Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sealing the End of the Month With This Post

Ending it with a roar:

"Starving sea lion pups stranding on California beaches" Associated Press  March 17, 2015

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — California rescue centers have been struggling this year to keep up with hundreds of sick and starving sea lion pups washing up along the coast.

More than 1,100 pups have been rescued since January from beaches and also from inside public restrooms, behind buildings, and along railroad tracks.

It’s not unusual to have some sea lions wash up each spring as the pups leave their mothers, but so far, the number of stranded babies is five times greater than in 2013, the worst season in recent memory.

The situation is so bad that Sea World suspended its sea lion show so it can focus on rescue efforts. The theme park has treated 400 pups and constructed two temporary pools to house them.

Scientists aren’t sure what’s causing the crisis but suspect that warmer waters from this winter’s mild El Nino weather pattern are affecting the sea lion birthing grounds along the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast.

The warm water is probably pushing prime sea lion foods — market squid, sardines, and anchovies — further north, forcing the mothers to abandon their pups for up to eight days at a time in search of sustenance.

The pups, scientists believe, are weaning themselves early out of desperation and setting out on their own despite being underweight and ill-prepared....

Well, I'm going to throw them some fish and go get some chow myself.

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Can you believe they are blaming global warming and not the 300 tons of radioactive water leaking into the ocean from Fukushima everyday for the last 4+ years?

Boston Globe Fish Fry

So what did the catch look like?

"US aims to curb seafood fraud; New effort looks to track fish from source, prevent improper labeling" by David Abel, Globe Staff  March 16, 2015

Obama administration officials unveiled sweeping new measures in Boston on Sunday that seek to thwart rampant mislabeling of seafood and black-market fishing — practices that mislead consumers and cost the global fishing industry major losses each year.

The plan, laid out in a 40-page report released at an annual meeting of the seafood industry at the Boston Convention Center, aims to track fish and crustaceans from where they are caught to where they are sent.

A presidential task force drafted the plan, which will be launched almost immediately. It includes 15 measures to curb illegal fishing and fraud, including leaning on foreign governments to crack down on pirates stealing fish from other countries’ waters, and a new system to trace seafood before it enters US ports.

All seafood shipped to the United States will now be required to include new information, such as who the fishermen were who caught it, and when, where, and with what. That tracking data will be generated by federal, state, and local authorities and maintained in a central database.

I'm starting to feel sick.

The new measures come more than three years after a Boston Globe investigation revealed how restaurants and stores across Massachusetts had routinely mislabeled fish and sold cheaper, lower-quality seafood than they had promised their customers. A year later, a follow-up to that investigation found three-quarters of seafood samples taken from 58 restaurants and markets around the area had been mislabeled.  

I thought the fish dinner still smelled kinda bad.


Most of the administration’s measures can be implemented by executive authority, but some seek Congressional action. Among the lawmakers who lauded the new measures was US Senator Edward J. Markey, who said he would continue to seek new legislation to bolster the administration’s efforts.

The Obama administration has been criticized for eliminating special agents who investigate seafood fraud by nearly half in recent years. That has contributed to significant reductions in the number of prosecutions. 

Just eat the shit, will ya'?

“With this new plan, the left hand is doing one thing, while the right hand is doing another thing,” said Paul Raymond, a retired special agent who worked for NOAA for 26 years. “That doesn’t make any sense. We need more agents to do this work.”

In advance of the report, President Obama requested $3 million this year in his annual budget proposal to boost the number of agents investigating seafood fraud.

Environmental advocates welcome the additional law enforcement, but they said the true test of the administration’s new measures is whether they stop the flow of illegal fish before they enter the United States.

“We’re trying to fight the crime by prosecuting and denying the criminal profits,” said David Schorr, a spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund, an advocacy group....

Hasn't worked against drug cartels or banks, so you are probably better off catching your own.

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RelatedEU continues to overfish despite commitments

But are they labeling them properly because the bold plan will require a global effort and a tour of the town will tell you how it has changed. 

So who is going to cook it up for you?

"Reality TV chef stirs pot, saves N.H. eatery; By the time the camera stopped, a partnership was in ashes, but this ‘Cow’ proved to be a phoenix" by Ray Carbone, Globe Correspondent  March 23, 2015

CAMPTON, N.H. — Newlyweds Kerry Benton and Jennifer Leonzi opened the Country Cow Restaurant a dozen years ago, just days after they married. Set in an idyllic spot at the base of the White Mountains, beside a covered bridge at the Pemigewasset River, the restaurant was an instant success.

But the marriage was not. Less than a year after the Country Cow opened, they separated. And as the economy went sour, so did the restaurant. They continued to run it together, but Benton’s admitted “anger issue” — regular outbursts in which he used abusive language with his coworkers and sometimes threw pots and pans — made for a troubled workplace. By last May, the couple was $300,000 in debt and desperate for a way out of their dilemma.

Enter celebrity chef Robert Irvine and his “Restaurant: Impossible” TV program on the Food Network.

Irvine is a British-born chef who gained fame in 2007 with his first book, “Mission: Cook!” Within months, the charismatic muscular kitchen guru was on the Food Network.

His current show is similar to popular food business revamp efforts such as Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” — struggling restaurateurs turn to a professional consultant who critiques their operation. On “Restaurant: Impossible,” his goal is to turn things around in 36 hours with $10,000 — not a lot of money in the food business.

Irvine and his producers go looking for drama — and they got all that they could hope for.

“It’s not that she [Leonzi] is a bad person,” Benton said on camera, “she’s just [expletive] lazy.”

In another, he hollers at her: “I’m tired of [expletive] working here and not having people that [expletive] want to come up to my standard!”

Leonzi had tears in her eyes during both sequences.

Related:

‘Top Chef’ contestant arrested on domestic violence charges

Celebrity news: Arrest in deaths of cooking show finalist, husband

She should consider herself lucky.

Both scenes were taped before Irvine even came on the scene. When Irvine arrived, he gave the co-owner/chef a choice: Change his behavior or leave the operation to Leonzi.

The next morning — in a sequence the owners didn’t know was being recorded — Benton sat down with Leonzi and Irvine on a picnic table behind the restaurant.

***************

Not every New England eatery visited by Irvine was pleased. Michael Savoie of the former Stella’s Ristorante in Stratford, Conn., said the show misunderstood his demographics. And Janice Silva, a Massachusetts-based restaurant consultant who came in to help the former Chatterbox in Windham, N.H., weeks after Irvine’s visit, said the family-run business needed help running its breakfast/lunch operation; instead, Irvine tried turning it into an evening restaurant.

The popular chef has other critics, who point out he’s never owned a successful restaurant. In addition, a Florida newspaper in 2008 found that Irvine had exaggerated his background; he was suspended from the Food Network for a year after the discovery.

But Irvine said 70 percent of the places visited by “Restaurant: Impossible” report improved sales.

Those that don’t, don’t follow his advice, he added in a recent e-mail. “The owners get scared and go back to doing exactly what they were doing before I got there,” he wrote. “That’s a recipe for failure.”

Leonzi said she knows the temptation to go back to how things were done before is strong, and she admits that Irvine’s counsel did not solve every problem at the Country Cow. (She’s hoping to renovate the bar area soon, which was not even mentioned in the television episode.)

Hey, “the restaurant business is hard work.”

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Sorry, folks, but I didn't like the atmosphere.

You didn't forget to leave a tip, did you?

Pope Orders a Pizza

It's on him, too:

"Visiting Naples, pope gets pizza to go" Associated Press  March 24, 2015

ROME — Pope Francis, who recently lamented he can’t slip out and get a pizza like he used to, finally got one, though it was hand-delivered to his popemobile.

Pizza maker Enzo Cacialli delivered the pie as Francis sped by the Naples waterfront Saturday during his one-day visit to the city famous for its pizza.

Cacialli, whose father made pizza for Bill Clinton during a 1994 presidential visit, said he used yellow tomatoes rather than red to reflect the colors of the Holy See.

How did it taste?

Francis now eats in the communal dining room of the Vatican hotel, serving himself cafeteria-style like the rest of the guests at dinner.

