The Thugs of Silicon Valley

Bunch of strange stuff has been going on in High-Tech for the last 5-10 years. I have discussed previously the use of H1 Visa employees from other countries to steal American engineering jobs, paying H1’s  half or less than what a qualified American Engineer would get.  Resulting in several hundred thousand American kids who did the right thing, and got a college education in the Tech field…Being unable to get a job.

Then there was the outright age/salary discrimination against experienced and older workers. Resulting in the strange situation where the very guys who invented much of the current technology in the first place…becoming pariahs in the view of company HR.

If that wasn’t criminal enough, now we find that some of the biggest names in the Tech business have participated in a conspiracy, the result of which is to eliminate the ability of American workers to find a new job.

One of the things Unions did back in the days of the Robber Barrons was to break this sort of “restraint of free trade” up. One of the reasons conservatives are so anxious to destroy unions is they know if Unions move from the manufacturing of physical devices into the High-Tech development world…

Theirr clients won’t be able to get away with this shit.

The Techtopus: How Silicon Valley’s most celebrated CEOs conspired to drive down 100,000 tech engineers’ wages

In early 2005, as demand for Silicon Valley engineers began booming, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and illegal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to artificially push their workers wages lower by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees, sharing wage scale information, and punishing violators. On February 27, 2005, Bill Campbell, a member of Apple’s board of directors and senior advisor to Google, emailed Jobs to confirm that Eric Schmidt “got directly involved and firmly stopped all efforts to recruit anyone from Apple.”

Later that year, Schmidt instructed his Sr VP for Business Operation Shona Brown to keep the pact a secret and only share information “verbally, since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?”

These secret conversations and agreements between some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley were first exposed in a Department of Justice antitrust investigation launched by the Obama Administration in 2010. That DOJ suit became the basis of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 100,000 tech employees whose wages were artificially lowered — an estimated $9 billioneffectively stolen by the high-flying companies from their workers to pad company earnings — in the second half of the 2000s. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied attempts by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the lawsuit tossed, and gave final approval for the class action suit to go forward. A jury trial date has been set for May 27 in San Jose, before US District Court judge Lucy Koh, who presided over the Samsung-Apple patent suit.

In a related but separate investigation and ongoing suit, eBay and its former CEO Meg Whitman, now CEO of HP, are being sued by both the federal government and the state of California for arranging a similar, secret wage-theft agreement with Intuit (and possibly Google as well) during the same period.

The secret wage-theft agreements between Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, and Pixar (now owned by Disney) are described in court papers obtained by PandoDaily as “an overarching conspiracy” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act, and at times it reads like something lifted straight out of the robber baron era that produced those laws. Today’s inequality crisis is America’s worst on record since statistics were first recorded a hundred years ago — the only comparison would be to the era of the railroad tycoons in the late 19th century.

Shortly after sealing the pact with Google, Jobs strong-armed Adobe into joining after he complained to CEO Bruce Chizen that Adobe was recruiting Apple’s employees. Chizen sheepishly responded that he thought only a small class of employees were off-limits:

I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior level employees…. I would propose we keep it that way. Open to discuss. It would be good to agree.

Jobs responded by threatening war:

OK, I’ll tell our recruiters they are free to approach any Adobe employee who is not a Sr. Director or VP. Am I understanding your position correctly?

Adobe’s Chizen immediately backed down:

I’d rather agree NOT to actively solicit any employee from either company…..If you are in agreement, I will let my folks know.

The next day, Chizen let his folks — Adobe’s VP of Human Resources — know that “we are not to solicit ANY Apple employees, and visa versa.” Chizen was worried that if he didn’t agree, Jobs would make Adobe pay:

if I tell Steve [Jobs] it’s open season (other than senior managers), he will deliberately poach Adobe just to prove a point. Knowing Steve, he will go after some of our top Mac talent…and he will do it in a way in which they will be enticed to come (extraordinary packages and Steve wooing). Continue reading

More Baltimore Jail Indictments

This one is going to be a movie. What has been going on in the Baltimore Detention Center – and perhaps other Jails in the State of Maryland is unbelievable. The inmates truly were running the prison…

Not Just “Dark Money”…Dirty Money and Republicans

The bad guy in this case was caught through the efforts of Richard Cordray, who was the Attorney General of Ohio at the time. Cordray’s nomination as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was held up by Republicans for two years…

One had to wonder whether it was in retaliation for catching one of their favorite dirty moneybags.

