare” payouts. Small farmers often receive subsidies to prevent them from cultivating certain crops.

Some subsidies are even given to individuals and companies that have absolutely nothing to do with agriculture. Food conglomerates and liquor distillers are only two examples.

Farm subsidies are just another example of the redistribution of wealth. Just another example of the federal government stealing money from one group of people and giving it to another. Just another example of crony capitalism.

The federal government would have you believe that these farm subsidies are meant to give assistance to small farmers when in reality, most of the money is given to larger farms, which of course, not only does not assist small farmers, but increases their chance of going out of business because of larger farms cornering certain markets. Additionally, some of the large dairy producers that are heavily subsidized have convinced the federal government to prohibit the sale of raw milk, continuing the trend of trying to put the little guys out of business and flooding the market with heavily pasteurized and potentially dangerous dairy products.

For a full list of Congressmen who received subsidies last year, check out the EWG study, or read an expanded article at CNS News.

President Stiffs A Whole Town, Rand Stands For 4th Amendment, House Leashes DHS On Ammo, Pelosi Lauds ‘Liberating’ Obamacare, Monsanto’s Been Punked? – Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 6-6-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

California Town Goes After President For $8,000 Security Bill

Atherton, the California town where a private April fundraising visit from President Barack Obama rankled local leaders saddled with the cost of extra security, is stepping up its efforts to recoup the money so that the town’s taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill. Read more…

Rand Paul Bill Would Strengthen 4th Amendment

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in light of recent government spying scandals, will introduce legislation to strengthen Americans’ 4th Amendment protections against privacy intrusions. Read More…

House Lawmakers Want To Know Why DHS Needs All That Ammo

House lawmakers voted this week to disallow the Department of Homeland Security to enter new contracts for the purchase of millions of rounds of ammunition until DHS can explain to Congress why it needs so much ammo, and how much it is costing American taxpayers. Read more…

Pelosi: Mandatory Healthcare ‘Liberating,’ Think Of All The Wannabe Writers, Photographers

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants Americans to feel better about Obamacare, but she has a strange way of explaining how the “exciting enterprise” will benefit the populace. Read More…

Monsanto Blames GMO-Tainted U.S. Wheat On Sabotage

Agricultural giant Monsanto is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine how an experimental strain of wheat engineered to be resistant to herbicide ended up in cultivation in an Oregon field. The company is distancing itself from accountability, but isn’t ruling out sabotage. Read more…

Monsanto Blames GMO-Tainted U.S. Wheat On Sabotage

Agricultural giant Monsanto is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine how an experimental strain of wheat engineered to be resistant to herbicide ended up in cultivation in an Oregon field.

Monsanto is distancing itself from accountability, but isn’t ruling out the idea that someone else may have maliciously planted the company’s experimental “Roundup Ready” wheat – which hasn’t been in testing since 2005 – in an attempt to disrupt the market.

The Following the USDA’s revelation of the discovery last week, Japan and South Korea suspended some U.S. wheat purchases. One U.S. wheat farmer has also filed a Federal lawsuit, alleging Monsanto has harmed the market for his crop.

Monsanto technology officer Robb Fraley told reporters the Oregon wheat “seems likely to be a random, isolated occurrence more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting or during the fallow cycle in an individual field,” and that sabotage “is certainly one of the options we are looking at.”

California Town Goes After President For $8,000 Security Bill

Atherton, the California town where a private April fundraising visit from President Barack Obama rankled local leaders saddled with the cost of extra security, is stepping up its efforts to recoup the money so that the town’s taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill.

The town may even go so far as to place a lien against two local homeowners who feted Obama as part of a fundraising tour on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. Obama attended a total of four fundraisers but made no public appearances during the Bay-Area trip, which lasted less than 24 hours.

