AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1359826 times)

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Corporations may dodge billions in U.S. taxes through new loophole
« Reply #10425 on: January 12, 2018, 04:17:57 AM »
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A loophole in the new U.S. tax law could allow multinational corporations like Apple Inc to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes on profits stashed overseas, according to experts.

Stemming from a Republican overhaul of international business taxes, the loophole involves the tax rates - 15.5 percent or 8 percent - that companies must pay on $2.6 trillion in profits they are holding abroad.

By manipulating their foreign cash positions, a determining factor under the new law, a U.S. multinational could potentially save money by shifting profits to the lower rate from the higher one, according to Stephen Shay, a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School.

The savings could amount to more than $4 billion in Apple’s case alone, he said.

An Apple spokesman declined to speak on the record about Shay’s analysis. U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service officials did not respond to Reuters’ queries seeking comment.

“This is clearly the result of rushed legislation,” said Shay, formerly a top Treasury Department tax official.

The sweeping Republican tax law was President Donald Trump’s first major legislative triumph since he took office almost a year ago. Rushed through Congress, and approved over the unanimous opposition of Democrats, it took effect this month, delivering tax cuts and tax code changes that large, U.S.-based multinationals had sought for years.

One of those changes was a one-time tax break on about $2.6 trillion in profits that multinationals have socked away overseas in recent years under a “deferral” rule that let companies hold profits offshore tax-free, as long as the money was not brought into the United States, or repatriated.

There is no such deferral under the new law and accumulated overseas profits will now be taxed at either 15.5 percent for cash holdings or at 8 percent for more illiquid investments.

Both rates are far below the 35 percent rate that would have been charged on repatriated foreign profits before the law was passed, and below a new 21 percent corporate income tax rate.

To knock their taxes even lower, experts said, multinationals could have leeway to shift foreign earnings into the 8 percent tax bracket and out of the 15.5 percent bracket.

“Even before the legislation was unveiled in November, multinationals were planning to convert cash to non-cash assets, although it wasn’t entirely clear what would constitute cash for this purpose,” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, a leading tax expert at the University of Michigan Law School.

The loophole that makes the bracket-shifting possible involves a formula for calculating how much foreign earnings are subject to the higher tax rate. The benchmark is a company’s foreign cash position, calculated as the greater of either the average of the past two tax years, or the cash balance at the end of the last tax year begun before Jan. 1, 2018.

Companies would pay the 15.5 percent rate on sums up to the calculated foreign cash position. Anything over that would get the 8 percent rate.

Shay said some multinationals could reduce their cash positions, and the amount of money subject to the higher rate, through legitimate distributions including dividend payments.

He estimated Apple could have as much as $289 billion in foreign cash at the end of its current fiscal year on Sept. 30. Averaged across the last two tax years, the figure would be $234 billion.

To avoid paying 15.5 percent on the higher of those two figures, he said, Apple could distribute some of its cash through dividends or other means. Reducing its 2018 position by $55 billion to the lower, two-year average would save the company more than $4 billion in taxes, according to Shay.

The new law says transactions meant principally to reduce taxes due on foreign profits can be disregarded by U.S. tax authorities. But tax experts said this anti-abuse measure does not apply automatically and that corporate tax lawyers could argue it does not apply to legitimate corporate actions.
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Trump just declared war on the First Amendment in an unhinged cabinet meeting
« Reply #10426 on: January 12, 2018, 04:24:19 AM »
President Trump delved deeper into the abyss of authoritarianism this morning when he announced that his administration would be looking at opening up the “libel” laws in a full-throated attack on our First Amendment rights and an obvious attempt to muffle the press.

Speaking to his cabinet and the media, Trump made this announcement...

    “We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts. And if somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse.

    Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. So we’re going to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account. We’re going to take a very, very strong look at that. And I think what the American people want to see is fairness.”

His words could not be more hypocritical, considering that he’s spent his entire business career and the majority of his presidential campaign telling outrageous lies and using them to fill his pockets – and spending nearly his entire presidency watching the pundits at FOX News spew statements that are knowingly false with a hideous smile.

The president’s words are likely inspired by the recent release of the Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House book by Michael Wolff, whose salacious work is of questionable veracity by his own admission.

True or not, the allegations in Wolff’s book ring true with a disturbing familiarity – and have been yet another headache that the Trump administration must devote energy to relieving.

Unfortunately for Trump, the “libel laws” are not something that he can just take a “strong look at.”

The president’s rage against the media has grown in intensity in recent weeks. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll actually be able to do anything substantial beyond angry posturing to restrain the media – but the existential threat remains deadlier than ever.
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Trump speaks at level of 8-year-old, new analysis finds
« Reply #10427 on: January 12, 2018, 04:27:26 AM »
Mr Trump scores the lowest of any of the past 15 presidents

Donald Trump may call himself a genius on Twitter, but his spoken statements say otherwise.

