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Eye 1

Hakan Yaman: 'They hit me and gouged out my eye with something sharp'

Hakan Yaman
© Nurcan Volkan/Demotix/Corbis
Hakan Yaman lost one eye and only has 20% eyesight in the other following the attack.
It was a Monday night in early June. Protesters will remember it as the night they celebrated the occupation of Istanbul's central Taksim Square and the adjacent Gezi Park after a weekend of clashes with the police in what was arguably the largest wave of protests in recent Turkish history.

But Hakan Yaman, neither a protester nor a political activist, remembers it as the night Turkish policemen tortured him on the street, gouging out his eye and left him for dead on a smouldering fire. Now he is fighting for justice.

Yaman, 38 - a minibus driver hurrying home from work - was trying to avoid the demonstrations when he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. "I walked fast to get home. The street was empty at that moment. Only one [water cannon] was there, waiting."

The jet of water hit him without warning, followed by a teargas canister to his stomach, from very close range. "I doubled over, I could not breathe," Yaman remembers. "Then around five policemen were coming towards me, but I was unable to move."

The police officers started to beat and repeatedly hit him on his head and face and he fell to the floor. "They continued hitting me very hard, with their batons, with their fists and I am not sure what else. Then one of them gouged my eye out with something sharp. It just burst and started bleeding."

Arrow Up

Happy holidays! Unpublicized new tax surcharges set to kick in under obamacare

Millions of Americans are facing hidden tax surcharges on their insurance premiums under President Barack Obama's healthcare law as well as new health-related taxes on their income tax bills, the New York Post reports.

Some health insurance companies are not informing patients about the Obamacare taxes, instead deciding to quietly pass them on to its customers. But Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama has revealed the taxes on its bills with a separate line item for "Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes."

According to the report quoting Kaiser Health News, the surprise taxes on one customer's bill was $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, which increased the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that person.

The two percent tax on customers for every health plan is expected to net about $8 billion for the government in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion in 2018.

There's also a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical research trust fund called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. As for insurers, they have to pay a 3.5 percent user fee to sell medical plans on the HealthCare.gov website.

The Post says Obamacare supporters may point out that federal subsidies for low-income families will cover the taxes and pay a large part of the actual premiums.

However, there's also another Obamacare tax that people don't know about. Americans who have to buy medical devices like pacemakers, stents and prosthetic limbs will have to fork over a 2.3 percent medical device tax.

Another hidden expense will affect Americans who have to pay out a large share of their annual income for medical costs. Currently, Americans are allowed to deduct medical expenses higher than 7.5 percent of their incomes. But that figure leaps to 10 percent under Obamacare, which will cost taxpayers $15 billion over 10 years, says the Post.

For some Americans there will also be an increase in Medicare tax. Individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000 will have 0.9 percent surtax over the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax.

Furthermore, these high-earning Americans will also pay an extra 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains, adds the Post.

Pistol

Distraught Bronze Star-winning stepdad who shot girl dead 'as she tried to sneak into the house' could face no charges under 'Make My Day' law

  • 2nd Lt Daniel Meade, 29, has been identified as the stepfather who shot his daughter in Colorado Springs Monday
  • Kiana O'Neil, 14, was entering the home when her stepfather shot her and it's unclear as to whether he mistook her for a burglar
  • Police say the girl was struck in the chest and stomach
  • Colorado residents are allowed to own guns and fire at intruders as part of the 'Make My Day' law instated in 1985
  • It has yet to be decided whether or not charges will be filed against Mr Meade
  • Officer served in Iraq and earned a Bronze Star and a dozen other awards in the course of 10 years

Light Saber

Israeli actors refuse to perform at West Bank settlement theater

Sarit Vino-Elad
© Ben Kaminsky/Epoch Times
Sarit Vino-Elad refused to perform at a West Bank theater.
A trio of Israeli stage actors is refusing to perform in an acclaimed play before a theater in a West Bank Jewish settlement, part of a burgeoning domestic movement against the government's settlement policies.

The protest mirrors a global movement against the settlements that has put Israel's government in an increasingly difficult situation as the current round of peace talks with the Palestinians continues.

The international community, including the U.S., has long considered Israeli construction of homes for Jews in the West Bank, captured territory claimed by the Palestinians, as an obstacle to peace.

This sentiment, long held also by Israel's dovish left, now appears to be gaining steam at home following a string of harsh global condemnations of settlement construction in recent months. Some on Israel's left fear the scale of the settlements soon will pass the tipping point where a pullout may become too difficult, and Israel will be forced to essentially absorb the West Bank and its millions of Palestinians.

In a joint statement, the Cameri and Beit Lessin theaters said that three cast members in their production of "Best Friends" had asked to be excused from performing at the cultural center in Ariel, a settlement built deep inside the West Bank. It said they were granted exemptions and will be replaced by alternates, allowing the show to go on.

One of the actresses, Sarit Vino-Elad, said she could not bring herself to step foot in a theater built on occupied land and which posed an obstacle to peace with Palestinians.

"This is not a boycott. It's my own little protest against a government policy that continues to build settlements," she told The Associated Press. "They are trying to make Ariel part of the consensus, but as far as I am concerned it is not legitimate. You want me to perform there? Solve the problem."

