Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Michigan 13th Congressional District Map 2011

This is the new 13th Congressional District Map for Michigan, as passed by legislature June, 29, 2011 and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.

New Michigan 13th Congressional District Map 2011

Learn more: BEVERLY TRAN: New Michigan 13th Congressional District Map 2011
Stop Medicaid Fraud in Child Welfare 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Republican Debate Audience Boos Gay Soldier Stephen Hill After DADT Repeal Question

Republican Debate Audience Boos Gay Soldier Stephen Hill After DADT Repeal Question

During the Republican debate Thursday night, host Megyn Kelly dropped a YouTube clip on Rick Santorum: a question from Stephen Hill, a soldier in Iraq who, up until this week, had to "lie about who [he] was" in order to serve in the army.
Santorum provided Hill no succor, saying that the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" injected "social engineering" into the military.
SANTORUM: I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don't ask don’t tell. I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing: to defend our country...
KELLY: What would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill?
SANTORUM: What we are doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. That’s tragic. I would just say that going forward we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president. That policy would be re-instituted as far as people in, I would not throw them out because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration. But we would move forward in conformity with what was happening in the past. Which was- sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.
Of course, the big news of the exchange will once again be about an audience reaction. After Fox cut back from the clip of Hill, several members of the audience were heard, in a shocking demonstration of disrespect for one of our soldiers, lustily booing him. Very sad.
Sidenote: Fred Karger responded to that exchange by telling the Huffington Post, "Santorum is truly nuts. Just Google him. Congress repealed DADT. Federal court found it unconstitutional."
UPDATE: After the debate, Talking Points Memo reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Jon Huntsman. When asked about the incident, Huntsman said the booing was "unfortunate." McMorris-Santoro also talked to a Perry representative, who used similar language, calling it "very unfortunate."

Monday, September 26, 2011

U.S. government paid $600 million in benefits to dead, 5-year study reports

U.S. government paid $600 million in benefits to dead, 5-year study reports

WASHINGTON — The federal government has doled out more than $600 million in benefit payments to dead people over the past five years, a watchdog report says.

Such payments are meant for retired or disabled federal workers, but sometimes the checks keep going out even after the former employees pass away and the deaths are not reported, according to the report this week from the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general, Patrick McFarland.

In one case, the son of a beneficiary continued receiving payments for 37 years after his father's death in 1971. The payments — totaling more than $515,000 — were only discovered when the son died in 2008.

The government has been aware of the problem since a 2005 inspector general's report revealed defects in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund. Yet the improper payments have continued, despite more than a half dozen attempts to develop a system that can figure out which beneficiaries are still alive and which are dead, the report said.

"It is time to stop, once and for all, this waste of taxpayer money," it said.

Office of Personnel Management spokesman Edmund Byrnes said he could not immediately comment on the findings. But the report said OPM Director John Berry agrees that stopping the improper payments should be a priority.

There are about 2.5 million federal workers who receive more than $60 billion in benefit payments from the program each year.

Federal officials have tried matching the fund's computer records with the Social Security Administration's death records, checking tax records and improving the timeliness of death reporting.

OPM has also sampled its records of all recipients more than 90 years old to confirm whether they are still alive. In 2009, there were more than 125,000 recipients identified as over 90 and about 3,400 over 100 years old.

Both the Obama administration and Congress have made it a higher priority to crack down on improper government payments.

Last year, government investigators found that more than 89,000 stimulus payments of $250 each from the massive economic recovery package went to people who were either dead or in prison.

Was the Associated Press transcription of Obama’s CBC speech ‘racist’?

Was the Associated Press transcription of Obama’s CBC speech ‘racist’?