Francis also got some other treats during his visit to Naples: some biscuits and sweets made by some cloistered nuns who crowded around him as he sat in the Naples cathedral....

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He then went and took a shower.

Egged On in Ohio

"Police can’t crack egg-pelting case in Ohio" Associated Press  March 07, 2015

EUCLID, Ohio — An 85-year-old man says his suburban Cleveland home has been pelted with eggs several times a week for a year, and police haven’t been able to solve the case despite stakeouts, questioning neighbors, installing a surveillance camera, and even testing shells as evidence.

The homeowner and police suspect they are launched five or six at a time from a block or two away, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported.

Albert Clemens Sr. said whoever is responsible has ‘‘phenomenal’’ accuracy, often hitting the front door of the two-story home in Euclid that he and his late wife bought nearly six decades ago. The after-dark attacks sometimes sound like gunshots as eggs splatter on the aluminum siding, creating a residue that strips the paint, he said.

He used to clean up each time but quit because it happens so often. His insurer won’t settle a claim until police catch the vandal or vandals, so Clemens is waiting until then to make repairs. But he refuses to move from the home he shares with his adult daughter and son, on a corner less than a mile from the police station.

Officers haven’t determined a suspect or specific motive, though they have suspicions.

‘‘Somebody is deeply, deeply angry at somebody in that household for some reason,’’ Lieutenant Mitch Houser said.

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I think they know who it is; it would just be embarrassing for someone important to tell.

"Cleveland’s mayor apologizes over suit" New York Times  March 03, 2015

NEW YORK — Moving to stem more anger over how Cleveland has handled the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Mayor Frank G. Jackson apologized Monday for language that the city’s lawyers used in court filings to assert that the boy’s death was his own fault. 

I've often said if AmeriKa's security forces kill you, you deserve to die.

Rice was fatally wounded Nov. 22 by a rookie Cleveland police officer who shot him in the abdomen within two seconds of arriving at a neighborhood recreation center where the boy was playing outside with a toy pistol.

The newest controversy was spurred by a filing made in federal court last week by lawyers for the city in response to a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Rice’s family.

The boy’s “injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of [Rice] to exercise due care to avoid injury,” according to the papers filed by the city’s lawyers.

But as anger grew Monday — and a lawyer for Rice’s family, Walter Madison, lashed out at the city’s “incredulous” argument — Jackson quickly called a news conference to apologize for what he characterized as a “poor use of words.”

“We used words and phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Jackson said.

City officials said Monday they were required to assert any potential defenses they might use in court filings now.

In a telephone interview, Madison said the mayor called him before the news conference to say he was sorry for how the court filing was phrased.

Madison said it appeared that city officials might still assert a defense that Tamir caused his own death.

Like I said....

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Related: Cleveland Cops Left Kid to Die

No apology for that?

Better off just locking them up:

"Couple plead not guilty to locking up kids 22 hours a day" Associated Press  March 05, 2015

JEFFERSON, Ohio — A husband and wife accused of making three of their adopted children virtual prisoners inside their Ohio home pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a case that began after prosecutors say two girls crashed the family van while trying to make their escape.

The 58-year-old father is charged with sexually abusing the two girls, now ages 17 and 14. He and his 64-year-old wife are both charged in Ashtabula County with kidnapping, felonious assault, and endangering children.

The Associated Press is not naming the suspects to avoid identifying the girls. County prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said the couple also abused and neglected an adopted son, now 21, who is mentally disabled.

Iarocci said Wednesday that the couple ‘‘repeatedly and harshly’’ beat the girls and older son with a paddle that eventually became stained with blood. The three victims were given little to eat and were malnourished, Iarocci said.

He called living conditions inside the home ‘‘deplorable.’’

The victims were typically allowed out of their rooms for just two hours a day and were not allowed to socialize with other children in recent years, Iarocci said.

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I'll bet they wanted to fly right out of there.

"Ohio bill rebuts Connecticut claim on flight" Associated Press  March 18, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A resolution moving through the Ohio State House challenges Connecticut’s insistence that one of its aviators beat the Wright brothers to the first successful airplane flight by two years.

The Ohio measure got its first hearing Tuesday. Connecticut passed a law in 2013 requiring the governor to proclaim a date for ‘‘Powered Flight Day’’ to honor Gustave Whitehead’s 1901 flight as the first, predating the Wright brothers’ famous flight off Kitty Hawk, N.C., in December 1903.

Your tax money paying for this?

Now, the home state of Orville and Wilbur Wright is pushing back, reasserting the version of history agreed upon by most historians and aviation experts: The Wrights deserve the distinction of being the first to fly.

Once again, it's a pack of lies!

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Better get that plane up:

"The Ohio River crested Sunday at its highest level in two decades, leaving riverside residents relieved but cautious as forecasters warned that flooding problems will linger much of the week ahead. Melted snow and rainfalls caused flooding that swamped roads, businesses, and homes in scattered low-lying areas in the Cincinnati region." 

Did you see what happened when they got to North Carolina

Done With Durst

It was a great series:

"No bond for millionaire Durst on New Orleans weapons charges" Associated Press  March 24, 2015

NEW ORLEANS — A magistrate ordered millionaire Robert Durst held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana on Monday and said the man accused of killing his friend 15 years ago in California was both a flight risk and a danger to others.

Magistrate Harry Cantrell set a preliminary hearing in the weapons case for April 2.

Durst, 71, is accused of killing Susan Berman in 2000, but his lawyers say his arrest was illegal and orchestrated to coincide with the finale of an HBO series about his links to three killings.

He was arrested March 14 at a New Orleans hotel on both the weapons charges and on the Los Angeles County warrant accusing him of murder. Durst waived extradition to California on the murder charge, but is being held in New Orleans to face the weapons charges.

Durst had registered at the J.W. Marriott Hotel under the name Everette Ward, and a search of his hotel room turned up his passport, nearly $43,000 in cash, a gun, and a rubber or latex mask that could cover his head and neck, according to a search warrant for his Houston condo.

Durst, a member of a wealthy New York real estate family, was charged with murder in California for the December 2000 shooting death of Berman.

His arrest came one day before the finale of ‘‘The Jinx,’’ the show about his links to his first wife’s disappearance in 1982; the death of Berman, a mobster’s daughter who acted as his spokeswoman after his wife went missing; and a 71-year-old neighbor in Texas whose dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001.

Durst has been tried only for the Texas killing, and he was acquitted of murder.

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"Robert Durst eyed in disappearance of Vermont student in 1971" by Juan Esteban Cajigas Jimenez, Globe Correspondent  March 24, 2015

Police in Vermont are investigating a possible connection between millionaire Robert Durst, 71, and the disappearance of a Middlebury College student in 1971.

Middlebury Police Chief Thomas Hanley said in a statement Monday that law enforcement has been aware of the connection for several years.

According to Hanley, Durst owned and operated the “All Good things” health food store in Middlebury when Lynne Schulze was reported missing.

Schulze was 18 years old at the time of her disappearance.

“The Lynne Schulze case was reopened in 1992,” Hanley said. “Although technically labeled ‘cold’, the case has been continuously generating leads since the investigation was re-opened. We continue to follow up on all leads that we receive in this case.”
No bond for millionaire Durst

A magistrate on Monday ordered millionaire Robert Durst held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana.

No other information was available from police on Monday. Durst is currently being held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana. He is also accused of killing a friend 15 years ago in California.

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"Vt. student shopped at Robert Durst’s store before vanishing" by Peter Schworm and Evan Allen, Globe Staff  March 24, 2015

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — It was December 1971, and Lynne Schulze was in her dorm room, looking for her favorite pen before a final exam. But the Middlebury College freshman never showed up for the 1 p.m. test.

At 2:15 p.m., she was spotted across the street from a local health food store, one she had visited earlier in the day. She was never seen again.

More than four decades later, police in this small college town are focusing their investigation into Schulze’s disappearance on the man who owned that modest store: multimillionaire murder suspect Robert Durst.

