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Islamic Iran Sends Threatening Message to Obama: Iranian Warships Patrolling Off US Atlantic Coast

IRAN MANEUVERS
A senior Iranian naval commander says his country has sent several warships to the Atlantic Ocean, close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time.

The commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Saturday that the vessels have already begun the journey to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.

“Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message,” Haddad reportedly said, according to Fars, a semi-official Iranian news agency.

Iranian officials said last month that the fleet consisted of the destroyer Sabalan and the logistic helicopter carrier Khark, which will be on a three-month mission. The ships are carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews.

Haddad says the fleet is approaching U.S. maritime borders for the first time. The Islamic Republic considers the move as a response to U.S. naval deployments near its own coastlines. The U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet is based in nearby Bahrain — across the gulf from Iran.

Iran has regularly deployed warships to the Gulf of Aden off the eastern coast of Africa to fight privacy and protect commercial ships.

It has also sent its warships to Syrian waters in recent years.

In 2012, Iran said it aims to put warships in international waters off the U.S. coast within the next few years, and extend its reach as far as Antarctica.

First IRS, now FBI shafts tea party

DC_tea_party
WASHINGTON — “It appears that the FBI is in the pocket of the Department of Justice and the White House.”
by Garth Kant

That’s how attorney Cleta Mitchell described to WND the news that the FBI doesn’t plan to file criminal charges against anyone at the IRS for targeting conservative groups.

Mitchell has represented about a dozen conservative groups that were subjected to dubious, invasive and extra scrutiny by the IRS while applying for tax-exempt status.

She expressed a sarcastic skepticism that the Justice Department would ever fully investigate the IRS.

“To quote Faye Dunaway in the last scene in ‘Chinatown,’ when she yells at Jack Nicholson ‘… he OWNS the police.’”

“Therein lies the problem,” concluded the high-powered Washington attorney.

Tea-party advocates are upset the FBI does not seem interested in getting the story from the victims, only the purported victimizers.

Attorney Cleta Mitchell
“I can confirm that the FBI has not contacted me, any of my clients, or any other organizations who were victimized by the IRS,” Mitchell told WND.

“Some investigation,” she wryly added.

That was the identical experience of perhaps the most powerful person in the conservative grassroots movement, Jenny Beth Martin, president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella organization supporting thousands of local organizations and millions of members.

“It’s amazing that this is the result of the supposed investigation,” she told WND. “The FBI never once contacted us. They never contacted any of our attorneys.”

“Tea Party Patriots and I are in touch with locals leaders around the country every single day – none of those people were contacted by the FBI,” said an exasperated and incredulous Martin.

Despite evidence from the Treasury Department that the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny, law-enforcement officials leaked word to the Wall Street Journal that investigators didn’t find the kind of political bias or “enemy hunting” that would amount to a violation of criminal law.

“What kind of investigation is this – where you don’t even talk to and interview the people who were victimized in the crime?” wondered Martin.

WND asked her, as far as you can tell, is there actually an investigation?

“I never saw an investigation,” she said. “If there was, they were not talking to the people who were most affected. We were never contacted, and I’ve heard of no one who has been contacted.”

Tea Party Patriots President Jenny Beth Martin
That echoed what Mitchell told the Wall Street Journal.

“As far as I can tell, nobody has actually done an investigation. This has been a big, bureaucratic, former-Soviet-Union-type investigation, which means that there was no investigation,” she said. “This is a deplorable abuse of the public trust, but I am not surprised.”

Sources told the paper the FBI discovered a mismanaged bureaucracy at the IRS merely bungled enforcement rules about tax-exemption applications it didn’t understand.

However, the evidence points to a much greater targeting of conservative groups than progressive organizations.

The audit of the targeting practice by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found only “30 percent of the organizations we identified with the words ‘progress’ or ‘progressive’ in their names were processed as potential political cases.”

“In comparison, our audit found that 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with tea party, patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed as potential political cases during the time frame of our audit.”

The IRS even admitted that conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were inappropriately given close scrutiny between May 2010 and May 2012, which delayed approvals for months, and sometimes years.

“The evidence shows us that conservative groups were not only flagged, but targeted and abused by the IRS,” said Sarah Swinehart, spokeswoman for the House Ways and Means Committee.

The American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, which represents 41 organizations in a federal lawsuit against the IRS, said the investigation is nothing more than a “sham” designed to protect those responsible.

Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ
“From Day 1, it was apparent the Obama administration was never really interested in getting to the truth. This latest revelation directly conflicts with the facts and evidence in our case – that our clients were deliberately singled out and targeted because of their conservative political beliefs.” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.

