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11Antonio Vanegas Strikes Against Mistreatment At Work, Ends Up In On The Verge Of Deportation

Antonio Vanegas has worked at a pita shop in the food court of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., for three years, and recently joined 150 workers on a one-day strike to protest low wages and other labor law violations. He spoke at the protest and asked the federal government to be a “good landlord” and only house businesses that follow the laws of the land.

However, Vanegas ran into a bit of a problem: He’s an undocumented immigrant, his place of employment was housed in the same building as United States Customs and Boarder Protection and he is facing deportation after being apprehended by a federal office at work just a few days after his protest.

According to The Huffington Post.

“Vanegas said his immigration status was never an issue on the job -- at least until he claimed publicly that his boss had been violating labor law. Not long after that, he said, he was detained for four days, and now has an immigration hearing scheduled for August.

“'This country is a country of laws,’ Vanegas, 26, told HuffPost through an interpreter. ‘Regardless of my status, I should have some protections based on the labor laws that have been violated.’"

Venegas claims that he was paid under the table and below minimum wage, worked beyond federal overtime limits without compensation and simply wrote his hours on a piece of paper and was subsequently paid in cash.

The report continued, “During Vanegas' detainment, the Latino advocacy group Presente.org circulated an online petition calling the situation "outrageous."

Kyle de Beausset, senior campaigner with the group, told HuffPost he felt Vanegas was ultimately punished for doing a brave thing.

"When undocumented workers are trying to organize, they're threatened with deportation, and that keeps everyone's wages down," de Beausset said. "We're hopeful this will help people realize that when folks are here in the country and unable to organize, it hurts everyone."

Source: The Huffington Post

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Rush Limbaugh: Fox News Censored My Thoughts on Immigration

Well, this is pretty interesting. Rush Limbaugh visited Fox & Friends this morning where he couldn't have sounded happier with his appearance. But later, he took to his own airwaves to bitch that Fox News wouldn't let him discuss what he wanted to discuss, immigration and the GOP. (H/T Media Matters)

According to Limbaugh, he told Fox beforehand that he wanted to talk about "immigration and the state of the Republican party" but that Fox "wouldn't go there." Limbaugh added, "I had to bring it up myself to whatever extent I did." He called that "very telling" and promised, "I'm not through with this."

And yet Limbaugh acted as though he were delighted with all things Fox and Fox & Friends during his appearance. I'll post that segment as the first video below. Underneath that is the Limbaugh audio via Media Matters.

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Will Marijuana Become Legal in Next Five Years?

Judging from recent history, any young person who aspires to be president should be aware that certain attributes seem to be critical. You have to be male. You have to have an Ivy League degree. You have to have been a governor or senator. And, don't forget, you have to have smoked marijuana.

That is something all the presidents in the past 20 years have in common. Bill Clinton admitted it, while claiming he didn't inhale. George W. Bush refused to deny getting stoned, saying, "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."

Barack Obama said, "When I was a kid, I inhaled. That was the point." Presumably, Mitt Romney never did, and who knows? Maybe he'd be ahead in the polls if he had -- though, he might note, it's never too late.

Logicians will quarrel with my reasoning, arguing that drug use did not propel these men to high office. That's true. But it obviously didn't hinder them.

For decades, champions of the drug war have trumpeted the dire risks of marijuana. But millions of Americans have used and even enjoyed it -- nearly 100 million, in fact. Most of them have gone on to lead responsible, well-adjusted lives.

If anything related to pot would have kept them from being elected to office, it would be the laws against it. An arrest or a conviction could derail a political career before it even got started. Yet these presidents went on putting people in jail for something they got away with.

Their fellow citizens, however, are increasingly skeptical about the drug war. Last year, Gallup found that 50 percent of Americans now favor legalizing cannabis, with only 46 percent opposed.

The sentiment may lead to action. On Nov. 6, residents of Colorado, Oregon and Washington will vote on ballot measures to allow the regulated production, sale, and use of pot.

In Colorado, which already has a large network of medical marijuana dispensaries, familiarity has bred acceptance. One of the most noteworthy headlines of 2011 came on a news release from Public Policy Polling: "Colorado favors gay marriage, marijuana use, loves Tebow." Affection for the Denver quarterback may have ebbed since he went to the New York Jets, but the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 is leading in the polls.

Weed would remain illegal under federal law, but good luck to the feds trying to enforce that ban if a state abandons it. As the Drug Policy Alliance notes, medical marijuana has gotten established over the objections of Washington.

Critics raise the usual alarms. Obama's Office of National Drug Control Policy charges that "political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction."

But very few people portray marijuana as harmless. The claim, grounded in fact and experience, is that it is far less harmful than the effort to stamp it out.