A day after the stunning revelation that the eccentric, notorious figure had been a subject of the Vermont cold-case investigation since 2012, Middlebury police Tuesday provided new details about Durst’s apparent proximity to the 18-year-old on the day she vanished. Durst’s alleged involvement in other “nefarious activities,” authorities in town said, only deepened their suspicions.

“This is a person who is very interesting to us,” said Thomas Hanley, the Middlebury police chief. “We certainly would like to talk to him.”

Police in Middlebury are the latest authorities to focus attention on Durst, the troubled heir to a New York real estate empire who was arrested this month and charged with the 2000 killing of Susan Berman, a longtime friend.

In a bizarre twist, Durst was arrested in New Orleans the day before the final episode of an HBO series on his life aired, bringing new attention to his alleged connections with the Berman case and two others: the 2001 death of a 71-year-old neighbor and the 1982 disappearance of his wife. During the show, Durst was recorded off camera saying, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Following Durst’s arrest, FBI officials have advised local investigators in areas where Durst, 71, has lived to reexamine cold cases for possible connections, a spokesman said. But in Vermont, police had been eyeing Durst since 2012, when they received a tip that he had owned a health food shop in town at the time of Schulze’s disappearance. After years of false leads, it was a promising development, authorities said Tuesday.

Durst’s store was named “All Good Things,” which became the title of a 2010 movie based on Durst’s story.

Middlebury police did not describe him as a suspect and said they have no evidence that Durst and Schulze “had any personal contact” but they are investigating a potential connection.

“We know Lynne stopped at the store the last day she was seen,” Detective Kris Bowdish said at an afternoon news conference where authorities gave a timeline of Schulze’s movements on the day she disappeared.

Around 12:30 p.m., Schulze was seen at the bus stop beside Durst’s store, eating prunes she had bought there, investigators said. Schulze told a student she was waiting for a bus to New York, but returned to campus when she learned it had already left.

Around 2:15, Schulze was again spotted near the store.

“This is the last time she is ever seen,” Bowdish said.

Police said they do not believe Durst was ever interviewed at the time. He lived in Middlebury less than two years, they said.

All of Schulze’s belongings, including her wallet and identification, were found in her dorm room.

Relatives of Schulze could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Police said the family had asked for privacy, but were “very interested in the lead” after so many years.

“They would very much like some resolution and closure,” Bowdish said of Schulze’s siblings. Her parents have died.

Hanley, the police chief, said investigators reopened the case in 1992 and “began from square one.”

Several detectives have since headed up the investigation, but have never made substantial progress.

Despite the passage of time, authorities say they are hopeful someone will come forward with information about that day or a possible link between the two.

“We don’t let open cases like this, where someone has died, go away,” Hanley said.

Durst has long denied any involvement in Berman’s shooting or his wife’s disappearance. In 2003, he admitted to killing his neighbor, but was acquitted after pleading self-defense.

He is being held without bail as a potential flight risk. He has been held in a mental health unit, and is considered a suicide risk.

His lawyer, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has maintained his client is innocent.

Friends of Schulze, who grew up in Simsbury, Conn., said that although details remain scarce, they remain optimistic her disappearance will be solved.

“We are hoping and praying for resolution about what happened to our dear one 44 years ago,” said Susan Randall, a high school friend.

Coming at the end of the semester, Schulze’s disappearance was not reported for several days, and her parents asked police to keep it private until late January as they awaited her return.

There were many reported sightings of Schulze, police said, but none were found credible.

In Middlebury, many people found the sudden spotlight on the town unsettling as they revisited the young woman’s sudden disappearance.

“Nobody knew anything. Even in the papers, nobody knew,” said Reg Spooner, 77, who grew up in Middlebury.

In those days, Spooner said, Middlebury was much smaller. A disappearance — and an apparent murder — was unheard of.

Jerry Huestis, 50, who lives at the site of the former health food store, said Durst’s potential connection gave him an “eerie feeling.’’

“It’s bad enough seeing what the guy looked like, but knowing he was here?”

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So what is this about them having ties to 9/11 and the WTCs? 

No joke, folks.

Horton Hears a Hewitt

"Former tennis star Bob Hewitt convicted of rapes, assault; South African court case developed after player he coached in Mass. came forward" by Bob Hohler, Globe Staff  March 23, 2015

Once the toast of the tennis world, deposed hall of famer Bob Hewitt Monday was convicted in South Africa of raping two girls and indecently assaulting another he was entrusted to coach in the 1980s and 1990s.

Hewitt, 75, showed little emotion while the verdict was read. He could face 10 years or more in prison.

“I finally feel free,’’ Suellen Sheehan, a plaintiff, said by phone from Johannesburg after the verdict. Hewitt was found guilty of raping her in 1980, when she was 12.

“I lost so much because of him, but in my heart I have already forgiven him,’’ she said. “He knows exactly what he did to us. He’s a very troubled man.’’

Sheehan wept as Judge Bert Bam delivered the verdict, ruling the evidence against Hewitt was “overwhelming’’ on every count.

Hewitt had maintained his innocence, and depicted the three victims as spiteful publicity-seekers.

The case stems from a 2011 Globe investigation triggered by a former Massachusetts high school tennis champion, Heather Crowe Conner. She alleged that Hewitt began raping her in 1976 when she was a 15-year-old student at Masconomet Regional High School and he was coaching her after his stint with the Boston Lobsters.

Related: Globe Serves Up a Pervert

In his heyday, Hewitt became one of the all-time greatest doubles players, a 15-time Grand Slam champion in the 1960s and ’70s. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.

His legacy began to unravel after Conner, emotionally traumatized long after the alleged abuse, came forward in 2011. Conner was not part of the South Africa case decided Monday because the alleged crimes in her case occurred in the United States.

“I’m happy for the South African girls and the effort it took for them to get this verdict,’’ said Conner, a teacher at Reading Memorial High School. “But a part of me is feeling left out because he should be facing many more charges. It feels like he is getting a good deal by not having to face all the punishment he deserves.’’

The judge’s guilty verdict Monday came even though Sheehan’s estranged parents testified against her. But the judge rejected their accounts and chastised them for failing to support their daughter.

Hewitt also was convicted of raping Theresa (Twiggy) Tolken in 1982 when she was 13 years old and of indecently assaulting another 16-year-old girl in 1994. The third victim initially permitted the Globe to use her name but has asked not to be identified in the judicial proceedings.

Among the most damaging evidence against Hewitt were love letters he gave Tolken around the time she was raped.

“In all three cases, the victims were gullible young girls in their early teens when the accused started coaching them,’’ Bam said in announcing the verdict. “All three were overwhelmed by the presence and reputation of the accused and the high esteem he was held in.’’

In the rape cases, Bam said, Hewitt “manipulated the girls to get them under his spell, and after they had fallen in love with him, he proceeded to have intercourse with them without needing their express consent.’’

Hewitt was released on bail until his sentencing April 17.

**************

The Globe review found six women who publicly identified themselves as Hewitt’s alleged victims. Numerous others were cited as possible victims but either declined to be interviewed or could not be reached.

Those who aided the Globe’s investigation included several male tennis players from Hewitt’s era who remained mystified that he had avoided prosecution at the time.

None of the sport’s governing bodies took formal action against Hewitt until the International Tennis Hall of Fame conducted its own investigation in 2012 and indefinitely suspended him. He is expected to be formally expelled from the hall once he has exhausted any appeals.

Conner became a national collegiate champion at Indiana University in 1982 and later competed as a professional against the likes of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova before she retired at 27 in 1988. She sought criminal charges against Hewitt in 2010.

A spokesman for Essex County prosecutors said in 2011 that Conner “certainly is credible,’’ but a criminal investigation based on her allegations had stalled largely because so much time had passed since the alleged episodes and because of Hewitt’s foreign location.

Conner last year filed a civil suit in Boston against Hewitt.

“There still is no justice for what he did to me,’’ she said Monday. “I’ve been experiencing what he did to my life ever since then. Youthful, hope-filled innocence never can be recovered.’’

In South Africa, the judge seemed to echo Conner’s sentiment.

“Time did not erase the crimes,’’ Bam said. “A guilty person should not go unpunished.”

