Monday, May 24, 2010

US Fights Human Slavery in Major Cities

People from Latin America, Asia trafficked to the US for sex, labor

South Korea Ends Trade with North

South Korean soldiers aim their weapons near the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea, in Yanggu, north of Seoul, South Korea, 24 May 2010

South Korea's president has held a nationwide address to announce stern measures against North Korea, including a halt in trade between the two countries. South Korea and the United States say Pyongyang is responsible for sinking a South Korean navy ship.

President Lee Myung-bak on Monday said North Korean must pay for sinking one of South Korea's navy ships.

Mr. Lee says inter-Korean exchanges are also being put on hold. In addition, North Korean vessels will no longer be allowed to sail through South Korean waters.

Forty-six South Korean sailors died in March when an explosion ripped their patrol ship in half. A multinational team concluded a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo at it, a finding Pyongyang calls a "fabrication."
President Lee says the military will defend South Korea if the North encroaches on its territory. However, he emphasizes the South does not seek armed conflict.

President Lee says minimal humanitarian aid to the impoverished North will continue.
In Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China to work with Washington in responding to the sinking of the South Korean ship.

Congress vs. The Oil Industry

By Michael Swartz

It’s beyond question that the oil industry is down on its luck right now, and the black eye received from the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico is a shiner which will stay on its public face for quite awhile. And while radio host Stephanie Miller claimed the Gulf oil spill as proof that “God is a Democrat,” the Democrats who sit among us mere mortals in Congress are taking direct aim at what they sneeringly call “Big Oil” with two particularly punitive measures.

With Democrats’ first try at cap-and-trade (better known as Waxman-Markey) stalling in the Senate after a contentious House vote, last week Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman brought forth their version of energy legislation. Originally sponsorship crossed party lines when Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, agreed to back the bill, but Graham withdrew his support when Senate leader Harry Reid decided to press for passage of immigration reform rather than this measure.

That’s not to say Graham would be staunchly against the proposal. But the sticking point he sees is that, “problems created by the historic oil spill in the Gulf…have made it extremely difficult for transformational legislation in the area of energy and climate to garner bipartisan support at this time.” Predictably, Democrats representing waterfront states like Florida, New Jersey, and Maryland are already coming out dead set against the additional oil exploration included in Kerry-Lieberman, a tradeoff intended to get Republicans to support a bill which would levy taxes on greenhouse gas emissions and, as studies have concluded, be a net job loser.

Get full story here.

Hoyer Admits Budget Too Hard to Pass in Election Year

By Rick Manning

House Democrats plan to leave the country without a budget according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who stated, “It’s difficult to pass budgets in election years because they reflect what the [fiscal] status is.”

Now that’s courage, leadership and transparency.

It is stunning that the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives has publicly admitted that the entire budgeting process of the United States government is being turned on its head, because it is politically hard.

Remember, the Democrats hold 59% of the seats in the House with a 255 to 176 advantage over the Republicans, yet it is too hard to put a budget together?

For perspective, consider election year 2002 when Speaker Dennis Hastert enjoyed a slender 222 to 211 advantage, yet our nation was not left without a budget.

The ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, has called this decision, “an unprecedented failure to govern.”

I call it unprecedented cowardice and dereliction of duty.

Get full story here.

The Pension Binge

By Bill Wilson

A pension bailout for Big Labor is in the works for underfunded multi-employer pension funds. New legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Casey, S. 3157, would give taxpayer backing via the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). If the union bosses get their way on this bill, there may be no stopping the tsunami of pension bailouts for both public and private employees that will follow.

Teamsters Local 776 shop steward Dave Wolf leaves no doubt that he is looking for a bailout. He believes he is entitled it: “The government says it has to bail out the banks when they get into trouble because they’re ‘systemically important.’ Well, we’re the people who move the goods and pay the mortgages and support our communities. I think we’re ‘systemically important’ too.”

The trouble with Senator Casey’s approach is that it will essentially bring insolvent pension funds into a government program to be paid for by other solvent funds, and when that fails, taxpayers are the backstop. That is likely to happen because, as Americans for Limited Government has previously reported, Moody’s warns that large multi-employer pension funds — like the Teamsters — are underfunded by $165 billion.

Casey’s bill is also being pursued in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Pat Tiberi (R-OH). Despite the obvious bailout of bringing underfunded pension plans into a federal guarantee program, there are eight other Republican co-sponsors: John Linder (GA), Peter Roskam (IL), Thaddeus McCotter (MN), Steven LaTourette (OH), Jo-Ann Emerson (MO), and Aaron Schock (IL).