By most accounts, President Obama gave a fiery speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, telling blacks to "quit crying and complaining" and support him in the fight for jobs, according to the Associated Press. But was the AP transcription of Obama's remarks racist?
That's the subject currently being debated afterthe issue was raised on Chris Hayes' MSNBC show on Sunday.
On MSNBC, the African-American author Karen Hunter complained the news service transcribed Obama's speech without cleaning it up as other outlets did--specifically including the "dropped g's."
Via the AP version:
"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do."
Hunter called the AP's version "inherently racist," sparring with New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert John McWhorter, who argued the g-less version "is actually the correct one," noting that the president's victory in the 2008 election was due, in part, to how effortlessly "he can switch into that [black] dialect."
Whatever the reason, Hunter found it offensive. "I teach a journalism class, and I tell my students to fix people's grammar, because you don't want them to sound ignorant," she said. "For them to do that, it's code, and I don't like it."
It's worth noting that the same sorts of arguments arose during George W. Bush's presidency, with the White House cleaning up the president's speeches to make him sound smarter, and news outlets sometimes not doing so.
According to Mark Smith, the AP reporter who filed the story, Obama was making a point by dropping his g's, making the transcription a no-brainer.
"Normally, I lean toward the clean-it-up school of quote transcribing—for everyone," Smith told Mediaite. "But in this case, the President appeared to be making such a point of dropping Gs, and doing so in a rhythmic fashion, that for me to insert them would run clearly counter to his meaning. I believe I was respecting his intent in this. Certainly disrespect was the last thing I intended."
"The AP Stylebook counsels against using spellings like gonna or wanna--or in this case, complainin' and cryin'--'in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker,'" Tom Kent, the AP deputy managing editor for standards and production, said in a statement to The Cutline. "In this case, our reporter, who was there in person, felt the spellings were appropriate to convey a particular touch that President Obama appeared to be intentionally making use of."
Conservative bloggers agree--mainly because the story showed Obama pandering to a black base.
"The first job of a journalist is to report a story as accurately as possible," Howard Portnoy wrote on "Part of the job of reporting Obama's speech last night was to highlight his obvious pandering, which is borne of desperation. The only element missing from the story is whether any of the listeners were offended by the president's 'blaccent.'"
"The AP did not print the words as written for the president," Mike Opelka wrote on Glenn Beck-owned, "instead choosing to transcribe the speech with what might be considered a bit more accuracy."
"He was specifically, and intentionally, using an African-American linguistic style to emphasize his message," a conservative blog called the Last Refuge noted.
"Now that the presidential campaign season has begun," Courtland Milloy wrote in an op-ed column for the Washington Post, "it's okay for President Obama to openly court black people again."

Netflix’s week goes from bad to worse

Netflix’s week goes from bad to worse

Netflix chief Reed Hastings began the week admitting "arrogance" in a lengthy apology to subscribers, only to have his damage-control efforts blow up in his face by confusingly splitting up the company's streaming and DVD businesses.
But on Thursday, Hastings' fortunes--at least PR-wise--seemed like they were about to change. He was introduced onstage by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg at the social network's annual developers conference with some big news: a partnership with Facebook that will allow users to watch movies or TV shows with their friends, one of several new social apps Zuckerberg highlighted during his keynote.
However, Hastings quickly pointed out that a privacy law is currently preventing Netflix and Facebook from launching the app in the United States.
Congressional lawmakers are now reviewing the law--the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988--as a prelude to eventually overturning it, Hastings said.
"Unfortunately, we will not be offering this feature in the U.S. because a 1980's law creates some confusion over our ability to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook," Michael Drobac, director of government relations at Netflix, explained in a post. Drobac noted that "some forward-thinking members of Congress"--including Reps. John Conyers, Henry Waxman and Darrell Issa--have introduced legislation--H.R. 2471--that would overturn the 1988 law.
Until then, though, Facebook users in 44 other countries will soon be able to watch, say, "Blue Crush 2," or another one of its 20,000 titles together--but not here.
Meanwhile, Hastings' brutal week is about to go from bad to worse.
According to All Things D's Peter Kafka, the Dish Network is holding a press conference at 1:00 p.m. ET on Friday "and the odds are very, very, very good the satellite TV company will use it to introduce a Netflix-style streaming service of its own."
As Kafka points out, the company's invitations for today's event boast the unveiling of a "stream come true." That's the innovation that everyone, even Hastings, thought Dish would eventually do with Blockbuster, which it acquired for $320 million in April.
"The good news, if there is any, for Hastings and Netflix is that [the launch] isn't creeping up on anyone," Kafka wrote. "So that should (theoretically) cushion any blow."
Still, from Netflix's perspective, the Dish-Blockbuster announcement couldn't have come at a worse time.