According to CBS San Francisco, Atherton’s town manager believes the President, the Secret Service, the DNC or the homeowners – anyone, in fact, except the town’s taxpayers – should cough up the $8,000 required to provide extra security and cleanup necessitated by having the leader of the free world drop by for a private money grab which helped Democrats raise more than $3 million.

“If the town incurs a cost that rightly should belong to somebody else, we’re going to pursue that,” said George Rodericks. “We could follow a lien process of some kind, hold a public hearing, invite them to come, process it as a lien against their property and collect it via the property tax.”

“If we were to hold, say, a wedding here, and have to close off streets, we would expect the people that were hosting the wedding to pay it and I think the taxpayers would also ask for that,” said Councilman Bill Widmer.

Disabled Woman Attacked By Cop Calls 911 For Help

A Hearing-impaired Washington woman who was pulled over for allegedly using her cell phone while driving had a difficult time explaining to the officer that she couldn’t understand his commands.

Part of the reason for that, it seems, was that the cop didn’t bother listening to 36 year-old Megan Graham, who also suffers from a cognitive disorder, as she tried to tell him that she is disabled.

According to Graham, she got out of her car at her destination – the apartment of a friend whose pet she was caring for – and suddenly realized that a police cruiser was pulled in behind her car with its lights flashing. So she approached Federal Way, Wash. police officer Justin Anholt, who hadn’t yet left the seat of his police cruiser and was barking orders from inside the vehicle.

What she didn’t know was that Anholt was telling her to get back into her car. Being hearing impaired and all, she kept approaching him to explain her disabilities. The cop was having none of it, allegedly grabbing Graham’s wrist and pulling it behind her.

“I pulled my arm back, grabbed my phone and called 911 to call for help,” she told KIRO TV. “I told the officer I had mental and hearing disabilities, and didn’t understand why he was trying to hurt me.”

The recording of the 911 call indeed reveals Graham telling the officer, “You attacked me before you said anything! There is no point whatsoever for you to touch me like that, especially with my condition, so how dare you even touch me?”

As that was going on, with Graham still on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, another unnamed cop responding to the call escalated things by punching Graham several times in the face. Graham was left with a black eye and some very nasty bruises on the left side of her face.

Police have charged her with felony assault to a police officer.

“That woman was not resisting, I saw it,” said Graham’s friend Deborah Fenwick, who witnessed the encounter. “That woman doesn’t have a violent bone in her body. She’s got a heart of gold. If she would have understood the officer’s commands in the first place, she would have absolutely complied with him.”

Used Daily, Sunscreen Dramatically Slows Appearance Of Aging

In addition to its documented help in preventing skin cancer, it turns out that sunscreen has an aesthetic quality as well: used daily, it can diminish the appearance of wrinkles by 24 percent.

In a study of 900 young and middle-aged men and women spanning nearly five years, Australian researchers discovered no detectable skin aging in those who applied sunscreen daily, as opposed to the appearance of sun-induced wrinkles among those who didn’t.

Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical research divided the study population into two groups, with the first applying SPF15+ sunscreen every day on their faces, necks, hands and arms. The second group used sunscreen either rarely, or not at all. In all, the test period stretched over four and-a-half years.

The study didn’t involve those over the age of 55, in order to ensure that any appearance of aging could be attributed more to environmental factors (like sun exposure) than to the onset of genetics-related aging.

In order to gauge the appearance of wrinkles over time, the study even had Silicone impressions taken from the backs of all participants’ hands, both at the beginning and the end of the trial.

Once the results were measured, the research reflected a difference of 24 percent in the appearance of wrinkles between the two groups.

“This has been one of those beauty tips you often hear quoted, but for the first time we can back it with science: protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen regularly has the added bonus of keeping you looking younger,” said Professor Adele Green of the Queensland Institute. “And the study has shown that up to middle age, it’s not too late to make a difference.”

Lindsey Graham On Bloggers: ‘Do They Deserve First Amendment Protection?’