Marijuana prohibition means the arrest of some 750,000 people every year for simple possession -- double the number 20 years ago. It means spending an estimated $7.7 billion on enforcement. It means the enrichment of urban gangs and Mexican drug cartels that depend on the illegal trade. And the whole effort has been a complete failure.

Nor does a permissive approach necessarily undermine efforts to protect kids. For high school kids, dope is just slightly harder to get than Skittles. In the Netherlands, which permits regulated sales through "coffee shops," adolescents are far less likely to try pot than here.

Marijuana use, it's true, can be damaging. A recent study found that people who begin using it heavily as teens and continue as adults can reduce their IQ. It can cause dependency. Like any mind-altering substance, it may foster dangerous behavior.

But the same things are true of alcohol, a drug that inflicts far more damage to users and the rest of us than marijuana could ever do. We accept those risks as the price of personal freedom -- while focusing law enforcement on combating abuse, not use. A similar respect for individual prerogative ought to govern in the realm of cannabis.

Young people should realize that, despite the example of Obama and his predecessors, smoking pot doesn't mean you'll grow up to be president. But be warned: It is one of the risks you take.


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11Video: Rep. Paul Ryan Refuses to Explain Mitt Romney's Tax Plan: "Would Take Too Long"

Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan claimed that Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has provided specifics for his tax plan, but Rep. Ryan refused to give those specifics because "it would take me too long," reports RawStory.com (video below).

Fox News host Chris Wallace repeatedly asked Rep. Paul Ryan how much Mitt Romney's tax plan would cost, but Rep. Ryan insisted: “It’s revenue neutral… Lower all Americans' tax rates by 20 percent.”

Wallace pressed Rep. Ryan for details, but he refused to do so. Finally, Wallace said: “But you haven’t given me the math."

Rep. Ryan said: “I don’t have the time. It would take me too long to go through all the math. But let me say it this way, you can lower tax rates by 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, for home purchases, for health care. So what we’re saying is, people are going to get lower tax rates."

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11Obama Has Already Deported More Immigrants Than Any President In History

Here’s a statistic about President Obama that will probably accomplish the strange feat of angering his supporters and exciting his detractors. President Obama has deported more immigrants during his presidency than any other president in United States history. More than Reagan, Clinton, either Bush – you name it, he’s deported more than all of them.

Obama is winning the deportation race by a ridiculous margin, too. Through the first five years of his presidency, he’s deported more than twice as many people as George W. Bush had at the same point. Again, whether or not this is good news to you probably depends on your political views. Either way, it’s a surprising statistic for a president that has been accused by his political opponents of being sympathetic towards immigrants.

The eye-popping stat has received some attention around the web today. This makes sense given that today marks the one year anniversary of the immigration reform bill’s introduction in the House. Many, including the American Civil Liberties Union, speculate that Obama is being deliberately tough on immigration in order to give the Democrat-endorsed reform bill a chance to pass.

“Why has he been doing this?” the ACLU asks rhetorically. “Because President Obama wanted to prove to Congress that he wasn’t ‘soft on immigration,’ in the hopes that they would pass comprehensive immigration reform. So far, that plan hasn’t worked out too well.”

The immigration reform bill remains stalled out in the halls of Congress. 

For a visual representation of the deportation numbers, check out this chart showing deportations from 2000-2011. Not only have deportations of criminals increased under President Obama, but deportations of non-criminals have as well. Despite winning an overwhelming majority of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 and 2012 elections, 59% of Hispanic voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of deportations


Sources: PEW Research, ACLU

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11Bryan Fischer: Poor, Middle Class Should 'Be Kissing The Ground' At One Percent's Feet (Video)

Conservative radio host Bryan Fischer says the poor and the middle class shouldn't be “resentful” of the top one percent of wage earners in America, “they should be kissing the ground on which they walk.”

The director of issue analysis for the Fundamentalist Christian American Family Association was commenting on a Wall Street Journal report discussing whether the nation’s wealthiest people should pay more taxes.

Fischer says the one percent, who control about 17 percent of the nation’s wealth, are responsible for nearly 30 percent “of all federal tax revenue.”

“The top one percent are funding 30 percent of the government,” he said. “So rather than the poor, the low income and the middle class being resentful of these people – they should be kissing the ground on which they walk.”

“Who’s paying for the EBT cards? Who’s paying for food stamps? Who’s paying for the women and infant children program? Who’s paying for subsidized housing? Who’s paying for Medicaid?” he continued. “It is the top one percent.”

"So they ought to be given ticker tape parades once a week in all of our major cities to thank them for funding welfare for everybody,” he concluded.

Fischers comments come the same week a major university study found that a review of U.S. policy since 1981 shows America is not a democracy, but an oligarchy, in which the interests of the wealthiest people and organizations are being put ahead of the voting majority.