Fox Pundit Blasts Senate For Doing ‘Nothing’ On Disaster Aid, 10 Days After It Passes $7 Billion Disaster Aid Bill

Fox Pundit Blasts Senate For Doing ‘Nothing’ On Disaster Aid, 10 Days After It Passes $7 Billion Disaster Aid Bill

This week, after continually claiming that they wouldn’t hold disaster aid hostage for budget cuts, the House GOP did just that, voting down a continuing resolution that included the aid, and only approving it after $100 million more in cuts were added to the package.
House Republicans then turned around and blamed Senate Democrats for holding disaster aid hostage, with a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) saying “any political games from Senate Dems will only delay FEMA money that disaster victims desperately need.” Fox pundit Brit Hume picked up on this theme today on Fox News Sunday:
HUME: Let’s just take look at this latest skirmish. You need a continuing resolution to keep the government open and there’s a need for some relief funding because it’s almost been exhausted. So the Republicans pass a bill that has the disaster relief funding in it, to the tune of several billion dollars and they pay for it with cuts in green jobs funding. Well, green job funding ought to be by now a very low priority given the history of it and the fact that its utterly failed to produce meaningful jobs.
They sent it to the Senate. What does the Senate do? The Senate blocks it and then does, so far, nothing. Now, it may be that with the media coverage and the political statements that will be made about this, that if the government shuts down the Republicans will get the blame. But I ask you in this: who’s being responsible? And who’s playing politics?
Watch it:

The only problem with this storyline developed by the GOP and its friends at Fox News? On September 15, the Senate passed a bill containing $7 billion in disaster aid. The bipartisan 62-37 vote took place days before the House ever got around to advancing its own package.
The government’s funding runs out on Friday, so the prospect of another government shutdown is looming. But at the moment, the right seems more interested in trying to pretend that the Senate has not passed something that it most certainly has.

Friday, September 23, 2011

George Clinton announces campaign to reclaim copyrights at CBC 41st Annual Legislative Conference

George Clinton announces campaign to reclaim copyrights at CBC 41st Annual Legislative Conference

Conyers: One Year Later Affordable Care Act Already Improves Coverage and Lowers Healthcare Costs

**Follow Me On Twitter @RepJohnConyers**
For Immediate Release
Date: Friday, September 23, 2011
Contact: Matthew Morgan – 202-226-5543

Conyers: One Year Later Affordable Care Act Already Improves Coverage and Lowers Healthcare Costs  
September 23rd marks First Anniversary of Affordable Care Act’s Patient’s Bill of Rights

(WASHINGTON) – Today marks the first year anniversary of the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a law passed as part of the healthcare reform bill formally known as the Affordable Care Act.   The protections of the Patient’s Bill of Rights became effective for all health insurance plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010.  In response to this milestone, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement:

“Because of the Patient’s Bill of Rights, American families are no longer subject to the whims of insurance companies,” said Conyers.  “The common sense protections enacted by the Affordable Care Act are already improving the lives of millions of Americans currently covered by private insurance, including young adults, children with pre-existing conditions, seniors, and small business owners.”

Under the Patient’s Bill of Rights, the 165 million Americans currently covered by private insurance now receive the following protections: 

·         You can no longer be arbitrarily dropped from coverage by your insurance company simply because you get sick.

·         Your insurance company can no longer place a lifetime limit on your coverage.