The bailouts do not end there, however.

Get full story here.

Dodd Financial Takeover Bill Recreates ACORN Within Government Agencies, Research Shows

By Kevin Mooney

Does the now passed so-called Senate financial overhaul bill re-establish the controversial organization, ACORN, as part of new government agencies? Even worse, does the legislation intend for those new government agencies to actually replicate ACORN’s questionable financial practices?

These questions are explored in an alarming report from Brian Johnson, a meticulous researcher with Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). Sen. Chris Dodd’s 1,400 page bill could possible recreate ACORN within the framework of government agencies, he suggests.

Even as the New York Times and other media outlets remains fixated on the “risky behavior” of financial companies in its reporting, it should carefully consider the motivations of federal office holders.

Get full story here.

ALG Calls On 9 House Republicans to Drop Support for Taxpayer Bailouts

May 24th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) has sent a letter to 9 House Republicans urging that they withdraw their support from legislation providing a taxpayer bail-out of labor union run pension funds. Among the union pension funds in critical danger are those run by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and more than a hundred other union-run funds.

“We are asking that each Representative remove his or her cosponsorship of this blatant handout to unions, which are now asking the American people to bail them out of their own mismanagement of pensions,” Wilson said, adding that “Compensating poor investment strategies, like those pursued by the multi-employer pension plans, only incentives further underfunding of these plans.”

According to Wilson’s letter to the 9 House Republicans, “While the legislation deals with some challenging issues related to retiree pensions, it is our view that it in fact rewards bad behavior. Those who are asking Congress for this change are largely responsible for the plight of these pension funds, having failed to take the steps to rectify problems that have been looming since well before the stock market drop and recovery over the past two years.”

The letter was sent to Representatives Patrick Tiberi, Ginny Brown-Waite, Jo Ann Emerson, Steven LaTourette, John Linder, Thaddeus McCotter, Tim Murphy, Peter Roskam, and Aaron Schock.

Get full story here.

Exclusive: Teen Prostitutes Prey on Athletes and Celebrities

By Boyce Watkins, PhD

When I first heard about the recentrape allegation against former New York Giant Lawrence Taylor, I wasn't sure what to think. I can say that I was highly skeptical of his wife's claims that her husband was set up. There was something inside, though, that led me to wonder how in the world someone could argue that they accidentally ended up in a room with an underage girl or didn't know they were having sex with one. In New York state, even if you don't know you're with an underage woman, you are still held responsible in the end. So, without regard to Taylor's situation, I was simply curious about how all this works.

That led me to do some investigating to find out more about the dark world of teen prostitution and the experiences of young women who enter into this seedy profession at such an early age.
In a telling expose, journalist Chiderah Aalisa interviews a woman who knows quite a bit about the underworld of teenage prostitution and is all too willing to share her knowledge of the dangers. The woman gives a false name, Regina, since she has to protect her identity. In the story, Aalisa had this to say:

"They have a list of men they plan to sleep with before they're 21 years old...athletes and celebrities are on it." Young girls, ages 15 and 16, pretending to be 18 and older. A woman named Regina has seen these girls even as naive as 13 posing as older women, sporting fake identities ordered from online vendors.

The woman goes on to explain that the teen prostitutes use date rape drugs in order to get the men to go to sleep, and then take pictures of the men with underage women and threaten to give the pictures to police. They are aided by the fact that being with an underage woman in a sexual way is a crime, even if you are not aware of what you're doing. In the state of New York, for example, any man over the age of 21 who has sexual intercourse with a woman under the age of 17 can get up to four years in prison. For a list of statutory rape penalties in different states across the country, click here.

Aalisa accounts Regina's description of how some teen prostitutes might take advantage of their victims:

"They think...why make $100, when you can make $1,000?" said the woman.

The motto isn't indicative of the mind-set of every prostitute. Instead, it describes a different kind of lust for money, precisely the kind of lust that it takes to partake in this undercover world. The female predators that Regina spent time with specifically target men they know have money.

It's an elaborate plan. The money they gain supports the drugs, alcohol, shopping and partying. It's fun, it's foolproof, and --above all -- it is blackmail. After all, these men obviously involve themselves with prostitution, and therefore perceive themselves somewhat responsible for being there in the first place. They pay up to make it all go away.

While one can hardly call a man a victim if he willingly engages in the act of hiring a prostitute, we can also argue that the punishment must fit the crime. Paying for sex is certainly not the most ethical activity in the world, but being robbed or extorted should not be the penalty for engaging in sexual deviance. The anonymous source then explains why she is telling her story and links it to the accusations against Taylor.

