Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Since 2013, minorities and Americans without high school diplomas showed greatest gains in wealth, Federal Reserve report shows

Nearly all Americans have now emerged from the Great Recession  -- with African American and Hispanic families and Americans without high school diplomas showing the greatest gains over the last three years, according to new data released Wednesday from the Federal Reserve.

It's a sign that the recovery from the devastating Great Recession and financial crisis of 2008 is picking up as more people are able to get jobs, pay off debt and invest more.

Household wealth for African-American and Hispanic families and Americans without high school diplomas rose the fastest from 2013 to 2016, according to the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances, which surveys over 6,000 households about their pay, debt and other finances.

Every slice of America -- from young to old and rich to poor -- saw their incomes grow and the value of stocks, homes and other assets climb.

But the Fed was also quick to point out growing inequality between the mega rich and everyone else, and between whites and non-whites.

The share of America's income held by the top 1 percent of households reached 24 percent in 2016, a record high.

Overall, however, the gains of the last three years marked a dramatic shift from the period between 2010 and 2013, when wealth fell for all racial and ethnic groups except whites.

"We’re glad the recovery is spreading to a lot of households," Fed economists said Wednesday.

The economists didn't elaborate on what caused the widespread gains, but they did note that the unemployment rate has fallen substantially in recent years from 7.5 percent to 5 percent last year.

The median net worth of white households was $171,000, nearly 10 times larger than for black households. The median net worth of African-American and Latino families was below $21,000. While minority families have seen the biggest percentage gains in recent years, they were starting from a much lower point.

The same was true of Americans without high school diplomas. Their median net worth was just $23,000. That's the sum of the home, their savings, the stock holdings and other assets.

Median net worth jumped to $67,000 and soared to almost $300,000 for people with college degrees. The wealthiest and best educated families continued to pull away from everyone else.

"Shares of income and wealth held by affluent families have reached historically high levels," wrote the Fed in its report.

The report showed growing income inequality over the last three decades. In 1989, the top 1 percent only held 17 percent of the nation's income. The bull market on Wall Street and surging prices for mansions around the world helped the super rich accumulate more wealth.

As the mega wealthy have seen their share of the total pie climb, the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Last year, the bottom 90 percent took home less than half of America's total income for the first time since the Fed began calculating this statistic in the 1980s. In 1992, the bottom 90 percent captured over 60 percent of the income. It's been a steady decline since.

Economists said the large financial gains made by blacks and Hispanics were largely explained by the fact that the two groups have far less money to begin with, compared to whites, and so any increase as a result of the nation’s economic recovery would appear to be disproportionately large.

“You’re looking at people with lower net worth, so when the economy recovers you are going to see them benefit disproportionately as a percentage,” said Jeffrey Eisenach, an economist and managing director at NERA Economic Consulting, which released a study in December on Latino prosperity.

“If you’re poor and you go through a tough period, you use all your savings to get through it,” Eisenach said. “If you go from having very little to doubling that, you still may not have very much but you see a big percentage gain.”

Given the persistent wealth gap between white families and minorities, Eisenach said he was optimistic that the gains are a “big sign of hope” towards slowly narrowing the chasm.

He expected to see the trend continue because his study showed that Latinos were disproportionately entrepreneurial, have high rates of workforce participation and have a propensity towards saving.

They are also a young demographic group compared to whites, he said; young Latinos are working whereas older whites may not be making as much as they used to.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Republican leaders: Senate won't vote on Obamacare repeal

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Facing assured defeat, Republicanleaders decided Tuesday not to even hold a vote on the GOP's latest attempt to repeal the Obama health care law, surrendering on their last-gasp effort to deliver on the party's banner campaign promise.

Leaving a lunch of Republican senators who'd gathered to discuss their next steps on the issue, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other leaders decided that "the votes are not there, not to have the vote." Another lawmaker leaving the gathering, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., shook his head and said, "No," when asked if a roll call would occur.

The decision marked the latest defeat on the issue for President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. In July, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected three similar GOP measures, a failure that infuriated conservatives and prompted Trump to spend much of his summer tweeting criticism at McConnell for falling short.

One of the measure's sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham,R-S.C., said the GOP fight to erase President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul would continue.

"We're going to get there," he said. "We're going to fulfill our promise."

Rejection became all but inevitable on Monday after Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins announced she opposed the legislation. She joined Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas' Ted Cruz who'd already said they opposed the measure. Cruz aides said he was seeking changes that would let him vote yes.