Thompson’s $1 million in “Getaway money”

The pics below are of fraud artist Bobby Thompson, who ran a fake Veterans Aid Charity – stealing nearly $100 million while giving nothing to the Veterans it was supposed to support. But Mr. Thompson was decidedly generous giving money to Republicans…

This guy is tied to Boehner, Bachmann (who is under investigation for dirty money of her own), and McCain – as well as a numbe of other conservative poliical figures.

Mysterious ‘Mr. X’, Alleged Vets Charity Scammer, To Take the Stand

The public, and a jury, is about to hear for the first time directly from the mysterious mustachioed man and accused con artist known at various times as Bobby Thompson, or “The Commander,” or even just “Mr. X.”

The flamboyant man, whose real name is believed to be John Donald Cody, is expected to take the stand Tuesday morning in a Cleveland courtroom. He is accused of running a bogus U.S. Navy veterans charity for years, using some of the proceeds for political donations to high-ranking politicians including former President George W. Bush and Speaker of the House John Boehner, and eventually vanishing with over $100 million in ill-gotten cash.

Prosecutors say Cody ran the whole scheme using false identities to hide his alleged crimes, and to mask his escape from Florida to Oregon, where he was finally taken into custody last May after what a U.S. Marshal called “one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date.”

On the stand, Cody is expected for the first time to explain how he came to run the nationwide charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association and, according to his attorney, explain how the charity operation was blessed by the CIA as part of an elaborate plot to court political support.

Thompson schlepping with Karl Rove

 

“He’s legitimately some form of American intelligence,” Cody’s attorney, Joseph Patituce told ABC News previously, adding that his client is “not a kook.”

Cody’s biography appears to offer hints of past work with the intelligence community – he carries a degree from Harvard Law School and was documented to have done a stint in military intelligence. And when he was ultimately identified by U.S. Marshals, it was in part because he had appeared on an FBI most wanted poster in connection to a decades-old charge of espionage.

The trial has been underway for a month, but Cody’s testimony is likely to be the latest dramatic chapter in a saga of intrigue that began to unfold three years ago when questions first surfaced about the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.

Over those years, ABC News chronicled Cody’s curious case – his abrupt disappearance, the manhunt that led to his capture, and the puzzle that surrounded his identity – a mystery made all the more unsettling by his ability to gain access to the White House for an event with President Bush, and to pose for photographs with political leaders including Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner. Continue reading

History Repeats Itself In Florida’s Juvenile System

Wrote about the vicious Florida Juvenile System of past years a few months ago where Juveniles were abused and killed.

Seem that things haven’t gotten a whole bunch better. When Republicans “privatize” government…

This is what really goes on.

PRISONERS OF PROFIT: Florida’s Lax Oversight Enables Systemic Abuse At Private Youth Prisons

Youth Services International confronted a potentially expensive situation. It was early 2004, only three months into the private prison company’s $9.5 million contract to run Thompson Academy, a juvenile prison in Florida, and already the facility had become a scene of documented violence and neglect.

One guard had fractured an inmate’s elbow after the boy refused instructions to throw away a cup, according to incident reports. Another guard had slammed a boy’s head into the floor after an argument. The prison was infested with ants and cockroaches,toilets were frequently clogged and children reported finding bugsin their meager portions of food.

“From day one, it was hell,” said Jerry Blanton, a former monitor with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, who was then tasked with inspecting Thompson Academy.

Conditions appeared so foul and perilous that he told his supervisors that he “emphatically recommended that the facility be closed,”according to a memo about the discussions.

What happened next speaks to how Youth Services International has managed to forge a lucrative business running private juvenile prisons in Florida and 15 other states even amid mounting evidence of abuse. The company used connections with state officials to complain that Blanton was intimidating staff. Less than a week later, the state removed him as monitor of the facility. Two months after that, he was fired.

Thompson remained open, and Youth Services International retained its contract to operate it. In the nine years since, the company has won an additional eight contracts in Florida, bringing 4,100 more youths through its facilities, according to state records. All the while, complaints of abuse and neglect have remained constant.

Florida leads the nation in placing state prisons in the hands of private, profit-making companies. In recent years, the state has privatized the entirety of its $183 million juvenile commitment system — the nation’s third-largest, trailing only California and Texas. Florida not only relies on private contractors to self-report escapes and incidents of violence and abuse, but the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records, a Huffington Post investigation has found.

“We thought DJJ was going to be our biggest ally,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief juvenile public defender in Broward County, who has for years complained to the state about conditions inside two YSI prisons there. “They turned out to be the ally of the corporations, and the ally of the system.”