After seven months, the FBI actually did contact the ACLJ late in December requesting interviews with several of their clients. But just days ago, the ACLJ said it would re-evaluate that request after it was revealed that a top Obama supporter in the Department of Justice was named to head-up the criminal investigation.

“The appointment of Barbara Bosserman – a major political donor – to oversee the criminal probe is a significant conflict of interest,” said Sekulow. “What’s amazing is that her short tenure at the helm – just a matter of days – apparently was long enough to conclude no criminal charges will be filed against those responsible for the targeting scheme.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, released a statement that was also critical of the appointment of Bosserman, because “congressional investigators independently discovered that a high-dollar contributor to the Obama administration failed to recuse herself.”

“These revelations further undermine the credibility of the Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department under his leadership. Given the circumstances, there is little reason for the American people to have confidence in this investigation,” they concluded.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was as incredulous as anyone over the news.

“How can the Department of Justice say that no charges will be filed when its investigation into the targeting of conservative groups isn’t finished?”

Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/01/first-irs-now-fbi-shafts-tea-party/#U83uwMUTT2LfBm4q.99

10 Things You Might Not Realize You’re Paying For Through Washington’s Budget Deal

Washington is currently considering a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014. The 1,582-page mother of a document sets the spending priorities (not limits) for a variety of government agencies and initiatives. Here are a few you may not know about:

#1 – “Increased Intelligence Collection” Efforts Against Notorious Ugandan Guerilla Leader Joseph Kony: $30 million

#2 – Equipment for School Cafeterias: $25 million

#3 – Marketing Campaign to Prevent Domestic Terrorism: $3 million

#4 – National Endowments for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities – $146 million

#5 – Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – $10.5 million

#6 – HIV/AIDS Programs – $2.3 billion

#7 – Department of Education’s “First of the World” Initiative – $75 million

#8 – Veterans Affairs Employee Training and Overtime Pay – $100 million

#9 – Amtrak – $1.39 billion

#10 – Architect of the Capitol’s Office – $602 million

Read more at http://visiontoamerica.com/16627/10-things-you-might-not-realize-youre-paying-for-through-washingtons-budget-deal/#YSCcmDR7bqXuyshj.99

Conservative Groups To Boehner: You Want A War? You Got It.

Boehner at the 113th Congress in WashingtonHouse Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) lashed out against “outside” conservative organizations this week for criticizing an $85 billion bipartisan budget compromise that many conservatives feel doesn’t do enough to cut spending. Now, conservative groups are ramping up their criticisms of the Speaker.
The lawmaker didn’t name any specific groups during a critical press conference Thursday, but it is well known that organizations like Heritage Action and Club for Growth have called out Boehner for his willingness to meet Democrats’ demands in the past. The House Speaker said that the “outside” groups, which have strongly supported many Tea Party candidates, have gone too far this time.
In a statement, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin responded, saying that Boehner has declared war on the American people for trying to hold politicians accountable.
She said:
Speaker Boehner thinks ‘outside groups’ are the problem? Does he really think the American voters who are involved in the tea party, who got him elected, should not demand accountability of their elected representatives?
The Speaker’s anger and ire is misdirected towards the wrong people. President Obama is choosing whether to enforce laws in the country or not by whim. He changes policy through press conferences and tweets. He rewrites law by fiat. Members of Congress renege on their pledges not to spend more or increases taxes on hardworking Americans.
Martin also issued a stern warning to Boehner, the “ruling class politician” who only pretends to be conservative while remaining a “tax-and-spend liberal”:
Frankly, Mr. Speaker, continuously making promises and then breaking them is how you lose credibility with the American people. Pitting your colleagues against their constituents is how you lose credibility with your conference. Not upholding conservative principles is how you lose credibility with the voters who will find someone else if you are not willing to do your job.
Meanwhile, Heritage Action said that Boehner is simply trying to pick a fight because a political quarrel will serve to distract Americans from a serious conversation about inadequacies in the budget proposal.
“The Speaker is trying to turn this into a boring fight between outside groups and himself so we are not having a policy debate about whether or not this is a good deal,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said Friday.
Needham added, “This deal increases spending, this deal increases taxes. And that is bad for the county and that is what we want to be focused on.”
Furthermore, according to Needham, Boehner is giving conservatives a taste of what to expect when immigration reform debates begin next year.
Responding to Boehner’s charge that certain conservative groups knew the government shutdown strategy wouldn’t be a success for the GOP in repealing Obamacare, but pushed conservative lawmakers to support it nonetheless, Needham said: “The Speaker is being absurd.”
Needham noted that Heritage hasn’t even been working to totally repeal Obamacare in recent months, which he sees as impossible as long as President Barack Obama is in office.
“If I thought we could repeal Obamacare I would have spent the month of August on a ‘repeal Obamacare’ tour. We spent it on a defund tour,” he said.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), one of the authors of the controversial budget deal, sought to soften Boehner’s criticism along with conservative blowback on Friday.
“He was frustrated that these groups came out in opposition to our budget agreement before we reached a budget agreement,” Ryan said, according to The Hill.
Ryan went on to try to distance himself from Boehner’s stance.
“I was frustrated, too,” he said. “But I think these are very important elements of our conservative family. I would prefer to keep those conversations within the family. And I think he was just basically voicing his frustration with their opposition before we had reached our agreement.”
He added: “I think these taxpayer groups are indispensable to keeping taxpayer interest accounted for, keeping people accountable. And we sometimes have difference of opinions on tactics. We all believe the same thing with respect to our ultimate goal.”

