7th Cir. Upholds Class Settlement Despite Atty Fee Award in Excess of Award to Class

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held, over extensive objections by intervenors, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in approving a class action settlement, despite alleged problems with the class notice and the fact that the attorneys’ fees award exceeded the total award to the class. In so
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Christopher P. Hahn

Source: Consumerfsblog – 7th Cir. Upholds Class Settlement Despite Atty Fee Award in Excess of Award to Class

Richest 1% Capture Twice as Much Income Growth as the Bottom Half

The inaugural World Inequality Report published on Thursday by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman, Facundo Alvaredo and Lucas Chancel documents the rise in global income and wealth inequality since 1980. The report covers up to 2016, leaving out the last year, in which the stock market has soared on the expectation that the … Continue reading Richest 1% Capture Twice as Much Income Growth as the Bottom Half →

Source: Geopolitics – Richest 1% Capture Twice as Much Income Growth as the Bottom Half

South Korea Braces For Terrorism At The 2018 Winter Games

It’s difficult not to empathize with South Korea right now: The country is preparing to host the Pyeongchang winter games in February – a moment of immense national pride – as the risks of a terrorist attack (not to mention nuclear annihilation) have intensified.
To wit, Reuters reports that the South Korean government is taking precautions to assuage the international community’s fears. Police conducted a series of security drills on Tuesday to prepare against terror attacks ranging from a hostage situation, a vehicle ramming a stadium and a bomb-attached to a drone.
South Korea Police and firemen were among around 420 personnel participating in the exercise, held in front of the Olympic Stadium at Pyeongchang, just 80 km (50 miles) from the heavily fortified border with North Korea as SWAT team members rehearsed a scenario where they shot down a drone with a bomb attached that was flying toward a bus carrying athletes.
In another situation, a terrorist takes a bus full of tourists hostage and tries to ram the vehicle into the stadium before being gunned down by police. Officers in gas masks also practiced removing a chemical bomb.

Anxiety on the Korean Peninsula has been rising in recent months due to a series of missile tests by North Korea as it continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of UN sanctions and warnings from the US.
“Please keep in mind that accidents always happen where no one has expected,” South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said.
 
“Please check until the last minute whether there are any security loopholes."

Lee did not mention North Korea, but South Korea’s Defense Ministry on Friday flagged risks that North Korea could resort to terrorist or cyber attacks to spoil international events.
Some 5,000 armed forces personnel will be deployed at the Winter Games, according to South Korean government officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.
Hacking is also a risk that the South Korean government is preparing for.
Pyeongchang’s organizing committee for the 2018 Games (POCOG) has also hired a private cyber security company to guard against a hacking attack from the North, tender documents show.
To minimize the risk of provoking an aggressive North Korean reaction during the games, South Korea has asked Washington to delay regular joint military exercises until after the Olympics, the Financial Times reported. The latest headlines suggest this request has been accepted and joint drills have been delayed until April.

Source: Zerohedge – South Korea Braces For Terrorism At The 2018 Winter Games

Cop Shuts Off Dashcam During Drug Dog Sniff. Appeals Court: This Is Fine.

If cops have the ability and opportunity to record a traffic stop, should it be held against them when they don’t? Arguments have been made to that effect for a few years now. Dashcams have been in wide use for at least a couple of decades. Law enforcement agencies all over the US are issuing body cameras to officers. But it seems whenever something questionable happens, footage is nowhere to be found, or what there is of it is almost useless.

Source: Blacklistednews – Cop Shuts Off Dashcam During Drug Dog Sniff. Appeals Court: This Is Fine.

New City Ordinance Outlaws Giving Money to Panhandlers, Violators Will Be Fined & Jailed

Wichita, USA used to be known as “Cowtown” because of its cattle trade but now if people stop and give something as small as a cheeseburger to a homeless person they run the risk going to jail and paying a $500 fine. The ordinance was recently approved by the city council and now complicates matters for both panhandlers and philanthropic citizens alike.