Florida’s permissive oversight has allowed Youth Services International to essentially game the system since entering the state more than a decade ago. Despite contractual requirements that the company report serious incidents at its facilities, YSI routinely fails to document problems, sanitizes those reports it does submit and pressures inmates to withhold evidence of mistreatment, according to interviews with 14 former YSI employees.

“The state is not doing enough,” said Wanda Williams, a former staffer at YSI’s Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility, who quit in 2010 after growing disgusted with the violence and squalid conditions she saw inside the prison. “Because if they were, that place should have been shut down by now.”

Executives at YSI declined requests for interviews made over the last four months. In an emailed response to questions, Senior Vice President Jesse Williams said the company’s juvenile prisons are some of the best in Florida. He added that the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice rigorously inspects the facilities.

“The DJJ has a very meticulous monitoring system,” he said. “There are numerous announced and unannounced visits to each facility to check for quality assurance and contract compliance, and we do very well in our reviews.”

Williams denied that the company fails to report serious incidents to the state. “Our policy is to report everything,” he said. “In fact, we communicate to our employees that if there are any doubts about whether it is a reportable incident to go ahead and notify DJJ.”

Senior officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice declined interview requests. The agency refused to discuss specific details of HuffPost’s findings, though a spokeswoman issued a statement asserting the department is committed to ensuring that youth in its system “remain safe and are given every opportunity to thrive.” She said contract oversight is one of the agency’s top priorities.

“With 100 percent of the agency’s residential services provided through contractors, the contract selection and renewal process is paramount to our success,” said the spokeswoman, Meghan Speakes Collins, in an email.

Since 2011, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott took office in Florida, the department has “revamped” its review of contractors, she added, by engaging in deeper statistical analysis of trends such as high staff turnover and the number of altercations between staff and youth.

YSI is a subsidiary of a bigger company operating a number of facilities in  predominately Red States. From another investigation of their facilities in Texas -

Kirkham goes on to write, quote, “In 2001, an 18-year-old committed to a Texas boot camp operated by one of Slattery’s previous companies, Correctional Services Corp., came down with pneumonia and pleaded to see a doctor as he struggled to breathe. Guards accused the teen of faking it and forced him to do pushups in his own vomit, according to Texas law enforcement reports. After nine days of medical neglect, he died.

That same year, auditors in Maryland found that staff at one of Slattery’s juvenile facilities coaxed inmates to fight on Saturday mornings as a way to settle disputes from earlier in the week. In recent years, the company has failed to report riots, assaults and claims of sexual abuse at its juvenile prisons in Florida, according to a review of state records and accounts from former employees and inmates.

Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s juvenile delinquents are today committed to private facilities, according to the most recent federal data from 2011, up from about 33 percent twelve years earlier.

Over the past two decades, more than 40,000 boys and girls in 16 states have gone through one of Slattery’s prisons, boot camps or detention centers, according to a Huffington Post analysis of juvenile facility data.

Out of more than 300 institutions surveyed, a YSI detention center in Georgia had the highest rate of youth alleging sexual assaults in the country, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A YSI facility in Palm Beach County had the highest rate of reported sexual assaults out of 36 facilities reviewed in Florida, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report found….

 

Grand Theft Government – The DC Govrnment Steals Poor Resident’s Property With Tax Scam

Anyone familiar with the DC Government, and who drives into the city is likely familiar with their Parking Gestapo, who write tickets and tow away cars to the tune of millions of dollars a month.

A new line of theft has recently opened up for the DC Government Mafia,  the theft of homes from the poor and elderly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of equity, often for tax bills as little as $200. Often the people who are ultimately robbed of their property are sick and old, and in a number of cases the property owners have been in the hospital dying while most of their paltry savings in the value of their homes is ripped off.

And here you thought the only criminals in the city were Gangbangers and carjackers. They should have it so good.

Unscrupulous law firms facilitate the theft, as does a dirty courts system – through charging sky high rates, rapidly pushing up the bills owed by the property owners beyond reach.This is a criminal enterprise, no different than the Tammany Hall of yore, which dispossessed Irish immigrants to make way for developers in the notorious 5 Points section of New York City.

The Federal Government is complicit. To be honest, if they really gave a damn about anything except the press for catching a city Mayor smoking crack with his mistress – they would have put a stop to this.

 

On an overcast morning earlier this year, Bennie Coleman walked past his old house on the way to the corner store. But he said he could not look at it — the memories were too painful. Bennie, who suffers from dementia, had his $200,000 property foreclosed for a $134.00 tax lien, and the company which foreclosed kept the difference under DC Law.

