(CBS/AP) Updated at 7:40 a.m. Eastern
LOS ANGELES - Police in Los Angeles and Philadelphia stormed Occupy Wall Street encampments in both cities Wednesday, demanding protesters leave demonstration sites that had become two of the movement’s largest after evictions upended others across the country.
Dozens of officers in riot gear flooded down the steps of Los Angeles City Hall just after midnight and started dismantling the two-month-old camp two days after a deadline passed for campers to leave the City Hall lawn. The raid had a military precision and officers in helmets and wielding batons moved in and began making arrests after several orders were given to leave the small park.
According to Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, about 200 people who refused to vacate the camp were arrested.
"It was an amazing show of peaceful police power," reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker, who says the entire operation took only about three hours, "and it was all done with no violence."
When protesters first showed up with their tents at the beginning of October, Whitaker says they were welcomed by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but with no end in sight, he ordered the evacuation.
Villaraigosa issued a statement after the raid saying the city took “a measured approach,” and that during the park’s closure a “first amendment area” would remain open on City Hall steps so people can continue to speak their minds.
The raid in Los Angeles came after demonstrators with the movement in Philadelphia marched through the streets after being evicted from their site. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa raised public safety and health concerns in announcing plans for the eviction last week, while Philadelphia officials said protestors must clear their site to make room for a $50 million renovation project.
Defiant Los Angeles campers who were chanting slogans as the officers surrounded the park, booed when an unlawful assembly was declared, paving the way for officers to begin arresting those who didn’t leave.
In the first moments of the raid, officers tore down a tent and tackled a tattooed man with a camera on City Hall steps and wrestled him to the ground. Someone yelled “police brutality.”
Teams of four or five officers moved through the crowd making arrests one at a time, cuffing the hands of protesters with white plastic zip-ties. A circle of protesters sat with arms locked, many looking calm and smiling.
Opamago Cascini, 29, said the night had been a blast and he was willing to get arrested.
"It’s easy to talk the talk, but you gotta walk the walk," Cascini said.
In Congress, Role Reversal Over Federal Payroll Tax Cut
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Published: November 29, 2011
WASHINGTON — In a sharp role reversal, Democrats and Republicans have become divided over whether to extend a federal payroll tax cut enjoyed by every working American last year, with Democrats leading the charge for the tax break and many Republicans demanding that the cut be paid for if it is extended at all.
It is a shift from the recently failed deficit talks when Republicans pushed for extending Bush-era tax cutswithout paying for them and Democrats argued against added tax breaks for the most affluent Americans. Now the fight over how to handle the tax cuts as well as added unemployment benefits is set to play out in the final month of the year as the two parties prepare for a politically charged 2012.
Congressional Republicans have long insisted that tax cuts keep money in the hands of Americans who then funnel it back into the economy, negating the need to offset the revenue loss. Echoing many of his Republican colleagues, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate Republican, once said that “you should never have to offset the cost” of tax cuts on Americans.
But the party appears to be making an exception for renewing and extending a cut that would reduce the Social Security payroll tax paid by employees by half, to 3.1. percent of wages from 6.2 percent. The position angers Democrats, who see it as unfair given the Republican position on the broader tax cuts that expire at the end of 2012.
Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, once said that “you should never have to offset the cost” of tax cuts on Americans.
“The only place in America that people don’t want a fair system are Republicans here in the Senate,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a news conference on Tuesday.
Despite the fact that they have signed the now famous pledge not to raise taxes, many Republicans, particularly in the House, oppose the extension on basic principle, arguing that the reduction in the payroll tax paid by employees does not stimulate the economy. They also fear it harms the Social Security fund in the long term, though the losses would be replenished by the general fund.
“I think that it is time we stop with putting these Band-Aids over huge chest wounds,” said Representative Allen B. West, Republican of Florida. “We continue to leverage this short-term political gimmick over the long-term viability of Social Security.”
