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Posts tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Restaurants Across US Now Charging Diners An Obamacare Tax Surcharge.


RELATED STORY: BOMBSHELL! IRS Warns Obamacare Tax Will Be Forcibly Taken From Your Tax Return

Some restaurants have made the decision to charge customers for Obamacare: Gator’s Dockside restaurants in Florida have added a 1% Affordable Care Act surcharge on their diners’ tabs, while at least one popular restaurant in Los Angeles has added a 3% charge to bills. -

obamacare-tax-now-being-added-to-restaurant-checks

In Florida, The Gator Group told CNN Money that the company had to implement “the surcharge now because of the compliance costs it’s facing ahead of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate kicking in in 2015.” So even though their employees won’t get health insurance coverage until December, customers are feeling the pinch now.

The costs associated with ACA compliance could ultimately close our doors,” the sign [in the restaurant] reads. “Instead of raising prices on our products to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the costs of ACA compliance, certain Gator’s Dockside locations have implemented a 1% surcharge on all food and beverage purchases only.

The Gator Group employs 500 people, half of whom work part-time. Right now, they only offer health benefits to management. Instead of cutting their full-time employees to part-time to avoid the mandate as so many restaurants have chosen, the Gator Group decided to simply charge customers the added costs.

“I’m just trying to keep the employees I have that I’ve worked hard to train,” Sandra Clark, the group’s director of operations told CNN Money:

In addition to the costs of providing health care, the company hired one additional staffer and a consulting firm to make sure it is complying with the law and to assist in the additional tracking of workers’ hours and wages required by Obamacare.

In Los Angeles at the upscale restaurant Republique, customers have not always reacted positively to the ACA surcharge appearing on their bills.

One customer wrote: “1 star for the 3% healthcare surcharge. An employer who really cares about their employees’ health pays for this themselves. But because you and I both know that I’m finically [sic] well off your [sic] going to mandate me to pay for what YOU think if a great idea? You might fool other customers into believing that you truly care about your employees health but your [sic] not fooling this customer.”

So, companies are passing the costs of Obamacare on to the consumer. Economists totally did not see this comingsource – CNS News

by NTEB News Desk

9-11 Investigators Never Learned About FBI, CIA al-Qaida Mole.


al-Qaida operatives in Bosnia killed an FBI mole who met with Osama bin Laden and provided intelligence on al-Qaida after suspecting he was with the CIA, but the man’s death came several years before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks and the FBI did not report the informant’s existence to investigators.

The dead informant, was a Los Angeles-based “driver and confidante” of “Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the cleric in prison for masterminding the first attempt on the World Trade Center in 1993, NBC News reported Thursday.

Because the mole died at least six years before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congressional investigators or the 9/11 Commission never learned about the Sudanese man.

NBC reported the news of the mole’s death one day after it reported the man’s existence, saying the informant had been been recruited by the FBI years ago and had even met with bin Laden a full eight years prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The mole revealed a great deal of information to the FBI, including revealing a plan that helped stop a bin Laden plan to destroy a Masonic lodge in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, according to courtroom testimony by Ed Curran, who was the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s L.A. office then.

Sources told NBC the informant was recruited in 1993 after learning he was a known associate of the Blind Sheikh, who had been an FBI target since 1990 when follower El Sayyid Nosair, shot and killed radical Rabbi Meir Kahane in a Manhattan hotel.

The Sheikh moved to Los Angeles, where the future mole lived and became his driver.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service tipped off the FBI about the driver, and the federal agency learned that he was on a terrorism watch list. INS tried to deport him, and his status as a potential terrorist made it difficult to move him. Jordan took him and put him jail for three months, and eventually, the driver ended up in Yemen, where the FBI recruited him.

The first World Trade Center attack also occurred at about time, when a truck filled with explosives detonated in an underground garage on Feb. 26, 1993.

FBI agent Bassem Youssef, the bureau’s highest-ranking Arabic speaker, approached the informant as a friend, saying he could reunite the man with his family in California.After several meetings with Youssef and other agents, he agreed to provide information and started talking about al Qaeda.

The man also provided about a dozen U.S. and Canadian passports, with the original photos being replaced with those of al-Qaida operatives.

The driver also met with bin Laden, who one Justice Department official said “was not that hard to get to” because he was not yet famous.

After the Blind Sheikh was arrested in 1993, the informant continued working with the FBI, but in 1994, a woman working for the CIA was able to convince him to work with the CIA.

The CIA sent him to Bosnia in 1994 or 1995, but the FBI didn’t know its informant was working for the other agency or why he disappeared.