 

LIENS, LOSS AND PROFITEERS

On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.

Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.

All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.

The retired Marine sergeant lost his house on that summer day two years ago through a tax lien sale — an obscure program run by D.C. government that enlists private investors to help the city recover unpaid taxes.

For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.

But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.

As the housing market soared, the investors scooped up liens in every corner of the city, then started charging homeowners thousands in legal fees and other costs that far exceeded their original tax bills, with rates for attorneys reaching $450 an hour.

Families have been forced to borrow or strike payment plans to save their homes.

Others weren’t as lucky. Tax lien purchasers have foreclosed on nearly 200 houses since 2005 and are now pressing to take 1,200 more, many owned free and clear by families for generations.

Investors also took storefronts, parking lots and vacant land — about 500 properties in all, or an average of one a week. In dozens of cases, the liens were less than $500.

Thomas McRae ran a flower shop on the first floor in this house on Sherman Avenue NW. But a tax lien investor from Florida foreclosed while McRae was under hospice care.

Coleman, struggling with dementia, was among those who lost a home. His debt had snowballed to $4,999 — 37 times the original tax bill. Not only did he lose his $197,000 house, but he also was stripped of the equity because tax lien purchasers are entitled to everything, trumping even mortgage companies.

“This is destroying lives,” said Christopher Leinberger, a distinguished scholar and research professor of urban real estate at George Washington University.

Officials at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue said that without tax sales, property owners wouldn’t feel compelled to pay their bills.

“The tax sale is the last resort. It’s also the first resort — it’s the only way in the statute to collect debt,” said deputy chief financial officer Stephen Cordi.

But the District, a hotbed for the tax lien industry, has done little to shield its most vulnerable homeowners from unscrupulous operators.

Foreclosures have upended families in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. Houses were taken from a housekeeper, a department store clerk, a seamstress and even the estates of dead people. The hardest hit: elderly homeowners, who were often sick or dying when tax lien purchasers seized their houses.

One 65-year-old flower shop owner lost his Northwest Washington home of 40 years after a company from Florida paid his back taxes — $1,025 — and then took the house through foreclosure while he was in hospice, dying of cancer. A 95-year-old church choir leader lost her family home to a Maryland investor over a tax debt of $44.79 while she was struggling with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.

Other cities and states took steps to curb abuses, such as capping the fees, safeguarding houses owned by the elderly or scrapping tax sales altogether and instead collecting the money themselves.

“Where is the justice? They’re taking people’s lives,” said Beverly Smalls, whose elderly aunt lost her home in Northeast Washington. “It’s just not right.”

In a 10-month investigation, The Post chronicled years of breakdowns and abuses in a program that puts at risk one of the most fundamental possessions in American life.

  • Of the nearly 200 homeowners who lost their properties in recent years, one in three had liens of less than $1,000.

  • More than half of the foreclosures were in the city’s two poorest wards, 7 and 8, where dozens of owners were forced to leave their homes just months before purchasers sold them. One foreclosed on a brick house near the Maryland border with a $287 lien and sold it less than eight weeks later for $129,000.

  • More than 40 houses were taken by companies whose representatives were caught breaking laws in other states to win liens.

  • Instead of stepping in, the D.C. tax office created more problems by selling nearly 1,900 liens by mistake in the past six years — even after owners paid their taxes — forcing unsuspecting families into legal battles that have lasted for years. One 64-year-old woman spent two years fighting to save her home in Northwest after the tax office erroneously charged her $8.61 in interest. (more)

Tammy Duckworth Hammers a Fraud!

At least the woman progressives are being real in terms of standing up for their principles. In this one, during a Congressional Hearing on companies which benefit from Small Business Set Asides for disabled Veterans (In tax hack Darrel Issa’s Committee no less), Tammy unloads on a guy who has fraudulently represented himself as a disabled vet to take advantage of the program…

 

The Marathon Bombers…And Gun Control

Not much is being said about this, and it certainly hasn’t risen to the attention of the mainstream media – but…

How exactly did the Boston Marathon terrorists get their explosive material to make a bomb?

 

Boston

 

I took a bit of artistic liberty with Michael Ramirez’s excellent and poignant cartoon commentary to add a bit of truth.  The “cowards” in this case sit in the US Congress.

You see – the explosive material for the bombs constructed by the Tsamaev brothers  is commonly available in just about every gun store, and gun show in America.

Now in an America where Homeland Defense is busily putting cameras in just about every spot except up your ass – although if some Republican Senators have their way they will be able to shove them up women’s vaginas… Why is it harder to buy a joint of Marijuana than the tools to kill and maim dozens of your neighbors? (Speaking of – what the heck is the deal with the pot heads in Denver shooting up- instead of smoking –  the joint?)