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said to reporters on Tuesday that he’s pained by the question of whether bloggers’ freedom of speech is covered under the 1st Amendment:

“Who is a journalist is a question we have to ask ourselves. Is any blogger out there saying anything? Do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.”

It was a bit of verbal gaffe, because Graham later tweeted a clarification:

“Just to be clear, every blogger is entitled to constitutionally-protected Freedom of Speech.”

Graham’s statement seems to apply to bloggers who are acting as citizen journalists, and whether they should be afforded the same legal shielding that traditional media has enjoyed. He is currently promoting the drafting of a Federal “shield law” that, he said last month, is intended to protect the press from the type of government persecution recently perpetrated against Fox News and the AP by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Liberal Stooge Martin Bashir Says ‘IRS’ Is ‘The New N-Word’

Martin Bashir said Wednesday on his MSNBC show that Republicans are slaking their thirst for racist venom by using the IRS scandal to veil their racist tendencies.

“Republicans are using it as their latest weapon in the war against the black man in the White House,” said Bashir, and “’IRS’ is the new ‘N-word.’”

Bashir then cued up a video of Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a litany of other Republicans condemning the IRS scandal and its apparent link to the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7s4_Fw65Ps&w=560&h=315]

He also compared apples with bananas, linking present-day outrage over the IRS scandal to the gradual sterilizing of racist political language made famous by former George H.W. Bush strategist Lee Atwater. Atwater once explained that, as overt racism became taboo in the Civil Rights era, politicians could switch their obvious racist talking points to more abstract identifiers like “forced busing” or “states’ rights.”

Bashir said the same is true of Republicans today, who evidently are only feigning outrage at the IRS so that they can attack the black man in the Oval Office.

“The IRS: three letters that sound so innocent – but we know what you mean,” Bashir surmised.

Department Of Labor Asked Associated Press For $1 Million Before Handing Over Info

Under the Freedom of Information Act, a government agency can’t charge a news organization for any cost associated with producing documents it requests, other than per-page photocopy charges after printing 100 pages.

But the U.S. Department of Labor initially demanded that the Associated Press hand over $1 million when it requested a list of “secret” government email addresses surreptitiously being used by several of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, ostensibly because coming up with the information would cost the government a lot of money, time and resources.

The AP, undoubtedly still smarting over being secretly surveiled by the Department of Justice, released news of the Labor Department’s million-dollar demand in a Wednesday story on the larger phenomenon of Federal agencies using off-the-public-grid email addresses as a way to communicate important information without inbox clutter – as well as in secret. The AP has discovered secret email addresses within both the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – though it admits there may be others among the 10 agencies that haven’t yet turned over their full email lists for public inspection.

The AP also challenged the government’s contention that communications using the secret addresses are, as a matter of practice, included in the dragnet of information that’s gathered whenever someone (like the AP) requests public records. It tried, but found only one instance when that claim was borne out. Additionally, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius’ non-public email address returns zero hits in Google searches, and even Congressional oversight committee leaders say they’ve never been privy to the secret email addresses.

All of which gets back to the Labor Department’s very illegal demand for a million bucks from a newsgathering organization. The Department later relented and called the demand a “mistake.” White House watcher Keith Koffler called it a shakedown.

In the latest blow to the Obama administration’s claim to be the “openness administration,” word emerged today that the Department of Labor sought to charge a news organization more than $1 million for information.

…[I]t would appear demanding such and exorbitant sum to drum up a few email addresses may amount to an effort to create a barrier to the release of information.

The episode suggests that the failure to appreciate the role of the press extends well beyond the White House, which bullies reporters to suppress the news, and the Justice Department, which makes them subject to criminal inquiry for collecting information. It is one of the cardinal rules of journalism that you don’t pay for information, particularly not a sum like $1 million.

Such obstructionist actions are more than obviously illegal and heavy-handed. They suggest that Obama and his key appointees, scattered across more than a dozen Federal agencies, are hiding something. And the daily revelations that are emerging from the Administration’s recent scandals, cover-ups and power abuses only serve to heighten that suspicion.