Because of their narrow majority and unifiedDemocratic opposition, Republicans can lose just two GOP votes and still push the legislation through the Senate. A vote or a decision by McConnell, R-Ky., to forego a roll call was needed this week because procedural protections against a bill-killing filibuster by Democrats expire Sunday.

In choosing whether to hold the roll call, McConnell had to pick between some Republicans arguing that lawmakers can't be seen as abandoning a pledge that Trump and countless GOP have run on, and others challenging the value of shining a fresh spotlight on their inability to pass the bill.

The abandoned bill would transform much of "Obamacare's" spending into grants that states could spend on health programs with few constraints.

Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

Just as The Bezu will overlook a Duke Energy power station, the 747 North project also has an unusual location for a luxury condo — on 4th Avenue N right near an 1-275 exit ramp. But listing agent Kelly Lee McFrederick said that shouldn't deter buyers.

"The parking garage will be higher than the off ramp so even the first units will be higher than the ramp," she said. "There will be some landscaping, it will have high impact windows and the building itself will be all concrete and very impervious to noise. Also, the land elevation is 42 feet above sea level. We are one of the highest and driest places in St. Pete to build."

Each of the 18 units will have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a laundry area, wine cooler and two deeded parking spaces. Units will range from 1,836 square feet to about 1,950 square feet and be priced from $450,000 to $500,000.

McFrederick said three units already are under contract. Unlike most condo projects, 747 North can proceed with only a few units pre-sold because the developer, Fourth North Holdings, acquired the land fairly inexpensively and owns it outright.

"When the city says, 'Good to go,' we can go at any moment," McFrederick said.

The family behind Fourth North Holdings also developed the Casablanca Towers on 8th Street S and 341 Lofts on 5th Street S, both in St. Petersburg. The newest project, north of Central Avenue, is an area that has seen a recent explosion of residential development though mostly of two-story townhomes.

President Trump Signs Memorandum for STEM Education Funding

Yesterday in the Oval Office, joined by dozens of students, President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum expanding access to high-quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Computer Science education to K-12 students. Also in attendance were Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, as well as several congressional representatives. One of the President’s primary goals is to give Americans the opportunity to obtain the necessary education and tools that lead to good, stable jobs. The President and his Administration are determined to provide Americans, particularly young Americans, the skills they need to be competitive in the job market.

The President spoke of the importance of today’s signing, saying, “[W]e will help give our American children a pathway to success in the workforce of tomorrow.”
Now more than ever, STEM and Computer Science industries are playing a huge role in the vitality of our economy which is why high-quality education in these fields is so crucial. Unfortunately, many in America’s school system are not getting access to these subjects. Studies show that less than half of schools offer computer programming, and nearly 40 percent of high schools did not offer physics in 2015. Additionally, STEM and Computer Science education among women, minorities, and students in rural communities are limited; according to College Board, less than a quarter of those who took the Advance Placement Computer Science A exam were women.
Representative Virginia Foxx (NC-5), who also serves as the chairwoman of the Education Workforce Committee, said to the President, “We are so proud of you for doing this.” The Congresswoman went on to explain that there are currently 5.6 million jobs available to the workforce, of which many are unfilled because employees do not have the required skills. This Presidential Memorandum will help students begin to be involved in these subject matters at a young age.

President Trump recognizes the importance of expanding high-quality STEM and Computer Science education, especially for those in historically underserved groups, to better prepare the American workforce for jobs of the future. This Presidential Memorandum directs Secretary of Education DeVos to place high quality STEM education, particularly Computer Science, at the forefront of the Department of Education’s priorities, and in doing so, establish a goal of devoting at least $200 million per year in grant funds towards this priority and explore administrative actions that will add or increase focus on Computer Science in existing K-12 schools as well as post-secondary education.

In his closing remarks, the President reminded the students to always do and study what they love, saying, “Follow your hearts, and you’re going to be tremendously successful people.”

This Presidential Memorandum signing comes on the heels of the President signing the Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeships in America in June, and kicks off several events spearheaded by Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, on the importance of computer science education in our Nation’s schools.

Off-duty D.C. police officer killed in crash with tractor-trailer in Maryland

An off-duty D.C. police officer was killed Monday morning after his car crossed a double-yellow line in the Clarksville area and collided with a tractor-trailer headed in the opposite direction, Howard County police said.

Authorities said that Barry Martin Eastman, 31, of Ellicott City died at the scene of the crash on Route 32, near Route 108 and Linden Church Road, about 8 a.m. Police said Eastman drove alone in his 2015 KIA Forte as he traveled northbound, when for unknown reasons, his car veered across the double line and hit the southbound 2014 Mack tractor-trailer.

