Sabotage Blamed For Grind Down In Venezuela

Venezuelan president says complete blackout caused by ‘an international cyber-attack’ with support from within.

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Maduro attended a rally in support of his government in Caracas on March 9 [Miraflores Palace/Reuters]

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says the country’s complete electrical failure has been caused by “an international cyber-attack” but that his administration has “defeated their coup”.

Power and communication outages continue to hit Venezuela on Sunday, intensifying the hardship of a country paralysed by economic and political crises.

The blackout heightened tensions between the opposition and government loyalists, who accuse each other of being responsible for the collapse of the power grid.

“I will tell this for the first time,” Maduro told the hushed crowd in Caracas on Saturday. “We are in the process of investigation and correcting it all because there are many infiltrators attacking the electrical company from within.”

Maduro stated that Venezuela had been hit yet again by another “cyber-attack” at noon on Saturday.

‘Permanent state of alert’

Speaking to Al Jazeera from the Perez Carreno flagship hospital in Caracas, Lorelei Gorrin, an emergency surgeon, said she had just completed one of the toughest shifts of her life.

“I didn’t stop receiving patients. We could only help those who had life-threatening issues,” said Gorrin.

“The generator worked, but I was worried it would suddenly stop working. We don’t know when we’re going to lose power again, or how we’re going to deal with that. If we had to resort to manual respiratory aid devices, we would not have enough to help all those that need them.

“We’re in a permanent state of alert, which is mentally and emotionally draining,” she said.

Across Venezuela, millions of people are affected by the continued blackout.

Valeria Castillo, a 43-year-old actress, told Al Jazeera she briefly “escaped” her home where she takes care of her ailing parents to attend an opposition rally in the capital.

“The entire floor of the house is full of candle wax. My father is very old and sometimes soils himself and washing him has been a real pain with no power and no water as the pump does not work,” said Castillo.

Support for Maduro

Still, many Venezuelans continue to support Maduro in his ongoing fight against what he calls US imperialism.

On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators at a pro-Maduro rally danced and waved flags on what organisers labelled a “day of anti-imperialism”, in a show of defiance towards the US, which has imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela in an attempt to overthrow the president.

Many showed up wearing red caps and shirts in support of the self-proclaimed “socialist revolution” of leader Hugo Chavez, who died six years ago and was succeeded by his protege, Maduro.

Lidia Calderon, 37, joined the rally saying she relies on Maduro to fix the situation.

“He does what he can to maintain the peace. And it is very clear that the electricity [situation] is a war against the people,” said Calderon.

Maduro’s government has not moved directly against opposition leader Juan Guaido since he returned to Venezuela from a Latin American tour on Monday. 

But on Saturday, Maduro stepped up verbal attacks on Guaido, calling him “a clown and puppet” in a speech to his supporters outside Miraflores, the presidential palace.

He scoffed at Guaido’s claim in late January to be interim president of Venezuela, a declaration supported by the US and about 50 other countries.

“We have defeated their coup,” said Maduro. “They tried illegitimately to turn into a president a person in a public square and now, today, it is obvious to the world he is not a president, not anything. A clown and a puppet is what that man [Guaido] is. Delinquent citizen.”

Maduro also accused Guaido and his US allies of sabotaging Venezuela’s Guri Dam, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric stations and the cornerstone of Venezuela’s electrical grid.

He said authorities had restored 70 percent of power in Venezuela since a nationwide outage hit late Thursday, but progress was lost on Saturday when “infiltrators” allegedly struck again.

The Venezuelan opposition and US officials say Maduro’s attempts to pin blame on his political adversaries is absurd, and that government corruption and mismanagement over many years caused the blackout and wider deterioration of the economy.

In another blow to Venezuela’s infrastructure, an explosion occurred at a power station in the country’s Bolivar state on Saturday, according to local media.

Netblocks, a non-government group based in Europe that monitors internet censorship, said on Saturday that the second outage had knocked out almost all of Venezuela’s telecommunications infrastructure.

Source: Al Jazeera News

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“This Country Has Gone To Hell”: Total Chaos In Venezuelan Oil Capital After Blackout

“They’re pulling wires, air conditioners, pipes… they’re literally running off with the roof.’’

Looters Pillage Venezuela Supermarkets As Crippling Blackout Hits Day Five

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Trump Regime Electricity War in Venezuela More Serious Than First Believed

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China Offers To Help Venezuela Restore Power As Maduro Accuses Trump, Guaido Of “Sabotage”

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“An imperialist electromagnetic attack” 

 

 

 

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CA State Workers Hoarding Vacation Days, Create Additional $3.5-billion Debt Spike And Counting For Taxpayer

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Last year, the state paid its employees nearly $300 million for time off that wasn’t used, according to a Times analysis of payroll data from the state controller’s office. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

(LA Times) After 36 years as a California government transportation engineer, Bijan Sartipi retired with much more than a goodbye party: He was paid $405,000 for time off he never used — one of more than 450 state workers who took home six-figure checks when they left their jobs last year.