"I want to talk about this because it's disgusting what these girls do. They don't even think about AIDS and other diseases." She said. "And I don't believe that Lawrence Taylor did anything to that girl. I think he was a victim of another scam."

To read the story by Aalisa, please click here. I don't think that this tale implies that Taylor is guilty or innocent, but the woman's story does at least remind us that perhaps we should carefully consider the evidence before passing judgment. I've made this point before, and I will continue to make it, even though it puts me in the odd position of appearing to defend a rapist. As the father of three girls between the ages of 17 and 20, the last thing I want to condone is an old man spending "quality time" with underage women. Any man found guilty of such a crime should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But because the consequences are so grave for both the victim and the perpetrator, we should be careful about "pre-convicting" someone in public.

The woman's story also serves as a cautionary tale to those who think they can dabble in prostitution without facing danger. While you might be on the prowl sexually, and truly believe that you are the predator, you may wake up one morning after a long, forgotten night and realize that instead of being the predator, you are actually the prey. Men like Nushawn Williams, who knowingly spread HIV to the women he slept with, are out there as well. The idea of engaging in responsible sexual choices might seem a bit antiquated, but perhaps it's okay to get to know someone for a while before sleeping together. Not thinking carefully before engaging in sexual activity might possibly cost you your life.

Aiyana Jones Funeral Brings Hundreds to Mourn Loss of Little Girl

By Boyce Watkins, PhD

I spoke with Rev. Al Sharpton about the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones last Monday. I could hear in his voice that he was genuinely concerned about what happened and attempting to determine whether the police had done anything wrong when breaking into her home last Saturday night with flash-bang grenades to apprehend a murder suspect.

I can't tell you what Sharpton was thinking, but I know I personally felt there was something seriously wrong with throwing grenades into a home with children present. There has got to be a better way. With my father being a police veteran, I always take my time to decide if officers are in the wrong, but in this case, I really wondered how the Detroit police could explain away this mishap.

Sharpton gave the eulogy for Aiyana Jones. Her funeral came to mark a generation of despair in one of the cities hardest hit by the recent economic downturn.

"I came because I feel we must stand and show the value and worth of the lives of our children," Sharpton said.

His eulogy brought the crowd to its feet, as he was left with the task of mixing delicate but critical, socio-political dialogue into a time of intense sadness. He asked why flash-bang grenades are being used in the presence of children, and why so many men are able to make babies instead of raising them. He also reminded the listeners that personal responsibility is critical to overcoming our challenges in life.

"Even if you are not responsible for being knocked down, you are responsible for getting back up," he said.

The eulogy was held at Second Ebenezer Church. Rep. John Conyers was present, along with Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. Rev. Horace Sheffield III called Aiyana a "fallen angel" and said that "a grief shared is a grief diminished," thanking those who came out to support the family.

Even the family's attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, gave an address at the eulogy. "By her death, Aiyana has paid for a justice that will save the lives of other children," he said. "Let us now collectively cleanse the shadow of fear and violence from our hearts."

A family friend read poems written by Aiyana's parents. "The pain is hard to bear," said Charles Jones, Aiyana's father. "Just keep on shining down from heaven. These words are from my heart to my baby. Without all my love, and no one to give it to!!! Love Daddy."

Aiyana's cousin Diamond Howard, who is 8-years old, wore a T-shirt with Aiyana's picture on it. The two attended elementary school together. "We did our math together," she said. "We taught each other how to do our spelling words. I didn't get to say goodbye."

Aiyana was shot at 12:40 a.m. on Sunday night. She was hit while sleeping by a bullet from the Special Response Team. Officer Joseph Weekley is the man who has been identified as the shooter. He has been put into a desk job until the investigation is complete.

Officers are claiming that contact with Aiyana's grandmother caused the gun to go off accidentally, while the family's attorney is claiming that video contradicts the officers' accounts of the incident. Fieger, the attorney, claims that the deadly shots were fired from outside the home, not inside, as the officers claim. He even argues that the shooting was not accidental.

"This isn't an accidental shooting," he said. "There was no time for a confrontation [with the grandmother]."

Mike Cox, the Michigan Attorney General, said he was "disgusted" by Rev. Sharpton's presence at Aiyana's funeral. Sharpton has simultaneously questioned whether Cox's office can properly oversee the investigation into Aiyana's death. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who was criticized for not making any public statements right after the death, has said that the family's attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, is only interested in money and is using the case for his own personal benefit.