Youssef started asking al-Qaida sources what had happened to the man, and learned that operatives in Bosnia killed him because they suspected he was working for the CIA.

The mole’s existence was actually first revealed in 2010, when Youssef sued the FBI, claiming discrimination and accusing the agency of passing him over for promotion.

Former FBI agent Ed Curran, in testimony during the discrimination trial, revealed Youssef developed the mole, reported The Washington Times during the trial.

“It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in al-Qaida, directly involved,” Curran testified, noting the mole was “tight, close” with al-Qaida leadership.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

US West Faces ‘Worst Drought in 500 Years’.


California’s three-year drought could end up being the area’s worst in 500 years, forcing even tougher restrictions on residents who have been cutting back on showers and farming already.

On Friday, the State Water Project, which is the main distribution system of municipal water in California, announced it would not be allocating any water from its reservoirs to local agencies this spring. It is the first time it has taken such action in its 54-year history.

Drinking water for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland will be affected, Fox News reports. 

“We are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years,” B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, told The New York Times.

Gov. Jerry Brown already had called on Californians to cut back on water use by 20 percent.

The State Water Project typically makes an announcement of water allocation on February 1, enabling farmers to plan what and how much they will plant based on how much water they will be able to use for irrigation. With the announcement that no allocation will be made, some farmers have opted to plant nothing, The New York Times reports. 

Others are planning to drill more wells to tap aquifers, which aren’t regulated by the state. But previous years’ use of those aquifers already have lowered their levels, and the ongoing drought has not given them time to return to normal range.

With fears that California could be in a 500-year drought, officials want water supplies to be preserved in case they are needed over the next several years.

“These actions will protect us all in the long run,” State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said in a news conference.

The crisis is pitting farmers, city dwellers and environmentalists against each other, but officials are appealing to residents to put aside long-held divisions.

A snow survey Thursday in the Sierra Nevada showed a snowpack of only 12 percent of normal, Fox reported. Reservoirs are lower than in 1977, one of the state’s previous worst drought years.

With forecasts still calling for no rain, 17 rural communities that provide water to 40,000 people could run out of within 60 to 120 days, The New York Times reports.

“Every day this drought goes on we are going to have to tighten the screws on what people are doing,” the governor said.

“I have experienced a really long career in this area, and my worry meter has never been this high,” Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, told The New York Times. “We are talking historical drought conditions, no supplies of water in many parts of the state. My industry’s job is to try to make sure that these kind of things never happen. And they are happening.”

Besides drinking supplies and farm irrigation, the lack of water is threatening the endangered salmon and other fish species. And air pollution in Los Angeles, which had been declining over the past 10 years, is on the rise without rain to clean the air. Bans have been put on fireplace wood burning to combat the problem.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

Katy Perry Rejects Christianity, Heaven and Hell, but Believes in ‘a Higher Power’.


Katy Perry
Katy Perry (Facebook)

Katy Perry is the daughter of Christian ministers. But the widely popular singer recently made it clear that she no longer identifies with Christianity.

“I don’t believe in a heaven or a hell or an old man sitting on a throne. I believe in a higher power bigger than me because that keeps me accountable,” the 29-year-old pop star told Marie Claire magazine in an interview for the January issue. “Accountability is rare to find, especially with people like myself, because nobody wants to tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

Perry, who stormed the charts with her 2008 hit “I Kissed a Girl,” said she no longer considers herself Christian.

“I’m not Buddhist, I’m not Hindu, I’m not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God. I pray all the time—for self-control, for humility. There’s a lot of gratitude in it. Just saying ‘thank you’ sometimes is better than asking for things.”

Perry was just a teenager when she scored a gospel contract as Katheryn Hudson. She moved to Los Angeles when she was just 17 to reinvent herself, and had been dropped by three record labels by 23. Her fourth studio album, Prism, released in October.

Though she has strayed far from the days her parents tried to “keep her away from all things secular and sinful,” Perry told Marie Claire she still has a good relationship with her parents.

“People don’t understand that I have a great relationship with my parents—like, how that can exist,” she said. “There isn’t any judgment. They don’t necessarily agree with everything I do, but I don’t necessarily agree with everything they do. They’re at peace with—they pray for me is what they do. They’re fascinated with the idea that they created someone who has this much attention on her.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Dream Center to Petition LA to Lift Ban on Feeding Homeless.


