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Tue, 24 May 2016
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Record number of Americans renounce citizenship due to FATCA

While the debate over undocumented immigrants in the US dominates the political landscape, a record number of Americans are pursuing the American Dream abroad.

According to the Treasury Department, around 3,415 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2014, up from 2,999 in 2013 and more than three times the number in 2012.

The reason is: FATCA provisions.

The law also requires foreign banks to report Americans with accounts over $50,000. Non-compliant banks will be frozen out of US markets, so all banks are complying.

Comment: It seems that the Obama administration is using financial terrorism to force foreign governments and financial institutions to become branches of the NSA and collect financial data on both U.S. citizens abroad and foreign nationals in their own country, while protecting US politicians and their corporate cronies who, generally speaking, pay no tax at all. See:

Light Saber

A line in the sand: When Ukrainians choose not to die in a war

Anti-conscription rally in village of Dneprovka, Zaporizhye region of Ukraine, Feb 2, 2015
"Imagine all the people, living life in peace." Maybe John Lennon's famous musical lyric can be called naive, but it's a hopeful vision all the same. Antiwar protests, mass soldier desertions, refusal to serve and fight in defiance of government orders and repression - these have stopped many wars once people decide there is nothing righteous in killing their fellow humans.

The current war situation in eastern Ukraine and the decision of the government in Kyiv to begin a new, fourth wave of military conscription and mobilization is unleashing a firestorm of mass opposition and refusal to fight. Protest is rising in all the regions of the country. For sure, there are still nationalist fanatics and far-right militarists exercising violence and intimidation against antiwar protests, but their capacity to stamp out protest is diminishing.

Ukraine is historically a peaceful nation. For some time now, it has avoided military conflicts like those that have flared elsewhere in eastern Europe - Yugoslavia, Georgia, etc. That came to a crashing end last year when the Kyiv government launched its 'anti-terrorist operation' against the people in the east of the country. But from the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has seen refusals by soldiers to fire on their fellow citizens, desertions from the army and refusals to show up for conscription. Women - the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of military conscripts - have held protests and even riots against the war or against force military service.

The protests have been sparked, first of all, by the fact that many Ukrainians do not accept the interpretation of the war as offered by the government. They don't necessarily see foreign (ie Russian) aggression. They only know that when a Ukrainian soldier lifts his gun or artillery barrel, it is a compatriot, a fellow Ukrainian, who appears in the gunsight.

Secondly, many people don't want to die for the current government which they view as composed of extreme nationalists and neoliberals. They are unwilling to be cannon fodder dying for the interests of Ukrainian oligarchs whose only apparent interest is to pursue a civil war, siphon Western financial aid and suppress opposition to their rule. A young woman recently voiced this sentiment searingly at a rally held in her village in south-central Ukraine.


Missing from mainstream news: 3 Muslims gunned down in N. Carolina

© Photo from facebook.com
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, all three of whom were killed in Tuesday's shooting.
Three members of a Muslim family in North Carolina's university town of Chapel Hill were gunned down in their home. What some are alleging was a hate crime has sparked grief and anger in the US and beyond.

The victims in the triple homicide have been identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Police responded to a call about gunshots in the family's apartment complex at 5:11 pm Tuesday. The discovered the bodies of the victims, all of whom were pronounced dead at the scene.

Comment: This is absolutely tragic! Such a senseless act on good people doing good for the neighborhood and being gunned down for no reason. An inconceivably mindless act! This is pure evil folks.


Police body cameras rolling in D.C. Is the Hill next?

© www.bloomberg.com
One model of the police body cam.
For a select group of Washington police officers, the cameras are always rolling, capturing their every interaction with the public on film. Soon, the same could go for officers in the two Maryland counties neighboring the District. On the Hill, some key officials are mulling whether the Capitol Police should be next.

The logistics of, and rules for, pinning cameras to the shirts of the roughly 1,800 sworn officers who protect Capitol Hill - a heavily secured site with its own privacy concerns and 535 opinionated lawmakers - would be immensely complicated. So far, there's no indication that the Capitol Police, who declined to comment for this article, will request money for such devices.