The truck driver, 53-year-old Ira Goldberg of Frederick, was not injured, Howard County police said.

Eastman was assigned to the Third District and had been a member of the department for more than four years, said Margarita Mikhaylova, a D.C. police spokeswoman. D.C. police said the accident happened after Eastman left his overnight shift.

Over the Weekend

Monday, September 25, 2017



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North Korea accuses Trump of declaring war


 North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Monday accused US President Donald Trump of declaring war on his country by tweeting over the weekend that North Korea "won't be around much longer."

"Last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn't be around much longer and declared a war on our country," Ri said, according to an official translation of his remarks to reporters in New York.

"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make all self-defensive countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers at any time even when they are not yet inside the aerospace border of our country," Ri said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that the US has not declared war on North Korea, adding, "Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd."

Sanders said it is "never appropriate" to shoot down another nation's aircraft in international waters and the administration plans to continue to protect the area.

Earlier on Monday, State Department spokesperson Katina Adams told CNN the US seeks a "peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

But the US military "will take all options to make sure that we safeguard our allies and our partners and our homeland so if North Korea does not stop their provocative actions we'll make sure we provide options to the President to deal with North Korea," according to Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

Asked about Ri's charge that Trump's comments were a declaration of war, Manning, said: "Our job as the Department of Defense is as you know is to make sure that the President is provided military options, we'll continue to do that, and we have a deep arsenal of military options to provide the President so then he can decide how he wants to deal with North Korea and the regime."

"We are postured and we are ready to fight tonight," he added.

Lier / Clown
The US Navy will also continue to maintain its presence near the Korean peninsula despite the latest round of harsh rhetoric and threats of a military strike from Pyongyang.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

While some of us complain that we do not have enough, others are happy with what they have.

Story by Sam Hutch 

What would life be like if we all felt this way?  I am not asking that we all live this way; my question is when is it enough?  Nice to reflect sometimes, on the simple things in life.    

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar begins campaign for Congress

 El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar filed paperwork Friday to begin a campaign for the U.S. House seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a fellow El Paso Democrat.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar has officially started her run for Congress.

Escobar, a Democrat, submitted paperwork Friday to the Federal Election Commission to begin a campaign for Texas' 16th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, is giving up the seat to run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

Escobar is expected to make the campaign official Saturday when she's invited supporters to a "special announcement" in El Paso.

Escobar, who is close with O'Rourke, was almost instantly seen as a potential candidate to replace him when he announced in March he would challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. She already has his backing in her bid for Congress.

"Beto has really done an outstanding job of raising the bar for this seat and making the border a topic of national conversation in a very positive and productive way," Escobar said in an interview, describing her decision-making process. "That was an important component."

Escobar said she was also driven to run for Congress out of concern for the impact decisions made under President Donald Trump are having on El Paso, Texas' largest border city. There's a "very dark cloud over our nation right now," she said. 

In recent weeks, Escobar had also received support from a draft effort by a national group, the Latino Victory Project. If elected, Escobar would become the first Latina member of Congress from Texas.

A number of Democrats are already running for the solid-blue 16th District, the most prominent of which is Dori Fenenbock, the former El Paso school board president. She's been campaigning for the seat for months through an exploratory committee, and she has already built a $329,000 war chest.

On Friday, Fenenbock resigned from the school board, saying she has been "called to other service at a critical time in our history" and does not want it to be a distraction. A day later, her campaign promised a "formal announcement" on Sept. 9. 

Asked about Fenenbock, Escobar said she is thrilled so many women are running for the seat — at least one other is — and believes contested primaries are healthy for the party. But she also said El Pasoans will see a "very clear distinction" on policy between herself and Fenenbock, noting that the city has a history of electing "strong Democrats," and she doubts that will change in 2018. 

Escobar's term as county judge ends in December 2018, and she had already announced she would not seek re-election. Under state law, county officials like Escobar automatically resign when they announce they're running for another office with more than a year and a month left in their current term. But Escobar can remain on the job until the El Paso County Commissioners Court picks someone to finish her term, she said. 

At their Monday meeting, El Paso County commissioners are scheduled to "discuss and take appropriate action to fill the vacancy of the El Paso County Judge," according to an agenda that was updated Friday. Escobar she has "an idea" of whom she would like to replace her but declined to identify the person. 

In an interview at a campaign stop in Killeen, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke talked about his 2018 Senate run, why he supports impeaching President Trump and which El Paso Democrat he hopes will replace him in the U.S. House.

