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Category Archives: Great American Rip-Off

Drug Test the Rich!

This could get interesting. AFter Republicans passed laws to Drug Test the poor as a condition of receiving SNAP, an enterprising Democrat turns it around.

Drug Tests for the 1 Percent?

The poor must prove they’re clean before they can receive benefits from the government. Why not hold the rich to the same standard?

Ever since the earliest days of government benefits, when social workers would inspect the homes of welfare recipients for cleanliness, the poor have been asked to prove their worth in order to receive help from the state.

Now, a Wisconsin Congresswoman is asking: Shouldn’t the wealthy have to prove their worth for all the government benefits they receive, too?

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) is introducing the Top 1% Accountability Act of 2016, which would require drug testing for all tax filers claiming itemized deductions totaling over $150,000. Moore’s bill would require those with the higher itemized deductions to submit a clear drug test to the IRS or take the standard deduction, which is lower. The bill is intended to highlight the fact that it’s not just the poor who receive aid, even if they’re the ones asked to prove their standing. Aid to the wealthy comes mostly in the form of tax breaks, which allow them to keep money that they would otherwise be required by law to pay to the government.

“We don’t drug test wealthy CEOs who receive federal subsidies for their private jets, nor do we force judges or public officials to prove their sobriety to earn their paychecks,” Eric Harris, a spokesperson for Moore told me. “Attaching special demands to government aid exclusively targets our country’s most vulnerable individuals and families.”

The number of government tests and requirements for poor people receiving government aid has grown in recent years. Utah in 2012 passed a law requiring drug testing for recipients for Temporary Aid to Needy Families, Alabama passed a similar law in 2014, and Arkansas followed in 2015. Other states, including Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kansas require drug testing if “reasonable suspicion” exists.

These drug tests target people with almost no income who, in the case of states such as Arkansas, receive as little as $204 a month. And the drug tests hardly ever turn up positive. In 2014 Governor Rick Snyder signed a law in Michiganimplementing a pilot program to drug test welfare recipients in three counties; none of the people in the pilot program have tested positive for drugs.

Middle-class and wealthy Americans may not be getting housing vouchers, but they are getting tax deductions, which come when people itemize their taxes rather than take the standard deduction. Itemizing taxes isn’t worth it unless you’ve spent more on tax-deductible items (including mortgage interest, charitable giving, and also the odd luxury item, such as a yacht) than the standard deduction, which was $12,600 this year for a married household filing jointly. According to one report, more than 95 percent of tax filers making over $200,000 itemized their deductions in 2011, compared to just 13 percent of those with incomes of $50,000 or less….Read the Rest Here

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off

 

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Airport Security Lines Cause 70,000 AA Passenger to Miss Flights

Going to be a long frustrating summer for air travelers, with lines in some airports anticipated to be over 2 hours long.

TSA is a disaster, and seems to be going downhill fast. I, for one – don’t believe in the “shortage of staff” excuse.  It is now virtually impossible in this country to get from Point A to Point B.

Airport Screening Made 70,000 Miss American Airlines Flights This Year

A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

Airport screening delays have caused more than 70,000 American Airlines (AAL.O) customers and 40,000 checked bags to miss their flights this year, an executive for the airline told a U.S. congressional subcommittee on Thursday.

A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with airport wait times in places like Chicago stretching beyond two hours.

While TSA is taking steps to shorten lines such as hiring more full-time officers, it lacks the staffing to handle peak travel times this summer, Administrator Peter Neffenger said on Wednesday.

American, the world’s largest airline, wants TSA to create a senior internal role focused on traveler concerns, said American Airlines Group Inc Senior Vice President for Customer Experience Kerry Philipovitch. The request comes days after Neffenger shook up TSA’s management, removing the head of security operations, Kelly Hoggan.

Philipovitch also recommended that TSA consider reinstating a risk-based screening program that it canceled last year because of high-profile lapses.

In the program, officers trained to detect irregular behavior would pull unsuspicious travelers randomly into “PreCheck” lanes that can process people faster, as they do not remove their shoes and other belongings.