Not to defense Hewitt, but war criminals and looting bankers do.

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Also seeRhodes statue draws Cape Town protest in South Africa

Why not ask someone who knew him?

Breaking News: Zany Terrorist Atop Zakim Bridge

"Homeless man charged with stealing lights off top of Zakim Bridge" by Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Globe Correspondent  March 04, 2015

A homeless man was arrested Tuesday night on charges of stealing aircraft warning lights from the top of the Zakim Bridge, State Police said.

Clifford W. Beckford, 34, is accused of breaking into one of the bridge’s towers, climbing a ladder to the peak, and removing a 3-foot-tall red beacon on Feb. 3, and also in the early 2000s, according to David Procopio, State Police spokesman.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force aided in the investigation because the lights on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge are used to guide planes in foggy weather.

“Beckford was not attempting to commit a terrorist act, probe the bridge’s security system, or cause an aircraft to hit the tower,” Procopio said in a statement.

He was not trying to make money, either. “He was motivated just by the desire to commit the act,” Procopio said. “He determined this was something he wanted to do.”

Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said, “MassDOT considers this to be a serious breach in security protocols.”

According to the State Police, Beckford dropped the recently stolen light off outside the Warren Tavern in Charlestown. State Police found the light in the cellar of the tavern Tuesday night.

After further questioning, State Police learned the light stolen years prior was dropped off outside the Old State House Museum in Boston. State Police went to the museum on Wednesday and discovered its employees also had brought it inside not knowing what it was.

“The lights were dropped at both locations anonymously,” Procopio said. “The employees from both locations were very cooperative.”

Beckford was charged with six offenses and arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Wednesday. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf and he was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.

“The potential for harm was there, certainly, even though it wasn’t his intention,” Procopio said. “The lights are there for a reason and it was a public safety concern.”

Beckford was arrested without incident near a family member’s home in Melrose, according to Procopio. He is believed to be living out of his car."

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"Alleged thief of bridge beacon to undergo more tests" by Aneri Pattani, Globe Correspondent  March 23, 2015

The man who allegedly stole an aircraft warning beacon off the top of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge was ordered to undergo further mental health evaluation.

At a hearing Monday in Boston Municipal Court, a judge ordered Clifford Beckford Jr., 34, to continue to undergo evaluation at the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center in Boston, where he has been held since his arraignment on March 4, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

Beckford allegedly stole the beacon atop the landmark bridge on Feb. 3 and drove off with it in his car, Wark said. He later brought it to the Warren Tavern in Charlestown, where State Police found it in the basement.

Steven Boozang, the attorney for Beckford, called him a “very bright young man.”

“He has made a mistake, but certainly there was no malicious intent on his behalf,” Boozang said.

A homeless man was arrested on Tuesday night for allegedly stealing aircraft warning lights from the top of the Zakim Bridge.

Beckford was arrested at a relative’s home in Melrose on March 3 and charged with multiple offenses, including breaking and entering, prosecutors said.

He is to appear in Boston Municipal Court on May 14.

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Sunday Globe Special: Quick Look at Torture Photos

"US judge orders release of detainee abuse photos" by Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press  March 22, 2015

NEW YORK — The government must release photographs showing the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, a federal judge has ruled in the long-running clash over letting the world see potentially disturbing images of how the military treated prisoners.

Friday’s ruling by US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein gives the government, which has fought the case for more than a decade, two months to decide whether to appeal before the photos could be released.

Hellerstein! The 9/11 cover-up judge now soiling -- and deservedly so -- the AmeriKan government's image! Must not like Obummer standing up to Israel!

The American Civil Liberties Union has been seeking to make them public so the government can be held accountable.

‘‘To allow the government to suppress any image that might provoke someone, somewhere, to violence would be to give the government sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own agents’ misconduct,’’ said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. ‘‘Giving the government that kind of censorial power would have implications far beyond this specific context.’’

The Defense Department is studying the ruling and will make any further responses in court, Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins III, a spokesman, said.

The fight over the photographs reaches back to the early years of the wars, and it invokes the images of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that sparked international outrage after they emerged in 2004 and 2006. Early in the 2004 lawsuit, the ACLU pointed to the Abu Ghraib photos as priority examples of records the organization was seeking on the treatment of detainees.

They sparked shame here.

It’s unclear how many more photographs exist.

Did the CIA destroy them like they did the videotapes?

The government has said it has 29 relevant pictures from at least seven different sites in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s believed to have perhaps hundreds or thousands more, Hellerstein said in a ruling in August. He said some photos he had seen ‘‘are relatively innocuous, while others need more serious consideration,’’ and he has ruled that any images that would be released would be redacted to protect the identities of the people in them.

Some photographs, taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse. Some images show ‘‘soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees,’’ then-Solicitor General — now Supreme Court Justice — Elena Kagan wrote in an appeal to the high court earlier in the case, which has taken a long road through the courts and Congress.

The government has long argued that releasing the photos could incite attacks against US forces and government personnel abroad.

Why? Those folks already know what happened. This is about keeping such things from the home audience, the American people, lest they see how evil their government truly is.

--more--"

Maybe you would like to scroll cell-to-cell to see what else is in there.

Sunday Globe Special: Mali's Lone Gunman

Sigh:

"Gunman kills 5 at restaurant in Mali’s capital; Targets eatery that is popular with foreigners" by Adam NossiterNew York Times  March 08, 2015

DAKAR, Senegal — A masked gunman opened fire on a restaurant in Mali’s capital, Bamako, early Saturday, killing at least two Europeans — a Frenchman and a Belgian — and three Malians.

The gunman sprayed the restaurant, La Terrasse, with bullets, firing indiscriminately, according to residents and officials. Saturday morning, a ranking security official said two people had been arrested in connection with the attack.

“This was a terrorist attack. It’s absolutely clear,” said the official, an army officer who asked not to be quoted by name.

The attack took place in Hippodrome, a neighborhood of the capital that contains a number of bars and restaurants frequented by foreigners.

From one moment to the next, a festive Friday night at La Terrasse, crowded with UN workers and other Europeans, turned into a pandemonium of bullets, blood, and fear, witnesses said.

A lone gunman burst into the restaurant, witnesses said, and began firing at tables where Europeans were seated.

“We were laughing, talking. Suddenly these people came inside,” said a Swedish health worker, Reidun Runften, who had been dancing at the bar. “It was boom, boom, boom,” she said. “I was very close to the bar, and we just went under there. We didn’t move because they were shooting a lot,” she said.

When she looked up, a young Malian woman — the girlfriend of a European sitting next to her — was lying on the floor, blood coming from her neck, Runften said.

While Al Qaeda-linked terrorists took over Mali’s sparsely populated desert north three years ago, only to be driven out by French and Chadian forces a year later, the distant capital has been spared such attacks.

Bamako has been considered a terrorist-free zone, though it has been the scene of considerable political and civil unrest over the last three years, with a military coup in 2012 and frequent score-settling among army factions.

Saturday’s attack took place shortly after midnight, in a neighborhood alive on weekends with music from open-air bars and restaurants. Witnesses said the gunman killed a police officer on his way out the door of La Terrasse, then climbed into a car driven by an accomplice.

Some reports on Malian websites said the attackers also hurled grenades. At Gabriel TourΓ© Hospital, an official said there were numerous people wounded in the attack.

--more--"

Web Globe says it was a magic bullet.

Sunday Globe Special: Factories of the Future

Kind of scary if you ask me:

"Manufacturing’s cutting edge — custom organisms" by Scott Kirsner, Globe Correspondent  March 22, 2015

If textile mills represented the cutting edge of Massachusetts manufacturing in the early 1800s, this is one example of the extremely advanced manufacturing that could thrive in the 21st century — a field called “synthetic biology” that holds immense promise — but also freaks people out. It involves writing genetic code and inserting it into simple organisms to change their function.

More GMOs.

Boosters point to the possibility of vats of algae cranking out fuels or industrial chemicals that today come from petroleum, or to bespoke bacteria that could diagnose diseases sooner than we can today. But others worry about terrorists producing ultra-potent pathogens, or someone accidentally spawning a fast-replicating organism that damages the environment.