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t turned into an advocate for drug use – but guns in America are now paraphernalia for addicts and drug dealers…. And mass killers.

And no sportsman, we aren’t talking about your trusty Remington shotgun here.

This is what I am talking about …

Gunpowder

 

This is a one pound container of “gunpowder” (It’s not really “gunpowder” anymore, but it is the fuel which goes bang when you pull the trigger). It also comes in 8 lb packages.  You see – there is a group of, in vast majority law abiding, shooters who like to make their own bullets. (And no – I don’t mean to pick on NORMA, as far as I know they are a perfectly law abiding company with no criminal connection, and there is no published evidence that their product was used in the Boston bombings). However – I can buy this “explosive” in many states he same way I can buy ammunition which already has been assembled containing it – cash and carry. Which apparently is exactly what the Boston Marathon terrorists did.

No – this isn’t C4 or SEMTEX or any of the vastly more powerful Military explosives used by international terrorists. Nor is it Ammonium Nitrate, previously featured in the Oklahoma City Bombing, currently starring in the leveling of an entire Texas town. But you walk into your local store and ask for a block of SEMTEX or C4, and there is a very good chance you will be invited to visit at your local Federal Law Enforcement Office, and get to met some swell FBI or ATF guys with a very limited sense of humor. Indeed – to purchase Ammonium Nitrate which is a common ingredient in many fertilizers requires a background check to make sure you are going to fertilize the fields instead of blow up a buildings.

Ergo in the NRA’s version of America (and 46 Senators), it’s easier to buy “gunpowder” than fertilizer.

So… The 46 azzwipes who voted down watered-down gun legislation are not only guilty of enabling the Newtown killer… But international terrorism via the Boston Marathon terrorists.

Do you really want to live in an America where you have to have armed guards so the kiddies can go to the playground and swing on the swing set?

 

 

 

Move Over Bumper…The Growler is Here!

A “Beer Bucket”

Before Prohibition in this country, it was common that urban dwellers would buy beer by the bucket, and take it home.

With the explosion of micro-brewerys in many areas, the ability to buy beer straight from the brewery has once again become a fairly common fixture, leading to the development of the beer “growler”. A growler is a bottle or jug which can be filled at the local brew pub for consumption at home. They come in various sizes including 32 oz, 64 oz, and 128 oz.And they can be as basic as a “brown jug”, or fancy with carrying handles or made out of ceramic.

 

Seems that this system sort of works everywhere but Florida…

Fla. Brewers Push to Legalize 64-Ounce Beer Jugs

David Wescott has two 32-ounce growlers he brings into Proof Brewing Company to fill up and take home.

Why two? Because Florida is one of only three states where it’s illegal to fill one 64-ounce beer container, known as a growler. He can get as many of the 32-ounce containers filled as he wants, and Florida breweries can also fill unlimited 128-ounce growlers for customers to take home. But the size preferred by most beer enthusiasts is banned.

“If you’re bringing some beer home for you and the wife, that’s two beers,” Wescott, whose wife calls him a beer snob, said of the quart-sized growlers. “It makes no sense to me. It’s just not logical — 128s are probably too much, 32 is too small. I’d love to get a 64.”

Two lawmakers have filed bills to legalize the half-gallon jugs, but a group of beer distributors is fighting both measures and appears to have helped effectively kill both for the year.

Never been much of a beer drinker – but the patchwork of the country’s liquor laws are amazing. I live in a state where there are still “dry” counties, and where the sale of “hard” liquor is confined to State owned stores. What I mean is anybody can buy a hundred guns at a time in my state, and the Republican Governor recently overturned legislation limiting gun purchases to one a month. But… Despite vociferous campaign promises we still haven’t privatized the sale of liquor in the state… Or normalized the law in all of the State’s counties.

How come you can regulate beer in this country… But you can’t regulate guns?

Harry Reid – Yellowback Donkey Award of the Year

Once again the Democrats fold and run…

Assault weapons ban dropped from gun bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid on Tuesday declared politically dead the effort to ban military-style assault weapons, a setback for President Obama and gun-control advocates who are pushing the Senate to move quickly on bills to limit gun violence.

Reid (D-Nev.) is preparing to move ahead with debate on a series of gun-control proposals when the Senate returns from a two-week Easter recess in early April. Although he has vowed to hold votes on measures introduced after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December, Reid told reporters Tuesday that the proposed assault-weapons ban isn’t holding up against Senate rules that require at least 60 votes to end debate and move to final passage.