Debtors Prison Making Comeback in US: Authoritarian Local Governments Throwing People in Jail

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

As if out of a Charles Dickens novel, people struggling to pay overdue fines and fees associated with court costs for even the simplest traffic infractions are being thrown in jail across the United States.

Critics are calling the practice the new “debtors’ prison” — referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.

Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.

Advocates are trying to convince courts that aside from the legal questions surrounding the practice, it is disproportionately jailing poor people and doesn’t even boost government revenues — in fact, governments lose money in the process.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer resources, and it undermines the integrity of the justice system,” Carl Takei, staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told FoxNews.com.

“The problem is it’s not actually much of a money-making proposition … to throw people in jail for fines and fees when they can’t afford it. If counties weren’t spending the money jailing people for not paying debts, they could be spending the money in other ways.”

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a “Tool Kit for Action” in 2012 that broke down the cost to municipalities to jail debtors in comparison with the amount of old debt it was collecting. It doesn’t look like a bargain. For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.

Fines are the court-imposed payments linked to a conviction — whether it be for a minor traffic violation like driving without a license or a small drug offense, all the way up to felony. Fees are all those extras tacked on by the court to fund administrative services. These vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with some courts imposing more than others.

As states and counties grapple with shrinking budgets and yearly shortfalls, new fees are often imposed to make up the difference, though they can be quite overwhelming to individuals passing through the system — 80 percent of whom qualify as indigent (impoverished and unable to pay), according to the Brennan Center. Florida, for example, has added 20 new fees since 1996, according to the center. North Carolina imposes late fees on debt not paid and surcharges on payment plans.

More and more, courts are dragging people in for fines and fees that have ballooned due to interest imposed on the initial sums. Some owe money to the public defender’s office for the representation they received during their time in court. Others incur hundreds of dollars in fees while they’re incarcerated — for everything from toilet paper to the beds inmates sleep on.

The tab for the average offender could be as low as $250 or as high as $4,000. Both the ACLU and Brennan have been targeting big states with multiple jurisdictions they say are flouting U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 1970, 1971 and 1983. Those rulings essentially say courts cannot extend or impose a jail sentence for unpaid fines and fees if individuals do not have the ability to pay.

At the very least, according to the high court, the courts must inquire and assess whether a person is indigent and might benefit from an alternative method of payment, like community service, before sentencing.

Debtors prizon“Even though a lot of jurisdictions do have statutes on the books that allow judges to waive fines and fees, it doesn’t always happen,” explained Lauren Brooke-Eisen, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.

Much of the time, probation or the conviction itself will hinder individuals from finding employment (Brennan estimates that some 60 percent are still unemployed a year after leaving jail). But another incarceration over debt could either ruin the job they managed to get or make it even harder to find one.

Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can’t pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).
In 2012, Circuit Judge Hub Harrington at Harpersville Municipal Court in Alabama shut down what he called the “debtors’ prison” process there, echoing complaints that private companies are only in it for the money. He cited JCS in part for sending indigent people to jail. Calling it a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket,” Harrington said many defendants were locked up on bogus failure-to-appear warrants, and slapped with more fines and fees as a result.

Repeated calls to JCS in Alabama and Georgia were not returned.

Defenders of the collection programs say the money is owed to the state and it’s the government’s right to go after it. “When, and only when, an individual is convicted of a crime, there are required fees and court costs,” Pamela Dembe, president of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, which oversees Philadelphia, said in a statement to reporters in May. An earlier review by the courts found an estimated 400,000 residents owed the city money. “If the defendant doesn’t pay, law-abiding taxpayers must pay these costs.”

Meanwhile, there’s evidence that groups like the ACLU are prompting reforms.