Dream Center feeding homeless
The Dream Center is in the process of creating a petition to lift a recent ban in Los Angeles that will potentially restrict people and organizations from feeding homeless people in public spaces. (Matthew Barnett/Instagram)

The Dream Center, a Los Angeles-based, volunteer-driven organization, is in the process of creating a petition on change.org to lift the recent 13-1238 motion filed by LA city council members Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell that will potentially restrict people and organizations from feeding homeless people in public spaces.

Similar laws and bans against feeding the homeless publicly have been enacted in several cities, including New York City. With the second-largest homeless population in the country (more than 57,000 homeless people accounted for in 2013), many residents in LA want the homeless out of their neighborhoods, while many charity groups want to retain the right to feed homeless people outside.

The Dream Center was founded in 1994 and currently serves more than 50,000 people through their various programs each month, including in LA’s Skid Row. However, this recent motion would drastically and permanently restrict the organization’s right to provide resources and hope among not only the homeless population, but also families in need.

“The last thing our city needs, in the midst of rising homeless, is to restrict the goodwill of people,” says Matthew Barnett, founder of the Dream Center. “We have noticed that feeding people leads to encouragement, nourishment, permanent housing, education, jobs and personal growth. When we encounter people, the opportunity for change is always possible. We pray that the city of Los Angeles reconsiders this as they continue to push this reckless agenda further.”

The Dream Center is rallying citizens and organizations to sign its petition against motion 13-1238 onchange.org and is encouraging people to post the hashtag #DontRestrictPublicFeeding on all social media channels.

“Compassion is not something to be regulated but celebrated without harnessing the free will of citizens,” Barnett says. “We have great hope that our city leaders will change their course and support the freedom for people to ‘love their neighbors as themselves.’”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Obamacare Enrollment by Latinos Hurt by Immigration Law Concerns.


Image: Obamacare Enrollment by Latinos Hurt by Immigration Law Concerns

Concerns among Hispanics that signing up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law may draw the scrutiny of immigration authorities has hurt enrollment, according to advocates of the policy.Convincing Latinos to enroll could be crucial to the law’s success, and supporters of Obama’s signature domestic policy are aiming their campaign at the 10.2 million Latinos eligible for the new insurance plans or the expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor.

As a group, Latinos are younger than the overall population in the United States and signing them up in large numbers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could help offset the costs of covering older and sicker people.

But the enrollment effort appears to be falling short. In California, home to the largest Latino population in the country, only 13 percent of enrollees on the state’s online marketplace called Covered California identified themselves as Hispanic, despite accounting for about 38 percent of the population, the state said last week.

Ironically, polls have consistently shown Latinos are more supportive of the law, commonly called Obamacare, than the general public. A September survey from the Pew Research Center found 61 percent of Hispanics had a favorable view of the law compared to 29 percent among whites.

The law, passed in 2010, established online insurance exchanges, or marketplaces so that millions of uninsured people could enroll for private healthcare plans.

The Obama administration has not released figures on enrollment by ethnicity, but so far officials are not optimistic about Latino turnout.

“I would not be surprised if those numbers aren’t what we want them to be right now,” said Mayra Alvarez, associate director of minority health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

IMMIGRATION LAW ENFORCEMENT

The sign-up campaign may be stalling in part due to the administration’s vigorous enforcement of immigration laws. The administration deported a record number of people during Obama’s first term, according to Pew Research Center data.

While Obama has backed a bill that offers a pathway to citizenship for many of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, his administration increased deportations to nearly 410,000 people in 2012, almost double the number in 2003.

Obamacare supporters say fear of immigration enforcement is a particular concern in Hispanic families where one spouse is a U.S. citizen or legal resident and married to an undocumented person, or where both parents are undocumented immigrants but their children have citizenship.

“A lot of mixed-status families are afraid that if they enroll, that the government will come and divide up their family through deportation,” said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at the California Endowment, a health foundation.

One couple who last month came to a Los Angeles event by the group Vision y Compromiso demonstrates the types of problems these families face, said program manager Hugo Ramirez. The organization, dedicated to improving the health of the Hispanic community, received funding through Covered California to promote Obamacare.

The undocumented parents, a father who is a construction worker and a mother who works as a house cleaner, feared information they might submit to enroll their three children in Covered California could be used against them by U.S. immigration officials, Ramirez said.

An advocate advised the couple they would not risk running afoul of immigration authorities, but that in enrolling their children and providing details on the family’s earnings, they would have to begin paying income taxes despite being undocumented, Ramirez said. The couple seemed inclined to buy coverage for their children, ages 17 and younger, he said.