The idea that a tax cut must be paid for — and the fact that Democrats are not seeking the payroll tax relief without offsetting its costs this time — reflects the politics of austerity that dominate the 112th Congress, in which deficit spending is the fiscal equivalent of the sun-dried tomato — extremely passé.
“With this $15 trillion debt we now have,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said Tuesday, “we have to pay for a measure like this, and I think we will pay for it.”
Indeed in the Senate, where the fight over the payroll tax break began this week, Republican support for the extension is growing, as long as it is paid for in a way that passes muster with the party. Democrats introduced legislation that would pay for the extension — which would also lower the portion of the tax paid by employers, at a cost of roughly $115 billion — with a 3.25 percent surtax on income over $1 million, an idea Republicans have already rejected. Democrats openly acknowledge it is little more than a stunt to emphasize the vast policy divisions between the parties.
Mr. McConnell said Republicans would offer an alternative this week; he declined to provide details. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said Tuesday that she had suggested a tax increase on high earners that protected employers from that burden. “I don’t think we should be imposing additional taxes on working families at a time when the economy is so fragile,” she said.
Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said his party’s plan could involve a small increase in taxes for some high-income people who meet certain criteria.
A similar dynamic — though with some different features — is expected to shape the debate over whether to extend unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the year, as well as other measures.
While many economists say a payroll tax holiday is good for the economy because it allows working- and middle-class Americans to retain hundreds of extra dollars to buy things, detractors argue that most of that money is saved, not spent, and therefore does not jolt the economy.
One Republican up for re-election, Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, goes further than Democrats who are pushing for the tax cut to stay. “It wasn’t paid for before so why it is paid for now?” Mr. Brown said Tuesday. “It will pay for itself.”
Support for Tea Party Falls in Strongholds, Polls Show
By KATE ZERNIKE
Published: November 29, 2011
Support for the Tea Party — and with it, the Republican Party — has fallen sharply even in places considered Tea Party strongholds, according to an analysis of new polls.
In Congressional districts represented by Tea Party lawmakers, the number of people saying they disagree with the movement has risen significantly since it powered a Republican sweep in midterm elections; almost as many people disagree with it as agree with it, according to the analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Support for the Republican Party has fallen even further in those places than it has in the country as a whole. In the 60 districts represented in Congress by a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, Republicans are now viewed about as negatively as Democrats.
The analysis suggests that the Tea Party may be dragging down the Republican Party heading into a presidential election year, even as it ushered in a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives just a year ago.
Other polls have shown a decline in support for the Tea Party and its positions, particularly because its hard line during the debate over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction made it less an abstraction than it was a year ago. In earlier polls, most Americans did not know enough about the Tea Party to offer an opinion.
“We know that the image of the G.O.P. has slipped, but to see it slip so dramatically in Tea Party districts is pretty surprising,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Center. “You think of those as bedrock Republican districts. They are the base.”
The number of people who disagree with the Tea Party has also risen among the general public, according to the most recent of the polls in the Pew analysis, taken this month. Among the public, 27 percent said they disagreed with the Tea Party and 20 percent said they agreed — a reversal from a year ago, when 27 percent agreed and 22 percent disagreed.
In Tea Party districts, 23 percent of people now disagree with the Tea Party, while 25 percent agree. A year ago, 18 percent of people in those districts disagreed with the Tea Party, and 33 percent agreed.
In another poll in the Pew analysis, conducted in October, 48 percent of people in Tea Party districts said they had a negative view of the Republican Party, while 41 percent said they had a favorable view. The favorable rating had dropped 14 percentage points since March.
That drop was steeper than it was among the general public, where the percentage of people with a favorable opinion of the Republican Party had fallen to 36 percent, from 42 percent in March.
Opinions about the Democratic Party have shifted less, nationally and in Tea Party districts. Among the general public, favorable ratings for the Democratic Party fell to 46 percent in October from 50 percent in August. In Tea Party districts, favorable ratings for the Democrats stayed about the same — at 39 percent in October and 37 percent in August.
