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Silicon Valley company EFI paid Indian employees $1.21/hr, posted $200 million revenue for 3rd quarter

© Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Vanity Fair / AFP
While many Americans fight for the government to increase the minimum wage across the country, one Silicon Valley company has now been penalized for paying some foreign employees dramatically lower wages.

The fine was handed down by the US Department of Labor after it discovered that Electronics for Imaging (EFI) flew eight employees in from its office in Bangalore, India, and paid them the equivalent of $1.21 an hour, the San Jose Mercury News reported this week. The foreign employees were called in to help install computers for the Fremont, California-based company, which paid them in Indian rupees.

Additionally, these employees worked extensive hours - up to 122 hours a week in some cases. They were employed inside of the United States last year from September 8 until December 21.

"We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from employers," said Susana Blanco, district director of the US Labor Department, according to the Mercury News.


China: 16 Killed in coal mine collapse

china coal mine disaster
© (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhao Ge)

In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers work at the accident site after a coal mine collapsed in Tiechanggou township, China's Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. China's official news agency says 16 coal miners were killed after their shaft collapsed in the country's northwest.
A coal mine shaft collapsed in northwestern China, killing 16 miners, an official said Saturday, highlighting the persistence of safety problems in the industry despite a leveling off of demand.

Another 11 miners were injured in the disaster, which struck just before midnight Friday in Tiechanggou township outside the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi.

Thirty-three miners were in the shaft when the accident occurred, six of whom were brought out by rescuers, said an official with the State Administration of Work Safety. The official, speaking on routine condition of anonymity, said that all of the injured were in stable condition and that the cause of the cave-in was under investigation.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of injured miners sitting up in their hospital beds and describing their experiences to a reporter.

A man who answered the phone at the mine's offices said he could not comment, and calls to the Xinjiang regional safety administration rang unanswered.

Arrow Down

The mystery of the 1,000 greyhounds who retire and then vanish

© The Independent, UK
A new report says that self-regulation is not working.
Every year, one in eight greyhounds "disappears" at the end of its racing career, with some dogs being sold for research and dissection, a leading animal welfare charity claims.

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) estimates that around 1,000 of the approximately 8,000 greyhounds retiring from racing annually are not rehomed and are unaccounted for.

Although the industry's governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), requires owners to register retirements and provide information on the fate of each dog, they are not obliged to provide any supporting evidence that a new home has been found. Some unwanted dogs are known to be returned to Ireland, where the majority were originally bred.

A report to be published this week reveals that some unwanted greyhounds were sold to a university which slaughtered them and used them to teach anatomy to veterinary students.

University College Dublin admitted buying 33 dogs last year, the report by the LACS and GREY2K USA, an American greyhound protection organisation.

Eye 1

California police officer accused of stealing nude photos from woman's cell phone

CA police
© Reuters / Max Whittaker
A California Highway Patrol officer has been accused of stealing nude photographs of a woman he pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, and investigators recommend filing criminal charges against him.

Court documents obtained by the Contra Costa Times show that investigators have learned Sean Harrington, a 35-year-old CHP officer and five-year veteran of the force, illegally forwarded various nude photographs to himself after gaining access to the young woman's phone. The investigator for the Contra Costa District Attorney is recommending that they bring felony computer theft charges against Harrington.

The incident began earlier this year on August 29, when Harrington pulled over a 23-year-old woman - who remains unidentified - for performing an illegal lane change. She ended up failing a sobriety test and registered a .29 percent blood-alcohol level, far higher than the legal limit of .08 percent.

Comment: Another example of how US police became dangerous to the people they are supposed to serve.

Cop Who Stole Nude Photos From Woman's Cellphone, Says It's A "Game" Among Police


Five injured in massive industrial explosion in Ontario, Canada

Veolia Environmental Services location in Sarnia, Ontario
© Screenshot from Google Maps
Veolia Environmental Services location in Sarnia, Ont.
Five people have been injured after a massive industrial explosion in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The explosion occurred at Veolia ES Canada Industrial Services that offers industrial cleaning and maintenance services.

Five people were injured in the explosion that caused a fire at the industrial site in Sarnia, Mayor Mike Bradleyannounced according to CTV News. One person was critically wounded in the blast and three suffered serious injuries, while one was hospitalized with minor injuries, according to the mayor.


End This Fee for All - hidden charges burden lower- and middle-income population

hidden fees bills
Last week, AT&T agreed to pay $80 million to customers who had been overbilled for charges they had not authorized. This was an all-too-rare case of a perpetrator brought to book: In recent decades, Americans have increasingly been hit with fees they know nothing about, which have contributed to a crisis of consumer debt. We must hope we are entering a new era of regulatory activism that will shine a light on hidden fees.

Besides mystery cellphone charges, consumers regularly complain about surprise bank charges for using tellers, for overdraft protection or for not maintaining minimum balances. Not to mention fees for "maintenance" of individual retirement accounts or 401(k)'s, airport taxes, charges on credit-card cash advances or balance transfers, costs for the activation or early termination of cable and Internet services, and fees on 529 college savings accounts and mortgage origination. A 2010 Consumer Reports survey found that unexpected or hidden fees were consumers' biggest bugbear.