An analysis of the President's first 30,000 words uttered in office found Mr Trump speaks at a third- to seventh-grade reading level – lower than any other President since 1929. Mr Trump’s vocabulary and grammatical structure is “significantly more simple, and less diverse” than any President since Herbert Hoover, the analysis found.

The comparison is based on interviews, speeches and press conferences for every president dating back to 1929, compiled by online database Analysts at studied the “off-script” remarks of all 15 men – essentially, everything but their prepared speeches – to compare and contrast their speaking skills.

Analysts ran the records through eight different tests for vocabulary complexity, diversity, and comprehension level. In every single test, Mr Trump scored the lowest.

Mr Trump averaged significantly fewer syllables per word than the last 14 Presidents, and used significantly fewer unique words. The gaps appeared when comparing all available remarks, and when comparing only the first 30,000 words of each presidency. Social media posts were excluded from the data.

“Compared to the 14 presidents who preceded him, by every measure, [Mr Trump’s] use of words when off script are significantly less diverse, and simpler, than all presidents who preceded him back to Herbert Hoover,” wrote CEO Bill Frischling.

The topic of Mr Trump’s mental acuity has dominated the national conversation since the publication of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, an explosive new book about the Trump administration. The book’s author, Michael Wolff, claims Mr Trump’s family, friends, and coworkers all regularly questioned his fitness to serve.

Mr Trump disputed these claims via Twitter last week, claiming he was a “very stable genius” and “like, really smart”. He was supported by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who called questions about the President’s mental state “outrageous”.

“It's absolutely outrageous to make these types of accusations and it's simply untrue, and it’s sad that people are going and making these desperate attempts to attack the President,” she said in an interview on Fox & Friends.

But many Congressional Democrats – and even some of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans – still refute the idea that the President is their intellectual superior. More than a dozen House and Senate Republicans declined to endorse Mr Trump’s claim that he was a “genius” in interviews with CNN on Monday.

Republican Senator Jerry Moran, for example, said Mr Trump was “smart and capable at getting himself elected president”. But when asked whether he was a genius, Mr Moran replied: “Got nothing.”
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Alan Paton: Why is Google honouring him today
« Reply #10428 on: January 12, 2018, 04:34:30 AM »

Alan Paton stood up against apartheid

Author and activist Alan Paton wrote about life in South Africa during apartheid, and fearlessly spoke out against racial segregation, in person and through his books.

On January 11, he would have been 115 years old. In his honour, Google changed its logo to a doodle portraying the novelist.

This is his story:
South African novelist

    Born in the Natal province, Paton suffered violence inside his house from an early age. His father used corporal punishment to control his sons, which lead the author to oppose any form of authoritarianism and physical punishment at an early age.

    His father also introduced Paton to literature. He enjoyed Charles Dickens and Rupert Brooke, as well as the Bible. His family's religious convictions influenced his work, and the way he looked at society.

    Paton studied at the University of Natal, and, in 1928, married Doris Francis Lusted. Later they moved to Pietermaritzburg, where he continued teaching.

    In 1935, after travelling to Sweden, Norway and North America to study prisons, he was appointed at the Diepkloof Reformatory for young, black deliquents.

    As administrator of the Diepkloof Reformatory for young, black, African offenders, he developed a different reform system that included open dormitories, work outside prison walls and home visitations.
    During his term, the reformatory became a model of penal reform.

    To give up the task of reforming society is to give up one's responsibility as a free man.

Cry, The Beloved Country

    Paton volunteered for service during World War II, but was refused. He toured Scandinavia, England, Canada, and the US.

    During his tours in the correctional reform facilities across the world, he started to write Cry, the Beloved Country.

    The book was published in 1948, the same year apartheid was institutionalised.

    The book sold more than 15 million copies in 20 languages. It is a tale of racial injustice and a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to apartheid.

    In an interview with the New York Times, Paton said: "I had an eye on my fellow white South Africans and white Americans when I wrote the book. It wasn't a book written for the right or the middle or the left. I hoped to influence my fellow whites.''

    Paton was considered the enemy of the ruling party. His passport was withdrawn in 1960, with no reason given.
    In 1970 his passport was restored, and he continued speaking through his books, essays and publications.

    Paton retired to Botha's Hill, where he lived until his death. He is honoured at the Hall of Freedom of the Liberal International Organisation.

    Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply ... For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.

    Alan Paton
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The UN has slammed US President Donald Trump's alleged reference to immigrants from "s***hole countries" as being "racist," saying there is simply no other way to describe it.

"There is no other word one can use but 'racist,'" a spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said, as quoted by Reuters.