There was even some evidence that Tea Party Republicans were viewing Democrats a little less harshly. The share of people in Tea Party districts who viewed the Democrats unfavorably had fallen to 50 percent in October, from 57 percent in August.
How much this affects Republican chances in the presidential contest next year, Mr. Kohut said, probably depends on which candidate wins the nomination.
“If the candidate is of a more conservative bent, he or she will have to deal with this complaint about the Tea Party among the general public, of being too extreme and not willing to compromise,” he said.
“The focus has been very much on the candidate and not on the party, but going into this election, the party has problems,” he said. “Which isn’t to say that people are wildly enthusiastic about the Democratic Party, but it hasn’t lost the kind of favor the G.O.P. has.”
The analysis is based on polls conducted by the Pew Research Center from March 2010 through November.
By MIKE McINTIRE and JIM RUTENBERG
Published: November 29, 2011
Newt Gingrich is adamant that he is not a lobbyist, but rather a visionary who traffics in ideas, not influence. But in the eight years since he started his health care consultancy, he has made millions of dollars while helping companies promote their services and gain access to state and federal officials.
In a variety of instances, documents and interviews show, Mr. Gingrich arranged meetings between executives and officials, and salted his presentations to lawmakers with pitches for his clients, who pay as much as $200,000 a year to belong to his Center for Health Transformation.
When the center sponsored a “health transformation summit” at the Florida State Capitol in March 2006, lawmakers who attended Mr. Gingrich’s keynote speech inside the House chamber received a booklet promoting not just ideas but also the specific services of two dozen of his clients. Executives from some of those companies sat on panels for discussions that lawmakers were encouraged to attend after Mr. Gingrich’s address.
Gerard White, president of Clearwave, which paid about $50,000 to become a center member, used the occasion to pitch his company’s system for managing patient medical data. “It was a way for companies who were part of Newt’s group to say to health officials in Florida, ‘Hey, here are some exciting things we’re doing,’ ” Mr. White said.
Mr. Gingrich and his aides have repeatedly emphasized that he is not a registered lobbyist, an important distinction in their effort to position him as an outsider who will transform the ways of Washington. They say that he has never taken a position for money and that corporations have signed on with him because of the strength of his ideas.
“You have somebody who knows what he believes in, he can effectively communicate it, and he’s successful in doing it,” said his spokesman, R. C. Hammond. “God bless America.”
Yet if Mr. Gingrich has managed to steer clear of legal tripwires, a review of his activities shows how he put his influence to work on behalf of clients with a considerable stake in government policy. Even if he does not appear to have been negotiating legislative language, he and his staff did many of the same things that registered lobbyists do.
The center’s own records — kept in a restricted section of its Web site, but found by The New York Times in an unsecured archived version of the site — contain several previously unreported examples.
Two years before the Florida “summit,” Mr. Gingrich made a presentation to Republican lawmakers in Georgia, promoting the work of his member companies by citing specific benefits if they were hired. For example: “VitalSpring could save the State Employee Program over $20 million a year.”
Minutes of a members-only conference call from March 2004 said the center had “arranged joint meetings” for members to present their work on electronic health records to top federal officials, noting that Mr. Gingrich “reported very positive feedback overall from these meetings.”
He also pressed for passage of a federal bill to increase the use of electronic health records, collaborating with one of its co-sponsors, Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, both Democrats. After appearing at a press briefing on the issue with Mrs. Clinton in 2005, he stated flatly on Fox News: “We’re launching a bill.”
Mr. Gingrich’s ability to reach leaders like Mrs. Clinton was a selling point for the center. A PowerPoint presentation for prospective members advertised its “contacts at the highest levels” of federal and state government. Paying $200,000 a year for the top-tier membership, it said, “increases your channels of input to decision makers” and grants “access to top transformational leadership across industry and government.”
In asserting that Mr. Gingrich has never engaged in lobbying, his aides say lawyers have thoroughly vetted all of his activities. Randy Evans, a Georgia lawyer who has represented Mr. Gingrich since his days as House speaker, said none of Mr. Gingrich’s clients paid him to adopt a position that he did not already have.
