In today's On the News segment: A new report from the ACLU shows that automatic license plate readers are snapping photos of our cars; It turns out that lying to homeowners and laying off thousands is good business; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Your local police department may be tracking your every move. A new report from the ACLU shows that automatic license plate readers are snapping photos of our cars, even when we're not speeding or running a red light. And, those photos are being stored in mega databases just like our phone and internet data, which is being captured by the NSA. According to the ACLU, cameras mounted on police cars, bridges, traffic lights, and other objects record the plate number, time, and location for every passing car. At first, law enforcement agencies only used that information to check for stolen cars, or to act on arrest warrants, but now many police forces are storing those images indefinitely. This information could potentially be used to document where you drive, who you associate with, or even how long you were there. Law enforcement is no longer keeping this information only on those found guilty of a crime, they're storing data on everyone to prove criminal activity at some later date. That's the reason the ACLU is exposing this surveillance program. They say the government shouldn't be watching our every move, just in case we commit a crime later. As is the case with the NSA surveillance programs, government officials contend that this supposedly-modest invasion of our privacy is necessary to find criminals and keep us safe. However, the ACLU and various privacy advocates do not agree. They say that there is no justifiable reason for the federal government to monitor our phone and internet activity, and no reason our every move should be photographed and stored by local governments.
In screwed news... It turns out that lying to homeowners and laying off thousands is good business. At least, if you're Bank of America it is. Last year alone, Bank of America laid off more than 18,000 workers, and intentionally denied thousand of loan modifications meant to keep people in their homes. Yet, their quarterly profits are up 70 percent from the previous year, to a whopping $3.6 billion dollars. The too-big-to-fail bank was hit with nearly $15 billion in fraud settlements last year, but being able to write that cost off as a business expense has allowed them to get back to raking in huge profits in no time. Apparently, getting caught cheating people out of their homes wasn't enough to slow them down. And, their massive size means that getting caught again – perhaps as a result of recent affidavits by employees alleging that the bank is still screwing over homeowners – doesn't pose much of a risk for the financial giant. It appears that too-big-to-fail isn't only too-big-to-jail - for Bank of America, it also means that crime pays.
In the best of the rest of the news...
New York City is helping young immigrants get an education. The city has launched an $18 million dollar initiative to help undocumented individuals earn their GED or high school diploma. Although a smaller version of the program has been in place for a year, less than 30 percent of those who qualify for the education program are enrolled. Many young people fear exposing their parent's immigration status, or are unable to come up with the $495 dollar enrollment fee. The measure is a response to President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Beneficiaries program, which grants young undocumented immigrants temporary legal status. In order to qualify for that program, individuals must possess or be working toward a diploma or a GED. Although New York City says that about 80,000 young residents qualify for the temporary status, about 16,000 don't meet the education criteria. City officials are working to change that.
Richard Cordray is now officially the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. After nearly two-years of Republican filibusters, Mr. Cordray was confirmed in the Senate with a vote of 66 to 34. President Obama's pick to head up the CFPB will finally be able to get to work protecting consumers, but his confirmation may have come with a price. In order to get Republicans to allow a vote on Mr. Cordray's nomination, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made yet another deal with right-wing leaders. Instead of using the nuclear option, and ending the filibusters of Presidential appointments, Senator Reid backed down on two of President Obama's nominees. It's great news that we finally have a director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but in exchange we lost two of the President's picks for the National Labor Relations Board. Supposedly, Republicans will allow labor leaders to select two replacements for the NLRB positions, but their track record of keeping promises leaves many Americans in doubt.
And finally… It's not uncommon for a wedding proposal to bring someone to tears. But, one Canadian man's creative idea to pop the question had his girlfriend crying for a much different reason. In an attempt to win a radio contest for the strangest proposal, Ben Vienneau arranged a fake arrest for his bride-to-be. With the help of his police officer brother-in-law, Ben started the prank by getting pulled over with his girlfriend Marcia in the car. The officer asked for her license and registration, and informed her she was under arrest because of $2,000 in unpaid parking tickets. Of course, Marcia began to cry as she was loaded into the back of the waiting police car, but then the officer presented her with an “alternative” to her arrest. He said, “Ben and I have come to an agreement where we've agreed to waive the fine and let you go if you take his hand in marriage.” Thankfully for Ben, she accepted and laughed off his creative proposal. No word yet on whether the mock-arrest was deemed the most creative way to pop the question, but it looks like Ben already won a more meaningful prize in the long run.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, July 18, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.