"You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 's***holes,' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome," the spokesman said."This isn't just a story about vulgar language, it's about opening the door to humanity's worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia."

It comes after the Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump had asked: "Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?"

He was reportedly referring to people from Haiti, El Salvador, and some African countries during a discussion about protecting people from those nations as part of a bipartisan immigration deal. The president then said the US should take in more people from places like Norway, the Post reported, citing sources.

It didn't take long for people across the globe to criticize Trump's alleged remarks as being racist, including several Democratic lawmakers.

Speaking to MSNBC following the report, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Trump's comments "smack of blatant racism - odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy." He added that Trump "does not speak for me as an American."

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Link your garden
« Reply #10430 on: January 12, 2018, 04:48:17 AM »
Ensuring hedgehogs can pass freely through your garden is the most important thing you can do to help them

Why do hedgehogs need holes in fences?

Hedgehogs travel around one mile every night through our parks and gardens in their quest to find enough food and a mate. If you have an enclosed garden you might be getting in the way of their plans.

    We now know that one of the main reasons why hedgehogs are declining in Britain is because our fences and walls are becoming more and more secure, reducing the amount of land available to them.

We can make their life a little easier by removing the barriers within our control – for example, by making holes in or under our garden fences and walls for them to pass through.
DIY ‘Hedgehog Highways’

13cm by 13cm is sufficient for any hedgehog to pass through. This will be too small for nearly all pets.

    Remove a brick from the bottom of the wall
    Cut a small hole in your fence if there are no gaps
    Dig a channel underneath your wall, fence or gate

N.B. Ensure you are careful with tools and get the help of an adult

If you are feeling particularly ambitious then the ideal option would be to swap your walls and fences for hedges. This would provide shelter, food and a route into an out of your garden, not to mention the benefits it would bring to other wildlife such as birds and bees.
Label your Hedgehog Highway with this cool sign

These snazzy labels are lazer cut from recyled plastic and can be pinned above your hedgehog hole to ensure it is not blocked by anyone accidentally.
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James Damore is wrong. It’s fine to discriminate against bigots and bullies
« Reply #10431 on: January 12, 2018, 04:53:13 AM »
The darling of the alt-right is suing Google – but intolerance on the basis of background is different to not accepting bad behaviour

‘James Damore is convinced that he lost his job because of what he thinks, rather than because of how he behaved.’

Not all opinions are equal, but some people seem to wish they were. Former Google engineer James Damore, who you may remember as the author of an eye-poppingly sexist company-wide memo about why men are naturally better at computers than women, is now suing the company for discrimination against conservatives. The memo claimed that it was wrong for Google, a company with 80% of its technical roles held by men, to be pursuing diversity. Damore joins a dull retinue of bad actors asking whether, if it’s wrong to judge people because of their gender or the colour of their skin, is it not also wrong to judge people because they happen to have certain “unorthodox” ideas about social Darwinism?

The answer is no, and Damore was fired. The 26-year-old promptly became a martyr for an alt-right that believes that losing your job for being a sexist arsehole is an injustice equivalent to facing centuries of structural oppression. Damore is convinced that he lost his job because of what he thinks, rather than because of how he behaved, and that he is being punished by a culture of “political correctness”, which is what used to be called human decency.

He is not alone. Donald Trump received his strongest support at the polls among Americans who believed that men, Christians and, in particular, white people, were being unfairly discriminated against. The new right feeds off this narrative of victimhood. It’s seductive. It allows the vertebrally challenged to feel justified in their crass and reactionary opinions, and righteous when they face a backlash. It’s not you, it says – it’s them. You have been used to privilege, so equality feels like prejudice.

The trouble is that, as most children learn, there is a material difference between feelings and reality. Only someone who has never faced real prejudice in their lives could possibly believe that centuries of violence and injustice are any sort of equivalent to not being allowed to scream and pull your pants down in public. It’s the upside-down logic of individuals so thoroughly swallowed by their own self-regard that they scream censorship when someone talks back to them, and prejudice when someone calls them to account for being a bully. This type of weaponised ignorance is not just dim, it’s dangerous.

Those of us who actually care about tolerance tend to get thrown off course when someone tells us we’re not living up to our ideals. Let me explain, then, why it’s all right to discriminate against conservatives.

Conservatism is a behaviour, a set of opinions, not a fixed identity. Biology is not destiny, and it is certainly not ethics. Nobody tumbles out of the womb with decent politics. No, not even in Sweden. Nobody is born believing that people who die young of preventable diseases because they are unable to afford private healthcare have only themselves to blame for not working harder. That’s a learned, developed standpoint, and one that says a great deal about who a person is, and the choices they’ve made about the world they want to live in.