The proposed ban, “using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes. That’s not 60,” Reid said.

Still up for consideration are three other bills approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee: bipartisan legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime, a bipartisan measure to expand a Justice Department grant program that provides funding for school security, and a Democratic proposal to expand the nation’s gun background check program.

Step right on up, Harry – and get your “Yellowback Donkey Award” for legislative cowardice.

Is R. Allen Sanford…Black?

Dayam! They just sentenced Allen Sanford to 110 years – about 1/2 the time they’d sentence a black teenager in Texas for possessing a gram of crack!

Who’d this white, white-collar criminal piss off? He steal some Bush money…Or what?

Ex-Tycoon R. Allen Stanford Sentenced To 110 Years

Former jet-setting Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford, whose financial empire once spanned the Americas, was sentenced Thursday to 110 years in prison for bilking investors out of more than $7 billion over 20 years in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner handed down the sentence during a court hearing in which two people spoke on behalf of Stanford’s investors about how his fraud had affected their lives.

Prosecutors had asked that Stanford be sentenced to 230 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible after a jury convicted the one-time billionaire in March on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts. Stanford’s convictions on conspiracy, wire and mail fraud charges followed a seven-week trial.

Stanford’s attorneys had asked for a maximum of 44 months, a sentence he could have completed within about eight months because he has been jailed since his arrest in June 2009…

Sanford’s 112′ Yacht

Sanford’s “other” Yacht

Stanford was once considered one of the richest men in the U.S., with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. His financial empire stretched from the U.S. to Latin America and the Caribbean. But after his arrest, all of his assets were seized and he had to rely on court-appointed attorneys to defend him.

Calling Stanford arrogant and remorseless, prosecutors said he used the money from investors who bought certificates of deposit, or CDs, from his bank on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua to fund a string of failed businesses, bribe regulators and pay for a lavish lifestyle that included yachts, a fleet of private jets and sponsorship of cricket tournaments.

One of 6 jets Owned by Sanford

Defense attorneys portrayed Stanford, 62, as a visionary entrepreneur who made money for investors and conducted legitimate business deals. They accused the prosecution’s star witness James M. Davis, the former chief financial officer for Stanford’s various companies of being behind the fraud and tried to discredit him by calling him a liar and tax cheat.

And to top it all off – one of two Gulfstreams

The jury that convicted Stanford also cleared the way for U.S. authorities to go after about $330 million in stolen investor funds sitting in the financier’s frozen foreign bank accounts in Canada, England and Switzerland.

Antique Radio Collection – Man Saves America’s Audio Treasures

Check out his picture. As an admirer of industrial design from yesteryear, I have to say Mr. Goldin’s antique radio pushes the “kewl” factor right through the roof!

Not to mention his sucessful effort at saving some of the Nation’s audio treasures from thieves.

I hope the Police and Archives can recover those items which were sold.

J. David Goldin and his Antique Radio Collection

Amateur sleuth helps stop National Archives thefts

When J. David Goldin saw the recorded interview of baseball great Babe Ruth for sale on eBay he knew something was wrong. There was only one original record of that 1937 interview of Ruth on a hunting trip, and Goldin had donated it to a government archive more than 30 years ago. Now someone was auctioning it off, the winning bid just $34.75.

“I took one look at the record label and I said, `holy smokes, that’s my record,”‘ said the retired radio engineer.

From his home in Connecticut, filled with antique radios and tape reels, Goldin launched an amateur sleuthing effort that helped uncover a thief ripping off the country’s most important repository of historical records. The heist turned out to be an inside job. The culprit was the recently retired head of the video and sound branch of the National Archives and Records Administration — the government agency entrusted with preserving such documents as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Leslie Charles Waffen, a 40-year employee, has acknowledged stealing thousands of sound recordings from the archive, and prosecutors say more than 1,000 were sold on eBay. The thefts started as early as 2001, and the stolen recordings include items ranging from a recording of the 1948 World Series to an eyewitness report of the Hindenburg crash. Waffen was set to be sentenced Thursday by a judge in Maryland and will likely spend a year and a half in prison.

It was Goldin’s meticulous record-keeping and some sleuthing worthy of a modern-day detective drama, however, that brought Waffen to authorities’ attention and helped catch him.

The 69-year-old Goldin’s interest in radio began when he was a teenager. He taped his first broadcast at age 14 and studied radio production at New York University before working for CBS, NBC and other stations.