“I think the good far outweighs the bad,” says Adam Goulburn, an investor at Lux Capital in New York who follows the emerging “synbio” industry. He compares it to 3-D printing, where it has been demonstrated that a 3-D printer can be used to create a working gun — but also inexpensive prosthetic hands.

That explains the bu$ine$$ $ection ob$e$$ion with that $h**.

At Ginkgo, more than $15 million in early funding came from government agencies like DARPA, the Pentagon’s advanced research group — which had also bankrolled the ARPANET.

OMG!

Their belief, Jason Kelly, a founder of Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks, says, was the United States “should be on the leading edge of creating tools to program cells — sort of like creating the base elements of the early Internet.”

While much of Ginkgo’s focus is on flavors and fragrances, the company is also designing probiotics — strains of bacteria that will do good things for humans. 

It's always sold to us that way by the ruling cla$$.

I used to believe them. Not anymore.

Some possibilities that Kelly mentions: probiotics that could fight the naturally occurring bacteria in your armpits or in your mouth, where they produce odor and tooth decay, but the industry “is going to grow quickly, especially in Boston,” Harvard Medical School professor Pamela Silver says.

What's wrong with deodorant and a toothbrush?

A nonprofit in Cambridge called iGEM runs an international competition that teaches college and high school students about synbio, “training the workforce of the future,” vice president Meagan Lizarazo said.

Some might call it brainwashing, and who knows? They may have a few cells they can inject into your gray matter to, you know, fix ya! If the pills and vaccines don't work.

Until now, Tom Knight says, engineering biology “has been an artisanal craft. You did things at a small scale, manually. We’re moving into an age when we can start automating a lot of the processes and take advantage of economies of scale.”

When I spoke to Knight, a computer science pioneer at MIT a decade ago, he felt like synbio was still too young to be thought of as a “commercial enterprise.” But we might have arrived at that moment, similar to the spark-into-fire early days of the PC, the Internet, biotech, or the textile mill.

It's alive! It's alive!

The unanswered question of the next decade is whether the power players of this new industry will grow here.

--more--"

Would you like to see how it's made?

Sunday Globe Special: Euro-pean Vacation

RelatedEnd of the Euro?

It was of the coverage until now.

"For Mass., a weaker euro offers mixed blessing; The euro’s plunge is a boon for vacationers, but a bust for the state’s exporters" by Megan Woolhouse, Globe Staff  March 21, 2015

Sipping wine from a villa on the Mediterranean, or even buying that villa, just got easier. 

I won't be doing either.

Selling machinery, medical devices, and other Massachusetts products in Europe just got tougher.

The value of the euro has plunged toward its lowest level in a decade, approaching a one-to-one exchange rate with the dollar. So a Paris hotel room that went for the equivalent of $350 a night would now cost less than $280.

But the weakening euro, or, if you prefer, the strengthening dollar, comes with a painful trade-off: Companies that export to Europe must deal with their products costing more overseas, requiring some to cut prices and profit margins to compete with French, German, or Italian rivals.

The situation not only challenges individual companies, but also the state’s economy. Europe is the largest overseas market for Massachusetts, which last year exported more than $6 billion in merchandise to countries using the euro.

Massachusetts exports to the eurozone fell sharply in December and January, declining 15 and 13 percent, respectively, from a year earlier, according to the most recent data from WISERTrade, a nonprofit economic research group based in Leverett. 

Related:

Mass. unemployment rate drops to 4.9% in February
Mass. economy wasn’t hurt by winter weather, report says

Whatever.

“This is an unwelcome event for exporters for sure,” said Paula Murphy, director of the Massachusetts Export Center, a nonprofit that works with local companies that want to sell internationally.

The euro, the common currency of 19 European nations, dropped more than 20 percent against the dollar over the past year.

Europe is an important market for many of the state’s leading industries, including technology, biotechnology, and medical devices, according to WISERTrade’s data. In January, sales of medical devices, such as surgical instruments, imaging machines, and blood pressure monitors, fell more than 7 percent in euro countries compared with a year earlier.

“The drop in the euro will have an impact on these companies,” said Tom Sommer, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, a trade group. “It may be too early to tell what the long-term impact will be.”

Other industries worry, too. Econocorp Inc., a Randolph company that manufactures machines that make boxes and packaging, said the buying climate in Europe has soured in recent weeks as distributors consider cutting back on US products.

The euro has faltered recently along with the region’s economy, which has led the European Central Bank to launch an aggressive stimulus plan that includes buying more than $1 trillion in bonds to pump money into the economy.

Economists equate the bond-buying program — similar to the “quantitative easing” ended by the Federal Reserve last year — to printing money, which devalues a currency.

Oh, that's just $ILLY!

At the same time the US economy has gained momentum, leading the Fed to unwind its stimulus programs and prepare to raise short-term interest rates. That, in turn, has led to a stronger dollar, economists said. US unemployment, at 5.5 percent, is half of Europe’s 11 percent jobless rate.

Related: Yellen a Warning About Interest Rates

When the euro was strong — it hit $1.60 in April 2008 — it was common to see busloads of European travelers at New England outlet malls....

Now it is “sticker shock” for them.

--more--"

Think I'll buck up for the end of the month here:

"A gauge of the dollar headed for the steepest weekly slide since October 2011 on speculation the Federal Reserve isn’t in a hurry to raise interest rates. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot index, which tracks the greenback against 10 major currencies, is retreating just a week after reaching the highest level since Bloomberg began compiling the data in 2004. The dollar tumbled Wednesday after the Fed indicated it will raise rates more slowly than it previously predicted. HSBC Holdings PLC, one of Wall Street’s biggest proponents of the dollar, said the rally may be over. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot index declined 1,195.01 at 4 p.m. in New York. The gauge fell 2.2 percent this week, the first five-day decline since the week ended Feb. 13."

What changed so much in four days?

"Strong US dollar can be a real global troublemaker" by Neil Irwin, New York Times  March 17, 2015

That is why people are going around it (notice Europe getting wailed with false flag terror attacks after recognizing Palestine? And now that!). Little worrying, isn't it?

NEW YORK — In India, it is a leading electric utility, Jaiprakash Power Ventures, that having increased its debts thirtyfold in six years is now selling off facilities and negotiating with lenders to avoid a default.

In China, it is one of the country’s largest real estate developers, Kaisa Group, threatening to pay only 2.4 cents on the dollar to creditors in the face of corruption investigations and a mass resignation of executives, leaving countless would-be Chinese home buyers stuck in the middle of a multibillion-dollar standoff.

I was told corruption is good for a market.

And in Brazil, a wave of bankruptcies among sugar producers has been driven not just by falling sugar prices, but by debts they owe in US dollars, which are becoming more expensive practically by the day, compared with the Brazilian currency.

These are all parts of the same story: The soaring value of the US dollar is rippling across the globe. As it rises, it is threatening emerging economies where companies have taken on trillions worth of dollar-based debt in recent years. The dollar rally has been driven by decisions by the Federal Reserve, which begins a two-day policy meeting Tuesday. In fact, anticipation of the Fed meeting, where officials are expected to signal interest rate increases could be near, has driven the dollar even higher in the last couple of weeks.

In effect, as Fed policy makers sit around a mahogany table in Washington to try to guide the US economy toward prosperity, their actions are having outsize, often unpredictable effects across the globe, owing to the dollar’s central role in the global financial system.

Years of low-interest-rate policies from the Fed have encouraged companies in these fast-growing economies to borrow dollars because they could do it more cheaply than if they took out loans in their local currencies, like the Indian rupee or Brazilian real. So they did: By September 2014 there were $9.2 trillion of such dollar loans outside the United States, up 50 percent since 2009, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

As Raghuram Rajan, the Reserve Bank of India’s governor, put it earlier this year in an interview with Bloomberg Television, “Borrowing in dollars is like playing Russian roulette, especially if you’re borrowing relatively short term.” Much of the time it will work out fine, but when the value of the dollar rises, suddenly companies find that they need more of their local currency to pay back the dollars that have since gained in value. 

Don't drag them into this.