·         Your insurance company can no longer place low annual limits on your coverage.

·         If you are under age 65 and in a new plan, you are now receiving free key preventive services.

In addition, as a result of the Patient’s Bill of Rights:

·         If you are a young adult, you can now stay on your parents’ health plan until your 26th birthday, if you do not have coverage of your own.  Because of this provision, one million additional young people have gained coverage over the last year.

·         If you have a child under age 19, they can no longer be denied coverage by an insurance company for having a “pre-existing condition.”  Up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions are now protected from discrimination.

In addition to the Patient’s Bill of Rights, the Affordable Care Act provided new Medicare benefits for seniors, which became effective on January 1, 2011.  These new Medicare benefits include the following:

·         Seniors are now receiving a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs when they are in the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ coverage gap.  Nearly 1.3 million seniors have already received the discount.

·         Seniors are now receiving free key preventive health services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, under Medicare.  Nearly 19 million seniors have already received one or more free preventive services.

·         Seniors are now receiving a free Annual Wellness Visit under Medicare.  1.3 million seniors have already taken advantage of the new free Annual Wellness Visit.

Finally, under the Affordable Care Act, small businesses are provided tax credits of up to 35 percent of employer premium contributions for those small businesses that choose to offer coverage.  The tax credits became effective at the beginning  of the 2010 tax year.  There are up to 4 million small businesses eligible for this tax credit.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kilpatrick fundraiser charged with income tax evasion

Kilpatrick fundraiser charged with income tax evasion

Detroit— Emma Bell, a longtime fundraiser of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was charged in federal court with income tax evasion, according to court records made public Thursday.
Bell owes more than $92,000 in federal income taxes after receiving at least $256,000 worth of checks from Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign and inauguration committee, according to court records.
Bell, 67, is the latest person charged in connection with a City Hall corruption probe that has netted at least 18 felony convictions — and she is expected to plead guilty, according to a source familiar with the investigation. The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Bell is the unnamed female fundraiser referenced in a 38-count indictment issued against Kilpatrick on Dec. 15, which accused the ex-mayor of taking more than $286,000 in kickbacks from his fundraising director. Campaign finance records show cash changing hands between Kilpatrick and Bell on key dates listed in the indictment.
Her lawyer did not respond immediately to a phone call seeking comment, and it is unclear if she will testify against Kilpatrick or cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"I'm not surprised" by the charge, political consultant Eric Foster said Thursday. "The Kilpatrick organization was one where the individuals that were part of it all had a mentality and approach that they were above the law."
The charge clouds Bell's reputation as one the preeminent political fundraisers in the area and the top African-American fundraiser. She has raised money for Kilpatrick's mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; former Mayor Coleman Young; and top officials in the administration of former Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara, Foster said.
Foster suspects she was not charged in connection with the alleged kickbacks in exchange for cooperating with the corruption probe.
"What I suspect it says is she is cooperating and providing as much information as she has," Foster said. "Emma is very smart, very intelligent and not the type of person who wouldn't have records."
The Detroit News first reported about Bell's tax problems in late December. At the time, she owed more than $153,000 in delinquent state and federal taxes, according to public records.
She willfully attempted to evade income taxes between 2006 and 2008, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"She conducted her banking activity with the intent to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from learning of her unreported income, that is, she purchased and used cashier's checks and conducted cash transactions in the amounts of $10,000 or less…," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bullotta and Mark Chutkow wrote in court records Thursday.
They are the lead prosecutors in the City Hall corruption case against Kilpatrick.
In the Kilpatrick indictment, the fundraising director is simply identified as "The Fundraiser" in the indictment against Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard, and three close associates.
Kilpatrick told the fundraiser he wanted her to give him a portion of the commissions she received for the fundraising efforts, according to the indictment.
The fundraiser met with Kilpatrick on several dates between August 2003 and May 2008, according to federal court records. Two dates, in particular, coincide with Bell and Kilpatrick's business dealings.
On April 17, 2008, Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign paid Bell a $25,000 consulting fee, according to state campaign finance records. Weeks later, on May 8, the campaign paid Bell an additional $25,000.
On each date, "The Fundraiser" paid Kilpatrick $10,000, for a total of $20,000, according to the indictment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