In the AT&T case, the company typically charged customers $9.99 per month for unrequested, third-party subscriptions for ringtones and text messages providing horoscopes, flirting tips, celebrity gossip and "fun facts." AT&T pocketed at least 35 percent of these fees; the company earned $108 million in 2012 and $161 million in 2013 from the scheme.

The structure of billing made it "very difficult for customers to know that third-party charges were being placed on their bills," according to the Federal Trade Commission. Even when customers complained, refunds were often denied.

This isn't the first time the industry has run afoul of regulators. In June, the F.T.C. issued a similar lawsuit against T-Mobile for "cramming," as the practice of adding hidden fees is known; there have been seven such fee-cramming investigations since 2013.

"Hidden" does not necessarily mean a charge is missing from the consumer agreement; rather, costs and terms are often buried in fine print or impenetrable legal language that even contract lawyers have difficulty discovering. The onus is on the customer to be informed of whatever costs are associated with the goods or services. But with these charges buried in tightly guarded pricing structures, customers are often trapped into paying exorbitant fees for years and years.

Perniciously, these "trick-and-trap" fees are not just lurking in your cellphone plan; they have invaded areas of consumer credit like mortgages, student and auto loans - financial services that have traditionally provided a path of upward mobility for low-income and working-class families. A glaring example is higher education, where colleges and universities bury students under a mountain of fees, including registration fees just to attend class, quite apart from the fees they already face on student loans.

Comment: Extra charges buried in obscure legal language is just one more way the 1% enrich themselves.


Armed Pro-gun activists marches through downtown St. Louis

St. Louis protests with gun1
© Reuters/Andrew Innerarity
Dozens of armed demonstrators have marched through the downtown St. Louis to confirm their right to carry firearms openly in public. Only some 10 policemen watched the march without much interest, even after the group met counter protesters.

A heavily armed crowd of over 40 people marched on Saturday afternoon from the Citygarden to the Gateway Arch, openly displaying their arsenal. A group of some 10 police officers took a note of the gathering, but did not follow or otherwise intervene with the group armed with pistols and rifles, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Comment: It is interesting to observe these armed pro-gun activist protests, while police are shooting the unarmed black teenagers.


Global Ebola cases pass 10,000; a million vaccine doses to be ready at the end of 2015

Ebola Mali
© Joe Penney/Reuters
A health worker checks the temperature of a baby entering Mali from Guinea.
The global number of cases in the Ebola outbreak has exceeded 10,000, with 4,922 deaths, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organisation released on Saturday. Three countries with shared borders - Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea - account for all but 10 of the fatalities, with only 27 cases occurring outside the west African epicentre.

The UN agency said the number of cases was now 10,141 but that the true figure was much higher, as many families were keeping relatives at home rather than taking them to treatment centres and are burying their dead without official clearance. It said many of the centres were overcrowded.

The latest report showed a rise of 400 cases in the last three days in Sierra Leone and Guinea but no change in the number of cases and deaths in the worst- affected country, Liberia.

It comes as an analysis of Ebola figures by development consultants the African Governance Initiative (AGI) suggest that even with current efforts to build more hospital facilities in the affected nations, there will be no medical personnel to staff them and there will be a shortage of more than 6,000 hospital beds in Guinea and Sierra Leone by December if the WHO's worst-case scenario figure of 10,000 new cases a week by the end of the year is reached.

Star of David

Israeli army kills 14-year old Palestinian with U.S. citizenship

slain Palestinian youth, Orwa Hammad
© Shadi Hattem
14-year old slain Palestinian youth, Orwa Hammad who is also a U.S. citizen, was killed by the Israeli army, October 24, 2014.
A Palestinian teen with U.S. citizenship was killed today by the Israeli army at a demonstration in the West Bank town of Silwad, near Ramallah. Fourteen-year old Orwah Hammad was shot with a live bullet that entered his neck and exited through his head, according to Ramallah hospital staff. He died while being treated at Ramallah hospital around 6 p.m. this evening, Jerusalem time.

The killing comes eight days after Israeli soldiers killed a 13-year-old boy during a raid on a West Bank village.


How convenient! Washington school shooting took place during SWAT drill and two weeks before upcoming gun control vote

initiative 594
What are the odds?

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how a few elite billionaires including Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates have spent some $8 million to make sure Washington's controversial gun control bill, Initiative 594, will appear on the state's November ballot and that voters will be flooded with anti-gun propaganda in the lead up.

I-594 would require universal background checks, going so far as a making it so that a hunter would not be allowed to hand a gun to a friend on a hunting trip without triggering the background check provisions in the anti-gun bill.

On YouTube, Michael Parkhurst commented, "Commercials promoting the bill have been bombarding us for weeks."

Comment: See also: Two dead from high school shooting in Washington state; shooter identified as Jaylen Rey Fryberg