The new right loves to harp on about “meritocracy”, but it seems to believe that merit can be judged entirely by the market – that human worth is a matter of what you produce, rather than how you behave towards others. In his suit, Damore compares the qualities of “liberal” and “conservative” individuals in the language of a household instruction manual – as objective qualities. Liberals, for example, value “compassion”, whereas conservatives value “authority”.

Even if we countenance this Fisher-Price political analysis, one of these things is not like the other. Worship of authority is not morally equivalent to compassion and concern for your fellow beings, not unless you live in a world where the only thing that matters is the cash value of your raw talent.

It’s perfectly reasonable to judge others by standards of basic decency. Martin Luther King, in his “I have a dream” speech, spoke of his desire to see his children grow up in a world where they would not be judged on the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. Some conservatives today seem to inhabit a universe where those judgments are morally equal.

There is a difference between discrimination on the basis of background and discrimination on the basis of behaviour. The former is a prejudice: literally, a pre-judgment, writing someone off before you’ve even met them. The latter is simply a judgment, and it’s not just alright to judge people on how they treat others – it’s admirable. Fairness and justice are not achieved by calculating the mean average of everyone’s opinion, whatever those opinions happen to be. If my opinion is that you ought to be eaten by a leopard, and your opinion is that you’d rather not, it does not follow that we should compromise by lopping off your least-favourite limb and feeding it to next-door’s cat.

I discriminate against people who are rightwing and conservative. I’m entirely happy to say so. I don’t view it as hypocrisy to judge people by their personal qualities, rather than their background and appearance. If people are bigots and bullies, I will judge them for that. And for those who think it’s hypocrisy to refuse to tolerate intolerance, perhaps they should read the philosopher Karl Popper, who got there decades before me when he wrote of the paradox of tolerance: “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

It is no accident that the charges the new right loves to fling about in its ballistic culture wars – of hypocrisy, over-sensitivity and intolerance of difference – are practically the watermarks of its own movement. It’s a very human impulse to always be angriest about the things you’re guiltiest of doing to other people. I’m late to everything, but if I get stood up for 10 minutes I am ready to put my fist through the wall of my own hypocrisies. I’m working on that, though, and these days I’m rarely more than 10 minutes late, whereas modern morality has been waiting for Silicon Valley to show up at the party for several decades.

It used to be conservatives who were more concerned with “character”. It is odd that the idea of decency and personal responsibility has now become the domain of progressives. But I believe in fairness, and if the right are going to co-opt the language of tolerance for their own ends, it’s only fair that we should get to pinch something of theirs in good faith. Character matters. How you treat other people matters. Actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences include other people telling you you’re being a dick. And, yes, that’s hard.

It’s OK to be sensitive to criticism. Plenty of us are a bit wet – but it takes a special sort of person to see that as a reason to sue the swimming pool.
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On Thursday afternoon President Donald Trump asked a group of pro-amnesty senators why the US should welcome migrants from “sh*tholes” like Haiti, Central America or African nations.
It was a good question.

But Democrats, liberal media and global community were outraged that the president would use such an offensive term to describe the global community’s failed states.
CNN took it especially hard.

The hosts and contributors on CNN went on a sh*thole sh*tstorm last night.
The word “sh*thole” was mentioned at least 36 times on CNN on Thursday.
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Flu season is shaping up as one of the worst in years, officials say
« Reply #10433 on: January 12, 2018, 03:58:58 PM »

A patient recovers from the flu at the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, Calif.

The entire continental United States is experiencing widespread flu right now, the first time in the 13 years of the current tracking system that that has happened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said that this flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years.

The rate of flu hospitalizations — the number of people hospitalized with flu per 100,000 — nearly doubled last week compared with the previous week. Last week it was 22.7 per 100,000 people; the week before that rate was 13.7.

At the peak of the 2014-15 season, one of the two most severe seasons in the last 15 years or so, 29.9 people out of every 100,000 were hospitalized for flu.

The latest data — for the week ending Jan. 6 — suggest the season may be peaking right now, the CDC’s director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told reporters Friday. But she warned that many more people will be infected before the season is over.

There’s a difference between an active flu season — when a large number of people get sick — and a severe season, when the numbers of people hospitalized for flu or who die from the infection are unusually high.

It can be hard to tell in real time where a flu season will fall on the severity scale, because sometimes reports of influenza hospitalization and deaths — especially deaths among children — lag.

That said, this year is starting to look like a severe season, and maybe more severe than last year, which was also bad, said Dr. Dan Jernigan, head of CDC’s influenza division.

“There’s lots of flu in lots of places,” he said.

So far, Jernigan said, this year’s season doesn’t appear to be quite as bad as 2014-15.

