California Gov. Jerry Brown reached a budget deal Tuesday night, without Republican support, which forces online retailers, particularly Amazon.com, to collect sales tax on purchases made by California residents. Three sales tax bills, incorporated into AB 28X, were approved Wednesday by Gov. Brown, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, just a few hours before Brown approved the new tax, Amazon issued a notice to all Amazon Associates in California that the company will have to “terminate” their program in the state if AB 28X passes.
Amazon has terminated programs in other states because of similar legislation. Those states include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas.
Amazon Associates participants and other web-based companies are likely to suffer.
The Coalition to Protect Small Business Jobs appealed to Gov. Brown not to sign the bill into law. They argue the bill makes it “harder” to “compete with larger retailers on the web.”
Cal Watchdog reported that 25,000 businesses could find themselves shutting down."Supporters of online sales taxes claim the state will earn an additional $150 million in tax revenue. But former state senator and current Board of Equalization member George Runner says that the punitive online tax bills would cut into the $124 million in tax revenue paid last year in by small California business affiliates, and would chase the online affiliate businesses out of California forever."
In an attempt to squeeze more taxes from small businesses, California could wind up killing those same businesses.
Amazon, which has called the tax “unconstitutional,” also pointed out in their message to Associates that similar legislation in other states “has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue.”
What do you think about the tax? Will it help or harm California?
June 29, 2011
June 24, 2011
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would order the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. The remaining 33,000 are set to leave no later than September 2012, just two months before the presidential election.Read the full interview here.
Many of those returning from overseas will undoubtedly face challenges, including physical and mental health problems, as they re-enter civilian life.
Jeremy Williams, a behavioral health program coordinator with the Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA Houston), advocates for the rights of military servicemen and women who are now returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Williams, a retired Marine who was wounded in the line of duty, has been honored by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans as a National Military Scholar and awarded the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Marine Corps League for his service to veterans.
Williams explains what resources are available to wounded warriors as well as the challenges troops face as they return from abroad. He stressed that the situation of American veterans is “just as important of a social issue as obesity, cancer and racism.”
What resources does the Mental Health America of Greater Houston offer to veterans?
Jeremy Williams: In 2009, MHA Houston was tasked by then Houston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Commissioner Ed Emmet to address the gaps in veterans’ mental health services in the Greater Houston Area. MHA in collaboration with over 70 federal, state, and local agencies to formulate an action plan and implement recommendations within the community to improve the care of Houston’s population of returning OEF/OIF veterans. Since early 2010 some of these facets within the Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative included the following elements: Implementing a suicide prevention campaign, and assisting in the implementation of a Veterans Court, to divert veterans with a criminal charge in lieu of treatment for their service related mental health concerns. Other resources include MHA’s Information and referral line and our pro bono counseling service to those who qualify. MHA has also distributed countless amounts of our resource guides through out the veterans’ community via the Houston VA Medical Center. ...
The Republican-led House sent a mixed message in the last two votes Friday afternoon, voting down a bill that would have restricted America’s involvement in the effort in Libya while also voting against a bill that would express support for it.Read it all here.
The measure to express support for the mission in Libya, which was backed by the White House, was defeated in a 295-123 decision. Republicans largely opposed the measure while 70 Democrats voted against it.
Jay Carney, White House press secretary, was “disappointed” with the vote, saying the “writing is on the wall” for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. “Now is not the time to let up,” said Carney.
Despite the lack of support for U.S. presence in Libya reflected by the vote, the House rejected a Republican-authored bill in a 238-190 vote that would restrict funding for the mission in Libya. The majority of Democrats voted no while Republicans votes yes by a smaller margin.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “pleased that a very important statement was made today by the house, on a bipartisan basis, that recognizes the need for us to continue this important mission.”
Lawmakers increasingly voiced their opposition to the effort today before and after the votes. ...
It’s a trial that never should have been—no matter what one thinks about Wilders.Read it all here.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has described the Islamic faith as “fascist,” has been acquitted of inciting hatred against Muslims.
Wilders has previously said that it was not he who was put on trial but his “freedom of speech,” arguing Western values are at stake in the Netherlands.
Wilders, who identifies as an agnostic, leads an anti-Islam Freedom Party that has enjoyed growing support in the Netherlands. The Dutch MP first courted controversy with his film "Fitna," a short piece that juxtaposes passages from Islamic holy texts and grisly scenes of terrorism perpetrated by Islamic Totalitarian organizations.
As a result of his activism Wilders was not allowed to enter the United Kingdom for several months, with the ban lifted in late 2009. Just a few months prior to banning Wilders the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary allowed a radical Lebanese propagandist, who calls for violence and terrorism in the name of Islam, to enter the U.K. The important distinction is that Wilders, whether or not one agrees with him, does not advocate for violence. ...
June 17, 2011
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has received unexpected support from long-time climate change advocate and former vice president Al Gore over Romney’s position that human activities have contributed to climate change.
“Good for Mitt Romney though we've long passed the point where weak lip-service is enough on the Climate Crisis,” Gore wrote on his blog. “While other Republicans are running from the truth, he is sticking to his guns in the face of the anti-science wing of the Republican Party.”
However, the praise from Gore could stir up further criticism from conservatives who oppose Romney’s Massachusetts health care law. The law has often been compared to President Obama’s controversial health care reform that passed last year and lauded by Democrats who support health care reform.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the front-runner for the 2012 GOP nomination.
Not particularly effective, apparently.Read it all here.