“Now that the dollar has strengthened and rates are on the rise, it presents a risk and a challenge to many emerging markets in that their debts have become more onerous, more burdensome,” said Hung Tran, an executive managing director at the Institute of International Finance, an association of global banks.

Companies in emerging markets that are primarily exporters might be OK. After all, their revenue is in dollars, and so it should keep pace with rising debt service obligations. But for those focused domestically, like real estate developers or electric utilities, a more expensive dollar can make it much more costly to service debts. Interesting.

They were just grabbing the loot before the crash then, 'eh?

Money coming in is in a local currency like the Indian rupee or the Malaysian ringgit, and it suddenly takes a lot more of them to pay debts owed in dollars.

The biggest difference this time around is that private companies, not governments, have incurred debt in a currency not their own. What is likely to follow are bankruptcies, layoffs, and cost-cutting for individual companies that borrowed too aggressively. A vicious cycle of economic collapse and government austerity measures is harder to imagine.

They never saw 2007-2008 coming.

And indeed, the rising dollar and falling emerging market currencies cut both ways for the economies in question. Even as companies that gorged on dollar debt run into trouble, falling currency values make exporters more competitive on global markets. The International Monetary Fund projects that emerging economies worldwide will grow 4.3 percent this year, compared with 2.4 percent for the advanced economies.

In a wide-ranging speech last fall, Stanley Fischer, vice chairman of the Fed, discussed the risks emerging markets faced as rising interest rates in the United States drove up the dollar.

“It does not seem that the overall risks to global financial stability are unusually elevated at this time, and they are very likely substantially less than they were going into the financial crisis,” he argued. “Nevertheless, it could be that some more vulnerable economies, including those that pursue overly rigid exchange rate policies, may find the road to normalization somewhat bumpier.”

This, he said, makes clear communication about the Fed’s intentions important. With the central bank’s meeting this week and the day of tighter money in the United States inching ever closer, the multitrillion-dollar question for the global economy is: Just how many of these companies will ride out the bumps, and how many more will crash?

--more--"

Sunday Globe Special: Paulson’s Palace

Ah, the $plendor of it all....

"A look at nation’s vast wealth gap, in sharp relief" by Michael Kranish, Globe Staff  March 29, 2015

First in a series of occasional articles on issues that polarize the American electorate

ASPEN, Colo. —  His job installing fire-prevention equipment had taken him to the home of John Paulson, one of the world’s wealthiest men. Paulson had made nearly $4 billion correctly betting on Wall Street that the US housing market would crash — a slide that would prompt the Great Recession — and he used part of his fortune to buy the mountaintop estate.

What the Globe conveniently omits there (and in the rest of the piece) is he bet against the very products he designed and help sell to investors.

It is a very long way from Juan Ayala’s hourly job with no health insurance to Paulson’s $11.2 billion fortune. Ayala doesn’t begrudge the wealthy their money and is grateful for the work. But he couldn’t help but marvel that “the master bedroom is bigger than my home.”

What Ayala witnessed on his journey along Highway 82, from a trailer park to one of the world’s most exclusive communities, neatly encapsulates what many potential presidential candidates say could be, or should be, the defining domestic issue of the 2016 campaign: America’s extraordinary level of wealth inequality.

Yeah, right. They trot that out every two years and since both parties work for the wealthy the gap yawns every second, minute, hour, day. It's all political propaganda from bought and paid-for politicians, but it does make for good $elf-encap$ulating filler.

The statistics are astonishing from any political viewpoint: the nation’s 100 richest families, including a number who reside here part of the year, have as much wealth as the 80 million families who make up the bottom 50 percent in wealth, according to economist Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley.

Most people in the bottom half own no stock, have little or no savings, and have seen their wages remain stagnant for years, Saez said.

If you somehow managed to keep the job, that is.

Of all the divisions in a sharply divided America, the chasm between the super-rich and the working poor — and the accompanying shrinkage of the middle class — is widely seen as the greatest.

They mean the rest of us.

Yet neither Democrats nor Republicans appear to have a politically viable plan that would dramatically shrink the wealth disparity.

Yeah, we know and we know why.

Republicans say the response to inequality is to reduce regulations and cut corporate and personal tax rates, doubling down on their belief that it will lead to more job creation.

Giving more money to the greedy does not seem to have worked at all, sorry! 

Democrats want to increase taxes on those earning more than $1 million and raise the national minimum wage.

Nibbling on the edges, and I read somewhere that unless governments are prepared to mete out the hides of the wealthy and stop serving the bankers, this type of discussion is useless. Oh, right, forgot what I was reading for a second.

With nothing like consensus on either plan, the improving economy may be the only thing to help those of all income levels, but even prosperity may be helpless against the inequality gap, as the ultrarich will likely see gains outpacing all others.

Yeah, the $o-called "healthy economy" is increasing it every second, minute, hour, well, you know.

For many voters, meanwhile, it all raises questions both painfully financial — how will my wallet be hit? — and economically sweeping: Is wealth inequality an inexorable outgrowth of free markets? Or has a series of political actions caused it to be much greater than it might otherwise be? Why has the gap persisted, and grown? And why can’t either party come up with realistic plans to close it?

I've already answered those questions. Duh!

As it happens, some of the clues, and perhaps some of the answers, can be found here in Aspen.

Yeah, I'm glad the Globe is $wi$hing around the slopes and digging out answers.

* * *

First, some history.

The gap between rich and poor has long been one of the defining issues in American politics. Before there was Aspen, there were enclaves of extravagant wealth such as Newport, R. I., with its row of oceanfront mansions. The Gilded Age had its J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. The great wealth of a few helped spur the first government efforts to temper runaway accumulation of wealth, culminating in the passage of the federal income tax in 1913.

How distorted! The Federal Reserve system is the very thing that feeds it!

Still, by 1928, the top 0.1 percent controlled about 25 percent of the nation’s wealth, the most recent high-water mark of inequality. Then, in the wake of the stock market crash — which struck monied investors with special force — a series of tax increases on the wealthy and New Deal programs for the working poor and retirees helped shrink the gap.

The gap narrowed further as the United States geared up industrially for World War II and experienced the postwar boom. Tens of millions were lifted into the middle class. The gap narrowed yet again as American companies, with many foreign competitors hobbled by the war, dominated many industries around the world.

By the late 1970s, some were ready to declare victory. Wealth inequality had narrowed to the smallest level of the 20th century, with the top 0.1 percent of Americans holding just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth. 

It's a disparaged decade, but honestly, I view it as a time of bliss. Of course, who are tho$e disparaging it? My propaganda pre$$ and ma$$ media. And why? Because the damn $y$tem was close to cracking, and truthfully, "conspiracy theorists" were hardly being ridiculed during that time. Even had Congress investigating them back then.

And notice they were talking about the 0.1 percent, not the 1%. Turns out the higher you go the more wealth is up there, and it is truly a small circle of global individuals and families that control most of it (Rothschild is a name that comes to mind).

But it wouldn’t last. The gap began to widen dramatically around 1980 as other countries rebuilt their economies, and Japan and Germany cut into the auto market, a critical middle class employer in the United States.

Yeah, that was when Reagan came in and corporate power began to assert itself. It's been a boulder going downhill ever since.

Globalization cut into US wages as China, India and other nations offered labor at a fraction of the cost of US plants, prompting a further decline in American manufacturing, the traditional base of higher-wage employment. The percentage of people in labor unions, whose bargaining power had played a role in narrowing the income gap after the New Deal, has dropped from 20 percent to 11 percent since 1983, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The wealthiest, meanwhile, benefited from a steep drop in top tax rates, notwithstanding recent hikes signed into law by President Obama. The top tax rate dropped from 91 percent in 1963, to 35 percent under President George W. Bush, and then to the current 39.6 percent under Obama. The top tax rate on capital gains is 20 percent, which disproportionately benefits the very wealthy; three-quarters of all capital gains goes to millionaires, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Two of Obama’s main efforts to shrink the gap went nowhere. The GOP killed Obama’s proposal to enact what he called the “Warren Buffett rule,” named after the Nebraska billionaire who has said his taxes are too low. It would have raised taxes on the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans by placing a 5.6 percent surtax on income over $1 million. Republicans also blocked Obama’s plan to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

By comparison, pay at the top has skyrocketed. In 1965, chief executive officers typically made 20 times as much as their workers. Today, chief executives at Fortune 500 companies make, on average, 354 times as much as their rank-and-file workers, according to a study coauthored by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton. And it is not just chief executives; the tech boom has created a new class of billionaires who have built companies with a relative handful of employees.