And Sartipi didn’t top the list — a prison surgeon in Riverside pocketed $456,002.

In a trend that stems from lax enforcement of the state’s cap on vacation accrual, more and more state workers are able to retire with massive payouts for unused vacation and other leave. That could become a budget breaker for California as an aging workforce heads into retirement. During the next recession, California will be obligated to continue the payouts, forcing lawmakers to cut programs to balance the state budget.

Last year, the state paid its employees nearly $300 million for banked time off, according to a Times analysis of payroll data from the state controller’s office. The data include most agencies and departments, but not legislative employees or other taxpayer-funded institutions such as the public university systems. That means the actual cost to taxpayers for unused vacation is much higher.

The total unfunded liability also does not account for employees who used stockpiled days off at the end of their careers to remain employed while not actually working, boosting the value of their pensions.

All told, state workers had $3.5 billion in unused leave as of 2017, the most recent estimate available. The blame, said Stanford public policy professor Joe Nation, rests entirely on government mismanagement.

“It’s like having a speed limit but not enforcing it,” he said. “This is not a good way to run any organization.”

California mandates that vacation balances for most employees be capped at 640 hours. Sporadic enforcement of the rule, coupled with an increasing number of state workers retiring, has led to a 60% rise in the number of six-figure payouts since 2012, when 280 employees each cashed in unused paid leave totaling $100,000 or more, The Times’ analysis found.

Even so, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom, “the state has made significant strides in recent years in reducing unused leave balances.”

Some departments have offered workers a chance to cash out up to 80 hours accrued time off each year in hopes of reducing the liability of larger payout when workers retire at a higher salary. According to the Department of Finance, the state wrote checks totaling $111 million over a three-year period ending in 2017 to help reduce vacation balances — an effort started under former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Most private-sector employers cap vacation between 40 hours and 400 hours and do not allow time to be earned beyond those limits.

In California, public-sector union contracts are negotiated at the direction of the governor and must be approved by the Legislature. Any changes to how much vacation employees could store would have to be negotiated and such concessions would not come easily. The state’s powerful and deep-pocketed public-sector unions showered Newsom with contributions, and labor is also among the biggest donors to Democratic lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature.

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said revising the vacation policy would help California contain its liabilities, but did not believe that was politically feasible.

“I doubt Gavin Newsom will go to the bargaining table to see if he can fix it,” Moorlach said. “Our governors are very reliant on public employee union contributions, so this is just not going to happen.”

State workers also enjoy another vacation perk most public sector workers have not heard of. When employees cash out their banked leave, the state government pays them not just for the hours they have on the books, but also projects how much additional time they would have earned if they had taken the days off. That means a person with 640 hours of vacation would also be paid for all of the vacation and holidays they would have earned had they taken those 80 days off.

For some, vacation payouts can surpass annual salaries. And since state labor code requires employers to compensate workers for unused days off based on final pay rate — not what they were earning when the time was accrued — the actual cost of each vacation hour increases over time.

The top 20 employees with the largest payouts in 2018 took home a combined $5.9 million, with all but three receiving raises in the year before they left state service. The raises increased the employees’ leave payouts by an average of $7,500 apiece, The Times’ analysis found.

“That’s in line with pension spiking,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. — likening it to boosting retirement pay with last-minute salary increases, a practice banned in many cases under a 2012 reform law. “It’s an abuse and it should be corrected with legislation,” Coupal said.

Sartipi took home an additional $15,000 for unused time off thanks to a 4% raise in his final year of work.

The onetime district director for the California Department of Transportation in Alameda County received $405,119 for banked time off — the equivalent of more than 4,400 hours of vacation, or two years of stored leave, according to The Times’ analysis. His annual salary when he retired was $191,208.

When asked for comment, Sartipi declined.

The state controller’s office would not provide the number of vacation days for individual employees, saying the information was confidential, but did provide how many hours agencies had on the books as of 2017. But of the 20,400 workers who cashed out their time off last year, nearly 6,200 received at least $10,000. The majority of vacation payouts were less than $5,000, the analysis showed.

Many who received large payouts worked in prisons or public safety positions, where staffing shortages and emergencies can make it difficult to schedule vacations.

“I would have rather had been taking time off than taking a payout,” said Kim Zagaris, the former fire and rescue chief for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Zagaris, whose state career spanned three decades, received $218,000 from unused vacation when he retired last year. He said the tax bite out of that lump-sum payment was around 40%.

