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Wed, 26 Jan 2022
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Millions have fallen out of the middle class - you could be next

worried man
© unknown

There are millions of American families that once lived very comfortable middle class lifestyles that have lost it all. When you are unemployed and you can't find a decent job, it can crush your soul. Every day you can see the disappointment or the disapproval in the eyes of your family and friends, and it can be really easy to want to give up completely. And then there are always those that choose to actively vocalize their disdain for those that are down on their luck. But telling people "to get a job" or shaming them for being on welfare isn't going to solve anything in an economy where there simply are not enough jobs for everyone. Only a small minority of welfare recipients are actually trying to abuse the system. Most people just want to work hard and take care of their families. Unfortunately, that is much harder to do than it was before the last financial crisis.

At this point, our economy has stabilized at a much lower level than it was at before. For example, 32 million Americans were on food stamps when Barack Obama took office, and subsequently that number shot up to about 47 million. Fortunately, that number has been relatively stable for the last couple of years, but there has been no recovery. This can be seen in lots of other economic statistics as well.

If we were going to have an "economic recovery", it should have happened by now.

Unfortunately, it has not materialized, and now the next downturn is coming.

Since I run a website called "The Economic Collapse", a lot of people seem to assume that I actually want an economic collapse to happen. But that is not the truth at all. I love this country, and just like most other people I really enjoy life in modern America. I wish that the party could go on forever. But I know that it cannot.


Microsoft owns up to reading Hotmail inbox of blogger

Hotmail snooping Microsoft
© Getty Images
Microsoft started an investigation after details of its new Windows 8 operating system were released early
Microsoft is caught up in a privacy storm after it admitted it read the Hotmail inbox of a blogger while pursuing a software leak investigation.

On Thursday, the firm acknowledged it read the anonymous blogger's emails in order to identify an employee it suspected of leaking information.

Microsoft owns Hotmail, a free email service now called Outlook.com.

John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said it took "extraordinary actions in this case".

While the search was technically legal, he added Microsoft would consult outside counsel in the future.

Legal actions

Microsoft's actions came to light this week as part of a legal case by US prosecutors against an ex-Microsoft employee, Alex Kibalko, who was a Russian native based in the company's Lebanon office.

In 2012, Microsoft had been alerted to the fact that the blogger, whose identity was kept anonymous in the court papers, had been given some stolen lines of code from the not-yet-released Windows 8 operating system.

The blogger then posted screenshots of the unreleased Windows operating system to his blog.

To figure out the source of the leak, Microsoft began an investigation and, as part of that search, looked into the blogger's accounts to find out the name of the employee.

The search was legal because it fell within Microsoft's terms of service which state that the company can access information in accounts that are stored on its "Communication Services", which includes email, chat areas, forums, and other communication facilities.

The terms of service add: "Microsoft reserves the right to review materials posted to the Communication Services and to remove any materials in its sole discretion."

Nonetheless, revelations of the search have led to renewed focus on the privacy violations of technology firms.

It has also left Microsoft in a difficult position, as the firm has often criticised rival Google for its automatic scanning of users' emails in order to serve them with advertising.

Comment: This incident only highlights the invasive nature of the 'terms of service' everyone must agree to in order to access services on the Internet.


Hawaii cops urge lawmakers to keep exemption that allows them to have sex with prostitutes

honolulu police
© Oskar Garcia/ AP Photo
A pedestrian walks in front of a Honolulu Police Department station in Honolulu's tourist area of Waikiki on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. As Hawaii lawmakers considered a measure that would crack down on prostitution, the Honolulu Police Department requested a change that has shocked human trafficking experts and victims rights advocates: Police wanted it to remain legal for undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes.
Honolulu police officers have urged lawmakers to keep an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations, touching off a heated debate.

Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it's unnecessary and can further victimize sex workers, many of whom have been forced into the trade.

Police haven't said how often - or even if - they use the provision. But when they asked legislators to preserve it, they made assurances that internal policies and procedures are in place to prevent officers from taking advantage of it.

But expert Derek Marsh says the exemption is "antiquated at best" and that police can easily do their jobs without it.

"It doesn't help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone. And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?" asked Marsh, who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases and twice has testified to Congress about the issue.

A Hawaii bill cracking down on prostitution was originally written to do away with the sex exemption for officers on duty, but it was amended to restore that protection after police testimony. The revised proposal has passed the state House and will go before a Senate committee Friday.

Eye 1

Former cop convicted of FBI snooping now working plum job at IRS

fbi snoop Irs employee

Mohammad Weiss Rasool
New questions arise about background check system

The Internal Revenue Service, already facing accusations that its workers improperly snooped through tax files, has hired a former police officer convicted just a few years ago of illegally accessing FBI records and providing information to a subject of a counterterrorism investigation involving an infamous al Qaeda figure.

Mohammad Weiss Rasool, or Weiss Russell as he is known at the IRS, was sentenced to two years of probation in 2008 after pleading guilty in federal court to illegally accessing the FBI's National Crime Information Center database to run license tag numbers for a friend he thought was being followed. That friend, it turned out, was the subject of an undercover FBI operation and a close associate of the al Qaeda-linked cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the American Islamist militant who preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers and inspired the Fort Hood shootings, according to court records and interviews.

Government watchdogs told The Washington Times that Mr. Rasool's hiring by the IRS raises red flags about the quality of the federal government's background checks and is alarming given his previous admission that he misused a police database.

At the IRS, Mr. Rasool serves as a financial management analyst - three rungs away from the highest-level career position - working audit-related issues and matters. He was hired by the IRS after he served his probationary period.