That's really pouring $alt in the ga$h, 'eh? 

And yet the Globe crows how those same industries are carrying the current economic boom.

Pfft!

The result: the top 0.1 percent controlled 22 percent of the nation’s wealth in 2012, according to Saez. If the trend continues, the gap could return to the high-water mark of about 25 percent around Election Day 2016.

Politics, meanwhile, has become more and more a province of the wealthy.

I think they just an$wered their own que$tions!

The Supreme Court’s 2010 loosening of campaign finance laws enabled 100 super-wealthy Americans to account for 41 percent of contributions in 2012 to so-called super Political Action Committees, many of which apply pressure to prevent tax hikes on the wealthy and to fight increases in the minimum wage. (That does not include the unlimited “dark money” contributions also allowed by the Supreme Court rulings.)

That is $taggering. Que$tions answered. 2014 probably even worse.

All of which helps explain how a place such as Aspen became the epitome of wealth inequality.

***********************

Aspenites have long known they live in a city of extraordinary wealth.

But even the jaded have marveled at some recent exercises in excess. A wedding held last year on the backside of Aspen Mountain was seen as the symbol of just how rich things can get here.

SeeWedding Day Delay

A local news operation called Aspen Journalism reported last year that 50 of the world’s 1,826 billionaires own property in the county in which Aspen is located. Ranked by wealth, the list led with the Koch brothers, best known for backing libertarian and Republican causes: Charles Koch has a $5.8 million home, and David Koch has two houses worth a combined $12.7 million.

They are the ones who financed the hijacking of true Tea Party patriots and grass roots folk and created corporate-serving controlled opposition front groups masquerading as such. Sorry. 

Due to their success running the conglomerate Koch Industries, the nation’s second largest privately held company, they are tied for sixth on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s wealthiest people, with $43 billion apiece. Their houses fit neatly into a West End neighborhood, where neighbors include members of families such as Walton and Lauder, of Walmart stores and the Estee Lauder cosmetics company.

Oh, look jwho is their neighbor.

A third Koch brother, Bill, (who also owns a mansion on Cape Cod) recently put an estate about 12 miles from Aspen on the market for $100 million. He is selling the property in order to focus on building a replica of a Wild West town a few hours drive from Aspen.

“In the ’70s, ’80s, and even early ’90s, the top echelon was making 10 times what a doctor, lawyer, big banker, was making,” said Adam Frisch, a former currency trader who is now an Aspen city councilor. “Now they are making 3,000 times as much.” 

Odd thing is, most of the people making up the top echelon are those very same people! What is this $hit?

Perhaps the tipping point in Aspen came when Saudi Prince Bandar bin-Sultan received a building permit in 1990 for a 55,000-square-foot house, almost the exact size of the White House.

Oh, look at this.

Bandar eventually put it up for sale at an asking price of $135 million, which would have made it one of the most expensive residences sold in the nation’s history. But the market was down, a fact that few knew better than a hedge fund manager named John Paulson.

Back home again.

Paulson, a Harvard Business School graduate who got his start working for the Boston Consulting Group, was little known outside Wall Street’s inner circle when he seized upon the idea of betting against the US housing market in 2007.

Millions of middle-class families, as well as many in lower income brackets, had taken out “sub-prime” loans that they soon learned they couldn’t afford.

They were $old the American dream by $coundrels!

The housing market went south and many mortgages exceeded home values. The mortgages were consolidated into batches that were then sold as financial instruments, and Paulson correctly bet that many would fail.

He helped bundle 'em, and both he and his firm cleaned up on both!! 

Have they mentioned that he was working for Goldman Sachs yet?

An estimated 7 million families have lost their homes to foreclosures since 2007, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. That pushed many of those families to lower rungs of the wealth scale. 

And remember, their was a fraudulent foreclosure crisis connected to the MBS $windle as the banks began seizing hard assets to cover their losses. 

The crisis is not over for many: 6.5 million families still hold mortgages larger than the value of their home, putting them “underwater,” in real estate parlance, and further widening the wealth gap.

No, it's a $low motion type of thing.

Paulson’s hedge funds skyrocketed as his bet paid off; one went up 590 percent. He personally earned nearly $4 billion in 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal. Few, if any, Americans came out of the economic crisis having gained so much.

Yeah, what a $ucce$$ story. Makes you wonder if the reporter perfumed fellatio on the guy.

Btw, I dispute the characterization of having "earned" it.

Paulson illustrates the wealth gap in another crucial way. He not only profited from the housing crash, he was able to keep more of his profits because hedge funds managers are mostly paid in what is known as “carried interest,” which at the time was taxed at a 15 percent rate, and has been subsequently been raised to 20 percent.

Critics have called this the “hedge fund loophole,” noting that it is far lower than the current top rate of 39.5 percent. The break costs the Treasury $21 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but efforts to eliminate it have gone nowhere in Congress. It remains one of the most lucrative ways that the very, very rich get even richer.

We all know why they have gone nowhere in Congre$$.

Paulson was asked about his tax rate in a 2008 congressional hearing.

“A school teacher or a plumber or policeman makes on the average of $40,000 to $50,000 a year, yet they have to pay 25 percent tax. You make $1 billion, yet your rate can be as low as 15 percent,” said Representative Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat. “Is that fair, Mr. Paulson?”

Replied Paulson: “Yeah. We certainly appreciate your concern for fairness in the tax code. But what I will say, I believe our tax situation is fair.”

A couple of years later, Paulson, who has vacationed here for more than three decades, began pouring some of his profits into Aspen. In 2010, he purchased a house for $24 million. But that apparently was too small. In 2012, he purchased Prince Bandar’s 90-acre estate, as well as a guest house on an accompanying parcel, for $49 million. At the time, he boasted that he paid far below the $135 million asking price.

Interesting $pin on that.

Paulson, who declined an interview request, said in a statement that “successful” families “do a lot to drive and support the local economy.”

The infamous trickle down theory -- which is nothing more than being urinated upon.

Btw, if you look at all the altrui$tic charity cited in my paper is a tax dodge that ends up going to some $elf-$erving, agenda-pu$hing nonprofit program or group that usually employs family and friends.

Asked whether he has contributed to local institutions, he said in the statement that he has done so elsewhere and, “As my family and I spend more time in Aspen, I am sure we will learn of similar institutions that benefit all residents of Aspen and its surrounding areas.”

Meanwhile, the renovations continue on Paulson’s estate here, which is how Juan Ayala arrived on the scene.

Oh, yeah, him.

* * *

He didn’t know that Paulson owned the home at which he recently worked until a reporter told him the homeowner’s identity. But he knew whoever owned the home had vast means.

Even in Aspen, such ostentatious displays of wealth have generated heat. The local newspaper, The Aspen Times, recently quoted a longtime resident complaining about “part-time residents with enormous financial resources building mini theme parks of second homes.”

January was the best month for home sales in Aspen since 2007, according to the Estin Report, produced by local real estate agent Tim Estin. Homes in the center of town are going for $18.5 million, feeding the impression that the boom is back, at least among the Ultra High Net Worth Individuals.

That's the only place it is booming.

Long way from ‘Pleasantville’

A parade of four-wheel-drive wagons, SUVs, and trucks snaked along the highway into Aspen on recent morning, skis fastened to rooftops, passengers headed toward mountains with names like Buttermilk and Snowmass.

Mixed amidst this entourage were leaner cars on a more prosaic mission, carrying the maids, janitors, clerks, waiters, waitresses and other workers who make Aspen hum. More than half of the city’s 11,000 workers are so priced out of Aspen, and the surrounding area, that they must drive more than an hour to work here, according to city officials.