Source: Blacklistednews – New City Ordinance Outlaws Giving Money to Panhandlers, Violators Will Be Fined & Jailed

Donald Trump federal judge nominee is asked basic legal questions and can’t answer a single one

One of Donald Trump’s nominees to become a federal judge has failed to answer a string of basic questions about law. Matthew Spencer Petersen admitted he was unfamiliar with several common legal terms during questioning by Republican Senator John Kennedy at a hearing earlier this week. 
He told the hearing: “My background is not in litigation. I understand the challenge ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to become a district court judge. I understand that the path that many successful district court judges have taken has been a different one than I have taken.”

Source: Blacklistednews – Donald Trump federal judge nominee is asked basic legal questions and can’t answer a single one

Australian Central Bank – Bitcoin Is Bad But You'd Love A Digital "e-AUD"

Sweden’s Riksbank, the world’s oldest central bank, is exploring the possibility of a digital register-based e-krona; the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is researching whether its physical currency could be replaced by a digital alternative; the Bank of England is trialling blockchain-like systems; the Monetary Authority of Singapore is examining the use of distributed ledger technology for clearing and settlement of payments; and the PBoC said in October that it had completed tests on algorithms for a prototype of its own digital currency.
Now the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has entered the fray with an all too familiar refrain.
We’re paraphrasing…Bitcoin is bad, the realm of criminals and little more than a speculative mania, but the technology underlying Bitcoin has great potential, which we can exploit in time with our own “superior” digital currency.

This is what Philip Lowe, the RBA’s Governor, actually said about Bitcoin at the Australian Payment Summit, which took place today at the Hyatt Sydney Regency in Sydney Harbour.
When thought of purely as a payment instrument, (Bitcoin) seems more likely to be attractive to those who want to make transactions in the black or illegal economy, rather than everyday transactions. So the current fascination with these currencies feels more like a speculative mania than it has to do with their use as an efficient and convenient form of electronic payment.

No surprise there, just more of the same from banking Mafiosi like Lowe, the ECB’s Constancio (“tulip”) and most notably, JPM’s Dimon. The Financial Times article outlining the RBA’s thinking sets out the case for blockchain/distributed ledger technology.
Central banks, commercial banks and other financial institutions are exploring how to use private distributed ledgers to make financial transactions cheaper, more transparent, and less vulnerable to fraud. Banks and settlement systems currently use central electronic ledgers to track money transfers. But these systems can be slow, often rely on manual input and are open to hacking. Distributed ledger records transactions through a network of computers rather than a single central party…The attractions of the technology include the ability to make fast digital money transfers that do not carry the cost of handling cash, tracked securely by the network.

But…there’s just one thing missing, which is where we “need” our central banking friends.
However, a potential drawback of bitcoin-style systems is the lack of a central entity standing behind the liability, Mr Lowe said.

Philip Lowe’s and his RBA colleagues are examining the potential for an eAUD, which would be issued alongside physical banknotes – although the FT article neglects to add the word “initially” (if you’ll excuse our cynicism).
Australia’s central bank is exploring creating electronic banknotes using the technology underpinning bitcoin, as major central banks around the world race to bring cash into the digital age. Philip Lowe, governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said in a speech on Wednesday that the bank was analysing the benefits and drawbacks of issuing an electronic form of the Australian dollar — the “eAUD” — alongside traditional banknotes.

Speaking at the Australian Payment Summit, Mr Lowe said: “It is possible that the RBA might, in time, issue a new form of digital money…perhaps using distributed ledger technology.” He added that although the RBA has “no immediate plans” to issue digital dollars, the central bank is “continuing to look at the pros and cons”. The central bank also is exploring a new digital dollar settlement system based on the use of distributed ledger technology, or blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin. Digital dollars could take the form of a “token” that is issued and stored in consumers’ digital wallets, which can then be used for payments in a similar way to physical bank notes.

Perhaps in a classic case of “problem, reaction, solution”, we’re speculating of course, the RBA will introduce an eAUD and phase out physical currency during the next financial crisis. In the case of Australia we may not have too long to wait as we discussed last month in “The Party’s Over For Australia’s $5.6 Trillion Housing Frenzy”. However, we noted the best analogy for the “Down Under” economy in “Why Australia’s Economy Is A House Of Cards” in which Matt Barrie and Craig Tindale argued that the three decades long expansion was mostly the result of “dumb-luck”.
As a whole, the Australian economy has grown through a property bubble inflating on top of a mining bubble, built on top of a commodities bubble, driven by a China bubble.

