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1.3 million losing unemployment benefits Saturday in the US

Unemployment Benefits
© AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File
This Aug. 14, 2013 file photo shows job seekers checking out companies at a job fair in Miami Lakes, Fla. More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend. The development entails potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy and sets up a tense battle when Congress reconvenes in the new year.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's "emergency unemployment compensation" will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.

Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the "emergency" program expire as part of a budget deal, it's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.

An estimated 1.3 million people will be cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments end Saturday.

Some 214,000 Californians will lose their payments, a figure rising to more than a half-million by June, the Labor Department said. In the last 12 months Californians received $4.5 billion in federal jobless benefits, much put back into the local economy.

More than 127,000 New Yorkers also will be cut off this weekend. In New Jersey, 11th among states in population, 90,000 people will immediately lose out.

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Only NPR is left: Liberal Commercial Talk Radio Disappears in NY, LA, SF in 2014

ed schultz
© Unknown
2014 will mark the beginning of a massive change for liberal talk radio across the country. In New York, WWRL 1600 AM will flip to Spanish-language music and talk, throwing Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Alan Colmes off the air. In Los Angeles, KTLK 1150 will be dumping Stephanie Miller, Rhodes, Bill Press and David Cruz off the air in favor of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In San Francisco, KNEW 960 will leave Miller, Hartmann, and Mike Malloy without a radio home in the market.

Thanks to radio consolidation and the secondary status of leftist talk in major markets across the country, the final death knell for liberal talkers could be tolling. Leftist talkers simply don't have the same radio draw as conservatives; KTLK was ranked #41 in the market in November 2013, with WWRL registering almost no pulse at all. KNEW registered just an 0.4 in the San Francisco market in December 2013, placing it #31 in the market.

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As Chicago's cycling grows, so does bike tax temptation

Mike Salvatore
© AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in Chicago, Mike Salvatore, owner of Heritage Bicycles talks about the emerging increase in bike riders at his Lakeview neighborhood store. A recent debate on a proposed city bicycle tax has put the spotlight back on cycling. Salvatore believes that no one would have taken that proposal seriously 10 years ago. “Why would you tax bikers, who bikes?! Seriously, 10 years ago there was a handful of nutcases who biked around Chicago. No one would have taken it seriously.”
Early blasts of snow, ice and below-zero temperatures haven't stopped a surprising number of Chicago cyclists from spinning through the slush this winter, thanks in part to a city so serious about accommodating them that it deploys mini-snow plows to clear bike lanes.

The snow-clearing operation is just the latest attention city leaders have lavished on cycling, from a growing web of bike lanes to the nation's second largest shared network of grab-and-go bicycles stationed all over town. But it also spotlights questions that have been raised here, a city wrestling with deep financial problems, and across the country.

Who is paying for all this bicycle upkeep? And shouldn't bicyclists be kicking in themselves?

A city councilwoman's recent proposal to institute a $25 annual cycling tax set off a lively debate that eventually sputtered out after the city responded with a collective "Say what?" A number of gruff voices spoke in favor, feeding off motorists' antagonism toward what they deride as stop sign-running freeloaders. Bike-friendly bloggers retorted that maybe pedestrians ought to be charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks.

Binoculars

Video surveillance of downtown Houston to expand

Downtown Houston
© KHOU.com

Police surveillance of downtown Houston will expand with the addition of 180 new cameras.

The installation of the cameras means police will have nearly 1,000 surveillance feeds available to them. The Houston Chronicle reports most cameras are pointed on public areas around downtown, stadiums and the theater district.

Police Chief Charles McClelland says Houston has more critical infrastructure than New York City and must rely on video to provide necessary police coverage.

The city has spent more than $18 million in federal money to build its camera system and has another $5 million in reserve.

Houston also has expanded its video network through private sharing agreements, such as by accessing networks along rail lines.

Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.

Handcuffs

Feds charge white man with hate crime in first 'knockout' prosecution

Image
© KRIV-TV
Conrad Alvin Barrett
The Obama administration filed a federal hate-crimes charge Thursday against a man whom authorities accused of using the "knockout game" to target a black man, videotaping it, and then bragging about the assault to strangers.

The charge marks the first time the administration has taken action on a "knockout" case after the game became an Internet and media phenomenon. It chose a case in which the person accused is white, even though most other cases reported in the news have involved black assailants.

In this case, the man accused is 27-year-old Conrad Alvin Barrett, who the Justice Department says attacked a 79-year-old black man in Fulshear, Texas, just west of Houston. Justice Department officials said they brought the case to make a point about hate crimes.

"Suspected crimes of this nature will simply not be tolerated," said Kenneth Magidson, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas. "Evidence of hate crimes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted with the assistance of all our partners to the fullest extent of the law."