Sources: Right Wing WatchWall Street Journal

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11Major Study Finds U.S. Is An Oligarchy, Serving Only The Wealthiest People

A study from Princeton and Northwestern universities found that the U.S. is not a democracy, but an oligarchy, in which the interests of the wealthiest people and organizations are served rather than the interests of voters.

Researchers analyzed extensive policy data collected from 1981 to 2002.

Reviewing nearly 1,800 policies in that period, they compared them to the expressed preferences of average Americans, that of the richest 90 percent of Americans and that of large special interest groups.

"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the study said.

The study found policies rarely align with the preference of the American majority.

"When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose,” it said. “Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote in a March 31 op-ed for Huffington Post that the Supreme Court decision to throw out rules limiting what wealthy individuals and corporations can contribute to elections is representative of a U.S. oligarchy.

“Since that ruling, campaign spending by Adelson, the Koch brothers and a handful of other billionaire families has fundamentally undermined American democracy,” Sanders wrote. “If present trends continue, elections will not be decided by one-person, one-vote, but by a small number of very wealthy families who spend huge amounts of money supporting right-wing candidates who protect their interests.”

“This process -- a handful of the wealthiest people in our country controlling the political process -- is called ‘oligarchy,’” he said, adding, “we must move toward public funding of elections.”

Sources: Gawker, The Telegraph, Huffington Post

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11Oklahoma Governor Bans Increase in Minimum Wage, Sick Days

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) recently signed a bill into law that bans cities within the state from establishing their own minimum wage, vacation days and sick-day requirements.

According to the Associated Press, Gov. Fallin signed the bill on Monday, a move that was applauded by business leaders who oppose higher wages and benefits for workers.

Opponents of the law say it is aimed at Oklahoma City where there is a movement to raise the city's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, making it higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, noted OKC Fox.

"Mandating a minimum wage increase at the local level would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers," Gov. Fallin said, reports Tulsa World.

"Most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry level jobs," added Gov. Fallin. "Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families."

However, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports those myths about minimum wage workers aren't true. In reality, 88 percent of minimum wage workers are older than 20, one third are over 40 and the average age of someone making minimum wage is 35, says the EPI.

Sources: OKC Fox, Associated Press, Economic Policy Institute, Tulsa World

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11San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro Asks Obama to Slow Deportations

San Antonio Mayer Julian Castro sent a message to the Obama administration that it should change its deportation policy to protect undocumented immigrants with family members who are citizens.

"We should look at people who have been here for more than 10 years, who do not have a serious criminal record and who have family members who are United States citizens," Castro said in an interview with EFE.

Castro, a Mexican-American, also urged the president not to abandon the DREAM act, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that was first put into effect to protect young people brought into the country illegally as children.

"My hope is that President Obama extends what he did with DACA for the DREAMers to ease deportations for people without serious criminal records who have families in the United States," said the 39-year-old mayor.

Castro voiced his conviction that the Republican-controlled House holds “the primary responsibility” to reform procedure for undocumented residents, though the president’s administration should also take measures to reduce the historically high number of deportations.  

San Antonio’s population is 63 percent Hispanic, so the issue hits close to home. The San Antonio police chief has ordered officers not to inquire about immigration status, Castro said.

The mayor said he’d be staying out of national politics in 2016, but will be running for reelection in San Antonio in 2015.

"The America of 2014 is better reflected in the Democratic Party than in the Republican Party, but there is always room for more," he said about Latinos in politics. Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is a Democratic congressman.

During a televised debate Tuesday with Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick, Castro took Patrick to task over his comments about "illegal invasion from Mexico" and immigrants bringing "third-world diseases" into the country.

Sources: EFE, Associated Press

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11Louisiana Upholds Ban On Oral Sex, While Necrophilia Remains Legal

The Louisiana House of Representatives voted this week to uphold an anti-sodomy law that bans oral sex in the state.

A measure to remove the ban failed by a wide margin Tuesday, in a vote of 27-67.

Meanwhile, according to The Blot, necrophilia or sex with a dead person is technically legal in the state of Louisiana.

The anti-sodomy law was overturned and declared unconstitutional after a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. But while the law cannot be enforced and sodomy can’t be used as a cause for arrest, the House refuses to remove it from the books.

Louisiana Family Forum, one of the state’s most powerful conservative Christian lobbying groups, was against striking down the unenforceable law.

LFF claims that without the sodomy law young people will be exposed to sexual predators.

"Louisiana's anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral," LFF said in a letter sent to every lawmaker ahead of the vote.

According to the Times-Picayune, the majority of the representatives who voted to get rid of the anti-sodomy law were from the state’s most populated and urban areas.

Sources: The Blot, ThinkProgress, Times-Picayune

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