Browsing through the speaker biographies at the Australian Payment Summit, besides being RBA Governor, Philip Lowe is also (we can’t help but smile) a member of Australia’s Financial Stability Board and “spent two years at the Bank for International Settlements working on financial stability issues”. On a serious note, we know the direction which central banks want to lead us, as we argued a week ago with regard to the nomination of Marvin Goodfriend as Fed governor.
It’s clear from reading between the lines that although central bankers are not engaging in a public discussion, the architects of the boom-bust cycles are considering their policy options for the next crisis…the one where their latest credit/asset bubble bursts in horrendous fashion. It’s also clear that the preferred solution is negative interest rates and either abolishing paper currency or taxing it in line with a depreciating digital currency standard.

The RBA’s Philip Lowe is another minion seeking to control the narrative for the banking Mafiosi.

Source: Zerohedge – Australian Central Bank – Bitcoin Is Bad But You'd Love A Digital "e-AUD"

PCR: "In A Triumph For Feminism Police Say A Mistletoe Kiss Without Consent Is Rape"

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,
Criminalizing a bit of Christmas fun has to make you wonder…

Is there any aspect of our life left into which the police state does not intrude?
Parents are regulated as to how they discipline their children. Spankings that were the tool of choice in my day are now illegal. Spanking is considered child abuse and can result in state seizure of the child and prosecution of the parent.
The state prescribes the terms on which children can be transported in cars. The cars themselves can only be designed within safety and fuel economy parameters determined by the state.
The unsupervised children at play of my generation no longer exist outside of small towns. Not that long ago I reported on the arrest of a mother on the grounds that she permitted an underage kid to play unsupervised in the front yard of the home on a cul-de-sac. The arrest was made on the false report of a neighbor. The police seized the opportunity to arrest a mother on the basis of “failure to supervise an underage child.” The family was traumatized. The mother was put in jail, the child in Child Protective Custody, and the father rushed home from work to see if he could rescue his family from the intrusion of the American Police State. It has happened to many, and Americans sit there sucking their thumbs, hoping the lion will choose another antelope.
The parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles of my day would all have been locked up. My entire generation would have been raised in orphanages.
When the state substitutes its judgment for that of parents, it takes the job away from them. Even within the same family children differ. Parents have to find the best approach for each child. Moreover, children who are always supervised never grow up. They learn neither responsibility nor street smarts. Children are even regulated how they can play. No pointing the finger and saying “bang, bang.” Even words are policed, some words no longer being permissible.
Perhaps someone has studied the impact on culture of such intense state intrusion into private life. And there are other culture-changing factors. Consider Identity Politics. The other day I listened to a recording of Barbara Streisand singing “A Woman In Love” from 1980, and Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love” from years ago. Both of these performers are gifted with beautiful and powerful voices. I wondered if they have a counterpart today.
I haven’t time to listen to much music, so I do not know. But the thought occurred to me that these are songs about love between a woman and a man. Moreover, in the official videos, the man is white.
Identity Politics is gradually delegitimizing heterosexual relationships, especially if the male is white, as Identity Politics defines the white heterosexual male as the oppressor of all other races and genders.
Having heard that in “advanced circles” women are subjected to peer pressure not to have relationships with “white, sexist, racist males,” I was wondering if today Streisand would have to have a black lover in her video and whether Dion would have to pitch her song to a lesbian lover.Otherwise, would they be the hits they were during their time? Indeed, could Dion survive using the politically incorrect word, “lady”?
People are born into what exists. They have no experience of what previously existed. Therefore, they do not know what has been lost. This generational effect is the best ally of the police state.
People born into a country, in which unaccountable police can brutalize and murder and steal, born into a country, the government of which declares itself above both domestic and international law and the US Constitution, a country that ignores constitutional protections such as habeas corpus and due process of law, a country that based on a false claim that the country is indispensable and exceptional claims the right to destroy entire countries whose governments refuse to follow Washington’s orders, a country that claims the right to control explanations and that brands those who tell the truth to be conspiracy theorists, Russian agents, anti-semites, and enemies of the people, know no different. What to my generation is totalitarian horror is normal to them.
That country is the United States of America. It is the most shameful country on earth. The United States is a country whose rulers regard their hegemony as more important than the wellbeing of people and the life of the planet.
If the world is to survive America and if America is to survive as a country in which citizens are permitted free thought, free speech, to make their own decisions, to raise their own children and otherwise to be a free people, Americans will have to get angry at those who are destroying them and reply to the everyday violence that they experience in many different forms with violence of their own.
There are two forces in history. One is ideas. The other is violence. Karl Marx said that ideas, although sometimes effective, such as his own, can become the control mechanism of the ruling class. In contrast, Marx said that violence is the effective force in history.
In Marx’s analysis violence serves the working class, but this is no more than Marx’s assumption. Violence serves those who use it most forcefully.
Today Washington’s violence has brought America up against Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Washington has outmatched itself.
US President Trump, by seeking protection from Israel against his own government, has re-ignited Arab hostility to Israel and to the US.
Today Israel is alone, defended only by Washington whose own stupidity has created powerful enemies.
Washington has proved itself incapable of leadership. Russia, China, and Iran have proven that they are capable of leadership, and they are also making it clearer by the day that they are fed up with Washington.
It is past time for Americans to get fed up with Washington, its lies and its abuse of power.