It's official: The shooting death of Aiyana Jones has turned into a heavily politicized media circus. Everyone is on the attack and counterattack, and I don't anticipate this situation dying down any time soon. My personal objective is to see that justice is served and to find out how this little girl was killed. At that point, we must find a way to ensure that such a senseless death never happens again.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book 'Black American Money.

Tiger Woods' Wife Wants $750 Million By Boyce Watkins, PhD

Elin Nordegren, the wife of golf superstar Tiger Woods, is either one hell of a negotiator or has lost her ever-loving mind. Reports are now stating that Elin is asking for $750 million from Woods as part of their divorce settlement. Additionally, she wants full custody of the kids and will not agree to a confidentiality clause.

The confidentiality clause would prevent her from ever writing a book or doing interviews about the breakup. Sources say that the divorce negotiations "have turned extremely testy" and that the couple is no longer speaking. Elin has spent most of her time away from Tiger lately. She took the kids to Sweden while he was playing golf in a tournament, and Tiger is allegedly hanging out with a blonde in Florida. It seems that since the car crash that occurred last November, Woods' perfect life is slowly starting to unravel.

What's most shocking about the amount that Nordegren is allegedly requesting from Tiger is that Tiger's entire fortune is only worth $600 million, according to the 2009 estimates of Forbes magazine. It is highly unlikely that Elin will get the entire $750 million she requests (which would require Tiger to keep playing golf for another few years to make his required payments), but when you ask for $750 million, that makes $200 million look quite reasonable. That's quite a nice take for a few years of marriage, wouldn't you say?

Everyone seems to have something to say about Tiger's wife -- even rapper Madam Prezident referred to her as "Elin Nordegreed." Well, I ain't sayin she's a gold digger, but......

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book 'Black American Money'.'

South Korea Cuts Off Trade with North Over Sinking of Warship

The wreckage of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan is salvaged by a giant offshore crane

South Korea has cut off trade with North Korea, banning Pyongyang's ships from it waters and demanding an apology from the regime of Kim Jong-il for the sinking of one of its warships last March.

Announcing retaliatory measures for the torpedoing of the Cheonan, South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak, also raised the temperature of the military stand-off on the Korean Peninsular, vowing "immediate" retaliation if the North committed any cranefurther provocations.

"From now on, (South) Korea will not tolerate any provocative act by the North and will maintain the principle of proactive deterrence," a sombre Mr Lee said in a nationally televised speech delivered from the country's war memorial.

"If our territorial waters, airspace or territory are violated, we will immediately exercise our right of self-defence." Mr Lee, who last week said the sinking was a breach of the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, confirmed that Seoul will refer the matter to United Nations.

North Korea has continued to deny responsibility for the attack, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, despite the wealth of evidence produced by a multi-national inquiry which recovered parts of the tail section of a North Korean-designed torpedo from the seabed where the Cheonan sank.

Last week Pyongyang employed its characteristically bellicose rhetoric to threaten "all-out war" if the South sought to extract punitive sanctions for the sinking. North Korea's near-bankrupt economy is already reeling from the impact of UN sanctions imposed last year after the illegal testing of a ballistic missile and a second nuclear device, with defectors reporting rising food shortages and growing discontent among the population.

Analysts said that President Lee's response - which exempted the joint Kaesong industrial complex and aid for North Korean children - appeared to be carefully calibrated, avoiding direct mention of Kim himself. However Mr Lee warned that the South was no longer prepared to turn the other cheek in the face of North Korean provocations, as it had in the past after a 1983 bombing in Myanmar aimed at Seoul's then-president and the downing of a South Korean airliner in 1987 which killed 115 people. "But now things are different.

North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts," he said, adding "North Korea's goal is to instigate division and conflict. It is now time for the North Korean regime to change."

The South's capital and stock markets dipped slightly on the news with the won falling more than two per cent to an eight-month low in early trading, though later recovered a little, as traders appeared to signal that the situation was not yet sufficiently grave to trigger capital flight.

"South-North tension is certainly not positive, but given historical trends, losses that markets suffer over this will be brief, unless a drastic situation takes hold. By drastic, I mean war. I do not think war is likely though," said Kwak Joong-bo, a market analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.

Confirmation that the North had sunk the Cheonan provoked widespread condemnation among South Korea's allies last week, including Britain, the US, Japan and Australia. However China, which has a veto on the UN Security Council, has refused to actively condemn the sinking, describing it as "tragic" and "unfortunate" and urging caution on all side to avoid further destabilizing the Korean Peninsular.