The influenza A virus H3N2 has caused the lion’s share of the illness in most parts of the country this year.

But recently there’s been an uptick in activity by another influenza A virus, H1N1, Jernigan said, warning that even if the season appears to have peaked, flu viruses will circulate for weeks to come and people should continue to take precautions against getting infected.

Jernigan said that people over the age of 65 are being hospitalized for flu this season more than any other population. Even people age 50 to 64 are being hospitalized in high numbers.

Flu often hits the ends of the age spectrum more than the middle, and that’s the case this year as well. The CDC reported seven more children have died from flu, bringing the season total to 20 so far. While tragic, that number is low in comparison with other years — 110 last year, 92 in 2015-2016. But if other seasons are a gauge, that grim tally may continue to rise in coming weeks.

Officials feared that the flu vaccine may not work particularly well this season, but it appears to be faring slightly better than expected.

Preliminary testing by the CDC suggests the vaccine is probably more protective than it was in Australia during its 2017 winter. The Australian interim estimate suggested the H3N2 component of the vaccine — and H3N2 was the main virus there during their most recent winter — was only about 10 percent effective.

That means if 100 people got the flu shot and all were exposed to H3N2 viruses, only 10 would have been protected.

Jernigan said it looks more like the H3N2 portion of the vaccine is performing here like it did last year, when it was 34 percent effective at preventing infection. Unfortunately, that’s about on par for the flu shot’s H3N2 component, which is the weak link of flu vaccine.

The CDC should have interim data on the question of the vaccine’s effectiveness in the second half of February.
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California in revolt: how the progressive state plans to foil the Trump agenda
« Reply #10434 on: January 12, 2018, 04:12:52 PM »
From immigration to the environment and recreational cannabis, state leaders and activists are finding paths to circumvent the administration. Will it work?

A farm worker in Carlsbad. California, has the country’s most expansive ‘sanctuary’ law, restricting police from questioning people about their citizenship status.

California prides itself on being first with progressive laws on climate change, labor rights and marijuana. In 2018, the Golden State’s “firsts” are defensive – bold proposals and legal maneuvers to protect citizens from Donald Trump.

State leaders have pushed legislation and lawsuits to circumvent and undo Trump’s agenda on immigration, the environment, internet freedom and other liberal causes. One of the most consequential victories came Tuesday when a judge in San Francisco blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end a program that allows 800,000 undocumented people to study and work in the US.

At the same time, activists have also launched grassroots campaigns to shield residents from the White House’s attacks – and to pressure local Democrats to do more to mobilize the largest state against the president.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents outside a 7-Eleven convenience store in Los Angeles, where recent raids were conducted.


California lawmakers have adopted the most expansive “sanctuary state” law in the country, restricting police from questioning people about citizenship status and limiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice).

The state has also taken the Trump administration to court to challenge his travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program.

A US judge in San Francisco sided with California on Tuesday in the Daca battle, ruling that the Obama-era program that protects “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children – must remain in place.

But Trump – who has a reputation for being vindictive and has openly expressed disdain for California – is on track to retaliate. Ice already arrested hundreds in targeted raids in sanctuary cities last year, and the agency’s acting director has promised to ramp up deportations in the state this year, even suggesting California politicians should be prosecuted.

Across California, vast networks of attorneys and volunteer advocates have formed, leading the resistance to Ice on the ground, sometimes saving lives in the process.

Though Obama deported more immigrants than any other president, the need is even greater now with Ice indiscriminately picking up people in raids, according to Maria Sofia Corona-Alamillo, an attorney working with the Los Angeles County Rapid Response Network.

“The immediate goal is to provide a first line of defense for community members that are facing removal from the country and imprisonment in government-run detention centers, which we for many reasons find inhumane.”

Last year, she said the network mobilized after Ice agents showed up to an auto repair shop with guns drawn and, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, arrested a group of workers even though they had a warrant for only one individual. Ice declined to comment.

Jennifer Lee Koh, an attorney with the Los Angeles network, said she represented a Mexican immigrant who was apprehended and threatened with deportation last year. Instead of the typical outcome of removal, the network helped the man, who has three young children, get temporary relief, and he is now on track to get a green card.

“We counter this climate of fear and terror that a lot of these enforcement actions bring to these communities,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, attorney coordinator with the Northern California Rapid Response Network.

There’s more legislators could to proactively protect immigrants, activists argued. Koh urged California’s governor, Jerry Brown, to issue more pardons to immigrants threatened with deportation due to previous criminal convictions.

Some have argued that stricter enforcement of sanctuary rules is necessary considering that even in liberal jurisdictions like Los Angeles and Oakland, local police have been caught continuing to assist Ice.

