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NYT: Public Sector Cutting Hours to Avoid Obamacare Mandate

Via New York Times:

Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say.

The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession, could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim that it is creating a drain on the economy.

President Obama has twice delayed enforcement of the health care law’s employer mandate, which would subject larger employers to tax penalties if they do not offer insurance coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week, on average. But many public employers have already adopted policies, laws or regulations to make sure workers stay under that threshold.

Even after the administration said this month that it would ease coverage requirements for larger employers, public employers generally said they were keeping the restrictions on work hours because their obligation to provide health insurance, starting in 2015, would be based on hours worked by employees this year. Among those whose hours have been restricted in recent months are police dispatchers, prison guards, substitute teachers, bus drivers, athletic coaches, school custodians, cafeteria workers and part-time professors. . .

If only somebody had warned of this. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Ukraine Updates

Via Multiple Sources:

Telegraph: Protesters remain at the barricades in Kiev despite new deal with parliament and Yanukovych. Live video feed here.

New York Times:

The embattled president of Ukraine, whose shift toward closer relations with Russia provoked the deadliest political crisis in his country’s post-Soviet history, signed a compromise deal on Friday that will diminish his power and watched helplessly as an emboldened Parliament voted overwhelmingly to free his imprisoned rival and grant amnesty to all protesters.

The agreement signed by President Viktor F. Yanukovych and leaders of the opposition, mediated by European and Russian diplomats, commits him to early elections and reduces some presidential authority. Although Russia declined to endorse the deal, and many protesters — suspicious of the president’s motives — said they wanted Mr. Yanukovych to resign, opposition leaders said they hoped to persuade the skeptics and end a bloody standoff that shocked the nation and much of the world.

New York Daily News:

If you don’t take this deal, “you’ll all be dead.”

That was the frank warning Poland’s foreign minister delivered to Ukrainian rebel leaders before they signed a peace deal with the country’s president Friday to end three months of deadly fighting.

“If you don’t support this you will have martial law, the army, you’ll all be dead,” Radoslaw Sikorski warned in footage caught by television cameras as he emerged from talks in Kiev where the agreement was hammered out.

A few hours later, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition leaders signed the deal to end a crisis that nearly plunged the country into civil war.

Video via the BBC, “Horror turns to humiliating defeat.”

Telegraph: Peace hopes in the air as president loses his powers.

BusinessweekSeven reasons why Putin won’t give up Ukraine.

CBS News: White House stresses Ukraine conflict is not “proxy” war.

 

- Greg Pollowitz
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Foreign Policy Mag: Censorship ‘Backfired’ in Venezuela

Via Foreign Policy:

Beginning last week, massive student-led protests all but shut down several of Venezuela’s major cities, including the capital. There have been at least five deaths and scores of injuries and arrests, coming to a head on Wednesday night when armed, pro-government militias (the so called “colectivos“) descended on demonstrators in the nation’s bloodiest act of repression in recent history. But, taken in context, the protests are tragically unremarkable in Venezuela. After all, opposition minded university students involved in the first protests against the Chávez regime would today be in their mid to late thirties. And there have since been a great many others: each wave had goals, each worked hard, and still the socialist revolution soldiers on….

But this time something feels fundamentally different. There’s no Chávez. There’s no independent media. And yet the world actually seems to be paying attention. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

‘Telegraph’ Correspondent in Kiev: ‘proffesional snipers are at work’

Via Twitter:

From the Twitter feed of the Telegraph’s Roland Oliphant, reporting from Kiev:

Updates to follow. - Greg Pollowitz

Ukraine Truce: You Keep Using That Word. I Don’t Think You Know What It Means

Via Reuters:

Fresh fighting broke out in central Kiev on Thursday, shattering a truce declared by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, as the Russian-backed leader met European ministers demanding he compromise with pro-EU opponents.

A Reuters photographer saw the bodies of 21 dead civilians in Independence Square, a few hundred meters (yards) from where the president met the EU delegation, after protesters who have occupied the area for almost three months hurled petrol bombs and paving stones to drive riot police out of the plaza.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland were due to report back to EU colleagues in Brussels later on Thursday who will decide on possible targeted sanctions against those deemed responsible for the bloodshed. . .

Updates to follow. - Greg Pollowitz
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Pres. Obama Warns Ukraine of ‘Consequences’

Via AP:

President Barack Obama says “there will be consequences” for violence in Ukraine if people step over the line.