The United States, which is holding the latest round of the Strategic & Economic Dialogue in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday, is pressuring China to join international efforts to punish Pyongyang. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, again urged China not to let the sinking of the Cheonan go unchallenged and personally briefed her Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo over the weekend on specifics of the international investigation.

Washington expects Beijing "to take some steps in the international arena to underscore the seriousness of the matter", said a US official accompanying Mrs Clinton.

Home Prices Rising In Metro Areas

A recent National Association of Realtors survey shows an increase in median price in existing single-family housing in most metropolitan areas from the first quarter of 2009. Overall, the western states saw the least increase and the northeastern states saw the most increase in home prices from a year ago.

Although the median price of a home dropped a bit for the entire country (0.7%), a quick glance at the NAR survey chart shows that two states, Michigan and Ohio, were seeing huge median home price increases from this time last year. Several city areas in these states showed significantly higher median prices than other cities survey. However, NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, notes: “Price gains in some Midwestern markets are not very meaningful because of comparisons to very high levels of distressed homes that were sold at huge discounts a year ago.”

As states in the West top the foreclosure list, it is not surprising that home prices in this region did not increase as much as other regions. In Arizona, Phoenix home prices increased 9.1% since the first quarter of 2009. However, its sister city to the south, Tucson, saw a median home price decrease of 5.4% in the last year with prices staying the same the last two quarters of 2009. Whereas Las Vegas, Nevada saw an even bigger median home price decrease of 11.8% in the last year. It’s taking longer for these states to pull out of the recession.

This median home price increase can be attributed, at least in part, to the homebuyer tax credits that ended on April 30, which is also the end of the first quarter. Home price increases can also be due to low interest rates.

What does this mean for today’s homebuyer? Have more confidence in the real estate market, as our economy appears to be slowly improving. Purchase homes for the long term, as the next home you buy should only go up in value.

Dragons Attacking Gulf Coast Beaches are a Bigger Menace Than the Oil Spill

by Chip Merlin

The Destin beach’s white sugar sand was in full glory yesterday. While flying back to Tampa and looking down on the crystal blue water and the most gorgeous stretch of beach in the United States, I told Corey Harris that such beauty and fun is being wasted because of fear caused by the oil spill. A funny YouTube video about the current threat of oil and dragons makes the point:

The economy along the northern Gulf Coast is being destroyed because of unnecessary tourist cancellations and vacation plan changes. The truth is that the BP Oil Spill has not physically impacted the islands or beaches in Florida. Instead, the media coverage caused by the spill is impacting the Gulf Coast economy. Florida's leaders from Miami-Dade and Broward County may want to consider this the next time they place themselves in the media to show concern about the crisis. They may want to make their preparations in a more quiet way or damn the people they are trying to help.

The condominium shown in the video, Edgewater Beach Condominium, is a lead client of ours in the class action lawsuit we have filed. We have added a distinguished class action attorney, Adam Moskowitz, and his firm, Kozyak Tropin and Throckmorton, to the team of lawyers with the notable Florida panhandle firm of Keefe, Anchors Gordon & Moyle. On Friday, we amended the class action complaint and also filed an emergency motion for injunctive relief.

The other condominium shown in the video is one of a number of individual commercial clients we represent that have been economically damaged by the oil spill. The recurrent property insurance coverage question people are asking is 'what happens if a hurricane pelts my property with oil?' My first response is that people should not worry about perils that may never occur, except to have the most broad coverage they can obtain. Second, I am not certain whether the scenario will happen, because the oil probably would not fly into a structure, but only get carried in the water as part of the storm surge. I anticipate that many carriers would claim that the cause of the loss would be flood rather than wind, and we would be in the same wind versus water quagmire that plagues us in so many other hurricane events. We can speculate on those coverage issues later. My suggestion today is to buy flood insurance now.

In the meantime, visit and enjoy the sun and water along Florida's beaches. We'll take care of the dragons.

Cavs fire Mike Brown….for real this time

Posted by A. Isaac

Mike Brown has been officially fired by the Cavaliers this morning. A move that surprised absolutely no one as Brown had been a lame duck since the finale of the Celtics series.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert released this statement Monday morning.

“After a long and deep analysis of all of the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction. The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment. This is one of those times.”

The above is referred to as smoke-filled coffee house crap.

This is exactly what happened in chronological order.
1. Dan Gilbert went to Lebron James and asked him if he would stay if Mike Brown was still coach.

2. Lebron took a dump, took a picture of it and sent it to Gilbert with the message, “This is what I think of Brown’s coaching”.

3. Dan Gilbert forwarded that picture to Mike Brown with the tagline, “You’re fired”