Javier Hernandez, director of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, said California should provide “universal representation” – ensuring access to lawyers for all immigrants facing deportation: “Give everyone a fair chance to fight.”

Oil drilling

Trump unveiled a plan last week to open up US offshore territory to oil and gas drilling, including previously protected areas along the Pacific Ocean.

The administration later reversed its position, saying it would not allow drilling off the Florida coast, following pressure from the state’s Republican governor. That further fueled claims that Trump was again targeting California, which has the world’s sixth largest economy and overwhelmingly voted against the president.

Brown condemned the decision, and lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom said the state was working to prevent new federal drilling leases.

“We have a beautiful pristine coastline. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure it remains that way,” said state senate leader Kevin de León.

Despite the defiant statements, environmentalists argued that Brown has a poor record on oil and gas, with not-for-profit Consumer Watchdog pointing to his administration’s approval of more than 200 new offshore wells between 2012 and 2016.

Brown should halt all offshore drilling in state waters, said Liza Tucker, the group’s energy project director: “That would be truly drawing a line in the sand.”

Brown’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.


Days after California launched what is expected to be the largest recreational cannabis market in the world, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced he was repealing an Obama-era policy that had allowed states to legalize pot.

Amid bipartisan backlash, California lawmakers said they were preparing to resist a potential crackdown on weed through a new law that could establish a “sanctuary state” for cannabis.

Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer said he knows seniors, veterans, relatives and others who depend on medical cannabis – motivating him to advance legislation that would block the state from assisting federal authorities in arrests, investigations or prosecution targeting legal operations.

“Jeff Sessions’ call for cannabis enforcement is not only ill-conceived, it’s still that federal war on drugs that hasn’t worked … which is really a war on African Americans and Latinos.”

Criminal justice reform advocates have also urged California leaders to decrease its prison and jail populations for drug crimes and help people with past convictions work in the legal market.

Sessions’ attacks have “only advanced our cause quicker and further”, added Erich Pearson, a cannabis CEO in San Francisco: “We’re in a much more organized time than we’ve ever been.”

Homes in San Francisco. Trump’s tax plan sets a $10,000 cap on the amount of property and income taxes that residents can deduct from federal taxes.


Trump’s tax reform legislation, the most drastic change to the code in 30 years, is slated to hurt California by setting a $10,000 cap on the amount of property and income taxes that residents can deduct from federal taxes. The average California deduction was nearly $8,500 more than the new cap, according to one analysis, meaning many stand to suffer.

Lawmakers, however, are hoping to bypass Trump’s policy with the Protect California Taxpayers Act, which would allow state residents to make charitable donations to a fund and receive a tax credit in exchange.

“We won’t allow California residents to be the casualty of this disastrous tax scheme,” De León said in a statement.

If the bill is successful, other states could follow suit.

Protestors rally in support of net neutrality, which was recently repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Net neutrality

In a state home to the world’s most powerful technology companies, the recent repeal of net neutrality rules, designed to protect an open internet, sparked significant protests. The win for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair, Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, dismantled regulations that ensured internet service providers (ISPs) treated all websites equally and couldn’t charge some more for delivering certain services.

While Democrats in Washington DC work to overturn the repeal, California lawmakers are working to reinstate net neutrality in the Golden State. The bill would empower California regulators and law enforcement to establish and enforce net neutrality requirements on ISPs operating in the state.
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Police target marijuana users at DUI checkpoint
« Reply #10435 on: January 12, 2018, 04:17:41 PM »

Drager 5000

Recreational marijuana use may now be legal in California, but it is still illegal to drive while high.

That was the message San Diego hoped to send Thursday night at a checkpoint targeting drivers who may have been under the influence of pot.

A DUI check point was set up off Mission Bay Drive, right by the Interstate-5 south bound ramp.

Thursday’s checkpoint is the second one to be set up since January 1st, when recreational marijuana became legal.

A device called the Drager 5000 will be used to fight impaired driving by using saliva swabs to test for drugs in an individual’s system.

San Diego police debuted the tool in March of last year.

Police said there many factors that go into a DUI arrest after some raised concerns that marijuana could be in their system and could test positive but not be impaired – since marijuana can stay in a person’s system for long period of time compared to alcohol.

The DUI check point was scheduled to start at 11 p.m., Thursday night and go to Friday at 3 a.m.
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Shale Gas Production Ignites New Push for Polluting Plastics
« Reply #10436 on: January 12, 2018, 04:23:43 PM »

Plastic bags will likely accelerate in their pollution of the planet

We welcome the New Year with an expectation of a better future as the clock hits midnight and we enter January. However, among the disappointments we are facing already is a likely increase in the production of polluting plastics. Specifically, the scourge of non-recyclable plastic bags appears to be gearing up for an increase.

