Saturday, November 20, 2010
Millionaires to Obama: Tax us - Yahoo! News
Anti-tax activists everywhere have been loudly arguing for an extension of George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in the United States. Now a group of millionaires is arguing the opposite.
More than 40 of the nation's millionaires have joined Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength to ask President Obama to discontinue the tax breaks established for them during the Bush administration, as Salon reports.
"For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you allow tax cuts on incomes over $1,000,000 to expire at the end of this year as scheduled," their website states. "We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more."
NATO Says It Won't Abandon Afghanistan : NPR
NATO will start reducing troop levels in Afghanistan next year and hand over control of security to the Afghans in 2014 but will not abandon the country after that and let it slip back into chaos, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Saturday.
Rasmussen, President Barack Obama, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and leaders of the 28-nation alliance were meeting behind closed doors to discuss the alliance's exit strategy from Afghanistan on the second day of Nato's annual summit. They were also deciding how NATO will give advice, training and logistics help to Afghanistan's military over the long term.
"The direction starting today is clear, toward Afghan leadership and Afghan ownership (of the war)," Rasmussen said in his opening remarks.
NATO officials stressed that the alliance will maintain a military presence in Afghanistan long after it begins withdrawing troops.
"We will agree here today on a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan to endure beyond the end of our combat mission," Fogh Rasmussen said. "If the enemies of Afghanistan have the idea that they can wait it out until we leave, they have the wrong idea. We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job."
Ivo Daalder, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said the 2014 goal and the end of NATO's combat role in Afghanistan beyond that date "are not one and the same." But many NATO nations have insisted they will remove all their troops by 2014, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated said his country will end its combat role in Afghanistan by 2015.
Image via WikipediaWesley Snipes Is Going to Prison - BV Black Spin
Wesley Snipes took the biggest gamble of his life when he started messing with the IRS in an effort to save a few million dollars in federal tax payments.
On Thursday, Snipes lost.
A federal judge has ordered the popular film star to prison to begin a 36-month sentence for tax-related crimes. Snipes was accused of trying to avoid paying more than $15 million in taxes from 1999 to 2004.
The star of 'White Men Can't Jump' and the 'Blade' series was convicted of three counts of deliberately failing to file tax returns in 2008.
After the conviction, Snipes mounted an effort for a new trial, after reports surfaced that two jurors claimed they had their minds made up that Snipes was guilty before the trial began and that prosecutors used evidence from a government witness who later pleaded guilty to fraud.
Snipes could ask that the case be sent to the Supreme Court, but he would likely have to make that request from a prison cell.
Snipes is probably sorry he ever met a man named Eddie Ray Kahn, founder of American Rights Litigators. The company sold bogus tax-evasion schemes and convinced Snipes that he didn't have to pay federal income taxes.
Kahn was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Snipes is a powerful actor and a commanding presence on stage and film, but in real life, I wouldn't trust the man to come in out of the rain.
I don't care what kind of song and dance Khan did for me, I would never believe that I was given special permission not to pay taxes.
All Snipes had to do was take the file of garbage Khan gave him straight to the nearest Internal Revenue Service office and ask officials there if he could skip out on his tax bill.
After they picked themselves off the floor from laughing, I'm sure they would have been able to show Snipes several file cabinets full of people who thought they could beat paying their taxes, too.
This mess is entirely of Snipes making; he has no one else to blame.
- Wesley Snipes to Serve 3 Years in Prison (omg.yahoo.com)
Friday, November 19, 2010
Eddie Long | Status hearing on lawsuits against bishop, New Birth | ajc.com
A status conference hearing was held Friday in DeKalb County State Court on several lawsuits filed against Bishop Eddie Long, alleging he used his influence, trips and gifts to coerce four young men into having sex.
Lawyers for both sides met with Judge Johnny Panos and tentatively set February for a mediation session and July for a pre-trial conference.
"Both sides seemed to be pretty open to discussion of a quick resolution of the case whether through trial or negotiation settlements," said Panos.
A woman in the office of B.J. Bernstein, the lawyer representing the four young men, would only confirm that she attended the conference hearing.
