Puppet MastersS

Dollar

Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year-end (again)

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© Getty Images
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.

Lawmakers let these tax breaks lapse almost every year, even though they save businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And almost every year, Congress eventually renews them, retroactively, so taxpayers can claim them by the time they file their tax returns.

No harm, no foul, right? After all, taxpayers filing returns in the spring won't be hurt because the tax breaks were in effect for 2013. Taxpayers won't be hit until 2015, when they file tax returns for next year.

Not so far. Trade groups and tax experts complain that Congress is making it impossible for businesses and individuals to plan for the future. What if lawmakers don't renew the tax break you depend on? Or what if they change it and you're no longer eligible?

"It's a totally ridiculous way to run our tax system," said Rachelle Bernstein, vice president and tax counsel for the National Retail Federation. "It's impossible to plan when every year this happens, but yet business has gotten used to that."

Laptop

Federal court violates Constitution: Upholds laptop searches at U.S. border

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© Unknown
A federal court has tossed out a lawsuit trying to prevent the government from searching laptops, cellphones and other devices at U.S. border checkpoints.

The circuit judge's decision to uphold the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy on Tuesday was a blow to civil liberties groups that argued the practice violated the Constitution's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

According to government documents, officials at the border search and copy the contents of thousands of people's devices each year. Border agents are allowed to look into the devices and detain them for a short period of time without a reasonable suspicion that the traveler has committed a crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed a lawsuit challenging the DHS policy in 2010, on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association and Pascal Abidor, a French-American man whose laptop was confiscated at the Canadian border.

But in his opinion on Tuesday, Judge Edward Korman wrote that the groups did not have standing to dispute the DHS searches because "there is not a substantial risk that their electronic devices will be subject to a search or seizure without reasonable suspicion."

Top Secret

Appelbaum: 'Scary' NSA will spy on you - every which way they can

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© RTJacob Appelbaum
Security researcher Jacob Appelbaum revealed what he calls "wrist-slitting depressing" details about the National Security Agency's spy programs at a computer conference in Germany on Monday where he presented previously unpublished NSA files.

Appelbaum is among the small group of experts, activists and journalists who have seen classified United States intelligence documents taken earlier this year by former contractor Edward Snowden, and previously he represented transparency group WikiLeaks at an American hacker conference in 2010. Those conditions alone should suffice in proving to most anybody that Appelbaum has been around more than his fair share of sensitive information, and during his presentation at the thirtieth annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg on Monday he spilled his guts about some of the shadiest spy tactics seen yet through leaked documents.

Presenting in-tandem with the publishing of an article in Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, Appelbaum explained to the audience of his hour-long "To Protect and Infect" address early Monday that the NSA has secretly sabotaged US businesses by covertly - and perhaps sometimes with the cooperation of the tech industry - coming up with ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the products sold by major American companies, including Dell and Apple, among others.

That was only the main theme of many covered throughout the presentation, during which Appelbaum repeatedly revealed previously unpublished top-secret NSA documents detailing the tactics and techniques used by the NSA to intercept the communications of seemingly anyone on Earth.

Info

Israeli lawmakers push petition to free Pollard

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© Veterans TodayJonathan Pollard
A huge majority of Israeli lawmakers has signed a petition calling for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard imprisoned in the United States.

The petition, signed by 106 out of Israel's 120 lawmakers, was handed over to Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday.

Peres says it was "both a right and a duty" to bring the bipartisan request by the Israeli lawmakers to President Barack Obama's attention.

Green Light

Fiat buys Chrysler: Courtesy of U.S. taxpayers bailout of Italian company

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© Examiner
At the beginning of 2014, Detroit may be bankrupt, but they're cheering the five-year-old U.S. auto bailout in Italy. That's because after being the beneficiary of billions in U.S. taxpayer largesse, Fiat, the leading Italian auto company, is going to buy its final stake in Chrysler from that other big bailout recipient, the United Auto Workers (UAW).

"Chrysler's Now Fully an Italian Auto Company," reads the Time magazine online headline. But wait a minute! Wasn't the bailout supposed to be about saving the American auto industry?

As Mark Beatty and wrote in The Daily Caller in November 2012, after presidential candidate Mitt Romney made the controversial claim that Fiat would be expanding production of Chrysler's Jeep in China (a claim that turned out to be correct),
The real outrage arising from the 2009 Chrysler bailout is not that its parent company, Fiat, is planning to build plants in China. It's that the politicized bankruptcy process limited Chrysler's growth potential by tying it to an Italian dinosaur in the midst of the European fiscal crisis. The Obama administration literally gave away ownership of one of the Big Three American auto manufacturers to an Italian car maker struggling with labor and productivity issues worse than those that drove Chrysler to near-liquidation.
As we noted in the piece, much of Chrysler's profits from its overhauled line are going to prop up Fiat's failing, money-losing Italian business, rather than to expanding production and jobs in the U.S. Moody's had downgraded Fiat's credit rating to "junk" even before the Obama administration arranged for it to acquire a Chrysler stake, and in Autumn 2012, Moody's gave Fiat another downgrade that the Financial Times described as even "further into 'junk' territory."