“That matters a lot,” Mr. Evans said, “because there was never a point where we identified a client’s position first and decided, ‘O.K., that’s where we’re going.’ His vision always came first.”
Mr. Evans said that when Mr. Gingrich appeared to be promoting the services of his clients before state lawmakers, he was merely citing examples to buttress his ideas, and that the companies “weren’t paying him to do that.” Mr. Gingrich would also include examples from firms that were not center members, he said.
Any interactions Mr. Gingrich had with members of Congress or federal officials on matters important to his clients “followed specific protocols and procedures” that the center designed to ensure he stayed within the law, Mr. Evans said.
“It would be absolutely false to say that he lobbied at any point,” Mr. Evans said.
As his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has gained traction in recent weeks, Mr. Gingrich has said he expects increased scrutiny of his business activities since leaving Congress in 1999. Those activities, which primarily involve the Center for Health Transformation and his original consulting firm, the Gingrich Group, have made him wealthy. The consultancy and center earned a combined $55 million over the last 10 years, according to a Gingrich Group representative.
From the moment he entered private life, Mr. Gingrich seemed determined to avoid being tagged as a lobbyist, which can be a kiss of death for anyone contemplating a presidential run. An early consulting contract, with a plastics company in 2001, contained language that would become standard: He “does not provide lobbying services of any kind.”
“He made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington and elsewhere,” said Paul Branagan, who was president of Millennium Plastics when it hired Mr. Gingrich for $7,500 a month plus stock options.
As his policy interests increasingly focused on health care, Mr. Gingrich created the center, which he portrays as a think tank promoting innovative ways to improve health care delivery and save money. Companies and trade groups pay annual fees ranging from $20,000 to $200,000, with higher-paying members gaining more direct access to Mr. Gingrich.
Many of the ideas he has pushed involve the increased use of information technology, and companies specializing in that are well represented on the center’s roster. They also figured prominently in an early center initiative, teaming up in 2003 with the conservativeGeorgia Public Policy Foundation to promote changes in health care in Mr. Gingrich’s home state.
At his discussion with Georgia House Republicans in 2004, Mr. Gingrich gave examples of companies whose services could “both improve health and start saving money,” according to the center’s summary of his presentation. His talk included a handout listing mostly members of the center, their contact information and a description of their services.
Kelly McCutchen, the policy foundation’s president, said that Mr. Gingrich was good at convincing state lawmakers of the merits of modernizing health care, and that citing cutting-edge companies was effective.
“He does cite examples in his presentations,” Mr. McCutchen said. “But everybody cites examples. Is there a quid pro quo? Can you prove that a company is paying someone to lobby a position, or are they just supporting them because they like the educational work they’re doing? I’ll let others decide that.”
In Washington, Mr. Gingrich’s push for electronic health records illustrated how his own policy advocacy and his ties to former Congressional colleagues made him a sought-out consultant for companies like Astra Zeneca and Siemens. Mr. Gingrich hailed HealthTrio, one of the center’s “founding charter members,” during a hearing held in 2003 by Senator Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho. Telling the senator that HealthTrio’s chief executive had helped design the electronic records program in the United Kingdom, Mr. Gingrich said the company “estimates we could have an electronic health record for every American for about 10 cents per month, per person.”
The center later arranged for HealthTrio and I.B.M. to meet with senior federal health officials and congressional leaders “to review the U.K. approach and how it might be applied in the U.S.,” according to center records.
Some of the ideas promoted by the center found their way into the electronic health records legislation proposed by Mr. Kennedy, which was prepared with input from Mr. Gingrich. Mr. Kennedy said that he had known Mr. Gingrich from their days in the House, and that they had found a common interest in the issue.