Source: Zerohedge – PCR: "In A Triumph For Feminism Police Say A Mistletoe Kiss Without Consent Is Rape"

Billionaire Chairman Of China's Giant Network Invested In OkCoin

Giant Network Chairman Shi Yuzhu has invested tens of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency trading platform OkCoin, according to local media reports citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. According to local media sources, the investment was widely anticipated.
According to Bloomberg, it’s unclear whether the investment took place before or after China halted domestic Bitcoin exchanges. OKCoin CEO Star Xu declined to comment to QQ.com.

Xu Mingxing, founder and CEO of OKcoin, apparently confirmed Shi’s investment. Xu also confirmed that Lei Jun, another celebrity billionaire – though it’s unclear whether the two men made their investments before or after China introduced regulations banning active trading of ICO tokens and cryptocurrencies on local exchanges, forcing many customers to migrate to South Korean, Hong Kong or Japanese exchanges. Lei had previously denied his investment.
Back in 2014, OKCoin raised around ten million dollars in Series A funding from investment institutions (Ceyuan Venture Capital, Mandra Capital, Ventures Lab) and venture capitalists (prominent angel investor Cai Wensheng, founder of e-commerce site Xiu.com Huang Jin, founder of developer community CSDN Jiang Tao, chairman of Chinese Yough Angel Investor Leader Association Yang Ning, founder of angel investor Pre-Angel Wang Lijie, founder of tech media Leiphone Lin Jun, etc.).
In September, Chinese authorities shocked the bitcoin market when they abruptly banned exchanges from actively trading ICO tokens and digital currencies like bitcoin. Exchange-based trading volume in the country immediately plummeted as domestic investors turned to exchanges based in Japan, South Korea or Hong Kong to conduct business.
But local exchanges are apparently surviving after tweaking their business model.
They now facilitate peer to peer transactions, a business model pioneered by website LocalBitcoins.
Since the exchanges shuttered active trading, peer-to-peer trading volume in the country has exploded…

Source: Zerohedge – Billionaire Chairman Of China's Giant Network Invested In OkCoin

America's Painful Self-Delusion

Authored by Allen Marshall (Crimson Avenger) via Defiant Living blog,
America is the only nation brought forth by a set of beliefs, and those beliefs, captured so eloquently in our founding documents, are some of the most powerful and inspiring ever conceived. We consider this to be the land of the free, where the individual is supreme and nothing prevents us from going as far as our talents can take us. That image of America – that “brand” – is incredibly strong.

