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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Wealthy Prepare for First Increase Since 1993: Taxes

By Margaret Collins - Dec 12, 2012

Taxes will rise for wealthy Americans next year. It’s still a question of how much.

U.S. income tax rates for top earners and investors will go up for the first time since 1993. They will see levies rise on unearned income and wages starting Jan. 1 to finance the 2010 law that sought to expand health-care coverage. President Barack Obama wants higher taxes on their compensation, capital gains, dividends and estates to reduce the deficit, proposing to raise the top marginal rate to as much as 43.4 percent on some income from 35 percent.

Lawmakers in both political parties have called for an overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which also could curtail tax breaks for home mortgage interest, municipal bonds, charitable contributions and retirement savings used by wealthy people.

“The prevailing emotion for our clients is frustration with the current situation with regards to taxes,” said Leo Kelly, managing director and partner at HighTower Advisors’ Kelly Wealth Management. “They really feel like they’re being held hostage because they can’t get information to make an intelligent decision.”



Calpers Bankruptcy Strategy Pits Retirees vs. All Others

By Steven Church and James Nash - Dec 12, 2012
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is trying to rewrite the rules for bankrupt cities, claiming that it should get paid before almost everyone else, including bondholders.

The biggest U.S. public pension fund would set a legal precedent should courts adopt Calpers’s position that, as an arm of the state, it is exempt from rules that apply to other creditors in the Chapter 9 bankruptcy cases of San Bernardino and Stockton. A Calpers victory would threaten public services in a city trying to reorganize in bankruptcy, or in an extreme case, cause a city to disincorporate, attorney James E. Spiotto said in an interview.

“Chapter 9 was never intended to cause the liquidation of a municipality or the reduction of services,” said Spiotto, who isn’t involved in the San Bernardino and Stockton cases. “What Calpers is doing is threatening the basic tenet of Chapter 9.”

Pension costs for retired public employees are straining local governments from California to Rhode Island. In Southern California, San Bernardino says it is so strapped for cash it must put off $13 million in payments to Calpers or risk public safety. About 400 miles (644 kilometers) north, creditors of Stockton are fighting Calpers in court as well, arguing that the pension fund shouldn’t be given preferential treatment and urging the city to take an aggressive stance in negotiations.



Michigan Anti-Abortion Package Passes House

The state Senate of Michigan passed a package of anti-abortion legislation last week in an effort to pass abortion restriction legislation before the end of the lame duck session. SB 612, 613, and 614 seek to eliminate insurance coverage for abortion services with no exception for rape or incest.

The bills would prevent abortion from being a covered benefit under the state health care exchange that must be implemented by 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act. They also would prevent abortion services coverage from being supplied by private insurance policies from an employer. In this case, the employer or the individual would have to purchase a separate policy specifically for abortion coverage. The only abortion exception that would be covered without a supplemental policy would be in a situation where the woman would die without the procedure.

Desiree Cooper of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan told the Huffington Post "It feels like are completely tone-deaf to what Americans want in general, which is for legislators to pay attention to the economy, particularly in Michigan, and to women and their power to say, 'This is what we want, and this is what we don't want.'"



Lawmakers Ask Obama To Close Palestinian Office In D.C.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are circulating a letter on Capitol Hill asking the White House to punish Palestinians for their successful statehood bid at the United Nations last month. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-CA), and Howard Berman (D-CA) have signed on to the letter imploring President Obama to shut down the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington, D.C. and “call our Consul-General in Jerusalem home for consultations.” The letter, which is supported by the American Israel Public Affairs committee, says to use “every means at our disposal to ensure that this General Assembly vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums.”

Ros-Lehtinen last month called for cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to the statehood bid (a move that isn’t a very good idea). And a Senate amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last week would have done just that and also called on the U.S. to shut down the PLO’s diplomatic mission in the U.S.

CAP’s Matt Duss wrote that responses like these are mistaken and could potentially help groups like Hamas:

“U.S. policymakers and legislators should consider the words of several former Israeli officials who have come out in support of the Palestinian bid, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said in a recent interview that “the Palestinian request from the United Nations is congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution. Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it.” Writing in Foreign Policy this week, former deputy Israeli defense minister Ephraim Sneh warned that efforts to punish Abbas and the Palestinian Authority over the U.N. bid — which would likely redound to the benefit of Abbas’ more hardline rivals in Hamas — “would be a shot not in the foot but in the liver — Israel’s."



Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Signs Laws Restricting Unions (Right To Work)

Source: Reuters

Dec 11 (Reuters) - Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed into law a pair of measures banning mandatory membership of labor unions in a state that is home to the auto industry and birthplace of the United Auto Workers union.