Four men -- Maurice Robinson, Jamal Parris, Anthony Flagg and Spencer LeGrande -- have sued the prominent Lithonia megachurch pastor and the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The church's mentoring program, the LongFellows Youth Academy, is named in three of the suits. The suits seek jury trials and unspecified damages.
Long has denied the allegations. In his responses to the suits, filed in court, Long admitted he occasionally shares a room with members of his congregation, but in each of the responses, he said "the plaintiff's claims of sexual misconduct are not true."
- Bishop Eddie Long: Another lawsuit filed against New Birth | ajc.com (armwoodnews.com)
- Bishop Eddie Long Finally Responds to Law Suits (theroot.com)
Hit-and-run backlash rattles China's elite - Asia, World - The Independent
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
Friday, 19 November 2010
Chen Guangqian holds a portrait of his daughter Chen Xiaofeng who was killed in the accident
It is a catchphrase that has become shorthand for state irresponsibility and arrogance all over China: "Sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang."
The expression has spread like wildfire on the internet, highlighting growing public outrage at the criminal indifference of some of the children of the country's privileged elite.
After driving his black Volkswagen Magotan into two rollerblading students outside Hebei University in the Beishi district, a drunk Li Qiming did not stop until he was intercepted by security guards and students on campus. Mr Li stepped calmly out of the car and without any sign of remorse uttered the catchphrase: "Who's your daddy?"
His father, Li Gang, is the deputy chief of the Public Security Bureau in Baoding City, which is in Hebei province, northern China, and this position would usually guarantee freedom from broader consequences.
The story broke initially in the local media. But soon the censor, fearful of wider social problems, put the lid on the news. However, Li Qiming's comments have been published widely online and have provoked angry and mocking reactions from millions of Chinese. It is a classic example of how social and political issues make it into the wider social sphere, despite the Great Firewall of China, which seeks to keep a lid on uncomfortable truths.
One of the two women struck by Mr Li's car, Chen Xiaofeng, died after the incident. Her brother, Chen Lin, said in an interview on the Danwei website that Li Qiming said what he did because he was showing off. Mr Chen said: "It's relying on the power of his family; he said it subconsciously. Lots of people are like this now, I think he's using it as a kind of backup.
"I don't think it was because he was afraid, it was just subconscious: this is who my family is, you can't do this to me." Mr Chen wants the death penalty for the man who killed his sister.
The dead student's father, a farmer named Chen Guangqian, said he was sure the perpetrator had lots of connections within Baoding. "I am afraid," the man said.
On the Sina website, there are postings from an outraged public. One commenter wrote: "No need to panic after any crime, as my father is Li Gang." That was part of a broader contest to come up with sentences containing the words, "my father is Li Gang". Another wrote: "I never pay my telephone bills. My father is Li Gang." People have also written poems and songs.
The story has rattled cages even among the Communist Party elite, who realises that they need the support of ordinary people to stay in power. They have had to deal with numerous incidents where public dissatisfaction with Communist Party officials has caused social instability.
Wu Zhongmin, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party of China, told the Xinhua News Agency: "Like father, like son. If the children of officials think that they are the privileged class, will future generations follow suit? After deviating from the basic tenet of following the Party's mass line, which is serving the people heart and soul, the question is: where will China go from here?"
The state apparatus will come down heavily on the Li family. Li Qiming said in an interview with local media: "I deeply regret what I did. It has brought great misery to the victims and their family. I feel very guilty."
His father has said he would not protect his son over the case: "It's shameful that I have failed to educate him well as a father, and I definitely will not shield him."
The story came on the same day Wu Yuren, an artist who led a march to Tiananmen Square in February, was brought to court over a scuffle with police
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Lieberman on DADT: We Have 60 | News | The Advocate
Sen. Joe Lieberman said Thursday that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” as part of the National Defense Authorization Act is no longer a question of votes, it’s a question of process.
“I am confident that we have more than 60 votes prepared to take up the defense authorization with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ if only there will be a guarantee of a fair and open amendment process, in other words, whether we’ll take enough time to do it,” Lieberman told reporters at a press conference, naming GOP senators Susan Collins and Richard Lugar as yes votes. “Time is an inexcusable reason not to get this done.”