However, there’s a very large gap between that long-held image and the reality of America today.
What was once a government built for the people is now a government run for the rich and powerful, one that throws the people under the bus whenever their interests differ from those of the corporate and political leaders who run the show.
And living in one world (the corrupt) while stubbornly believing you live in another (the ideal), despite mounds of evidence, causes a distinct kind of stress, often called cognitive dissonance.
Psychologists suggest that when people are in a state of cognitive dissonance, they’ll search for a way to resolve it, either by rejecting one view or the other as either wrong or unimportant. If you’re a smoker looking at the link between smoking and cancer, for example, you’ll either quit smoking or decide that the research is biased, wrong, or doesn’t apply (in other words, that you’re smart enough to quit before the long-term damage is done).
But what happens if you can’t resolve the two?
For most of us Americans, resolving our cognitive dissonance would mean either accepting that we’re impotent and living futile (and feudal) lives, or rejecting our lifestyles and actively fighting the rot in the system.
If we’re not willing to do either of those, the dissonance stays – and eats at us.
People carrying this kind of ongoing, underlying stress find ways of coping with it; in America we’re doing it with self-medication, compulsive behaviors and distractions. Consider the following examples of the way we cope with the ever-present stress in our lives:

Drugs – Our country is awash in drugs, both legal and illegal, that keep us numb. In 2014, there were 245 million prescriptions filled for opioid pain relievers. The number of deaths from drug overdoses has risen from around 30,000 in 2005 to 64,000 in 2016. And communities across the country are being devastated by the opioid epidemic, as explained in this in-depth reporting by Cincinnati.com.
Drinking – People don’t only use drugs to self-medicate; drinking does the trick as well, and we’re doing a lot more of it than we used to. According to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry, overall drinking in the US increased by 11% between 2002-13, while high-risk and problem drinking rose even higher: high-risk drinking rose by 29.9%, while problem drinking rose by 50%.
Mental Illness – In 2015, 17.9% of adults held a diagnosis for a mental disorder, while a 2010 study found that 46.3% of children ages 13-18 had a mental disorder at some point in their young lives, and the majority of those adults and children are given prescriptions. This includes a dramatic increase in ADHD diagnoses for children: According to SharpBrains, “Among children aged 5 to 18, between 1991-92 and 2008-09, rates of ADHD diagnosis increased nearly 4-fold among boys – from 39.5 to 144.6 per 1000 – and nearly 6-fold for girls – from 12.3 and 68.5 per 1000 visits.”
Obesity – If drinking and drugs aren’t your thing – or even if they are – more of us are coping with stress by overeating, and it’s showing up on our waistlines. From 1990 to 2016, the average percentage of obese adults increased from 11.1% to 29.8%; when you add in the number of people who are overweight but not obese, it rises to more than two in three adults.
Sleeping problems – Sleep has a significant impact on our physical and mental health, and in America we’re not getting enough of it: The CDC states that 50-70 million American adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.
Media Usage – Is there any better distraction from life’s problems than media? We certainly spend a lot of our time being passively entertained: In 2016, Americans consumed an average of 10 hours of media per day, compared with 7.5 hours per day globally. Nielson reports that lower income adults spend much more time with media than do affluent adults, with adults in households with include under $25,000 watching 211 hours/month of television, versus 113 hours/month for adults in households earning $75,000 or more. (The trend is similar across other media as well.)
The Disease of Debt – According to the New York Fed, household debt reached a new peak in the third quarter of 2017, at $12.8 trillion. Part of our debt problem comes from the compulsive shopping we do as a distraction; the other results from denying the reality that our wages aren’t keeping up with the increase in the cost of living, meaning that we use debt to plug the gap rather than reducing our living standards to align with our reality.

We’re collectively doing so much damage to ourselves, solely to protect our psyches from the reality that the America that used to be is no longer the America we have. And who does that help? As you can see from the points above, it doesn’t help us: Instead, it helps the rich and powerful who are subverting the system. They’re corrupting everything this country once was, and by willfully refusing to acknowledge that reality, we’re inadvertently helping them to do it.
The best thing we can do – for our mental and physical health, as well as for our country – is to open our eyes to what America has become, not what we wish it still was. It’s time to face reality and take action.

Source: Zerohedge – America's Painful Self-Delusion