The number of vacation hours banked by state workers jumped in the years after 2009, when California furloughed workers during the recession. The forced unpaid time off meant many did not need to use vacation or could not afford to.

In 2016, the Department of Human Resources began tracking the amount of unused leave accumulated and working with managers to have those over the cap create plans to use the time up. A spokesman said the department plans to post the state’s total number of unused vacation hours and the cash value of that liability online later this year.

As of 2017, state workers had accrued 75 million hours of paid leave, according to the controller’s office.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections accounted for a third of those hours, which carried a $1-billion price tag. The California Highway Patrol had $396 million in unused leave on the books, the data show; Caltrans was on the hook for $366 million.

When J.J. Jelincic was ready to retire from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in January 2018, he opted to take his vacation time instead of a lump-sum payment. Jelincic, who has been on vacation for more than a year, said that was the smarter investment.

Because while on vacation, he has received a 4% raise that went to everyone in his job classification. And since he is still an employee, he is increasing his total state service. The net impact will mean an increase of his pension. Jelincic is also accruing more vacation time while on vacation — and receiving holiday pay.

The state requires employees to get a manager’s approval to burn down their vacation before retiring instead of receiving a lump-sum payment.

Mike Genest, who served as budget director for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said there are times when large payouts to hardworking state employees are warranted.

“But, I would say most of the time it is abused,” Genest said.

He received $37,000 in unused time off when he left the Department of Finance in 2009.

“I have no guilt for the taxpayer that I was milking the system,” Genest said. “People knew I worked ungodly hours most of the time.… It could be looked at as abuse, but I tell you I deserved it and I have no qualms saying that as a fiscal conservative.”

Source: by Melody Guiterrez | Los Angeles Times

Video Shows Police Raid On Stage 4 Cancer Patient’s Hospital Room For Medical Marijuana

A shocking viral video showing a team of police entering and then searching the hospital room of a man with stage 4 pancreatic cancer is fueling outrage in Bolivar, Missouri, where the incident took place and is renewing nation-wide debate over medical marijuana. 

Multiple police officers initiated an unconsented surprise search on terminally ill patient Nolan Sousley’s hospital room on March 6 after hospital staff claimed he was using unauthorized medical marijuana. “If we find marijuana we’ll give you a citation, we’re not taking you down to the county jail,” said one officer, caught on Sousley’s cell phone video searching through his belongings. Sousley said, referencing hospital staff, “they already told me I’m gonna get arrested.” 

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Nolan Sousley

According to a local Fox affiliate Sousley had actually been “in the middle of a chemotherapy treatment at Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar” before local officers raided the room, apparently with the cooperation of unnamed hospital staff. 

Though it’s unclear exactly what the hospital thought was happening in the room, according to Newsweek, “The officer said that the department had received a call from someone who said they smelled weed coming from Sousley’s room.” Officers ultimately found no marijuana or any illegal substance during the search, but did reportedly find CBD Oil (Cannabidiol oil), which is legal. 

“If we find marijuana we’ll give you a citation,” an officer threatened as another family member tried to plead with police, saying Sousley’s extreme pain means that doctors allow him a variety of medications. Sousley denied smoking marijuana or ingesting ground-up plants, but acknowledged he uses THC containing capsules for pain management.

The family was visibly upset at the spectacle of multiple police rifling through the sick man’s things. “It’s the only choice I got to live, man,” Sousley told the officers in the video. “We’re Americans. I was born here, it’s my right to live.”

Watch the shocking police search of a cancer patient’s hospital room below:

Things got tense when officers demanded to search a bag that Sousley said was filled with his medications and end of life related personal items. He said didn’t want police to “dig through that,” according to the video. “It has my final-day things in there, and nobody’s gonna dig in it,” Sousley said. “It’s my stuff.”

“My final hour stuff is in that bag” — he pleaded, but officers still insisted, and then proceeded to search through it. 

Ironically Missouri voters late last year voted to legalize medical marijuana, a law which has yet to take effect (until July 4, 2019). USA Today presents one of the more outrageous moments of the video where police actually acknowledge this, but shrug it off and say “then it’s still illegal”, below:  

At one point in the video, Sousley references the legal status of medical cannabis in the state. Last November, Missouri voters overwhelmingly chose to create a medical cannabis system, but the state will not be taking any applications for cannabis patient ID cards until July 4.

Referencing marijuana, Sousley says in the video “medically in Missouri, it’s really legal now. They just they haven’t finished the paperwork.”

“Okay, then it’s still illegal,” one of the officers replies.

“But I don’t have time to wait for that,” Sousley says “What would you do?” 

The officer says he refuses to engage in “what if” games.

Halfway through the video a doctor enters the room apparently unaware that other hospital staff had called 911 on suspicions of marijuana use  to try to assess the situation, and asks if the police have probable cause to search the patient’s things. “Do you have the right to search his stuff?” the doctor questions. 