Comment: Capitol Hill "with it's own privacy concerns"...well doesn't that say something about them versus all the rest of us?

But Jim Konczos, the head of the union that represents the officers, is interested in pursuing the idea. "With technology changing and just the events throughout the United States, either pro-police or anti-police, cameras actually serve a great function," said Konczos, the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee chairman. "I know a lot of these departments are still trying to work out the privacy aspects, but that's not one individual department, that's going to be the whole program nationwide, but I still think it's a valuable tool."

Comment: In implementing the cam program, will the police be more accountable in their official interactions with the public? Will they offer-up without bias or tend to release particular videos to their benefit? Citizens say that withholding the recordings from the public undermines the transparency and officer accountability.

One example: Los Angeles Police Department doesn't intend to release the recordings unless required by a criminal or civil court proceeding, considers them as evidence and exempt from public release under CA public records law. LAPD noted the Police Commission and Inspector General, along with the district and city attorneys' offices would have the authority to review the recordings (in their spare time? all of them? or only ones with negligible PD error?). They reference a privacy consideration involving police/criminal/victim interaction being made public. This is LA's take on protocol.

With multiple departments in a cam trial period, and rules as you go, it remains to be seen as to whom or what is the final "keeper" of the cache and what the stipulations will be for viewing and release. And in the meantime? ("I know a lot of these departments are still trying to work out the privacy aspects..." " the kinks are still being massaged...")

According to the Police Executive Research Forum recommendations (not official rules), the individual officer is to be responsible for downloading the camera at the end of his/her shift. (That sounds foolproof. This harkens back to Darren Wilson who illegally logged in his own gun after shooting Michael Brown.) And, officers should be permitted to review video footage of an incident in which they were involved, prior to making a statement about the incident. (Unfair advantage?)

When implementing body-worn cameras, law enforcement agencies must balance privacy considerations with the need for police transparency regarding the accurate documentation of events and in the collection of evidence. This means unified decisions as to execution across the nation as to when officers are required to activate cameras, how long recorded data is retained, who has access to the footage, who owns the recorded data, and how to handle internal and external requests for disclosure. So far there seems to be "discretionary interpretation" and "variation in protocol" amongst the participants in all of the above.


Police Chief: Officers' use "pain compliance techniques" on 16-yo boy is "nature of our business"

After reviewing videos uploaded to social media from an incident on Friday the Aspen police chief is defending his officers and saying no further investigation is required.

The unsettling video features police using "pain compliance techniques" on a 16-year-old boy during a marijuana arrest.

The video is just shy of a minute and a half long and does not show the entire encounter. However, the department has stated that the high school student was unarmed and did not exhibit any violent behavior. If he was unarmed, and not violent, why do we allow this child abuse to go unquestioned?

Officer Adam Loudon claims that he was making his rounds alone when he saw the boy rolling what appeared to be a joint at a bus stop by his high school. When he approached the teenager and confronted him about it, the student reportedly did not answer and tucked something into his sleeve.

Loudon then decided that this was probable cause and grounds for arrest. The officer began to cuff the boy who was attempting to back away and like any teen would do, to try to talk his way out of it.

The impatient officer then restrained the boy against the wall of the bus stop and called for back up, apparently incapable of dealing with the nonviolent student on his own.

Approximately three minutes later Chip Seamans and Aspen firefighter Ken Josselyn arrived to aid Loudon with his "pain compliance techniques."

Arrow Down

Indonesian high school students told to undergo 'virginity tests' to graduate

© i100.independent.co.uk
Female high school students wishing to graduate in the Indonesian city of Jember will have to undergo 'virginity tests' under new proposals.

Of course, boys are excluded from any such tests, which officials in the east Javan city want to introduce to prevent high school students from having sex before marriage.

Indonesia has a chequered past with so-called tests, admitting in 2013 that they were mandatory for female recruits wishing to join the military or police.

Human Rights Watch said the 'tests' had been recognised internationally as violations of the right to non-discrimination and the prohibition against "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" under treaties ratified by Indonesia.