He says that includes making sure that the military doesn’t step into a situation that civilians should resolve.

Obama says the U.S. condemns the violence in the strongest terms. He says the U.S. holds Ukraine’s government primarily responsible to ensure it’s dealing with peaceful protesters appropriately. . .

Yeah, right. - Greg Pollowitz

Update: Venezuelan Opposition Leader to be Charged with ‘Murder, Terrorism, and Arson’

Via CNN:

Facing the largest anti-government protests in his 11 months in power, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appears ready to move forward with the prosecution of a leading opposition figure on charges of terrorism and murder.

Four anti-government protesters and one government supporter have died in clashes around the country.

The man the government blames for the deaths is opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday. 

Human rights groups warn about the danger of turning the protests into a persecution of political opponents.

The charges against Lopez, who has organized protests demanding better security, an end to shortages and protected freedom of speech, “smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch weighed in too, warning that Venezuela must avoid “scapegoating” political opponents.

But the way forward seemed set, with Lopez expected to appear in court Wednesday.

Charges against him include murder, terrorism and arson in connection with the protests, according to his party, Popular Will. . .

Updates to follow. - Greg Pollowitz

Update: Pres. Yanukovych Fires Head of Ukraine’s Armed Forces

Via BBC:

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has sacked the head of the armed forces, Col Gen Volodymyr Zamana, according to the president’s website.

The move comes after the most intense violence in Ukraine’s three-month crisis turned Kiev into a battle zone.

Earlier the state security service announced it was launching a nationwide “anti-terrorist” campaign, to deal with a growing “extremist threat”.

There was a suggestion the armed forces could be deployed for the first time.

Col Gen Zamana has been replaced by the commander of Ukraine’s navy, Admiral Yuriy Ilyin, by presidential decree, President Yanukovych’s website said. . .

This doesn't sound like good news for the protesters as earlier this month, Zamana said, “no one has the right to use the armed forces to limit the rights of citizens."

- Greg Pollowitz

Video: Watch the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Trailer

Via MTV:

The first trailer for Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” has pretty much the entire internet talking about what looks like the strangest comic book movie ever. The cosmic team of antiheroes is the Marvel’s least known headliners for a movie so far, but who could really say “no” to a talking, gun-toting raccoon?

If you’ve seen the trailer but are a little fuzzy about who everyone is and what they’re all doing together, I’ve compiled this rundown of the characters we see in the trailer, along with brief explanations of what they’re best known for in the comics.

[GP]: Click on the link above for MTV’s character biographies. Video here:

 

I'm sold. - Greg Pollowitz

The Non-Arab Spring: A ‘Cheat Sheet’ on Venezuela, Ukraine, and Thailand

Via CNN:

Here’s a cheat-sheet guide to protests in Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela:

Thailand

What are protesters’ demands?

rotesters in Bangkok have been calling for months for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they allege is a puppet of her billionaire brother, the deposed, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Who’s protesting?

Opposition to Thaksin and Yingluck is strongest among the urban elites and middle class. That’s why the demonstrations have been concentrated in Bangkok. The protesters want to replace Yingluck’s government with an unelected “people’s council” to see through electoral and political changes.

When did demonstrations start?

Protests began in November after Yingluck’s government tried to pass an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for her brother’s return to the political fray.

What’s the latest?

Deadly violence erupted in the heart of Bangkok Tuesday as anti-government protesters clashed with police, and the country’s anti-corruption commission filed charges against the Prime Minister.

[GP]: Click on the link above for information on Ukraine and Venezuela.

- Greg Pollowitz

Tags: Ukraine , Venezuela , Thailand , protests , democracy , Putin

Venezuela: Protest Leader Leopoldo Lopez Surrenders

Via Reuters:

Hardline Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez surrendered to security forces on Tuesday to face charges of fomenting unrest against President Nicolas Maduro’s government that has killed four people in the last week.

Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist who has spearheaded the protest movement, got into an armored vehicle after a defiant speech to an opposition rally in Caracas on another chaotic day in the South American OPEC member nation.

“I have nothing to hide,” he told supporters with a megaphone. Minutes later, he surrendered to army officers, pumping his fist, and stepping into the military vehicle with a Venezuelan flag in one hand and a white flower in the other.

“I present myself to an unjust judiciary … May my jailing serve to wake up a people,” he added in the speech. . .