TSA has projected it will screen 740 million people at U.S. airports this year, some 15 percent more than in 2013 despite a 12 percent cut in its staff.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in American Greed, Great American Rip-Off

 

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Dating Online? Your SAT Score May Determine Who You See On a Site

Interesting tidbit here, that some sites including the largest dating site, Match is using your educational data to manipulate who you see on the site, as well as who sees you. By collecting data such as your SAT Score, a test you likely took way back there in High School, a good analyst can determine a couple of things about you. First, people with the top 10% or so in SAT Scores tend to be College Graduates. Recent research has shown that that has no correlation to them being smarter, than say the next 25% – but being in the top 10% means you have a better chance of attending an elite school. One of the common characteristics of elite schools is a much higher graduation rate – typically over 90% for the very top schools vs 50-65% for State Schools. That also has some rather significant impact on potential income.

Along with the numerous personal tastes which drive selection of someone to date, liking tall women, or short men, redheads, or spiked hair and nose rings…

Is the correlation that relationships are based on shared experiences. There is a low likelihood that a woman whose job takes her around the world is going to chose a guy who is a construction worker. If I can’t dress her up and take her out with my friends and business associates without embarrassment…The relationship is very short lived. If a woman doesn’t want to date men with beards, then the fastest way to drive her off a dating site is to fill her potential matches box up with bearded guys.

Where the rub comes, is how they collect this information. And something I will call “disparate impact”, because black folks tend to have lower SAT Scores.

How Dating Sites, Thanks to Princeton Review, Know More About You Than You Do

When I was growing up, there were always three places that my parents said were great for meeting your future girlfriend, wife or significant other: church, work and, of course, school. Our church attendance had waned in my late high school years, and I worked at a bagel bakery—so college seemed the mostly likely option for me.

For me, living in the lily-white suburbs where dating options were fraught with complications (because racism), the idea that doing well on my SATs might put me in a college classroom next to my own personal Freddie Brooks, Monica Wright or Laila was enough incentive to put in those extra study hours.

Of course, it turns out that my parents were more prescient than they thought. Dating companies are starting to use college prep for matchmaking purposes, which causes some groups to worry about not only our education policies but our privacy, too.

At this point we’re all in the Matrix. Despite the extremes to which Edward Snowden went to show us how the government violates our privacy, most Americans give up terabytes of personal information every day for an extra 10 percent off at Target. Want this new free app? Give us access to all your phone contacts. Want to sign up for this new email account? We’ll scan your emails for potential advertising targets.

This kind of intrusive data mining is particularly important in the African-American community, where the majority of our Internet access comes through smartphones and our social media use, especially on places like Twitter, where our use is incredibly high. But what about when you don’t expect your personal information to be used?

Late in 2014, Match Group, the consortium that owns Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder and a ton of other dating apps and sites, decided that it wanted to improve its access to young, fresh, single people’s preferences and tendencies. So what did it do? It purchased the Princeton Review. That’s right, Princeton Review, the test-prep program most commonly used by African Americans across the country, now collects data on kids to improve the targeting, marketing and analysis of dating platforms.

Now, it’s not working all that well if you’re black and dating on OkCupid, but in general, the strategy was that all those random surveys you take in an SAT-prep class—like on yourcollege hopes and worries, what makes a good college, college-ranking surveys, etc.—are chock-full of data that can help dating sites down the road. The catch is that survey data that was ostensibly about education is now being used for purposes that the kids taking those surveys never intended.

As with other breaches of computer privacy, most Americans reacted with a yawn. What’s the big deal if scouring the academic insecurities of a bunch of teenagers helps an organization connect a neurotic grad student with a working-class Romeo a few years later? First, you’re not getting paid for it. Many public schools that are majority African American and subsidize SAT-prep programs to help kids get into college are essentially paying twice: once to get the test prep for students and then again by giving this company millions of dollars in free information that doesn’t come back to the school.