"This is absolutely outrageous," said Chris Farrell, director of investigations at Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group. "Rasool has already demonstrated he's not worthy of a position of trust within the government - he's already broken one public oath - the last place you'd want him is at the IRS."

Judicial Watch has started its own investigation into the matter, demanding that the IRS explain how Mr. Rasool got his job and who at the agency, or within the Obama administration, made the final call on his employment.

Mr. Rasool declined to comment for the record when contacted by The Times.

The IRS told The Times that under federal privacy rules it cannot comment on individual employees within the agency, but that all workers undergo federal background checks and screening reviews as administered by the agency.

"It's astounding to me, with his activities at the police department, that he should have a position within the federal government that involves a matter of trust and responsibility," said Philip Manuel, a former U.S. counterintelligence agent and chairman of the investigative firm MBD International. "There's something fishy here as to how someone with his background could get cleared."

Light Saber

'Scum of the earth' who punched 8-year old boy, stole his iPad is chased down by good Samaritan

Police say cell phones and other mobile devices are being stolen more often, but a violent robbery involving an 8-year-old boy had some people shaking their heads and a Minneapolis man leaping to action.

Last Thursday, a boy was punched and the iPad in his hands was stolen outside a Minneapolis restaurant.

Aaron Stillday, 32, was arrested and charged with first-degree aggravated robbery. Police caught him after a good Samaritan chased him down.

"Poor kid," said Mohammad Armeli, the man who chased down the robber. "I can't believe it, the blood was all over his face. Could have broken his nose."

Surveillance video shows the 8-year-old following his aunt out of a day care building. What happened next left Armeli's blood boiling.


New Mexico man in federal custody for threatening Obama over Medicaid card delay

© unknown
A 55-year-old homeless man from New Mexico pleaded guilty on Thursday to making a telephone threat against President Barack Obama in which he said he would shoot the president, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Tracy York White of Las Cruces was arrested in October, four days after he is accused of telling a Social Security Administration employee in Ohio by phone that he planned to get a firearm, travel to the White House and kill the president, the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque said.

"In his plea agreement, White stated that he made the threat in frustration and knew what he was doing was wrong," U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez said of the plea in federal district court in Las Cruces.

White was accused of making the threat after he became agitated when he was told a new Medicaid card would take two weeks to reach him after he moved from Texas to New Mexico, according to the criminal complaint.

Bad Guys

Teacher arrested for cocaine ran $1.5 million coke lab out of his home

© Wales News Service
Macphallen Kuwale: Teacher turned drug dealer
A teacher turned drug dealer was caught when police uncovered a cocaine laboratory in his home worth around £900,000, a disciplinary hearing has heard.

Macphallen Kuwale was running a 'sophisticated' wholesale operation at his home in Llanrumney, Cardiff, a police officer told a General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) hearing today.

The technology whizz had cutting agents worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, as well as a pressing machine to make the cocaine appear to be of a higher grade, police say.

Detectives' investigations also uncovered further damning evidence in scenes reminiscent of hit TV show Breaking Bad.


Witness: Cops taunted pinned driver after fatal crash

Oceanside police said they are investigating allegations that several officers laughed and taunted a driver as he was pinned in a wrecked car next to his dead friend.

The fatal crash happened early Friday after a high-speed chase that began on Highway 78 near College Boulevard when California Highway Patrol officers spotted a 1991 Honda Civic racing a dark sedan. The sedan slowed down, but the Honda sped off on northbound Interstate 5 with the CHP in pursuit, according to CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt.

The Honda exited the freeway onto Mission Avenue and eventually crashed into a parked pickup on Mesa Drive, Bettencourt said. The driver, 21-year-old Jorge Luis Lopez, survived the crash, but his passenger was killed, according to a CHP statement.

Eye 2

The Bad Seed? Boy charged with 2nd-degree murder in little sister's stabbing death


Leila Fowler, 8, was stabbed to death inside her Valley Springs, California home on Saturday, April 27, 2013
A 12-year-old California boy accused of stabbing his 8-year-old sister to death was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder.

Appearing in a green jumpsuit in juvenile court, he said, "Yes" when asked if he understood the charges. He didn't enter a plea.

The boy didn't appear to be nervous, shocked or stunned. He smiled while talking with his lawyer and several times he looked back at his family.

He will remain in custody while he awaits his next court appearance on May 29.

The boy's younger sister, Leila Fowler, was stabbed multiple times in her family's home in northern California on April 27 while she was there with her youngest brother.

"He's holding up well under the circumstances," one of the boy's attorneys, Mark Reichel, said Tuesday.

The boy, who was arrested Saturday, told police a man broke into the family's home.


Criminal! Obese baby put on fruit and veggie diet

Baby Santiago weighs 44 pounds - more than double the median weight for a baby his age
A 44-pound baby has been put on a special diet to slim his chubby frame.

The 8-month-old Colombian boy named Santiago weighs 44 pounds - more than double the median weight for a baby his age according to growth charts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the Associated Press.

Folds of fat were hindering Santiago's ability to move - prompting his mother Eunice Fandino, to seek medical help.

"I'm worried about his obesity," Fandino said in an interview with RCN Television. "I don't want him to continue like this so, God willing, the treatment they're going to give him for his heart will work to reduce his weight."

The type of treatment Santiago will receive for his heart is unclear, but doctors are trying to get him down to 17 pounds by weaning him off formula and adding more fruit and veggies to his diet, the AP reported.