Smoking

Anti-smoking fascism: New York City Corp. sues FedEx for shipping cigarettes to homes

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© TheRightCurmudgeon.com
New York City has sued FedEx Corp, accusing the package delivery company of illegally delivering millions of contraband cigarettes to people's homes, violating a 2006 settlement.

Monday's lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and seeks $52 million of civil fines and unpaid taxes from FedEx, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee.

It marks one of the last acts by the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose more than decade-old campaign to ban smoking in various public and private places has been credited with saving thousands of lives and become a blueprint for other cities.

According to the city, FedEx created a "public nuisance" through its partnership with Shinnecock Smoke Shop, located on the Shinnecock Indian Nation reservation in Southampton, New York, to ship untaxed cigarettes to residential homes.

FedEx allegedly did so despite, and even while negotiating, a February 2006 agreement with then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to stop such deliveries in New York, an agreement later expanded to cover deliveries throughout the country.

Bell

Putin vows to totally destroy terrorists after bombings

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© Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue to fight against terrorists and destroy them following two recent bombings in the southern city of Volgograd.

Putin said on Tuesday that the explosions represented inhumane attacks and warned that Moscow would "fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation," the Interfax news agency reported.

The statement followed the deployment of some 5,200 police forces to Volgograd to check traffic and inspect public transport following two bomb blasts on Sunday and Monday.

Police have started sweeps throughout the city, detaining 87 people.

Approximately 34 people were killed and 72 injured in the twin blasts.

Dollar

The hidden costs of ObamaCare: Destroying economic recovery?

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© DailyKos
ObamaCare has delivered another sucker punch to the middle class. This time it's sticker shock.

Now that most people can get past the tech problems of HealthCare.gov and actually see the real cost of insurance plans available, they are finding that Affordable Care is a big hit to the family budget. And when the family budget gets hit in the solar plexus, guess what happens to consumer spending and the economy?

In California, policies for about 900,000 Californians are being canceled because of ObamaCare's mandates, and about two-thirds of these do not qualify for subsidies, according to The Chicago Tribune. The result: These folks will be paying higher premiums.

In Alabama, premiums have doubled for some middle-class families, like that of Courtney Long, a stay-at-home mother of four. She told WHNT News, "It's devastating. I started crying."

"I mean, we have worked so hard to get out of credit card debt, get ahead on the car loan, transfer our mortgage to a 15- from a 30-year mortgage... and for what?"

Attention

U.S. government orders 14 million doses of potassium iodide

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© SeerpressPotassium Iodide
Solicitation Number: 14-284-SOL-0015A

Notice Type: Combined Synopsis/Solicitation Synopsis:
Added: Dec 06, 2013 3:35 pm (i)

This is a combined synopsis/solicitation for a commercial item prepared in accordance with FAR Subpart 12.6, as supplemented with additional information in this notice.

This announcement constitutes the only solicitation; proposals are being requested and a written solicitation will not be issued.

(ii) The solicitation number is 14-284-SOL-0015A. This solicitation is issued as an Request for Quote (RFQ).

(iii) The corresponding NAICS code is 325412 and the small business standard size is 750 employees.

(iv) The contract line item number, item, quantity and unit of measure is:

Line No. 001; potassium iodide tablet, 65mg, unit dose package of 20s; 700,000 packages (of 20s)

(v) Delivery is required on or before February 1, 2014.
Delivery will be made to:
DHHS, SSC
Bldg #5 Receiving Dock
Perry Point,MD 21902

Bad Guys

While the world burns and the economy tanks: Barack Obama's Hawaii vacation: Day 12

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© Sodahead
How President Barack Obama spent Day 12 of his holiday vacation in Hawaii on Wednesday:

- HEALTH CARE TWEET: Obama sent a tweet from the administration's (at)WhiteHouse Twitter account to mark the major benefits of his signature federal health care law taking effect.

In the personally written tweet, signed off with his initials, the president referenced a Seattle boy who stood next to him and other lawmakers when he signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

"I signed the ACA for kids like Marcelas Owens. He lost his mom bc she couldn't afford coverage. Today millions of Americans finally can," the tweet said.

Michelle Obama sent a tweet from her (at)FLOTUS account signed "mo" that asked people to serve military members and their families in 2014 "as well as they've served us."