Mr. Barrett's attorney, George Parnham, told CNN that his client is on medication to treat bipolar disorder. Mr. Parnham said Mr. Barrett "is very sorry" for the victim.

Shopping Bag

'Seasteads' offer libertarians the vision of floating cities for the future

Image
© Independent
The Swimming City by Andras Gyorfi, the winning entry in a Seasteading Institute design contest.

Available soon, for sale or rent: brand new island with sea views from the terrace, fresh fish daily and swimming pool in the resort hotel. An ideal base for 225 pioneers with £100m-plus to spare and a yearning for a new political and social system.

And if you don't like it, no problem. Hitch the house to the back of a tug boat and try somewhere else.

For the right-wing American libertarian with deep-seated problems with Big Government, the 19th century challenge to "Go West, young man" retains a powerful appeal. But for the current target audience - the free-wheeling capitalist dotcom millionaire in Silicon Valley - going west means getting wet.

Not an issue, according to a new design report investigating the feasibility of "seasteads", communities of like-minded, self-governing individuals established on the high seas, free from what its proponents see as the restrictions of nations, welfare systems and punitive taxes.

The seasteading movement has emerged as a political movement - with nods to climate change and land shortages - to create new water-borne city states. Over 85 pages, a Dutch engineering and urban development company has outlined the feasibility of a floating "village" for 225 permanent residents and 50 hotel guests - a blueprint that the pioneering seasteaders hope will become hundreds of floating petri dishes of social and political experiments.

Pistol

Wall Street advisor recommends guns, ammo for protection in collapse

Image
© Washington Examiner
Image from Marotta's website warning investors to prepare a "bug-out" bag in case of a fiscal collapse.
A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a "bug-out bag" that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, "Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms."

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a "financial apocalypse." His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won't result in armageddon. "There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely," said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.

Marotta said that many clients fear an end-of-the-world scenario. He doesn't agree with that outcome, but does with much of what has people worried.

Cell Phone

Teen arrested for pulling knife on dad after not getting iPhone for Xmas

ipad knife drama

A Massachusetts teenager was arrested on Christmas day after police say he pulled a knife on his father because he did not receive an iPhone he wanted for Christmas. 18-year-old Alexander Torres was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery and malicious damage to a motor vehicle, according to Brockton Police Lt. Bruce Zeidman.

"The suspect was fighting with everyone in the house and he pulled out a knife on his father," Zeidman said.

Torres' father was uninjured but the teen's 24-year-old stepbrother was sent to Good Samaritan Medical Center, although police did not provide information as to why.

Laptop

Irony: the U.K.'s new porn filters have blocked the homepage of the pro-censorship politician who promoted the filters

 Claire Perry
© Flickr
Claire Perry

After numerous reports of harmless sites being blocked as "inappropriate," Britain's new Internet content filters are currently best known as a nuisance. Rather than succeeding in their intended purpose of protecting children from online porn, they're managing to block hundreds of innocuous sites - including the homepage of the pro-censorship politician who campaigned for the filters to be introduced.

Almost every major ISP in the U.K. has now implemented the content filters, which act as a kind of "net nanny" service to block hardcore porn, extremist political sites, drugs, alcohol, violence and suicide-related content, and a selection of other topics deemed inappropriate for children to be viewing online.

When setting up a new Internet connection, customers are given the option of modifying or opting out of these content filters, but it still took less than 24 hours for someone to create a proxy service that allows people to circumvent the filters if they didn't have access to their own ISP.

The so-called "porn filters" have already been criticized for blocking multiple sites containing non-pornographic sexual content, including sex education and LGBT support sites. O2, one of the top four ISPs in the U.K., has even had to amend its filters after users discovered that they were blocked from various childrens' charities, the Samaritans, and the British Library.

Better Earth

Secret Santa saves dog after being hit by car in Bradenton, Florida

Bandit
© MySuncoast
Bandit.
An anonymous Good Samaritan, or in this case, a secret Santa, has given the best gift of all this year to a little dog named, Bandit. The gift of life.

On Christmas night, Bandit, a poodle mix, was hit by a car on Tamiami Trail in Bradenton. The driver fled the scene and left Bandit in the middle of the road to die. Moments later, another driver stopped her car, put Bandit inside and rushed to the Veterinary Emergency Center in Bradenton.

"He was essentially comatose when he came in. Initially we thought he wasn't going to make it," said Dr. Ilonka Ambros, with the Veterinary Emergency Center.

Bandit is suffering from internal injuries, severe road rash and various cuts and bruises.

Had it not been for the anonymous Good Samaritan, Bandit would have certainly died.