Israel is particularly sensitive to such sentiments as it is constantly battling against international efforts to impose economic, cultural and academic boycotts upon it over the settlements. Defenders of Israel say it is a victim of orchestrated campaigns to delegitimize it and hold it to a double standard over its policies.

But such arguments seem to be facing an uphill struggle. Last week, the American Studies Association, a 3,800-member group of American scholars, endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities.

Previously, the Dutch water company Vitens, the largest supplier of drinking water in the Netherlands, decided to cut ties with Israel's national water carrier over its operations in West Bank settlements. The European Union recently forced Israel to make guarantees that special European research funds would not be spent in the settlements. The EU is also considering measures to clearly label products made in the settlements, a move that could harm sales.

Lately, Israeli settlements are also coming under increasing scrutiny at home.

Mr. Potato

Israel: Bizarre paths to nowhere

The Israeli television program Tzinor Layla (Night Tube) asked viewers to share photos of the most bizarre construction they could find in their towns. Find they did, and the photos they shared will inspire the age-old question, "What were they thinking?"

Here are some examples of the paths to nowhere, such as the staircase that leads to a ceiling at a Haifa school:
Image
© Israel Channel 10/Tzinor Layla
Stairway to heaven? Not quite!

Snow Globe Xmas

Grinch Hysteria: 87-year old man known for 6 million Christmas light display shot dead

Image
© WMUR
An 87-year-old man who was known for his 6 million light Christmas display was found shot to death in his Windsor, Conn., home, police said.

A family member found John Chakalos dead in his home Friday, police said in a statement.

Police said they are conducting a homicide investigation because a weapon was not recovered at the scene, and due to the the way the victim's body was positioned.

Comment:




Megaphone

Four-star general screams at reporter working on Snowden documents

techdirt reporter
Pretty much everyone who's seen the movie "A Few Good Men," (and probably many of you who haven't even seen the movie) are familiar with the famous "you can't handle the truth!" scene in which Colonel Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson explodes at Tom Cruise's character, suggesting that military men, like himself, who are on the front lines are the only ones who can truly understand what happens there in "protecting" the country, and that it's somehow despicable that anyone who hasn't done that might question the methods used -- even if they might be completely against the law.

We already wrote about Barton Gellman's fantastic interview with Ed Snowden, but there's another tidbit I wanted to call attention to in there, in which Gellman tells the story of a four-star general having a similar explosion towards an unnamed reporter "in contact with Snowden" -- which seems likely to be Gellman himself (it's unclear why this isn't indicated, though perhaps it's an excessive attempt to stick to the journalistic convention of keeping the reporter out of the story):

At the Aspen Security Forum in July, a four-star military officer known for his even keel seethed through one meeting alongside a reporter he knew to be in contact with Snowden. Before walking away, he turned and pointed a finger.

"We didn't have another 9/11," he said angrily, because intelligence enabled warfighters to find the enemy first. "Until you've got to pull the trigger, until you've had to bury your people, you don't have a clue."


Arrow Down

Wood burning in fireplace banned in SF Bay area over Christmas

Image
© Jussi Nukari/AFP/Getty Images
Put away the chestnuts; the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has announced that wood burning will be banned in the region on Christmas Eve - and possibly on Christmas Day, too.

Tuesday will be the 17th "Winter Spare the Air" day of the season, and the air district will decide that day whether wood burning will also be banned on Christmas.

"The weather forecast looks like we might see another Spare the Air day for Christmas Day," air district spokesman Tom Flannigan said.

He explained that winds are light, and the weather is forecast to be dry and mild in the region mid-week. The stagnant air has allowed pollutants to accumulate close to the ground, making the air unhealthy to breathe, Flannigan said.

"We haven't been seeing the rain we usually get that helps clean out the air," he said

Eye 1

Montana judge strikes again, gives writing assignment to girlfriend-hitting man

montana judge
© Larry Mayer/AP
Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh has brought down another unusual punishment — demanding that an assault convict write out 'Boys do not hit girls' 5,000 times. The judge is known for the one-month prison sentence he gave to a teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old.

Besides the school-like punishment, District Judge Todd Baugh sentenced Pacer Ferguson to six months in jail and to pay $3,800 in restitution for fracturing a woman's face in three places. Baugh previously sentenced a teacher to one month in jail for raping a student.

The reviled Montana judge who gave a rapist one month in prison has sentenced a man convicted of punching his girlfriend to write "Boys do not hit girls" 5,000 times....


Roses

Alan Turing, code-breaker castrated for homosexuality, receives royal pardon

Image
© Guardian
Alan Turing, a British code-breaker during World War II who was later subjected to chemical castration for homosexual activity, has received a royal pardon nearly 60 years after he committed suicide.

Turing was best known for developing the Bombe, a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by German machines. His work is considered by many to have saved thousands of lives and helped change the course of the war.

"Dr. Turing deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science," British Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement Tuesday. "A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."

Turing's castration in 1952 -- after he was convicted of homosexual activity, which was illegal at the time -- is "a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed," Grayling said.

Two years after the castration, which Turing chose to avoid a custodial sentence, he ended his life at the age of 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.