Millions More Workers Would Be Eligible for Overtime Pay Under New Federal Rule


Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and President Obama will announce a new rule Wednesday that will expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. (photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and President Obama will announce a new rule Wednesday that will expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. (photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

 

he Obama administration will unveil a new rule Wednesday that would make millions of middle-income workers eligible for overtime pay, a move that delivers a long-sought victory for labor groups.

The regulations, which were last updated more than a decade ago, would let full-time salaried employees earn overtime if they make up to $47,476 a year, more than double the current threshold of $23,660 a year. The Labor Department estimates that the rule would boost the pay of 4.2 million additional workers.

The change is scheduled to take effect Dec. 1.

The move caps a long-running effort by the Obama administration to aid low- and middle-income workers whose paychecks have not budged much in the last few decades, even as the top earners in America have seen their compensation soar. The last update to the rules came in 2004, and Wednesday’s announcement is the third update to the salary threshold for overtime regulations in 40 years.

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Big Money and the Corruption of Democracy


Robert Reich | Robert Reich’s Facebook Page | Reader Supported News | May 14, 2016

he U.S. blames places around the world like the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man for giving corporations and billionaires secret havens to hide their loot. But the United States doesn’t require companies registered here to disclose their real owners. We thereby provide global corporations and billionaires one of the world’s easiest means of hiding their money. Yesterday the chief minister of the Isle of Man charged that nearly 10 times more shell companies were registered in one building in Delaware than in his entire territory. Researchers in the U.S. and Australia have concluded it’s “easier to obtain an untraceable shell company … in the U.S. than in any other country save Kenya.”

Last week the Obama Administration submitted legislation to Congress requiring companies registered in the U.S. to disclose their real owners, at least confidentially to the U.S. Treasury. But not even this mild proposal has any chance of passage. Almost all Republicans are opposed, as are many Democrats. There’s no justification for their opposition to this common-sense measure.

Yet another example of the corruption of our democracy by big money.

What do you think?

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Stonewalled by the NSA, Members of Congress Ask Really Basic Question Again


NSA computers. (photo: Paul J. Richards/Getty Images)
NSA computers. (photo: Paul J. Richards/Getty Images)

 

Dan Froomkin | The Intercept | Reader Supported News | April 23, 2016

bipartisan group of lawmakers is none too happy that the executive branch is asking them to reauthorize two key surveillance programs next year without answering the single most important question about them.

The programs, authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are called PRISM and Upstream. PRISM collects hundreds of millions of internet communications of “targeted individuals” from providers such as Facebook, Yahoo, and Skype. Upstream takes communications straight from the major U.S. internet backbones run by telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon and harvests data that involves selectors related to foreign targets.

But both programs, though nominally targeted at foreigners overseas, inevitably sweep up massive amounts of data involving innocent Americans.

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Obama Administration Breaks Record in Rejecting FOIA Requests


President Barack Obama. (photo: Getty Images)
President Barack Obama. (photo: Getty Images)

 

Ted Bridis | Associated Press | Reader Supported News | March 19, 2016

he Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years.

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HRC report on anti-LGBT religious exemptions under Title IX ignores most obvious solution


 | America Blog | January 21, 2016

The Obama administration and the courts have recently expanded Title IX’s non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender nonconformity. In response, a slew of religious colleges and universities have filed for religious exemptions under Title IX — exemptions that were originally included to allow religious institutions to discriminate against women — in order to save their federal funding while continuing to discriminate.

Earlier this week, the Human Rights Campaign came out with a report on this recent wave of Title IX exemptions. The report does a fantastic job of diagnosing the problem and pointing out the holes in accountability and oversight, but comes up painfully short in the policy recommendations it offers as a solution.

First, the good:

As the report notes, religious institutions of higher education began applying for Title IX exemptions in earnest following a settlement that the Arcadia Unified School District agreed to with a transgender student who had been prohibited from using restrooms and locker rooms consistent with his gender identity. The settlement did not require the school district to admit fault, but it did require the district to “implement school-and district-wide measures to prevent gender-based discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity.” The district was also required to updated its non-discrimination policies and procedures to include gender identity and nonconformity.

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When the Bank Robs You: Wells Fargo Contractors Allegedly Stole Family Heirlooms Rescued From Nazis


Well Fargo building. (photo: David Adier)
Well Fargo building. (photo: David Adier)

 

David Dayen | The Intercept | Reader Supported News | August 29, 2015

he few remaining defenders of the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute the executives who helped cause the 2008 financial crisis argue that the bankers’ actions were unethical but not criminal. President Obama himself has made this claim: “Some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street … wasn’t illegal,” he told Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes in December 2011.

The president might want to take this up with David Adier, who says he was victimized by Wells Fargo breaking and entering into his family’s home in Morris Township, New Jersey, and then committing property damage and theft. Burglary is a felony subject to prison time — if anybody but a bank does it.