Immigration Amnesty Could Have 2nd Amendment Implications

The ongoing debate over whether to include amnesty as a feature in the immigration bill before Congress may not have obvious implications for Americans’ right to bear arms. But, as a memo from Gun Owners of America points out, amnesty could tip the balance in favor of Liberal gun control politics in some parts of the country.

The amnesty bill, if it survives, could eventually create anywhere from 11.5 million to 20 million new American citizens. There’s no guarantee how those new citizens would vote, or in what numbers, but Gun Owners of America makes its case against amnesty like this:

[I]f history is any guide, they will vote 71% of the time for far Left Democrats like Barack Obama.

Impartial analysts have determined that Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and probably Arizona will never vote for Republicans again. Given this, for the rest of your life, the White House will be occupied by someone who is just as anti-gun and just as liberal as Barack Obama.

Conservatives in the Senate think that they can woo new immigrants to their side of the aisle. But it is informative that, after the last amnesty bill (the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill signed by Ronald Reagan), those people given citizenship were LESS LIKELY to vote for more conservative and constitutional candidates.

The group argues it’s urgent that States with liberal-leaning leaders not receive an infusion of newly-minted citizens beholden to the same liberal policies to which they attribute their own citizenship. Already, in liberal-dominated States, gun confiscation isn’t a forbidden political talking point:

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that “confiscation could be an option” after the shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
  • Likewise, an Iowa legislator said that we need to “start taking” guns from law-abiding gun owners.
  • Legislation in both Minnesota and Missouri would have, if enacted this year, forced residents to surrender their high-capacity magazines and many of their semi-automatic firearms.
  • Legislators in New Jersey were recently caught on a hot mic saying that “we needed a bill that was going to confiscate, confiscate, confiscate” guns from citizens.

Holder Pawns Off Congress’ Demand For Explanation For Apparent Perjury On DOJ Subordinate

Members of the House Judiciary Committee aren’t happy with the content of the Department of Justice’s response to their request that Attorney General Eric Holder clarify a potentially false statement he gave during testimony on May 15th.

But they’re even more angry that Holder didn’t answer them directly. Instead, he pawned the task off on a subordinate. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

In an effort to mollify Republican lawmakers who have accused Holder of perjury, Peter J. Kadzik, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, sent a letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia’s Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis. The letter emphasized that an investigation is different than a prosecution and that any attempt to obtain a search warrant comes before any final decision about prosecution.

Holder, remember, personally signed off on the warrant that listed Fox News reporter James Rosen as an alleged “co-conspirator” in an espionage crime. Under oath, though, he said that “potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material” is “not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.”

Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner both responded to Holder’s hand-me-down responsibility with exasperation. Goodlatte wrote:

By having a subordinate send this response rather than Attorney General Holder himself, this response begs the question of whether Holder has something to hide.  Discrepancies in Attorney General Holder’s congressional testimony made on the record need to be corrected on the record to Congress by Attorney General Holder himself.

Attorney General Holder still has yet to respond to our letter.  He can’t outsource the responsibility for his actions to lower level staff—the buck stops with him.

H/T: Hotair.com

Liberal Congressman: Tea Party Groups Targeted By IRS ‘Asked For It’

According to one Democratic Congressman, Tea Party groups whom the IRS discriminated against had it coming because their political views are stupid.

House Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) lit into Tea Party witnesses during testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, telling them “each of your groups are [sic] highly political” and that they should have expected to be targeted because their views weren’t in line with the prevailing sentiment in Washington, D.C.

He also groused that the conservatives were simply trying to game the system by applying for the same “tax breaks” liberal nonprofits received without delay, and said the entire Congressional investigation into the matter was just a “circus.”

“So you’re to blame…I guess that’s the message,” a disgusted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) told the witnesses, once McDermott had finished his rant.