For many residents and tourists, places such as Aspen are snow-globe worlds, seemingly perfect and self-contained. But zoom out on the map and a different pictures emerges, said Jon Fox-Rubin, who runs a nonprofit group that serves low-income residents throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

Fox-Rubin, like so many here, does not bash the rich. He just wants more of them to see the entire valley, from the trailer parks to the greatest estates, as one entity. To that end, he is executive director of Valley Settlement Project, which provides educational and transportation resources, among other things, to help the working poor remain in the Roaring Fork valley.

You know, I did not for a long time, never begrudged them their wealth (did when I was a loony lefty in a prior century), was on here arguing against more taxes (then again, they don't pay 'em; they get the loot from them thanks to their political $ervants and $laves), but they have reached such a point of piggishness (with absolutely all due respect to pigs, who should not be associated with this $cum) it's beyond tolerance.

Many of the workers, both legal and undocumented, are from Mexico, an influx that once was a point of contention in Aspen. In 1999, the City Council passed a resolution urging Congress to enforce immigration laws, which left Aspen with an anti-immigrant image, according to the book, “The Slums of Aspen.” 

A-HA!

"illegal immigrants, who mow the lawns, trim the hedges, clean the swimming pools, park the cars, serve the hors d'oeuvres, tidy up the mansions, and do many of the other things that make life so enjoyable for the rich

And they don't complain or come with messy social security or health requirements! No wonder the "problem" never gets solved -- as well as being useful as a dividing instrument!

Yeah, the law means.... well, nothing really.

More recently, however, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association urged Congress to pass legislation that would put most of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.

“My entire housekeeping staff is Hispanic,” said Warren Klug, general manager of the Aspen Square Hotel. “You would find that at most of the properties in Aspen. These are hard-working people and we are glad they are here, because if they weren’t we’d be handing people a vacuum when they checked in.”

While Klug emphasized that he runs background checks that eliminate one-fourth of job applicants as undocumented, he said some businesses might not go to the same length.

Aspen has long sought ways to house its working class. The local housing authority, which serves the city and surrounding Pitkin County, receives money from a 1 percent real estate tax that subsidizes 2,900 housing units for sale or rent.

While some subsidies are given to those earning $15,000 per year, persons with unlimited income and as much as $900,000 in assets can also be eligible, according to the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority. But it is still not enough for thousands of workers who must live far away, and undocumented immigrants cannot apply.

So the workers spread out across the valley, where groups such as Fox-Rubin’s try to help them remain.

George Stranahan, an 83-old-year whose family owned the Champion spark plug company and who has long lived on a ranch near Aspen in Woody Creek, is a financial backer of Fox-Rubin’s Valley Settlement Project. He said the blame for the wealth gap should not fall on the wealthy.

Well, who should we blame?

“The rich get richer,” Stranahan said. “This is a good thing. We ought to celebrate this. You need accumulations of wealth because the wealthy save it, and savings equal investment, and investment drives the economy. Not trickle-down; investment.”

Well, they are and I can't because I've got a tight budget. I'll celebrate the day I don't outlay for a Globe, 'kay? Throw in my $2.

Yet, he said, “The middle class are becoming poorer. What is the cause of more poor people? It is not more rich people. It is something societal. It is a question of policies.”

Yeah, let's celebrate 'cuz HE DUNNO! 

Btw, fathead, WHO do you think is $ETTING the POLICIES?

That brings the issue back to the national arena, where the distance between politicians about what policies to implement is as vast as the gap between the rich and poor of the Roaring Fork Valley.

I wish we had the old Congre$$ back.

* * *

It was last June when Hillary Clinton arrived here to speak at a forum called the Aspen Ideas Festival.

How much did they pay her?

The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination took her seat in a pavilion, surrounded by all the wealth and splendor that Aspen had to offer, and promptly faced a question about financial inequality.

Days earlier, she had said she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” when they left the White House, drawing ridicule given that both Clintons have made millions of dollars from speaking fees and book contracts.

And through their global foundation that is full of foreign money.

Clinton tried to smooth things over, telling the Aspen audience inequality would be a key issue. “So many Americans are really, really nervous,” the former secretary of state said, in what sounded to some like criticism of the Obama administration in which she had served for four years. “They feel like they’re falling behind, that at best maybe they’re running in place.”

She has also been bought off by Wall Street, in fact, all the candidates, declared or not, whichever party, are.

Clinton’s discomfort with the issue mirrors that of her party. Democrats represent a range of constituencies from Main Street to Wall Street and have sometimes struggled with their message.

Can't $erve two masters, that's why.

Inequality was supposed to be a key Democratic issue of the 2014 midterm elections, but it barely registered with voters and the party lost the Senate.

So we are told by the propaganda pre$$ that conceals vote fraud and such things.


So last January Democrats invited a wealthy Seattle backer, Nick Hanauer, to present his proposed solutions at a party meeting. Hanauer, an early investor in Amazon.com, had warned in a video months earlier that the wealth gap has grown so great that the poor one day will rise up against the super-wealthy.

I'm SURE THAT GOT THEIR ATTENTION even though the whole idea of cla$$ warfare is always on their minds (obviou$ly)-- as they seek to divide us all along race, gender, age, sex, anything.

“Democrats in general have had a horrible product for a very long time, mostly because they accepted the ‘trickle down’ explanation of where growth came from,” Hanauer said in an interview. “Their trickle down was, ‘Our CEOs are nicer than your CEOs,’ rather than offering a competing explanation where growth came from.” 

That's why I've abandoned them.

Hanauer told Democrats that they should distance themselves from the idea that “the rich are job creators” and urged them to increase taxes on the wealthy and pass a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, not just Obama’s proposed $10.10, giving workers much more to spend. That, he said, would enable Democrats to argue that growth can come from the “middle out” instead of the Republican theory of “trickle down,” and would help close the wealth gap.

But Republicans have repeatedly rejected a hike in the minimum wage and have said they will oppose tax hikes on the wealthy, both of which they view as job-killers.

The GOP has also struggled to find a way to talk about inequality. Republican candidates seem eager to distance themselves from the rhetoric of their failed 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, who said 47 percent of Americans at the bottom of the nation’s economic ladder view themselves as “victims” and that his job was “not to worry about those people.” In the aftermath of Romney’s loss, nearly ever prospective GOP candidate has called wealth inequality one of the most important issues.

But once again, nothing was done.

For example, Senator Ted Cruz, the conservative Texas Republican, sounded almost like a liberal Democrat as he spoke to the issue at a forum in January, saying, “Right now what we have in this country is really a divided America. For those with resources they’re doing great right now . . . the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our income nationally than any year since 1928.”

Same argument John Edwards made, and you saw what happened to him. Does crazy Ted have enough support from Israel and the religious right to push through? I doubt it. There are others the money would prefer before him.

Former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said in February at an Iowa event that the party has to change its rhetoric. “One of our favorite sayings, I know that you hear Republicans say all the time is, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ And that is true, unless, your boat has a hole in it.”

Another orifice where the wealthy are sucking out dough?

So while the parties seem to agree on the problem — no small thing in politics — they disagree almost completely on the solution. Thus the stage is set for what should be one of the most vigorous and important debates of the presidential campaign.

It will be a lot of talk and after it's over, back to business as usual. Seen this movie before.

Back in the Ayala mobile home in Glenwood Springs, Karla and Juan talk about their future, and that of their adopted country. They say they have one main passion, one familiar to generations of immigrants: to give their son and daughter a better life here.

They are so much better people than American slobs!

“I really do believe in the American dream,” Karla said.

Then you must be asleep.

Her family wants to stay in the Roaring Fork Valley, move up from a mobile home to a regular one. Their intimate knowledge of the luxurious lifestyle farther up the valley has not changed their modest outlook. To the contrary.

“We don’t want to live a life with excess,” Karla said. “That somehow gets you away from reality, and not let you see there are a lot of people out there who live with a lot less. Money is amazing, there’s a lot of things you can do with money. A lot of good and a lot of bad. But when I pray, I don’t pray for money.”

He never seems to answer those anyway.

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