Federal judges have invalidated two of Texas’ 36 congressional districts, setting up a scramble to redraw them ahead of the 2018 elections. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth? by Jonathan McCarty

Do you, or does anyone you know, ever say "blah, blah, blah"? What about "yadda, yadda, yadda"? You know, those phrases we all use whenever someone is rambling on and we want to consider it nonsense, or something we've heard before, or we just simply do not care? Did you ever wonder where that came from?

Well, it actually comes from the ancient Greeks. The Romans did it as well, but the word that we have today because of it is interesting considering its origins. Nonsense words are just gibberish, but its roots are actually xenophobic in a lot of ways.

The Greeks of old considered their selves to be superior to everyone else around them, often with each individual city-state (or Polis) having its own claim to superiority in one way or another. We see this today in movies like "300" which gave us the phrase 'This.. is.. SPARTA!" It's an ideological superiority that's founded in physical and intellectual capability, and the idea that everyone else around you, especially those who are unknown, are somehow inferior.

This pops up a -lot- in history, and even today. People have a habit of essentially dehumanizing others whether it's for the military, political, or really any kind of gain at all. We stigmatize people because of ethnicity, religion, sexuality, because they have a speech impediment, or really, literally, any reason at all. The idea of racial inequality and social structure in itself all come from concepts rooted in xenophobia.

The fear of the outsiders, or the unknown, is a very real, very tangible thing. It's led to nation building, wars over property or resources, and to the genocide of various groups. It's something even mentioned in the Bible in the story of the Tower of Babel. The man became to enjoined, too capable, and tried to reach a common goal, so God struck them down, separated them, and divided them up by giving them skin colors, and different languages. Those differences led to generations of warfare, and hatreds that even show up in events today like the conflict between Israel and Palestine. They're truly ancient mindsets that we can never really get away from, even in a fictional setting.

But, this is one of my favorite historical pieces of humor. As I said, we have a word that we use in our almost everyday lives that comes from this practice. It's a word that is used in video games, and movies, and on television.

According to Merriam Webster, the word barbarian doesn't actually show up until the 14th Century, but it's one that is borrowed from the Greeks and is a word that we still use today to refer to someone who is cruel, or is considered uncivilized.

Originally, barbarous actually meant the same thing that barbarian does. Someone who is different from you, or somehow less equal to you because of those differences. And, it actually comes from the use of those gibberish words I mentioned at the beginning.

To the Greeks, anyone who was not from Greece, and did not speak their language sounded funny. The original word is βάρβαρος , which is pronounced "varvarous", but over time, and through changing languages, the v sound became a b. But, it still means the same thing, one who is a barbarian.

You see, the Greeks heard these non Anatolian languages as "var var var". So, they were walking around saying "bar.. bar.. bar" as far as anyone was concerned. They spoke nonsense, and as a result weren't deserving of being treated as an equal. I think that the Greeks could have benefited from reading William Hazlitt, though. He once said, 'The true barbarian is he who thinks everything barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.'

After all, the world is better when we make an effort to work together towards a common goal, and reach an understanding. Isn't that the other thing we learned from the Greeks?

by Jonathan McCarty-

Florida "hot cop" under investigation after alleged anti-Semitic Facebook posts By Jonathan McCarty

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of Gainesville's viral "hot cops" is under investigation after a pair of screenshots of anti-Semitic statements allegedly posted to his Facebook page began circulating the Internet, reports CBS affiliate WGFL.

Officer Michael Hamill became famous this week after he took a selfie with two other officers during their Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. The post was shared nearly 300,000 times on Facebook with humorous comments from women commenting on their good looks.

But comments allegedly posted on his Facebook page have put him in a different spotlight.

One alleged post, from 2013, asks: "What's the difference between boy scouts and Jews? anybody know? well, it is because "Boy scouts come back from their camps."

A second alleged post, from 2011, says: "Stupid people annoy me. put them in an oven and deal with them the Hitler way. haha."

The Gainesville Police Department released a statement Thursday confirming an investigation but they did not say what it's about.

There is no word yet on whether Hamill would still appear on a calendar the department is planning to benefit victims of Hurricane Irma.

© 2017 La Verda Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

                                                                    Jonathan McCarty
                                                                          La Verda  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

North Korea launches missile over Japan 10 minutes ago

In a major show of defiance to the international community, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido Friday.

The launch is the second to fly over Japan in less than a month, and the first since North Korea's sixth nuclear test and new United Nations sanctions on the country.