House Judiciary Committee Members Send Emergency Letter to Georgia State Parole Board

Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 
Contact: Matthew Morgan  (Conyers) – 202-226-5543
              David Dailey (Scott) – 202-225-8351
              Andrew Phelan (Johnson) – 404-593-9126

House Judiciary Committee Members Send Emergency Letter to Georgia State Parole Board
Letter Urges Reconsideration of Clemency Hearing before 7 p.m. Deadline

(WASHINGTON) –  Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and House Judiciary Committee Member Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) wrote a letter to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles urging them to reconsider the decision to conclude Troy Davis’ death penalty clemency hearing.  Mr. Davis’ defense team was unable to finish presenting evidence in support of his request for clemency.  Specifically, Mr. Davis’ defense team wished to present the testimony of an expert on eyewitness identifications, a critical aspect of Mr. Davis’ request which turned on the fact that several eye witnesses at his trial had since recanted their testimony.

“Since 1973, more than 135 individuals on death row have been exonerated based on their innocence.” Conyers said.  “There is overwhelming evidence that casts doubt on Troy Davis’s conviction.  Before Mr. Davis is executed, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles should consider re-opening Mr. Davis’ clemency hearing because the defense team was unable to present all evidence establishing his innocence.”

“Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the burden is on the defendant to prove actual innocence by 'clear and convincing evidence,'” Scott said.  “This standard is more stringent than preponderance of the evidence and so a defendant demonstrating that he is probably innocent will not meet this burden. Lack of evidence of guilt is not affirmative evidence of innocence.  Despite the fact that Troy Davis demonstrated that the evidence against him left substantial reasonable doubt of his guilt, the District Court found that he was unable to prove with clear and convincing evidence that a jury would not convict him, based on the available evidence.  Similarly, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles did not find the evidence compelling enough to grant clemency, even though they did not hear all of the evidence.  There is something fundamentally wrong with our system when someone may be put to death when the evidence we have available today casts serious doubt about his guilt."

“As a criminal defense attorney, judge and member of the House Judiciary Committee, it disturbs me to my core that an unnecessary and unjust killing may take place,” Johnson said.  “If we execute a man despite new evidence that casts doubt on his guilt, it shakes the public’s faith in the integrity of justice in Georgia.”

Previously, Representatives Conyers,  Scott, and Johnson wrote Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm urging him to drop the death warrant against Mr. Davis and support his appeal for clemency in light of the substantial doubt surrounding his guilt.  A copy of this letter can be found at the following link:   

The letter to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles  is attached as a pdf and follows below.

Chairman James E. Donald
Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

RE: Troy Anthony Davis Pending Execution Scheduled for September 21, 2011

Dear Chairman Donald and Members of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles:

We are writing to urge you to reconsider your decision to conclude Troy Davis’ clemency hearing on September 19, 2011.  It is our understanding that Mr. Davis’ defense team was unable to finish presenting its evidence in support his request for clemency.

We understand that, due to time constraints, the Board was unable to hear from Dr. Jennifer E. Dysart, an expert on eyewitness identifications.  We attach the letter written by the Innocence Project, which elaborates the myriad reasons that Dr. Dysart’s testimony is critical.  As you are well aware, the only evidence linking Mr. Davis to the crime is eyewitness testimony.  Given the gravitas of the task with which you were charged, and what the research tells us about this type of evidence, we urge you to give new consideration to concluding Mr. Davis’ hearing without hearing from this critical expert.


John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
Hank Johnson, Member

U.S. House Judiciary Members Letter Regarding Troy Anthony Davis Execution Scheduled September 21, 2011