On December 26, 2017, the Guardian posted an article that predicts $180 billion dollars will be spent by fossil fuel companies on increasing plastic production, including plastic bags. The article warns that the investment -- which will raise plastic output by approximately 40 percent -- is "risking permanent pollution of the earth." Symbolic of the destructiveness of non-recyclable plastics to the environment is the omnipresent plastic bag.

In fact, 2016 began with a forewarning of the onslaught of plastic for which Big Oil is preparing. An EcoWatch article from January 2016 offered this chilling portrayal of the worldwide threat of plastic production:

There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Photo credit: Plastic Pollution

Every year "at least 8 million tons of plastics leak into the ocean—which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute," the report finds. "If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

"In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight)."

The EcoWatch article also noted that plastic production has increased by a factor of 20 since 1964, and it is expected to reach four times that amount by 2050. These forecasts alone -- along with other planetary harm such as increased oil drilling and fracking -- belie the greenwashing notion perpetuated by Big Oil advertising, which proclaims that oil companies are attempting to transform themselves into environmentally friendly entities.

In fact, the Guardian report attributes much of the growing plastic production to the shale gas growth in the United States, and probably Canada: "This has resulted in one of the raw materials used to produce plastic resin -- natural gas liquids -- dropping dramatically in price." In short, fracking and shale oil production are harmful beyond their impact on climate change and water and soil contamination. They are also driving the surge in ruinous plastic manufacturing.

A growing number of municipalities and other governing bodies have levied fees on plastic bags or banned them. In September of last year, The New York Times called for the elimination of "the use of plastic microbeads and single-use plastic bags by 2022." However, if the trend toward increased plastic contamination continues, pressure to reduce or eliminate the production of throwaway plastic bags will be necessary. It will not be sufficient to regulate consumption -- and that has proven a slow and arduous process, in any case. After all, just last year, Gov. Mario Cuomo signed legislation blocking a $0.05 fee on plastic bags used by consumers in New York City.

The Guardian article highlights the integral relationship between Big Oil and plastic production, and its ominous implications:

"We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realizing we should use far less of it," said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which has analyzed the plastic industry.

"Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon and Shell, that have helped create the climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics."

Greenpeace UK's senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said any increase in the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans would have a disastrous impact.

While we enter 2018 with a commitment to make our planet less vulnerable to toxic industrial waste, it is vital to remember that the big polluters are not stepping on the brakes. In fact, they are accelerating the destruction of the Earth.
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Ambassador to Panama resigns, says he can no longer serve under President Trump
« Reply #10437 on: January 12, 2018, 04:28:15 PM »

The US ambassador to Panama has resigned over differences with the Trump administration.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN that Ambassador John Feeley "has informed the White House, the Department of State and the Government of Panama of his decision to retire for personal reasons, as of March 9 of this year."

According to an excerpt of his resignation letter that was read to CNN, Feeley's decision was clearly prompted by differences with the Trump administration but was made well before Thursday's reporting about President Donald Trump's "s***hole" comments.

"As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the President and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come," Feeley wrote.

The letter goes on to say that he leaves the embassy "in good hands" and the US relationship with Panama is "strong."

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steven Goldstein told CNN that Feeley had submitted his resignation letter to the White House in late December.

"Everyone has a line that they don't want to cross and we respect that," Goldstein said. "We are sorry to see him go."

Feeley was a career diplomat who was sworn in as ambassador in January 2016.

The spokesperson said Deputy Chief of Mission Roxanne Cabral will step in until a new ambassador is confirmed.

Panama will join the dozens of countries that do not currently have Senate-confirmed US ambassadors in place, including key US allies like South Korea, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

While senior acting officials hold the reins in these important jobs, they are not permanent appointees and are limited in how long they can hold the roles.

Federal law allows these temporary officeholders to stay in the open jobs for, at most, 300 days. But 320 days have elapsed since the start of the Trump administration and acting officials in the State Department are starting to hit that limit, making presidential nominations more important than ever.

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President Donald Trump may want more immigrants from "places like Norway," but polls indicate that Norwegian citizens see the U.S. president as a "real threat to world peace" and a greater danger than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A survey conducted by Ipsos, a polling organization, indicated that 71 percent of Norwegians believed Donald Trump and the United States constituted a "real threat to world peace." The poll results emerged in August, when more than 1,000 Norwegians were questioned about their thoughts on prominent world leaders, including Trump. The survey found 45 percent of people said Trump's America posed a threat to the world "to a large extent," while 26 percent said it was a "very large extent."

The results were published in Dagbladet, a Norwegian newsmagazine, which said people in the country worry about Trump because he is untraditional as a U.S. president.