Friday's missile test follows the release of a statement Wednesday, in which the North Korean state news agency KCNA threatened the "four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche," referring to the ruling ideology of North Korea.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launch was "totally unacceptable" and went against "the international community's strong, united will for a peaceful solution."

North Korea's latest missile was fired from the district of Sunan in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, home to the country's main airport, the South Korean military said.

The missile flew about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) and reached an altitude of 770 kilometers (480) miles before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Initial US assessments suggested North Korea had fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile, similar to that fired over Japan last month.

In response to North Korea's launch, South Korea carried out a "live fire drill" that included a missile launch which the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said was capable of striking the Sunan airport launch site near Pyongyang used for today's launch.

The South Korean missile, which was launched from the country's east coast while the North Korean missile was still in the air, was "a show of force in response to North Korea's latest provocation," a South Korean official told CNN.

A second missile that was fired at the same time failed and "sank into the sea off the east coast," an official said.

Park Soo-hyun, spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said the country's military had been ordered "to prepare a stern measure that can effectively counter North Korea's increasing nuclear and military threats."

Friday's missile test set off sirens as a government warning, known as the J-Alert, went out to citizens across a broad swath of northern Japan.

"The government is advising people to stay away from anything that could be missile debris," NHK reported.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the missile test was the second time the people of Japan "have been directly threatened in recent weeks."

"The international community needs to unite and send clear message after North Korea's dangerous provocation," Abe told reporters. "We must let North Korea understand there is no bright future for North Korea if it continues in this way."

He said the Japanese government tracked the launch of the missile and "took all possible measures."

Japan and the US have requested the UN Security Council hold "urgent consultations" at 3 p.m. ET Friday, according to the Ethiopian Mission to the UN. Ethiopian Ambassador Tekeda Alemu is the current UN Security Council president.

Plano mass shooting: Details revealed about gunman Spencer Hight

 PLANO, Texas -- Meredith Hight had gathered friends at her suburban Dallas home for a day of grilling and watching football when her estranged husband showed up and opened fire, killing her and seven others before a police officer killed him.

Plano police have said that an officer responding to calls about shots fired Sunday evening saw bodies in the backyard and heard shots. The officer went inside, confronted 32-year-old Spencer Hight and fatally shot him. Police say he shot nine people in the home and that seven died there. One of the two wounded victims died at a hospital.

Among those killed was 31-year-old Rion Morgan, who was a groomsman in the couple's wedding, The Dallas Morning News reported . Also killed were Anthony "Tony" Cross, 33; Olivia Deffner, 24; James Dunlop, 29; Darryl Hawkins, 22; Myah Bass, 28; and Caleb Edwards, 25.

Meredith Hight, who was 27, filed for divorce in July after six years of marriage. The divorce hadn't been finalized yet. Her mother, Debbie Lane, said her daughter's gathering on Sunday was the first party she was hosting on her own.

Records show the couple got married in Collin County in September 2011. They exchanged ceremonial vows during a Caribbean cruise the following year.

Lane said Spencer Hight started out as a loving husband to her daughter, but she and her husband noticed something was off with their son-in-law. When they visited the couple, he would retreat to his room and his computer. She said they later learned he had a drinking problem.

Spencer Hight lost his job doing contract work for Texas Instruments around the time that he and her daughter bought the Plano house in 2015, Lane said. She said her daughter, who worked for Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages in Fort Worth, was shouldering the mortgage by herself.

Lane said it wasn't until Meredith filed for divorce that she told her parents that Spencer had been violent at least twice, including a time last fall when he slammed her face against a wall. But she said her daughter hadn't reported the incidents to police.

‪Lane told CBS DFW that her daughter did not take the decision to file for divorce lightly. "After two years of trying to get him in treatment, trying to get him to stop, trying to help him… she said, enough is enough. She made every effort she could… and could leave that relationship with no regrets."

When Meredith filed for the divorce, she didn't request a restraining order against Spencer. She wasn't afraid of him, her mother said.

Spencer Hight's father, Chester Hight, told the newspaper Wednesday that that the family is living a "nightmare." He said his son called to tell him that he and Meredith were splitting, but he couldn't speculate about their relationship. "They didn't confide in me, let's put it that way," he said.

"And Meredith, I really liked Meredith, for what it's worth," he said. "We all had a very good relationship with Meredith."

Chester Hight said his family is grieving over the deaths of the others who were killed at the party. "I'm so sorry. We knew some of those kids," he said.

On good days, the elder Hight said, Spencer was creative and clever. But he said his son also struggled with drinking.