At the same time, he became passionate about preserving radio’s history. He started creating his own archive of sound recordings, in the early days storing records under the bed in his small apartment in the Bronx.

These days, Goldin has a computer catalog for sorting through his holdings, more than 100,000 programs in all. He paid to have the system custom designed for him in the 1980s and estimates he’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars obtaining and archiving broadcasts. Rows of neatly organized boxes of tape reels fill the basement of his Sandy Hook, Conn., home, which he shares with his wife Joyce, three dogs and 917 antique radios.

Now retired, he spends his days preserving recordings by transferring them from their original metal, glass and plastic records to tape. He cleans up the sound with a bank of equipment that takes up part of his living room and makes his catalog available on his website. He says he has enough uncataloged recordings to last the rest of his life.

Once Goldin has listened to and copied the recordings, however, he doesn’t need the original discs. That’s one of the reasons why he asked the National Archive in the 1970s if it wanted the originals, most of them radio broadcasts from the 1930s and 1940s. The archive said yes, and Goldin donated thousands of recordings ranging from political speeches and interviews to Congressional hearings. Then, he says, he mostly forgot about them.

In September 2010, however, he typed one of his routine searches for records into eBay and saw the Babe Ruth recording for sale.

Goldin wasn’t sure what was happening. He wrote to the National Archives. Were they getting rid of old material? If so, he wanted his records back. He got a call a few days later. No, the archive hadn’t sold anything. The record was missing, and it seemed likely it had been stolen.

Goldin, a meticulous record keeper, turned over the information he had, including documentation of his donation. He knew the eBay seller with the Ruth record was going by the name “hi-fi-gal” and lived in Rockville, Md.

Then Goldin did some detective work of his own. He ordered a different recording from “hi-fi-gal,” and when it arrived he traced the package’s return address. It came back as the home of Leslie Waffen, the man who had accepted Goldin’s donation to the Archives more than 30 years earlier.

“I was kind of puzzled at the beginning and then disappointed when I discovered it was Les Waffen,” said Goldin, who added the men hadn’t stayed in touch.

With that information and more, federal officials obtained a search warrant and raided Waffen’s home, carting away two truckloads of materials. Late last year, Waffen pleaded guilty to stealing government property. He and his lawyer have declined to talk to reporters.

Radioactive Drugbo

Rush Limbaugh has certainly lit the fuse on a bigger keg of dynamite than even he could have envisioned with his comments about Sandra Fluke and the Georgetown women.

Anyone has a question about who has the power in this country just needs to check out Drugbo’s example. It took COlor of Change over a year to make a definitive dent in Glenn Beck’s Faux News racism…

Looks like it is only going to take the ladies about a month to take Drugbo down.

Yeah – Cut off his supply of Viagra!

Rush Limbaugh loses 39 advertisers

At least 39 companies have pulled their ads from the “The Rush Limbaugh Show” since the conservative talk show host called a law student a “slut” on the air last week, as the social media blitz against the popular radio program showed no signs of slowing down Wednesday.

Companies are continuing to join the rapidly growing list of businesses that have ceased advertising on Limbaugh’s show, responding to the flood of grievances that are pouring in from disgruntled customers.

The list of companies that officially announced on Twitter, Facebook or in statements to other media outlets that they would stop advertising on the radio show include: AccuQuote Life Insurance, Allstate Insurance, AOL, Bare Escentuals, Bethesda Sedation Dentistry, Bonobos, Capital One, Carbonite, Cascades Dental, Citrix, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Constant Contact, Cunningham Security, Freedom Debt Relief, Girl Scouts, Goodwill Industries, Hadeed Carpet, JCPenney, Legal Zoom, Matrix Direct, Netflix, Norway Savings Bank, Philadelphia Orchestra, PolyCom, Portland Ovations, ProFlowers, Quicken Loans, Regal Assets, Reputation Rhino, RSVP Discount Beverage, Sears, Sensa, Service Magic, Sleep Train, Sleep Number, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Tax Resolution, Thompson Creek Windows and Vitacost.

A Vaccine for Heroin Addiction?

Wow – this could be  major game changer.

And you thought there were only Zombies in the movies..

Mexican scientists successfully test vaccine that could cut heroin addiction

A group of Mexican scientists is working on a vaccine that could reduce addiction to one of the world’s most notorious narcotics: heroin.

Researchers at the country’s National Institute of Psychiatry say they have successfully tested the vaccine on mice and are preparing to test it on humans.

The vaccine, which has been patented in the US, makes the body resistant to the effects of heroin, so users would no longer get a rush of pleasure when they smoked or injected it.