For example, the ACLU released “The Outskirts of Hope,” on court practices in Ohio. The report told the story of one couple, John Bundren and Samantha Reed, who both had racked up court fines. Bundren’s, which traced back to underage drinking and public intoxication convictions from his teenage years, totaled $3,000. They paid her fines before his, and Bundren ended up spending 41 days in jail because he couldn’t pay his own.

The ACLU found that seven out of 11 counties they studied were operating de facto debtors’ prisons, despite clear “constitutional and legislative prohibitions.” Some were worse than others. In the second half of 2012 in Huron County, 20 percent of arrests were for failure to pay fines. The Sandusky Municipal Court in Erie County jailed 75 people in a little more than a month during the summer of 2012. The ACLU says it costs upwards of $400 in Ohio to execute a warrant and $65 a night to jail people.

As a result of the study, the Ohio State Supreme Court has begun educating judges and personnel on the statutes and constitutional restrictions of collecting fines and fees, Bret Crow, spokesman for the state court, told FoxNews.com. It is also developing a “bench card,” intended as a reference guide for county judges.

More recently in Colorado, the state ACLU completed a report on “pay or serve” programs throughout the state. In the case of Wheatridge and Northglenn counties, the penalty was one day in the clink for every $50 owed; in Westminster, every offender got an automatic 10 days in jail.

The report also found that one jail racked up more than $70,000 in costs for incarcerating 154 people over a five-month period in 2012 — and only managed to collect $40,000 in overdue fines and fees in that time.

Mark Silverstein, a staff attorney at the Colorado ACLU, claimed judges in these courts never assess the defendants’ ability to pay before sentencing them to jail, which would be unconstitutional.

John Stipech, Municipal Court judge in Westminster, Colo., told FoxNews.com he agreed with the tenets of the ACLU investigation, but added that the practice of the automatic 10-day jail sentence was already scrapped by Westminster in December 2012. “It was because we had jail space problems and beds needed to be limited to actual criminals,” he said.

He complained that local coverage of the ACLU report “makes it sound like we’re putting everyone in jail.” He said he asks everyone who comes before him if they have the ability to pay. He acknowledged, however, that his court is working with the ACLU and will be instituting formal “show cause” hearings to determine indigence.

“Maybe the ACLU did some good, they brought it to my attention. Maybe they just should have done it in a better way,” Stipech said.

Brooke-Eisen said the reform movement is proceeding, albeit slowly in tough fiscal times.

“A lot of the jurisdictions are still using fines and fees and passing legislation to add more fees and fines,” she said.

Black Thug Playing Knockout Game Targets Wrong Michigan Man – Is Shot Twice

by Mara Zebest

Feel Good Story of the Day: A Lansing, Michigan man with a concealed weapons permit uses his gun to shoot the “knockout game” attacker. The attacker survives two gun shot wounds and promptly landed in jail.

It was only a matter of time until a knockout attacker tangled with an armed citizen. Of course Liberals will tell you that the concept of a ”good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun” is a myth (as in this promotion to get Libs to push gun-control at Thanksgiving). So if gun-control works so well, then why are there constant headlines like this one—15 shot in one typical Chicago night—out of strict gun-control Chicago?

WILX News 10 reports the following:

A game called “Point-em-out, Knock-em-out” has made it’s way to Lansing, and it’s exactly how it sounds. The game consists of someone being randomly targeted, then attacked.

It’s a game that’s been growing with popularity on the internet, with teenagers filming themselves punching unsuspecting victims. Lansing had it’s first case of the game brought to light this summer, but it’s possible it’s been happening under the radar for months.

On February 26th a man waiting for his six-year-old daughter to to dropped off from school had no idea he would be the city’s first reported victim.

“I saw the van circle twice and the second time three came out. I didn’t suspect anything. I hadn’t any enemies, or any reason to believe they would be looking to do anything to me.”

We are not revealing the victim’s identity for his protection.

The victim was attacked by 17-year-old Marvell Weaver. But Weaver did more than try to knock his victim out, he tried to do it with a taser. Luckily for the victim, the taser didn’t work and he was able to protect himself with his concealed-carry .40 caliber pistol.

“He shoved something into my side. I wasn’t sure what it was. It had some force to it. I wasn’t sure if it was a knife or a gun,” said the victim.

Weaver was shot twice, in the leg and an inch away from his spine. He’s been sentenced to a year in jail for the attack, but he admits he’s getting off easy.

“It was just a lesson learned. I wish I hadn’t played the game at all,” said Weaver.

But Weaver say’s this wasn’t the first time he’d played it. Before he was caught, he and his friends had attacked random people on several occasions. [...]

“What they tried to do to me wouldn’t have been a joke if they would’ve succeeded. My child would’ve been left with the aftermath of seeing her father in any type of way I would’ve been left,” said Weaver’s victim.

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