“We worked together because it usually got people’s attention,” Mr. Kennedy said in an interview. “When there was a Kennedy and a Gingrich, it got people to think, ‘Hey, if this is above partisanship, let me take another look at it.’ ”
A Congressional staff member involved in the legislation, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Mr. Gingrich had frequently cited the work of companies he identified as “members” of his center. But the staff member said it was not initially clear to him that they were paying the former House speaker. “It was a year before I even realized that the Center for Health Transformation was even a for-profit company, because it didn’t sound like one,” he said.
With college costs skyrocketing and the number of jobs for new grads on the decline, it’s no wonder that students are questioning whether a degree is worth the investment. But given that the jobs of the future are projected to require some form of post-secondary education, a key question is how to provide academic knowledge and industry-specific training that will prepare students for the future. The answer might come from a throwback to the Middle Ages: apprenticeships.
I have been arguing that apprenticeships will emerge again for a number of different reasons than the increasing price of college education:
today’s job tasks are increasingly more reliant on context specific knowledge, non academic skills, personal capabilities and practical working skills (project leadership, time management…) than what we usually want to acknowledge - what we learn in college is usually the generic part, but when that generic part is decreasing in importance so is the value of going to college
colleges and universities are not very good at looking outside their faculty to ensure that they are relevant for the rest of the society for the simple reason that they often think they are in the center of the universe - a stance that today’s conscious students recognize and despise, and which is on it’s way to render much of the knowledge that is taught as well as the methods for organizing and teaching irrelevant
the urge to increase the number of college graduates continues deteriorate the quality of the education
because of the success of the higher educational model during the last century colleges and universities have developed into centralized and administratively heavy mass manufacturing plants – and when the society needs other models for learning, entrepreneurial speed is usually much faster than speed of the incumbent’s
An apprentice model is surely one of many approaches that we will see challenge the traditional college model.
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
Published: November 29, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO — Accusing Facebook of engaging in “unfair and deceptive” business practices, the federal government on Tuesday announced a broad settlement that requires the company to respect its users’ wishes on privacy and subjects it to regular privacy audits for the next 20 years.
The strongly worded order, announced by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, stems largely from changes that Facebook made to the way it handled its users’ information in December 2009.
The commission alleged that Facebook, without warning its users or seeking consent, made public information that they had deemed to be private on their Facebook pages.
The order also says that Facebook, which has more than 800 million users worldwide today, in some cases allowed advertisers to glean personally identifiable information when a Facebook user clicked on an advertisement on his or her Facebook page. The company has long maintained that it does not share personal data with advertisers.
And the order says that Facebook shared user information with outside application developers, contrary to representations made to its users. And even after a Facebook user deleted his or her account, according to the F.T.C., the company still allowed their photos and videos to be accessed.
All told, the commission listed eight complaints. It levied no fines and did not accuse Facebook of intentionally breaking the law. However, if Facebook violates the terms of the settlement in the future, it would be liable to pay a penalty of $16,000 a day for each count, the F.T.C. said.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, conceded in a lengthy blog post that the company had made “a bunch of mistakes,” but said it had already fixed several of the issues cited by the commission.
“Facebook has always been committed to being transparent about the information you have stored with us — and we have led the Internet in building tools to give people the ability to see and control what they share,” he wrote. “But we can always do better.”
By way of example, Mr. Zuckerberg pointed to more explicit privacy controls that the company unveiled over the summer.
Facebook has long wanted its users to post content — links, opinions, pictures and other data — on their Facebook pages with minimal effort, or “friction,” as company executives call it. The settlement with the F.T.C. will undoubtedly require it to introduce more “friction.” The order requires Facebook to obtain its users’ “affirmative express consent” before it can override their own privacy settings. For example, if a user designated certain content to be visible only to “friends,” Facebook could allow that content to be shared more broadly only after obtaining the user’s permission. The settlement does not require Facebook to obtain “opt in” data-sharing permission for new products, the company said in response to a question.
Ever since its public release in 2004, Facebook has drawn an ever-larger number of members, even as its sometimes aggressive approach to changes around privacy have angered and sown distrust among a section of its users.