Adier’s case is doubly disturbing because of what was taken: items his father retrieved from his family’s apartment in France before fleeing the Nazis in 1940, including a Kiddush cup, a Seder plate and a sewing machine used by his grandmother.

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If you aren’t counted, you don’t count.


SUE O’CONNELL | Bay Windows | August 20, 2015

The Obama Administration did something strangely out of character this past spring. In making recommendations related to how electronic health records employed under the Affordable Care Act will deal with LGBT patients, the Administration totally whiffed on the opportunity to require healthcare providers to maintain a record of a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

To understand just how bad this is, you just need to know that if you are not counted then you don’t count.

Despite all of the advances we’ve enjoyed under the Obama Administration, LGBT people remain largely invisible in the healthcare arena. Without requiring doctors and nurses to note whether you are gay or identify as transgender, many providers simply do not ask. This basic lack of knowledge on the part of healthcare providers about their LGBT patients already has serious consequences for the overall health of our community.

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By a margin of 4 to 1, Americans favor religious freedom and liberty over gay rights in the current Culture War


By a margin of 4 to 1, Americans favor religious freedom and liberty over gay rights in the current culture war.

The poll, conducted by Caddell Associates, asked questions regarding legal cases where religious liberties have been under assault.

Via the Washington Examiner:

“Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same sex marriage. If a same sex couple wanted to hire the photographer for their wedding, should the photographer have the right to say no?”

A huge 82 percent said yes.

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Pat Caddell said 71 percent of Americans want the nation to produce “a commonsense solution that both protects religious freedom and gay and lesbian couples from discrimination.”

But when push comes to shove,  they will pick religious freedom and liberty over gay rights by a huge margin.

“When asked which was more important, by a four to one ratio, voters said protecting religious liberty (31 percent) over protecting gay and lesbian rights (8 percent),” said Caddell, who added that most of the rest said both are important.

The potential for a war is great, since a top Obama official suggested during the recent same sex marriage case that the administration could force groups opposed to gay weddings on religious ground to buckle under. There have been several standoffs and legal cases pitting businesses against gay rights groups.

On that issue, Caddell found very little support for the Obama administration’s meddling in the affairs of religious-affiliated groups and businesses.

He wrote:

“More than two thirds (68 percent) disagreed that the federal and state government should be able to require by law a private citizen to provide a service or their property for an event that is contrary to their religious beliefs. Only 18 percent agreed. Indeed, 51 percent strongly disagreed with this.

“When asked whether it should be up to the federal government to determine what constitutes legitimate religious beliefs only 11 percent agreed and a massive 79 percent disagreed. Indeed, even two thirds of those on the ‘left’ of the segmentation disagreed.”

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How the Government Fast-Tracked Shell’s Arctic Drilling


(Backbone Campaign/Flickr)

Kamil Ahsan | In These Times | August 15, 2015

Starting on July 29, 13 Greenpeace climbers spent 40 hours suspended from St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Ore., in an attempt to block Shell’s icebreaker, the MSV Fennica, from leaving for the Arctic.

The Fennica, one of the vessels in Shell’s 29-boat drilling fleet, was discovered earlier that month to have a 39-inch hole in its hull, which caused a ballast tank leak. The vessel was sent to Portland for repair. Despite the best efforts of Greenpeace blockaders, the mended icebreaker arrived in Alaska this week as part of Shell’s plans to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea this summer—plans approved by the Obama administration in May. The company announced yesterday that it is ready to drill as soon as it receives the final government go-ahead.

The protests in the Pacific Northwest, along with protests by the Iñupiat community of the Alaskan Arctic, underscore just how much the Obama administration’s approval of Shell’s Arctic drilling plans has incensed environmental and indigenous groups.

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Justice Department Asks Judge to Leave Migrant Families in Detention Centers


Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after they were released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas. (photo: Eric Gay/AP)
Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after they were released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas. (photo: Eric Gay/AP)

 

Oliver Laughland | Guardian UK | Reader Supported News | August 9, 2015

 A response to ruling says June reforms for speeding release of detainees are enough and that facilities are an effective tool to deter border crossings

 

he Obama administration has urged a federal judge to reassess a ruling that ordered the release of thousands of immigrant mothers and children from family detention centres, arguing that the controversial federal facilities are an effective tool to deter migrants from crossing the southern border into the United States.

In a 52-page response to a decision made last month by Judge Dolly Gee in the federal district court for central California, the US Department of Justice argues that the ruling could be used by human traffickers “who are known to exploit changes in immigration policy” and “could cause another notable increase in the numbers of parents choosing to cross the border with their children”.

The government’s response, however, concedes that Border Patrol agents have apprehended only 24,901 family members so far this fiscal year, compared with 68,445 in total last year, a 55% annual decrease.

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