But the problem runs deeper than that. This aggregate collecting of big data without the knowledge of consumers leads to everything from increased insurance premiums to loan discrimination to identity theft. What if Match.com sells Princeton Review-survey information to corporations that use internal data to decide whether or not loans should go to certain communities? What if high school survey data is used to justify aggressive stop-and-frisk-type policies—providing a cheap shortcut for lazy police departments that don’t want to conduct their own research?

Or, quite simply, what about the preponderance of data breaches we’ve seen, from Sony to Target, that are made easier the more hands our personal data goes through without our knowledge? Several organizations, including Consumer Action out of California, have begun highlighting these problems, especially with the way consumer data is being extracted from minority communities withno regard for privacy, reimbursement or consumer protection. However, it wouldn’t hurt if some 2016 candidates talked about this issue, seeing as how just a few months ago, half the GOP field was willing to let the FBI just dig all around Apple’s data files….

 
 

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Democracy Spring Protest

Apparently utterly ignored by Cable News, the Democracy Spring Protest went on today with 400 arrests of the protesters. One of my young ones was at this, and I haven’t gotten a call for bail – so I assume they didn’t get busted…

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off, Occupy America

 

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US Bans Hoverboard Imports – Hoverboards Banned

And not because of them catching fire!

The U.S. Just Banned Hoverboard Imports

And it has nothing to do with their fiery explosions.

The International Trade Commission announced Wednesday that the United States is banning imports of so-called hoverboards.

But while some brands of the auto-balancing scooters are known to spontaneously combust, the U.S.’s decision had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with a request from Segway, the hoverboard’s nerdy uncle.

Hoverboards are often described in media reports as Segways without handlebars, or a cooler Segway. But it turns out the new scooters have more in common with their Paul Blart-endorsed predecessor than meets the eye.

Segway filed a complaint with the ITC in 2014, claiming that hoverboards, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China, infringed on some of their patents and copyrights. The particular patents they listed mostly have to do with technologies that allow Segways to self-balance and read user inputs.

“In recent years, there has been an influx of low quality two-wheel personal transporters built on the intellectual property developed by DEKA and Segway,” the company, which licenses the technology from research firm DEKA, said at the time. “If this influx is allowed to continue, this iconic American product and the U.S. jobs dependent on it will be threatened.”

While Segway is based in New Hampshire and continues to manufacture its products there, it was bought last April by Ninebot, a Chinese company that Segway actually listed as a respondent in its 2014 complaint.

The ITC’s ruling goes on to name several brands that are no longer allowed to be imported into the country, including UPTECH, U.P. Technology, U.P. Robotics, FreeGo China, Ecoboomer and Roboscooters.

Segway said it would work with both U.S. customs and the ITC to help implement the ban, although demand for these products is likely at a new low. Just last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced voluntary safety standards for all manufacturers, importers and retailers of self-balancing scooters due to their pesky tendency to catch on fire. Online retailer Amazon even agreed to refund all hoverboard purchases.

All of which means there might be a gaping new hole in the self-balancing scooter market. One that Segway could be poised to fill if it would only get cracking on asmaller, cooler-looking model.

The last isn’t going to happen. Segway will continue to sell vastly overpriced product now that there is no competition.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off, News

 

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Even Chinese Are Avoiding “Made in China”

One of the problems with China’s hyper-competitive, poorly regulated manufacturing is product quality and criminal forgery. Most recently seen in America as cheap, poor quality components in Hoverboards causing the products to catch fire while recharging.The number of products containing fake ingredients, including fake food, fake and sometimes poisonous drugs, product counterfeiting on a massive scale, and childen’s toys and china plates containing toxic levels of lead, cadmium, and antimony.

The problem has gotten so bad it has spurned the development of a new retail economy, where Chinese are buying American Made goods through cutout buyers living in America and having the known safe and good quality products shipped to China. An industry which is now a $7.9 billion business and growing exponentially.

When Chinese consumers want Western goods, they turn to these U.S. intermediaries

Jennifer Zhong’s phone buzzes with a message from one of her 4,000 followers on Weibo, a Chinese service similar to Twitter.