“We’ve all known that Facebook repeatedly cuts corners when it comes to its privacy promises,” said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, in an e-mail after the announcement. “Like most Internet companies, they thought they could get away with it. They didn’t.”
Facebook is also obliged to undergo an independent privacy audit every six months for the next 20 years, according to the terms of the settlement.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is part of a coalition of consumer groups that filed a complaint with the F.T.C., commended the order but said settlements with individual companies fall short of what is needed: a federal law to protect consumer privacy.
“We hope they will establish a high bar for privacy protection,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “But we do not have in the United States a comprehensive privacy framework. There is always a risk other companies will come along and create new problems.”
Several privacy bills are pending in Congress, and Internet companies have stepped up their lobbying efforts in Washington. The F.T.C., meanwhile, has ratcheted up its scrutiny of Internet companies. This year alone, it has reached settlement orders with some of the giants of Silicon Valley, including Google. “In effect, the F.T.C. is manufacturing de facto legislation through its Silicon Valley tour-de-force,” Professor Goldman added.
The order comes amid growing speculation about Facebook’s preparations for an initial public offering, which could be valued at more than $100 billion. The settlement with the F.T.C., analysts say, could potentially ease investors’ concerns about government regulation by holding the company to a clear set of privacy prescriptions.
“When you have an I.P.O. you don’t want investors to be skeptical or jittery,” said Ryan Calo, who leads privacy research at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. “In order for you to be as valuable as possible, you want to make sure the seas are calm. This calms the seas.”
Inertia has switched sides in the battle. Inertia had been our problem, we needed 60 votes in the senate to get anything done. But if nothing happens next year, if we continue the pattern of gridlock, because of the very right-wing people elected in 2010, here’s what happens: Firstly, all of the Bush tax cuts expire. Secondly, there are significant cuts all across the board, but the programs for the poorest people in the country are protected and the defense dept. takes the biggest share of the cuts.
Now all we have to do is say to the Republicans ‘If you allow some of the Bush tax cuts to expire, namely the ones for people making over $300,000 in income, then we will agree to adjust the sequester.’ Then we can put forward a bill that protects the tax cuts for the 98% of the country.
Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists
According to the MIAC report, potential terrorists now include opponents of: 1. Gun Control 2. The Federal Reserve 3. The United Nations 4. The North American Union 5. The New World Order 6. Income Tax 7. Radio Frequency Identification 8. Abortion 9. Illegal Immigration the new 9 commandments in order to not be deemed ..as a homegrown radical terrorist deserving to be indefinitely detained. they already trained our people ..working in the ‘camps’.
Republican presidential candidates are falling over themselves promising to cut your taxes. Well, probably not your taxes. Somebody else’s taxes. Somebody rich.
First there was Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, which would replace all of our current taxes with a 9 percent national sales tax, a 9 percent “business tax” and a 9 percent tax on income. Now Rick Perry says that his 20 percent “flat tax” is even better. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann says Perry stole her idea. But let’s be clear: These are massive tax cuts for the rich, not for most of us.
The Cain 9-9-9 plan is breathtaking. The poorest Americans would see their effective tax rate increase from about 5 percent to 18 percent. The typical household would pay $4,000 more than today. But the top 0.1 percent would get an average tax cut of $1.4 million and would pay an effective tax rate of 18 percent—lower than any other income group. That a plan so insane could be proposed by a leading presidential candidate just shows how crazy our political system has become. Although Perry’s flat tax preserves the tax code for most families, he offers a special tax cut for the rich. A retired couple making $700,000 would be $75,000 richer under his plan. (To see a very tall graphical representation of Perry and Cain’s tax plans, see Derek Thompson’s charts.)
Poll after poll says that most Americans want to raise taxes on the rich. In one recent survey, more than two-thirds of respondents — and even a majority of Republicans! — favored higher taxes on households making more than $250,000 per year. Why are people who want to be elected president proposing the exact opposite of what the people want?