His signature makes Michigan the nation's 24th "right-to-work" state and only the second in the industrial Midwest.

"I have signed these bills into law," Snyder said at a press conference.

Opponents of the laws have vowed to try to overturn them in the courts or through a ballot initiative. They also could try to force recall elections of some lawmakers who supported right-to-work.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/11/usa-unions-michigan-sign-idUSL1E8NBF0B20121211

Chicago Breaks Record With 281 Snow-Free Days. White Christmas? Keep Dreaming.


Winter may be coming, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

In addition to unseasonably balmy temperatures, Chicago has gone a record 281 consecutive days without a measurable amount of snow, from March 4 until Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The previous record for snow-free days was 280, set back in 1994.

If the pattern holds through the rest of the month, it could be a harbinger of what winter — which officially starts on Dec. 21 — could bring.

“It’s tough to say yet if this is a predictor of the whole winter, but if we finish out all of December like this, then it would be more telling,” said Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist for the weather service who is based in Romeoville.



Israeli Soldier: 'Cameras Are Our Kryptonite'

Published December 11, 2012

A recent article on Ynet, and excellent analysis by Ali Abunimah on the Electronic Intifada, yields this gem of a quote (emphasis Abunimah’s):

One soldier admits that the presence of cameras – presumably in the hands of Palestinian and other videographers – inhibits the soldiers from being even more abusive: T. says the cameras on the ground undermine the forces’ efforts. “A commander or an officer sees a camera and becomes a diplomat, calculating every rubber bullet, every step. It’s intolerable, we’re left utterly exposed. The cameras are our kryptonite.”

Of course, Abunimah acknowledges that the presence of cameras does not always restrain the Israeli military’s use of lethal violence against protesters:

While “T.” worries about “calculating every rubber bullet,” Israeli soldiers have found ways around rules nominally meant to prevent wanton killing of Palestinians.



Job Openings in U.S. Rose in October to Four-Month High

Source: Bloomberg

By Shobhana Chandra - Dec 11, 2012
Job openings in the U.S. climbed in October to a four-month high, indicating the labor market is on the mend.

The number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 128,000 to 3.68 million from a revised 3.55 million the prior month, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Hiring also increased.

The pickup in openings lays the ground for the job growth needed to sustain consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. At the same time, the lack of stronger employment prospects and a jobless rate that remains elevated help explain why Federal Reserve policy makers, meeting today and tomorrow, are weighing additional easing to spur growth.

“There’s improvement,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. Even so, “the progress on payrolls is nothing to be excited about,” and “the Fed is taking aim at the high unemployment rate,” he said.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-11/job-openings-in-u-s-rose-128-000-in-october-hiring-climbed.html

Thousands Gather At Michigan Capitol As House Session Begins

LANSING — Led by three police officers on motorcycles, hundreds of union workers and activists marched from the Lansing Center to the Michigan Capitol building this morning, chanting "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Right-to-work has got to go!" along the way.

Crowds of people were streamed into the Lansing Center before the march, including a bearded man in a Santa suit carrying a sign declaring the "GOP stole Christmas."

When the group arrived at the Capitol, they were greeted by a crowd of thousands who had already settle upon the Capitol lawn, shouting, singing and pumping their arms in what is expected to grow to the largest public protest the seat of state government has ever seen. Some 10,000 protestors, supporters and media from inside and outside Michigan are gathering to speak on the controversial issue that has divided the state, and sent ripples across the country.

• WATCH LIVE: http://www.house.mi.gov/htv.asp">Go to Michigan House website and click on Watch House TV Broadcast Channel

Union members hoisted a large inflatable rat to the top of the Capitol steps, dubbing it the "Snyder rat."



LANSING, Michigan: Eight Capitol Protesters Charged With Felonies

Source: The State Journal

LANSING, Mich. (The State Journal) - Eight people arrested Thursday during protests at the state Capitol, who officials said tried to push through state police troopers to enter the Senate chamber, have been charged with felonies.

Each of the six men and two women - all from southeastern Michigan - face a charge of resisting, obstructing and/or opposing a police officer. They face up to two years in prison.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said he issued the charges today.

In a statement, Dunnings said: "It was attested to me that (the protesters') tactics went beyond passive resistance, and involved physical aggression towards the police who were charged with protecting the public safety during this tumultuous debate."

Read more: http://www.wzzm13.com/news/article/234793/2/Eight-Capitol-protesters-charged-with-felonies

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