The police admit, “we haven’t found any marijuana yet so we’re not citing him.”

Following the incident, according to local reports, “Bolivar City Attorney Donald Brown said the city and the police chief are investigating the incident.” The police department involved is now receiving various threats over the now viral video“But Bolivar police said the department is getting threats since the video has been shared nearly 7,000 times on Facebook.”

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Nolan Sousley

As for the hospital, a representative issued the following statement: “It is also our policy to call appropriate law enforcement any time hospital personnel see or reasonably suspect illegal drug use in patient rooms or otherwise on campus,” however, it’s as yet unclear exactly what hospital staff was alleging. 

According to information provided by the family on Facebook, Sousley was informed he had pancreatic cancer starting in May of 2018, after he had been admitted to the hospital for jaundice and a blockage. Just before the March 6th incident, Sousley had been admitted after experiencing fevers, chills and sweats “to the point of drenching his bed,” according to family members.

But also ironic, and outrageous, is that it was the hospital itself that called 911 on Sousley on mere suspicion that he could have been using pain-controlling marijuana related substances. 

One might also reasonably assume that the police had real criminals they could have been pursuing instead of launching a multiple officer invasive search of a cancer patient’s belongings. 

At one point the doctor even tried to diffuse the situation by asking the police to vacate the room and perhaps conduct any search of bags in the hallway with the patient’s permission, to which they refused.

Near the end of the video the doctor can be heard telling Sousley after consulting with police to stop the “live” recording, or else “nobody’s going to help you out if you do this”.

Welcome to America in 2019, apparently.

Source: ZeroHedge

Graham Wants Passing Firearm Confiscation Laws To Bring Democrats And Republicans Together

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says firearm confiscation laws portend a way that Democrats and Republicans can “come together.”

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CNN reported that Graham has long supported red flag laws, which allow a court to issue firearm confiscation orders for individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others.

House Democrats have already passed legislation during this Congress to criminalize private gun sales and extend the instant background check for firearm purchases. They are now pressing for $50 million in annual funding to bring academia into the gun control push.

The Democrats have also been vocal in their support for gun confiscation laws, and this is where Graham believes the left and right can come together.

He told CNN, “I haven’t really looked at the House package, but this is to me the area where we can come together.” Graham has scheduled a March 26 Judiciary Committee hearing on the confiscation orders.

California, Illinois, and Florida all have gun confiscation orders via red flag laws. California’s law did nothing to prevent the November 7, 2018, Borderline Bar & Grill shooting in which 12 innocents were killed. The law in Illinois did not prevent the February 15, 2019, shooting at Henry Pratt Company, where five innocents were killed. And the Florida law did not stop the August 26, 2018, shooting at Jacksonville Landing or the January 23, 2019, shooting at SunTrust Bank in Sebring. A total of eight innocents were killed in the two Florida shootings.

CNBC noted that Graham’s willingness to “[hold] a hearing on gun control is … a remarkable development in the GOP-dominated Senate.”

Source: by AWR Hawkins | Breitbart

 

Canadian Government Purchases Anti-Trump Billboards and Transit Signs…

Apparently Canadian media are taking their hatred for U.S. President Donald Trump to new levels of opposition.  The taxpayer funded CBC news media is purchasing billboards and transit advertisement throughout Canada to promote a campaign against the sitting U.S. President.

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SOURCE: “”TRUMP BAD!” ads are appearing throughout Canada attacking him for wanting to secure the border with Mexico using a historically illiterate comparison to the Berlin Wall. I’ve seen these on Vancouver transit also” (link)

Even for the ultra-leftists within Canada, this antagonistic approach toward the United States is quite remarkable. [Former President Barack Obama was in Canada yesterday.]

D’oh Canada, this will not end well for the Canadian government…  Additionally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is up for reelection this year.

One would think that Canada would be more concerned about their collapsing economy.

Then again, it’s likely the Canadian government recognizes the economic and trade policies of U.S. President Donald Trump; policies that stop the exploitation of the U.S. market; is part of the reason for their current contraction.  [Learn More Here]

This short-sighted and vulgar political campaign against President Donald Trump would very well make matters worse within Canada.

Source: by Sundance | The Conservative Tree House

They’d Rather Starve Than See Whites Succeed

SA black socialist leaders have positioned their followers for starvation because black society doesn’t possess the necessary knowledge or skills to save themselves…

“Over 90% of SA blacks awarded white confiscated farms or cash by their socialist government took the cash, leaving formally profitable, successful farms in ruins”

…however, knowledge and skills always win in the end.

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The End of South Africa. Prepare Yourself

“The average SA white farm feeds 3,000 people. The average black awarded farm feeds no one”