H/T: Breitbart

GOP House Members Lean On IRS To Come Clean Or Face Funding Cuts

Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee are threatening to tighten the IRS’ “purse strings” if officials don’t come clean about who was involved in orchestrating the Tea Party discrimination scandal.

On Monday, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told acting IRS chief Danny Werfel, “I don’t need to remind you or anybody else that the power of the purse rests with the Congress, and we’re prepared to use that purse to get to the truth.”

Werfel has pledged to address the internal problems he inherited at the agency when he assumed his new role last month.

But so far, no one implicated in the scandal has dared to come forward with specific information about how the scandal began – or who was responsible for the order to quicksand conservative nonprofit groups’ applications for tax-exempt status during President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Cruz Missle: Abolish The IRS, Baby Boomer Suicides, Oregon’s Smoking Ban, Adolf’s Dad In Court, NYC Hates Everything — Tuesday Morning News Roundup 6-4-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Senator Ted Cruz’ (R-Texas) suggestion , via Twitter, to “abolish the IRS and ensure it [scandal and abuse] NEVER happens again” is picking up a little steam. “I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on a post card,” he told Fox News over the weekend.
  • Part of last month’s report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on suicide in the U.S. uncovered a dramatic spike in the number of baby boomers who are killing themselves, with men and women in their 50s seeing the highest age-related increase.
  • The Oregon Legislature has approved a ban on smoking in cars where children are present. Offenders would be ticketed $250 for a first violation, and $500 thereafter. The bill now goes before Governor John Kitzhaber, who has pledged to sign it.
  • A guy dressed like Hitler – complete with moustache – showed up to a Family Court hearing Monday for custody of his two children, one of whom is named Adolf Hitler Campbell. His female sidekick had on getup that featured a Nazi Iron Eagle and a swastika. The guy, Heath Campbell, runs Hitler’s Order, a Nazi-revivalist group.
  • New York City is still hard charging against foods with sugar, launching a new ad campaign that singles out sweet teas, sport and energy drinks, and fruit-flavored beverages. The ads, which cost $1.4 million, are running on local TV and buses.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Bloomberg Persecutes Cooperative Shop Owner: $60,000 Fine For Selling Lighters Shaped Like Guns

Fred Shayes, owner of a small tourist shop in midtown Manhattan, is going to have to go out of business if Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office doesn’t let up.

The city came after Shayes after discovering his store was selling small, toy novelty cigarette lighters – little trinkets that cost less than $10 apiece – that had black handles, silver casings and red tips at the ends (you know, to let people know the tiny gun-shaped device pointed at the end of your cigarette isn’t, in fact, a real gun). Each lighter is about three inches long and fits easily into the palm of an adult’s hand.

But in New York City, toy guns can’t be silver and black. They have to be plastic-looking, in bright colors like blue or red or neon. In other words, they have to look more or less like the world’s first successfully-fired 3D printed (real) gun, the Liberator.

Credit: GUNS.COM

The minute the city notified Shayes his tourist knick-knacks didn’t conform to code, he got rid of them.

“The day the inspector came, he said, ‘This is illegal,’” Shayes told the New York Post. “I took it off the shelf right away. I sent it back, and I showed them the invoice that proved I returned it.”

Fair enough, you might think. But cooperating with the Bloomberg administration doesn’t get gun sellers very far – even the ones who aren’t really selling guns. That’s because Bloomberg thinks toy guns are culturally dangerous and is waging a campaign to end toy gun sales. “We are working hard to make sure these fake guns stay out of kids’ hands,” he boasted in reiterating the city’s Public Safety Law. “Anyone thinking of selling fake guns should take this as a clear warning: it’s time to get rid of these dangerous toys. If you attempt to sell illegal fake guns, our Administration will come after you, and use whatever resources we have under the law to punish you.”