Lieberman, an independent, was flanked by 12 of his Democratic colleagues — a core group that seemed intent on urging the Democratic leadership to allow enough room in the Senate schedule for a debate that would be acceptable to Republicans. The senators talked about working over the weekends, and Sen. Mark Udall offered to go straight through until Christmas Eve.
Lieberman noted that two items could be negotiated by Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell — the number of amendments to be considered and the amount of time for debate on those amendments.
Full and open debate on the bill could take as long as two weeks, but an agreement between Reid and McConnell could shave that down to just one week. Regardless, given that other bills will eat up some of the remaining days, providing some sort of open amendment process will likely require that senators stay past the targeted adjournment date of December 10 until at least December 17.
- Lieberman: DADT Repeal Has The Votes If Republicans Get The Debate Time They Want (huffingtonpost.com)
Image via WikipediaCivil rights leader John Lewis to get presidential medal | Reuters
(Reuters) - Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader beaten unconscious by Alabama state troopers in 1965 during a march for voting rights, is to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The medal, to be given early next year, is the country's highest civilian award and other honorees on President Barack Obama's list include former President George H. W. Bush, writer Maya Angelou, businessman Warren Buffet and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Lewis was born the son of Alabama sharecroppers. As a youth on his family farm in the 1950s he vowed to join Martin Luther King's movement after listening to his speeches on the radio and hearing about the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott that aimed to desegregate the city's public transport.
Lewis helped organize the first lunch counter sit-in demonstrations to violate seating laws forcing blacks to sit in restricted areas. In 1961, he volunteered for the Freedom Rides, where black and white riders defied segregation laws placing blacks in the back of the bus.
He endured attacks from angry mobs at bus stations in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Montgomery, Alabama, and also joined the Mississippi Freedom Project to register black voters.
But he gained fame for his role in the Selma-to-Montgomery march to petition for voting rights for African Americans. On March 7, 1965, state troopers attacked the marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma using clubs and tear gas.
Many marchers were injured in the attack, known as Bloody Sunday, and Lewis sustained a fractured skull. But crucially for the movement television pictures of the attack shocked the U.S. public.
Eight days later, President Lyndon Johnson condemned the violence and called on Congress to pass Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law in August that year.
Lewis, who also spoke at the 1963 March on Washington and was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, has represented Georgia's 5th congressional district since 1987.
- Lewis to receive Medal of Freedom (ajc.com)
- 3 African Americans Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom (narmer.wordpress.com)
Harry Reid vows votes on DADT, DREAM - Scott Wong - POLITICO.com
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed Wednesday night to hold votes during the lame-duck session on two bills previously blocked by Republicans before the midterm elections: the repeal of the ban on gays openly serving in the military and the immigration bill known as the DREAM Act.
Top aides to both Reid and President Barack Obama told gay-rights activists Wednesday that the two Democratic leaders are “committed” to bringing the defense authorization bill, which includes language repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, to the floor after next week’s Thanksgiving recess.
Among the White House officials present at the meeting were Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, and Phil Schiliro, director of legislative affairs, as well as Reid Chief of Staff David Krone, and Reid’s senior counsel, Serena Hoy, according to the gay-rights groups.
“Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces,” Reid said in a statement Wednesday night. “We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”
In a separate statement, Reid pledged to bring the DREAM Act to the floor as a stand-alone bill. The legislation provides a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who complete two years of college or military service.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Obama Faces Trouble From Friends and Foes on Trade - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — Conventional wisdom in Washington says that trade policy is one of the few areas where President Obama and Congressional Republicans can work together in the next two years. But making progress will require Mr. Obama to navigate opposition from within his own party, and could test how far he is willing to go in compromising and building new coalitions in the wake of the Republican victories.
In announcing last week that he could not reach an expected free-trade pact with South Korea, Mr. Obama cited a possibly skeptical Congress as a potential hurdle, saying he did not want to negotiate a pact he could not sell on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have frozen consideration of free-trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
But Mr. Obama also promised that in the next several weeks, his negotiators would keep trying to overcome the disputes with South Korea over autos and beef that stalled the pact last week.
If the president is successful, he may be setting himself up for a big fight with Democrats.