“It would be a vaccine for people who are serious addicts, who have not had success with other treatments and decide to use this application to get away from drugs,” the institute’s director Maria Elena Medina said on Thursday.

Scientists worldwide have been searching for drug addiction vaccines for several years, but none have yet been fully developed. A group at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported significant progress in a vaccine for cocaine.

However, the Mexican scientists appear to be close to making a breakthrough on a heroin vaccine and have received funds from the US institute as well as the Mexican government.

During the tests, mice were given access to deposits of heroin over an extended period of time. Those given the vaccine showed a huge drop in heroin consumption, giving the institute hope that it could also work on people, Medina said.

Kim Janda, a scientist working on his own narcotics vaccines at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said that the Mexican vaccine could function but with some shortcomings.

“It could be reasonably effective, but maybe too general and affect too many different types of opioids as well as heroin,” Janda said.

Mexico has a growing drug addiction problem. Health secretary Jose Cordoba recently said the country now has about 450,000 hard drug addicts, particularly along the trafficking corridors of the US-Mexico border.

Mexican gangsters grow opium poppies in the Sierra Madre mountains and convert them into heroin known as Black Tar and Mexican Mud, which are smuggled over the Rio Grande.

If There Were a 1% Debate… MLK vs. Romney

What would MLK do? What would MLK say?

There is very little evidence that MLK would have anything good to say about today’s Republican Party. Indeed – for many folks today’s Republican have gone about as low as you can go.

Here is a mash up of points by MLK and “Willard” Romney…

Occupy Wall-Mart? Black Friday Shopper Pepper Sprays Other Shoppers

Inspired by UC Davis Police, apparently a shopper in Wal-Mart figured out a way to beat the crowds…

Customers hit by pepper spray at Wal-Mart describe scene of chaos

Matthew Lopez went to the Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch on Thursday night for the Black Friday sale but instead was caught in a pepper-spray attack by a woman who authorities said was “competitive shopping.”

Lopez described a chaotic scene in the San Fernando Valley store among shoppers looking for video games soon after the sale began.

“I heard screaming and I heard yelling,” said Lopez, 18. “Moments later, my throat stung. I was coughing really bad and watering up.”

Lopez said customers were already in the store when a whistle signaled the start of the Black Friday sale at 10 p.m., sending shoppers hurtling in search of deeply discounted items.

Lopez said that by the time he arrived at the video games, the display had been torn down. Employees attempted to hold back the scrum of shoppers and pick up merchandise even as customers trampled the video games and DVDs strewn on the floor.

“It was absolutely crazy,” he said.

Another customer said screams erupted after about 100 people waiting in line to snag Xbox gaming consoles and Wii video games got into a shoving match.

Alejandra Seminario, 24, said she was waiting in line to grab some toys at the store around 9:55 p.m. when people the next aisle over started shouting and ripping at the plastic wrap encasing gaming consoles, which was supposed to be opened at 10 p.m.

“People started screaming, pulling and pushing each other, and then the whole area filled up with pepper spray,” the Sylmar resident said. “I guess what triggered it was people started pulling the plastic off the pallets and then shoving and bombarding the display of games. It started with people pushing and screaming because they were getting shoved onto the boxes.”

The pepper spray wafted through the air, Seminario said, and she breathed some in and started coughing. Her face also started itching.

“I did not want to get involved. I was too scared. I just stayed in the toy aisle,” she said.

By the time she and her husband, 27-year-old Cesar Seminario, got to the cash register 20 minutes later with a Wii gaming console and some Barbie dolls, the air was still smelling of pepper spray, she said.

Wal-Mart employees were taking statements near the front of the store from about eight customers who had been pepper-sprayed, Seminario said. “After we paid, we saw five that were in really bad shape,” she said. “They had been sprayed in the face, it looked like, and they had swelling of the face, really extreme swelling of face, redness, coughing.”

Nakeasha Contreras, 20, of North Hollywood, said she arrived at midnight and hadn’t heard what happened. Even if she had, she said, she wouldn’t have minded: “I don’t care. I’m still getting my TV. I’ve never seen Wal-Mart so crazy, but I guess it could have been worse.”

Joseph Poulose, who said he was hit with the spray near the DVD and video games display, criticized the store for failing to control the crowds.

“There were way too many people in a building that size. Every aisle was full,” he said. Customers were stomping on photo frames and other items on the floor, said Poulose, who tried to protect his pregnant wife from the throng of shoppers inside.

“It was definitely the worst Black Friday I’ve ever experienced,” he said.

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