Longshore workers have answer for clearing ship congestion: Let us do our jobs

© Zamná Ávila

The Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest container Harbor facility and second-ranked Port of Long Beach, handle about 40 percent of America's imports, with an estimated $1 billion in cargo moving through the ports every day.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region are connected to the two ports.

Terms and conditions of employment for longshore and marine clerk labor at the ports are governed by a contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) which is comprised of stevedoring, shipping, and marine terminal companies. The labor contract expired in July 2014. A new contract is under negotiation.

While dockworkers have continued to work in good faith without a contract since July 1, 2014, PMA has launched a very public attack campaign leaving many people (and many in the media) under the false impression that congestion problems at the ports are a direct result of job actions taken by ILWU. In reality, the problems at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are a result of mismanagement by PMA and its member companies that began before the 2008 labor contract expired.

Within the past six years, port congestion has steadily increased as cargo ships have more than doubled in size and capacity. According to World News (WN.com), the size of cargo vessels crossing the Pacific Ocean have increased in size from two football fields to the equivalent of four football fields.

These megaships require up to eight "gangs" or crews, to handle cargo. However, since July 2014 (when the labor agreement with ILWU expired), PMA, in a mind-boggling move, reduced the number of gangs assigned to large cargo vessels to three, constituting a 75 percent reduction of workers. To make matters even worse, on New Year's Eve 2014, PMA announced an additional reduction in the workforce, assigning only one gang per ship during the night shift. That translates to reducing the number of crews assigned to unloading cargo by a staggering 87 percent. More recently, on Jan.13, 2015, night crews serving vessels were dropped by PMA altogether.

As a direct result of PMA's actions, more than 7,000 full-time longshore workers face steeply reduced hours of work. In addition, about 8,000 part-time or "casual" longshore workers will have little to no work available to them. Such drastic cuts in the workforce not only impact the families of the workers whose hours have been cut, but add to congestion at the port. This congestion financially impacts thousands of local and national businesses that rely on the ports to unload their merchandise in a timely manner.


Hebron is Beautiful: Life through the eyes of a Palestinian teen

The short documentary "Khelil Helwa (Hebron is Beautiful)" follows a young boy from Hebron's Tel Rumeida neighborhood as he goes about his daily life, uncovering the matrix of Israeli military control that defines every aspect of life in the occupied West Bank. For Palestinians, the footage may at first appear somewhat unremarkable, and the scenes of soldiers barking orders and even arresting the film's 15-year-old star, Awni Abu Shamsiya, are heart-breakingly familiar. But for Israeli-American filmmaker Yuval Orr, it was the hope of showing the footage to Israeli audiences that motivated production. "I want Israelis to see more films that challenge what they think they know, or challenge the moral stance that is very easy to take at a distance," he told Ma'an during an interview in West Jerusalem. "How many Jewish Israelis really go to Hebron if they're not soldiers or settlers?"


Great news! Palestine opens first embassy in Western Europe

Palestine opens its first embassy in Western Europe, Swedish PM's press service confirmed.

The Palestinians are opening an embassy in Stockholm Tuesday night. It marks closer ties between the two countries just months after Sweden became the first western EU country to recognise Palestine as a state.

Wall Street

Another JPMorgan banker dies after murder-suicide

By now, there have been so many banker-related suicides that it has become a moot point of i) tracking them all or ii) trying to find a pattern. And yet, one name continues to stand out: JPMorgan. The bank which has been most prominent among the list of "suicided" bankers notched one more casualty over the weekend when "a JPMorgan Chase & Co. employee strangled and stabbed his wife to death before turning the knife on himself, according to police who are treating the couple's death in Bergen County, New Jersey as a murder-suicide."

Bloomberg reports the gruesome details according to which Michael A. Tabacchi, 27, and his wife, Iran Pars Tabacchi, 41, were found dead Friday about 11:30 p.m. in the bedroom of their Closter home after a 911 call placed by the husband's father, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said in an interview. Closter is located in northern New Jersey, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from midtown Manhattan.

Comment: Wonder what he knew that would make him take himself and his wife's life? Fortunately the children were spared.