A client in China wants to buy a gold Baublebar necklace, but it’s expensive and inconvenient to order products from U.S. websites.

Zhong taps over to another Chinese social network, WeChat, to discuss the transaction, and they settle on a price: $52.

In her downtown Los Angeles apartment, Zhong flips open her laptop and finds the necklace on Baublebar’s website at the sale price of $32. When the package arrives, one of the employees of her online store, Jia Jia Buys It for You, removes the receipt, tears off the tags and repackages it for shipment to China.

Social media-fueled transactions such as these have grown so popular in China that they’ve become an industry known as daigou, a Chinese phrase that means “to buy on behalf of.”

In 2015, luxury daigou purchases were valued at up to $7.6 billion, or nearly half of China’s overall luxury purchases, according to an estimate by Bain and Co., a consulting firm that tracks consumer trends in China.

And in the San Gabriel Valley and other Chinese communities nationwide, immigrants rich and poor have embraced daigou as a way to earn a living at the intersection of the world’s largest economies, reaching for American prosperity by serving China’s wealthy.

The business first took root in 2008, when Chinese milk containing a toxic additive killed at least six infants and sickened hundreds of thousands more.

The scandal created huge demand for overseas milk powder, which quickly became and remains one of daigou‘s most popular products. Quality control scandals for products such as toothpaste, cosmetics and medicine also have motivated Chinese consumers to shop overseas.

But daigou really began to take off in 2011, when Chinese e-commerce platforms such asTaobao gave buyers a platform to grow their business beyond their friends and family, says Charlie Gu, director of China Luxury Advisors, a company that helps high-end brands reach Chinese consumers.

Frustrated by luxury-good counterfeiters, Chinese consumers stepped up their purchases through intermediaries in the U.S., Japan, France, South Korea and other countries.

The rise of Chinese social networks such as Weibo and WeChat also facilitated the person-to-person connections that are daigou‘s lifeblood, Gu says.

And in the U.S. and Southern California, the massive influx of Chinese students at universities and colleges provided the industry with a labor force.

Some entrepreneurs open shipping businesses to facilitate the flow of goods, while Chinese students, tour guides and anyone with contacts in China earn extra income as buyers, lining up Coach purses, Prada bags, Michael Kors shoes and other luxury products that are significantly cheaper in America.

Chinese students, who typically come from middle- to upper-class families that can afford to buy goods overseas, serve as daigou agents for their personal networks. Recommendations expand their networks and increase their revenues.

The person-to-person nature of the business makes it harder for the government to crack down on daigou, which undermines domestic firms by allowing Chinese buyers to avoid higher prices and import taxes.

“The Chinese government can’t tell your friends and family not to buy things for you,” Gu says.

Zhong, 26, came to the U.S. to study at USC and noticed students using daigou to earn extra money.

“This is a business where you can’t really lose money,” she says. “It’s just a matter of how much you want to make.”… Read More Here

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off, News

 

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Hoverboard Fire…Again

BTx3 suggested crossing those Hoverboard things off the Christmas list a while back…If you got one of these, you may want to consider buying a loooong extension cord…To charge it outdoors.

Hoverboard fire destroys $1 million home

The Nashville Fire Department says two fires in the last three months were caused by hoverboards.

One of the fires destroyed a $1 million home early last month. According to a statement from the Fire Department, two teens living in the home hid upstairs after hearing noises from downstairs. The noise wasn’t a burglar but their FITURBO F1 hoverboard exploding into flames. A 16-year-old girl had to jump out the second-floor window into her father’s arms due to smoke and a 14-year-old boy was helped down by the dad with the use of a ladder. Both teens suffered minor injuries and the 4,000 square foot home was destroyed.

An investigation found friends of this same family also had an issue when a hoverboard purchased in the same batch caught fire after the battery compartment caught fire. Only the hoverboard was damaged during that fire.

Tennessee Commerce & Insurance Deputy Commissioner Gary West warned “consumers about so-called ‘hoverboard’ devices becoming potential fire hazards to Tennessee consumers.”

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Great American Rip-Off

 

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