The administration has sought to defuse immigration concerns, which had been flagged by community leaders before the six-month open enrollment period began on Oct. 1. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in October that personal information submitted by insurance shoppers would not be used for immigration enforcement.

Minnesota’s exchange, MNSure, said it has found that even when mixed-status Latino families were prepared to sign up, some hesitated in submitting information needed to verify the identity of the member seeking insurance online.

“This is on our radar and we are communicating with our navigators about this issue,” said MNSure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough.

HOME INTERNET ACCESS LESS LIKELY

When it comes to enrollment, technology issues have also proven a barrier.

The Spanish-language version of the federal online exchange, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, was not running until December.

The federal website, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, was hobbled by technology problems in October and much of November and fell short of enrollment expectations.

California, one of 14 states with its own website, has boasted that it works far better than the federal portal, but even with the technology working well, other issues may hinder enrollment.

Latino families, because of lower household income and other factors, are less likely to have home internet connections, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, making them more dependent on outside help from enrollment navigators to shop for the new plans.

Ricardo Hernandez, 20, a Los Angeles-area resident, is uninsured and eager to obtain coverage through Covered California, but he lives with his sister in a house that has no internet connection. He has called the exchange’s hotline seven times but has been unable to reach someone.

“It’s rare when I have access to computer,” said Hernandez, a part-time gas station attendant. “I just feel like a bother constantly to have to ask a friend or a neighbor to use their computer.”

The troubles seen in California run even deeper in Florida and Texas, two states with large Hispanic populations. Both states declined to set up their own websites and shoppers need to use the federal government portal.

U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, said her state was “all on board to say we need to make it work, and our numbers are still low in the Latino community and they should be high.” Sanchez described Texas as “thumbing their nose at the president and saying we’re not going to help you, yes outreach may be lacking.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Obamacare Failures Imperil Hopes for Immigration Reform.


Image: Obamacare Failures Imperil Hopes for Immigration Reform

By Melanie Batley

President Barack Obama’s ambitious and once promising plans to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system have been sidetracked amid the fallout from the botched implementation of Obamacare, which continues to dog the administration.

According to Politico, the diversion over the troubled healthcare law has enabled House Republicans to avoid divisive debate on the bipartisan immigration bill passed by the Senate in the summer. Doubts, meanwhile, are mounting about the administration’s competence to manage the complexity of a reformed immigration system, given the problems with the healthcare law.

“There’s a loss of confidence in the government’s ability,” former Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and proponent of the immigration reform bill, said at an event this month, according to Politico.

“Clearly, the last few months, our experience with [the] Affordable Care Act does not help when you look at other big things like immigration reform.”

Conservatives may be able to mount a credible case in the public eye against the government’s ability to manage major programs by capitalizing on the widespread skepticism of Obamacare, according to Politico.

The Senate immigration bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, strengthen border security, and expand the temporary worker program. Those plans are increasingly looking too ambitious to achieve in the current divisive partisan environment.

“It’s going to make it harder to sell big deals” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a lead co-sponsor of the Senate immigration bill, told Politico. “People are now saying, ‘So you’re gonna do immigration. You’re gonna let the same people manage the immigration system that’s managed Obamacare?'”

House Speaker John Boehner‘s spokesman, Brendan Buck, echoed those sentiments, saying that the troubled rollout of Obamacare “validated our warnings against jamming one massive bill that few have read and even fewer fully comprehend.”

“If the Obamacare train wreck has any lesson, it’s that big policy challenges should be addressed deliberatively and one step at a time,” he said.

The Obama administration, however, is trying to sever the link between the two issues, even though it acknowledges that the drop in public confidence over Obamacare may have an effect on its other policy initiatives.

“These are different systems,” White House Press secretary Jay Carney said, according to Politico. “I would point to the extraordinary effort that’s gone into fixing the problems on HealthCare.gov, acknowledging the shortcomings — the serious, significant shortcomings, taking ownership and responsibility for them and acting to fix the problem.

“Because in the end — and this would be true of immigration reform as it is of the HealthCare.gov or the ACA — the issue isn’t in the end how the process is; the process is performed in service of the legislation and the goal. And in this case, in immigration reform, it’s in service of a bill that would provide, when implemented, the benefits that we’ve described and that outside analysts have described.”

Other leading Democrats, meanwhile, say they are hopeful the GOP House leadership will move forward on legislation now that it has shown in the most recent round of budget negotiations that it will not be beholden to the policy agenda of tea party groups.

“I think the chances for immigration reform over the last month or two have only gotten better,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told Politico.

Related stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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