That's a bold move. -

Tags: Venezuela , Leopoldo , Lopez

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (aka Pope Francis) Renews His Argentine Passport

Via Latin Times:

Pope Francis is known as ’Latin America’s Pope’ and often speaks of his pride as an Argentine. On Monday he proved this point by renewing his passport and Argentinian ID card as Jorge Bergolio, Pope Francis’ birth name. The Vatican Minister of the Interior and Transport, Florencio Randazzo, revealed that “Pope Francis put through his new Argentinean ID card and passport last Friday, and he will receive both in the next few days at the Vatican.”

Randazzo continued saying, “His Holiness got in touch with Juan Pablo Cafiero, our ambassador at the Vatican and informed him that he wanted to keep traveling the world on his Argentine passport, for which he began the process of renewing his passport through the electronic services we have in Rome. Francis asked expressly to not be party to any privilege for which reason both his new ID card and his passport have followed the normal administrative route.”

 

- Greg Pollowitz

Should Angela Corey Resign?

Via NBC 11:

There are calls for Florida State Attorney Angela Corey to step down. She led the state’s case against Michael Dunn, whose trial on first degree murder charges ended with a hung jury.

Dunn was accused in the shooting death of a Marietta teen – Jordan Davis – who would have celebrated his 19th birthday on Sunday.

The jury did convict Dunn late Saturday on three counts of attempted second degree murder and one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle.

Minutes after the verdict was read, protesters flooded the Jacksonville courthouse.

“The criminal justice system is not perfect. It’s the best there is, but it’s certainly not a perfect system,” said former DeKalb County Prosecutor J. Tom Morgan.

Morgan says he was not surprised the jury was hung on the first degree murder charge.

“We all know that jurors like to compromise, so this could be a compromise verdict,” he said.

The so-called compromise didn’t leave either side happy, with Michael Dunn’s attorney saying they will appeal, and Jordan Davis’ family pleading for justice for their son. . .

I think she should. - Greg Pollowitz

Reaction to the Michael Dunn Verdict

Via :

GP: The following is a roundup of tweets and commentary following the split-verdict in the Michael Dunn “loud music” trial

First up, here’s CNN’s Don Lemon linking to Mediaite and video clips of his pre- and post-verdict commentary.  I was watching Lemon live, and the problem with Lemon’s anger and emotion was it prevented a full analysis of the verdict:

For example, I posted this in response to one of Lemon’s panelists questioning the diversity of the jury. Lemon didn’t push-back on the comment and took it as fact. . .

. . .If that’s not diverse enough, I’d like to hear what a proper jury should have looked like.

Marc Lamont Hill, another panelist on Lemon’s coverage, found fault with the jury as well:

and. . .

For starters, a verdict in a trial only relates to that particular trial. But even if that’s not the case, Hill omits that the jury did find Dunn guilty of second-degree attempted murder of the three unarmed black children that were in the car with Jordan Davis. For the record, Davis’s parents thanked the jury for their work:

Davis’ parents each left the courtroom in tears. Afterward his mother, Lucia McBath, expressed gratitude for the verdict. Sunday would have been the teen’s 19th birthday.

“We are so grateful for the truth,” McBath said. “We are so grateful that the jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all.”

One thing that stands out in the Dunn case is that conservatives see a miscarriage of justice in the case as well, but we’re looking at the competence of the prosecutorial team. Here’s former NROer Robert VerBruggen with a good piece up on Angela Corey’s prosecution and if she over-charged:

Finally, here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates from “The Atlantic” on the verdict. He doesn’t blame the jury because America, itself, is racist and this is to be expected:

Spare us the invocations of “black-on-black crime.” I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought insane. The most mendacious phrase in the American language is “black-on-black crime,” which is uttered as though the same hands that drew red lines around the ghettoes of Chicago are not the same hands that drew red lines around the life of Jordan Davis, as though black people authored North Lawndale and policy does not exist. That which mandates the murder of our Hadiya Pendletons necessarily mandates the murder of Jordan Davis. I will not respect any difference. I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought crazy.

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington’s abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge, that the G.I Bill’s accolades are somehow inseparable from its racist heritage. I will not respect the lie. I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting to which, likely until the end of our days, we unerringly return. 

Updates to follow. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Michael Dunn Found Guilty of Attempted Murder; Faces 60 Years in Jail

Via Reuters:

A Florida jury convicted a white, middle-aged man on Saturday of three counts of attempted murder for opening fire on a car of black teenagers during an argument over loud rap music, but could not reach a verdict on a murder charge for the killing of a 17-year-old in the car.

Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old software engineer, fired 10 rounds at a vehicle carrying four teens in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot in November 2012, killing black teen Jordan Davis.
The jury deadlocked on the most serious charge of first-degree murder against Dunn, forcing Judge Russell Healey to declare a mistrial on that count.

The failure to reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge is a blow for the prosecution and the Davis family. But Dunn still faces at least 60 years in jail for the attempted murder convictions against the three other teens, legal analysts said. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Olympians Blaming Under Armour for Loses in Speedskating

Via Reuters:

U.S. speed-skaters decided on Friday to drop new, specially designed Under Armour Inc suits that media reports have linked to a dismal showing at the Sochi Games, reverting to apparel worn during recent World Cup events.

U.S. Speedskating President Mike Plant said the team, which has yet to clinch a medal at Sochi, will switch back to skin suits also made by the U.S. company but worn prior to the Winter Olympics.

“Under Armour provided U.S. Speedskating with three different suit configurations in advance of Sochi, and we have full confidence in the performance benefits of each of them,” Plant said.

“We are constantly evaluating all aspects of race preparation and execution to help our athletes improve their output and maximize their physical and psychological advantages.”

Plant also stressed that U.S. Speedskating continues to have confidence in a long-term partnership with Under Armour. . .

Well, we'll see how they do after the uni change. - Greg Pollowitz

Science: Babies Know Right From Wrong

Via CNN:

I’m thinking back to when my girls, now 6 and 7, were just a few months old. “Delicious” is the word that most immediately comes to mind. As I spent countless hours — like any new mom — looking adoringly at each of my daughters’ chunky cheeks and dreamy eyes, I often wondered, “What is going through your mind?”

Turns out, maybe a whole lot more than I realized.

According to researchers at Yale University’s Infant Cognition Center, also known as “The Baby Lab,” babies can actually tell good from evil, even as young as 3 months old. That research is the focus of a three-part series this week on ”Anderson Cooper 360,”which airs weeknights at 8 p.m. ET.

To the skeptics who say, “Come on, how can an infant tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy?” — I can relate. It certainly runs counter to our notion that children are born as blank slates and learn right from wrong entirely from us. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

UAW Loses Vote at Tenn. Volkswagen Plant

Via the WSJ:

The United Auto Workers union suffered a crushing defeat Friday, falling short in an election in which it seemed to have a clear path to organizing workers at Volkswagen AGVOW3.XE +1.10% ’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The setback is a bitter defeat because the union had the cooperation of Volkswagen management and the aid of Germany’s powerful IG Metall union, yet it failed to win a majority among the plants 1,550 hourly workers.

Volkswagen workers rejected the union by a vote of 712 to 626. The defeat raises questions about the future of a union that for years has suffered from declining membership and influence, and almost certainly leaves its president, Bob King, who had vowed to organize at least one foreign auto maker by the time he retires in June, with a tarnished legacy.

“If the union can’t win [in Chattanooga], it can’t win anywhere,” said Steve Silvia, a economics and trade professor at American University who has studied labor unions. . .

If the cant win here, they can't win anywhere. Great line. -

Is This the Start of a Venezuelan Spring? Student Protest Ends in Violence

Via BBC:

At least three people were shot dead as violence erupted during anti-government protests in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on Wednesday.

The violence broke out after some 10,000 demonstrators had gone home following a mainly peaceful rally. 

Two people died after gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on the remaining crowd. A third died in later clashes.

The march was the latest in a series of mass protests against the policies of President Nicolas Maduro. . .

Let's hope the people of Venezuela can get rid of the thugs in charge of their country. - Greg Pollowitz

Paging Tom Friedman: Chinese Lunar Rover Declared Dead

Via AFP:

China’s troubled Jade Rabbit lunar rover has died on the surface of the moon, state media reported Wednesday, in a major setback for the country’s ambitious space programme.

The country’s first moon rover “could not be restored to full function”, the state-owned China News Service said in a brief report, after the landmark mission ran into mechanical problems last month.

The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was deployed on the moon’s surface on December 15 and was a huge source of pride in China, only the third country to complete a lunar rover mission after the United States and the former Soviet Union. . .

The Chinese have almost caught up to the United States in the space-race. . .if we were still in 1975. - Greg Pollowitz

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