Even if the Koreans agree to gradually drop a ban on imports of American beef from older cattle and agree to a slower phase-out of American tariffs on imports of Korean cars while eliminating safety and environmental rules that help keep the Korean market one of the world’s most closed, “the Korea trade pact is not O.K., and it won’t be a trade agreement that I’ll want to vote for,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.
He also suggested that the Colombia and Panama trade pacts would fare no better with liberals; Mr. Brown said all three agreements would cost Americans jobs.
“If they try to jam these trade agreements through,” he said, “it’s clearly out of step with what the American public wants.”
But if Mr. Obama fails to get the South Korea trade pact, he may be setting himself up for a big fight with Republicans. The president “has now got a Congress that is not only willing to engage on trade, but will shine a very bright spotlight on its potential,” said Representative Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican who is likely to become chairman of the Trade Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. “It’s been locked in a closet for the last four years on Capitol Hill, and we’re going to pull it out.”
White House officials maintained on Tuesday that they would keep pushing to get the South Korea deal completed within six weeks. White House officials have been striking conciliatory tones with big business since the bruising election campaign during which Mr. Obama sharply criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in campaign rallies after the chamber contributed some $50 million to mostly Republican candidates. Part of the reconciliation process involves pursuing the free-trade pacts businesses want.
“This will be an early test for this president with the new Congress, particularly the House leadership,” said Myron Brilliant, senior vice president for international affairs at the chamber. “Can we move the trade agenda forward, and can he do so in a bipartisan fashion?”
Mr. Brilliant’s boss, the chamber’s president, Thomas J. Donohue, traveled to South Korea last week to try to help win the free-trade deal; Mr. Donohue met for an hour with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner before the trip, as part of a continuing reconciliation effort between the White House and the chamber.
- Obama Sails Churning Trade Sea, Where Friends Are Foes (nytimes.com)
- Obama can't close deals at G-20 (politico.com)
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Image via Wikipedia
By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI
The House ethics committee ruled on Monday that there was evidence to support 13 counts of misconduct by Representative Charles B. Rangel, and began considering whether to formally convict and recommend punishment against him.
The ruling came after a dramatic and puzzling appearance by Mr. Rangel, 80, in which he protested that he could no longer afford to pay his lawyers, and indignantly walked out of the proceedings, calling them unfair.
Committee members were unmoved. Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, noted dryly that Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, was responsible for paying his lawyers and that he had been advised by the committee beginning in 2008 to form a legal defense fund to do so.
With Mr. Rangel absent, the panel listened to its chief counsel as he methodically presented the evidence against Mr. Rangel, which was based on 549 exhibits, dozens of witness interviews and thousands of pages of financial documents. Members then met in executive session and later announced they had found the facts in the charges against Mr. Rangel to be “uncontested.”
Those charges included accusations that Mr. Rangel had accepted rent-stabilized apartments from a Manhattan developer, failed to pay income taxes on rent from a Dominican villa and solicited charitable donations from individuals with business before Congress.
Mr. Rangel’s decision not to mount a public defense startled some members of the committee; he has been publicly expressing his eagerness to tell his side of the story for more than a year, and promising his constituents that he could disprove the accusations.
But the walkout spared Mr. Rangel the embarrassment of being publicly confronted with the unsavory details of the case.
And, given that he has not sufficiently challenged the accusations against him, his strategy allowed him instead to plead his case in the court of public opinion by questioning the legitimacy of the process.
“I am being denied a right to have a lawyer right now because I don’t have the opportunity to have a legal defense fund set up and because I can’t afford another $1 million,” Mr. Rangel said before making his hasty departure. “I truly believe I am not being treated fairly.”
An ethics subcommittee is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday morning and consider whether to formally find Mr. Rangel guilty on each of the 13 counts. If he is found guilty on any of the charges, the entire ethics committee would deliberate on a suitable punishment, which ethics experts say would most likely be a letter of reprimand or a formal censure. While the committee has the power to expel, that has happened only rarely and is considered highly unlikely.
Whatever the outcome of the case, the spectacle of the hearing marked a steep downfall for Mr. Rangel, who for decades has been a towering figure in Washington and New York politics. His tenacity, distinguished military record, quick wit and fund-raising prowess made him one of the most popular and mighty Democrats in Congress. He rose to be chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 2007, but stepped down from that post last year amid ethics accusations.