"Trump has the reputation of being ignorant and impulsive," Torbjørn Lindstrøm Knutsen, a politics professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, told Dagbladet. "I think this applies to all of Europe. The world has a picture of Trump as moody, erratic and ignorant."

As a point of comparison, Putin was viewed by only 60 percent of Norwegians as endangering world peace. Neighbors Norway and Russia have exchanged terse words in recent years over national security after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Svein Melby, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, told Dagbladet that Trump acts to create uncertainty around his interest in wielding international power. Norwegians would have been unlikely to view President Barack Obama through such an extreme lens, Melby noted.

Trump met with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway on Wednesday before telling members of Congress, at a meeting about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program (DACA), that the United States needs more immigrants from "places like Norway" and fewer immigrants from "countries like Haiti," according to The New York Times. He was believed to use the word "shithole" to negatively describe Haiti and African countries, but Trump and the White House denied he used that language.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!"

He later added: "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"
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The following is a speech given by Naomi Klein in New York City on Jan. 10.

I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for this historic announcement that New York is divesting from fossil fuels and suing five oil majors.

What's happening here is not only about changing the economics of energy, speeding the transition from dirty to clean. It's also about justice.

And it represents a collective victory for the amazing climate justice movement around the world and in this city.

Groups like Uprose, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and New York Renews, some of which are here today, as well as global groups like, which helped kick off the fossil fuel divestment movement about five years ago.

For a very long time, our movements have been insisting that principles of justice need to be at the center of the response to the climate crisis—a crisis that plays out in the most perversely unjust ways right now.

Justice means that people who did the least to create this crisis but are bearing the heaviest risks and most toxic burdens need to be first to benefit from green economic development and job creation.

Justice also means that workers in polluting industries are not sacrificed or left behind. And justice means something else too, something most politicians are loath to talk about because the wealth and power of fossil fuel companies is so vast.

It means that the corporate interests that did the most to get us into this mess—with their pollution and with their campaigns of willful misinformation—are going to have to pay their true share of the tremendous costs of climate disruption, and of delayed transition. Because right now we have it upside down and backwards.

As it stands, the costs of sea level rise and ferocious and unprecedented weather events are offloaded on to the public, with taxpayers stiffed with the ballooning bills. And as governments absorb these costs, there is less money for schools, for affordable transit and housing, for health care. And, in yet another bitter irony, this hurts the people who are already impacted by climate change the most.

This city saw all this in dramatic fashion during Sandy, when it was the people in public housing who were left for weeks in the cold and dark.

Meanwhile, the extravagant profits from destabilizing our planet's life support system, earned from ignoring and suppressing the scientific consensus—well, those are systematically privatized.

Earlier this decade, ExxonMobil alone made $45 billion in profits in a single year– more than any company in history. Enough to pay Rex Tillerson, then its CEO, $100,000 a day.

In short, the status quo means the poor are paying again and again for the polluters to get even richer. It's a world upside down. But that starts to change today.

By suing these five oil majors who knowingly deepened the climate crisis, and simultaneously beginning the process of divesting $5-billion from fossil fuel companies, New York City is taking a game changing first step in turning the world right side up. And not to overstate the case, but I actually think this could change the world.

There have been lawsuits before that have tried to sue the fossil fuel giants for climate damages. The tiny Arctic community of Kivalina, population 383, which attempted to recover the costs of having to relocate. Some citizens of the low-lying Pacific Island of Vanuatu—population 300,000—that began a similar suit. A lone Peruvian farmer, suing a German coal giant for the risks to his home. A small group of Gulf Coast Mississippi homeowners, with the help of a scrappy lawyer, who tried to sue the fossil fuel companies after Hurricane Katrina.

These have been valiant attempts, but in every case, the industry has relied on the relative weakness and poverty of its accusers, sometime managing to quash suits before they were filed.

And that is why today's news is so historic. Because bullying isn't going to work here the way it has in the past. This lawsuit is coming from the largest city in the most powerful country on the planet, a city which also happens to be the financial capital of world.

And now that New York City has thrown down in such a big way—on divestment, on polluter pays—it's going to embolden all kinds of other actors to step up as well. Other cities around the world. Universities. Foundations. Other states. Even entire nation states.

As of today, everyone needs to up their ambition. Be bolder. Move faster. It's what our planet requires. And it's what justice demands. No politician on the planet is doing enough. But there can be no doubt that the bar for what it takes to call yourself a climate leader has just been dramatically raised.

A few years ago, an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $19-billion in damages for an oil disaster known as the "Rainforest Chernobyl." A spokesperson for the company responded by pledging that it would "fight this until hell freezes over. And then we'll fight it on the ice."

Well, New Yorkers know how to fight. They even know how to fight on the ice, as the New York Rangers occasionally show. I want to thank all the fighters in this room for reminding us of that.
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