Shayes is finding that out the fun way. Even though he cooperated with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs from the beginning, he was fined $60,000. Then he appealed the fine, and lost. Now he has a petition before the Manhattan Supreme Court to block the fine.

“We don’t have the money,” he said. “I would have to take a loan out from the bank to pay that.”

With Family Rates Up To $20k Per Year, No Surprise Most Americans Unsure Of Buying Into Obamacare

As the January 2014 deadline looms for Obamacare to take effect as the law of the land, nearly two-thirds of Americans are still on the fence about buying insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

An InsuranceQuotes.com survey reveals that 64 percent of uninsured Americans are reticent about complying with Obamacare’s mandate to purchase health insurance – in part, according to one insurance industry advocate, because “people are still in the dark about what their options are going to be – and they’re skeptical that the penalty for not buying insurance is going to be enforced, at least in the first couple of years.”

But Obamacare was conceived as a closed system; one which would be buttressed by everyone’s participation. But with more than half of those whom the law was intended to benefit – the sick and uninsured – still wary they’ll see any financial benefit at all, the system is in danger of failure, even before it’s begun.

“[The] system is predicated on the theory that enough healthy people will enroll and buy insurance so that their premiums will offset the costs of benefits for less healthy people in the same plan,” Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com, told CNBC. “If only the sick enroll, it could be very precarious for the industry and the cost of insurance.”

Meanwhile, the embattled IRS has released a rulemaking proposal as it prepares to take on an enforcement role in implementing Obamacare. For a family of five, the agency is operating on the assumption that the cheapest insurance they’ll be able to buy will cost them $20,000 a year.

In a convoluted document; one littered with headache-inducing examples designed to illustrate how those opting out of Obamacare must calculate their mandatory “penalty,” the IRS posits that, while the “cheap” coverage will cost $20,000, the penalty for opting out altogether is relatively light. In fact, for a four-member family with a household income of $120,000, it would only come to $2,400 a year.

NYC Anti-Gay Violence Leads To Free Self-Defense Classes That Don’t Teach Self Defense

There’s been a historic number of violent attacks on gays in New York City in recent months, including the high-profile murder of gay activist Mark Carson two weeks ago.

So, on Sunday, an openly gay member of the New York City Council announced a series of new self-defense classes aimed at equipping members of the city’s gay community to fend off potential attackers.

“This is the kind of violence and frequency and in severity we haven’t seen in a really long time,” said council member Christine Quinn at a gay pride parade Sunday. “It isn’t safe to be gay everywhere in New York City.”

But, in a city that makes it increasingly inconvenient for its citizens – gay or otherwise – to bear arms, the focus of the classes isn’t so much on taking out a would-be attacker as on being aware that you’re about to get jumped.

“The lessons will focus on street smarts more than actual fighting,” notes CBS New York.

Even though the classes are free, the peace of mind that comes from cultivating a heightened sense of awareness that you’re about to become the victim of a hate crime – and that there’s little you can do about it – has to be priceless.

McCain Tentatively Says Special IRS Counsel May Be Needed

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is lumbering toward the sobering conclusion that his allies in the Administration of President Barack Obama may not be able to dodge much more scrutiny over the IRS scandal – at least, not without some credible way of exonerating them.

On the Today show Monday, McCain used his typical incomplete-sentence stammer-speak to hint that a special counsel might be appropriate for investigating the IRS.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWdJTxTxEsA&w=560&h=315]

“It certainly – when you look at the people that were targeted, it might have been something different than accidental – but I think we ought to have hearings and I think that there may be an argument for a special counsel here,” he explained. “But, let’s, I think, wait and see…

“I think that’s the reason why we ought to have hearings, and in fact maybe even a select committee may be called for, given the questions surrounding this investigation,” he elaborated. “So I think we ought to wait and see how events unfold.

Bottom line: McCain was pained to say even that much, and will be among the very last of all Congressional Republicans to show real interest in leading the charge for a special counsel.