Mr. Rangel’s complaint on Monday that he could no longer pay for a lawyer frustrated some members of the committee, and underscored the way the case has dragged on. According to campaign finance reports, Mr. Rangel has already paid $1.6 million to a law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder. But the firm dropped the case last month, after the congressman said he would not be able to pay the estimated $1 million to finish the case.
Ms. Lofgren pointed out that Mr. Rangel, who has significant assets according to his amended financial disclosure report, could find another way to pay for his defense.
“There is no prohibition on an individual using their own funds to pay for counsel,” she said.
After his departure from the hearing room, even Mr. Rangel’s trademark bravado was used against him. In August, Mr. Rangel rankled members of Congress by taking to the House floor to apologize and demand that the public hearing be concluded before the November election. In summarizing the case against Mr. Rangel on Monday, committee lawyers played several clips from that speech in which the congressman admitted wrongdoing but asked for leniency
“I don’t think that apologies mean that this is a light matter,” Mr. Rangel said in one clip played at the hearing, his booming voice filling the hearing room even in his absence. “This is serious.”
Monday, November 15, 2010
Image by RepRangel via FlickrRangel Walks Out of Ethics Hearing
Rep. Charles Rangel walked out of his House ethics trial this morning, claiming he needed more time to hire an attorney to represent him. The Harlem Congressman's surprising move came after the committee turned down his request for more time to replace an attorney who had withdrawn from the case. Rangel is facing 13 charges of ethics violation.
Saying that he has not had time secure legal counsel and that House rules prevent him from raising the money for a defense fund before the deadline that the ethics committee has given him, Rangel left the hearing room this morning less than an hour after it had begun. Rangel said he didn't have the money to hire new counsel after spending $2 million preparing his defense with his previous attorneys. The attorneys withdrew after clashes with Rangel over defense tactics, including his decision to deliver a 30-minute speech on the House floor against their advice.
The House trial on corruption charges is the first such event since 2002. Four Democrats and four Republicans were scheduled to hear testimony.
"You tell me all things that I could do, but you're not going to give me time to do it. I think no one can say that that's not the way this ends up,"he said. "Yes, I can do these things, but you have to conclude this now, and the next day" he said, jabbing a finger down at the table for emphasis. "And my reputation, 50 years of public service has to suffer because this committee has concluded you must conclude this matter before this congress ends. And all I'm asking for is time to get counsel...and you're saying now, I think, that you denied it before and you're denying it now."
A short time later he said, "I object to the proceeding, and with all due respect, since I don't have counsel to advise me, I'm going to have to excuse myself from these proceedings. I have no idea what [counsel for the committee] has put together, over two years, that was given to me last week, and I just hoipe that the history of this committee, in terms of fairness, would be judged for what it is."
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Image via WikipediaNetanyahu Said to Agree to Seek Settlement Freeze - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has agreed to push his cabinet to freeze most construction on settlements in the West Bank for 90 days to break an impasse in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, an official briefed on talks between the United States and Israel said Saturday evening.
In return, the Obama administration has offered Israel a package of security incentives and fighter jets worth $3 billion that would be contingent on the signing of a peace agreement, the official said. The United States would also block any moves in the United Nations Security Council that would try to shape a final peace agreement.
The quid pro quo was hashed out by Mr. Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in seven and a half hours of talks in New York on Thursday.
The partial freeze would not include East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians view as the future capital of a Palestinian state and where recent Israeli building set off a firestorm of criticism.
It was unclear whether the prime minister could win approval for the United States deal from his cabinet, which has been reluctant to freeze settlement construction. It was also unclear if the leaks of the details of the agreement, which were widely reported in Israeli newspapers on Saturday, were designed to put pressure on Mr. Netanyahu.
- Netanyahu Sharply Insists on Building in Jerusalem - NYTimes.com (armwoodlaw.com)
- Israeli home plans spark US anger (guardian.co.uk)
- Netanyahu Pushes For Israel Settlement Freeze After U.S. Offers Incentives (huffingtonpost.com)
- Israel moves ahead with new east Jerusalem housing | ajc.com (armwoodlaw.com)