Two women who are accused of violating France’s so-called “burka ban” could not appear in court because they refused to remove their head and face covering, according to the French news service AFP.
The women, who will only identify themselves by their first names, are from Aulnay-sour-Bois, a Paris suburb. Each woman faces a charge of “covering her face in a public place.”
If they are eventually convicted they each could face a fine of 150 euros and compulsory citizenship classes.
Some Western nations already have laws, implemented to varying degrees, which prohibit covering one’s face in public. Other nations, particularly in the European Union, are considering legislation that would prevent wearing clothing in public that covers the face, including Islamic garments which cover the face.
Officials cite safety and security concerns. ...
A Saudi official has told the news service AFP that Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s besieged president, will not be returning to Yemen. Saleh is in Saudi Arabia where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.Read it all here.
“It has not been decided where he will stay,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the AFP.
But Yemeni government officials have denied the claims, stating that they expect the president to return to Yemen within a few days.
On June 3 Saleh sustained injuries from a bomb explosion at a mosque inside of his presidential compound in Sana’a. He was flown to Riyadh the following day on a Saudi medical aircraft and has not been in public since.
Saleh’s deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has been met with demands from protesters to put into place an interim ruling council. The council would prevent Saleh’s return to power. ...
June 14, 2011
On Friday, following a two-year-old request, the state of Alaska released more than 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin's emails.
The messages, from both a state and private Yahoo account, were sent during the former Alaska governor’s term from 2006 to 2008.
So what do the emails show? Nothing, really. At least not yet.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that there are very few emails from Palin’s first month in office, which has led officials to investigate the alleged gap.
Palin isn’t worried about the emails.
“I think every rock in the Palin household that could ever be kicked over and uncovered anything, it's already been kicked over,” Palin said on "Fox News Sunday" earlier this month. “I don't think there's anything private in our family now. A lot of those emails obviously weren't meant for public consumption. They are between staff members. They're probably between family members.”
On a personal level, the messages show the former vice presidential hopeful is a likable person who cares about her family. She was the recipient of nasty messages and death threats in the run up to the 2008 presidential race and worried about the media’s treatment of her family. Nothing in the slew of messages is shocking or new.
So what’s the point of the irrational witch-hunt against Palin?
Chances are she won’t run for president. If she did, she is unlikely to win the GOP nomination.
As the Daily Telegraph’s Toby Harnden notes, the emails paint her as an “idealistic” woman who is “slightly bemused by the world of politics.” Hardly a nefarious individual worthy of such negative scrutiny.
June 10, 2011
Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said Thursday that his office is gathering evidence on rapes perpetrated by the Gaddafi regime. Moreno-Ocampo said that he is becoming “more convinced” due to evidence that Libyan authorities purchased “Viagra-type” medications to give to Libyan troops.Read it all here.
“Now we are getting some information that Gaddafi himself decided to rape, and this is new," said Moreno-Ocampo.
A decision from judges on the request to charge the Libyan leader with crimes against humanity is expected within days.
“We had doubts at the beginning but now we are more convinced that he decided to punish using rapes,” Moreno-Ocampo told reporters. ...
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is adamant about staying in the race despite the resignations from his top aides yesterday. Speaking to reporters, Gingrich acknowledged Friday that he and his staffers “had a strategic disagreement about how to run a campaign.”Read it all here.
The former House Speaker also posted a message on the social networking site Facebook Friday where he wrote that he still intends to run.
“As someone who has been in public life for nearly forty years, I know full well the rigors of campaigning for public office,” Gingrich wrote. “I will endure them. I will carry the message of American renewal to every part of this great land, whatever it takes.”
Gingrich recently came under fire for leaving the country to take a two-week cruise to the Greek islands just after announcing his campaign tour.
The former House Speaker addressed that criticism Friday. ...
June 9, 2011
On Thursday, despite questions over whether such an invitation was appropriate, President Barack Obama met with President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, a small West African nation whose government is accused of rampant human rights abuses and systemic corruption. The meeting, which was private, took place in the Oval Office.Read it all here.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Gabon's president has a “less than sterling” record. Carney also said that Gabon holds a "rotating presidency on the U.N. Security Council" and said the U.S. considers Gabon to have voted in ways which are "very helpful" in the United Nations.
According to an ABC News report, the White House considered Thursday's meeting “very important” due to Gabon’s “reform efforts” which Obama’s administration supports.
Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected president after his father, Omar Bongo, died two years ago. Bongo’s family empire, according to ABC News, is “allegedly the product of corruption” and has an estimated worth of hundreds of millions of dollars. ...
Last December, without notifying users, Facebook began using a facial recognition feature that suggests tags to friends on pictures, according to USA Today.
The feature, called Tag Suggestions, has prompted criticism from privacy critics over Facebook's failure to alert users to the change. Users can only change their settings after the fact, as the facial recognition setting is applied without consent.
According to the New York Times, the facial recognition feature has prompted privacy inquiries. The European Union data-protection regulators will be investigating Facebook Inc. over the facial recognition feature. In the United States, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy watchdog group, is planning to file a complaint this week with the Federal Trade Commission.
The New York Times reported that the Washington-based group is expected to be file their complaint Wednesday or Thursday, according to the EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg. The Times also said that a spokesperson for Facebook, Andrew Noyes, declined to comment on EPIC's plans to file an F.T.C. complaint.
Meanwhile, users can turn the facial recognition setting off in privacy settings underneath the “Things other share” menu.
- At the top right hand corner of your page, select the "Account" tab
- Click "Privacy settings"
- Select "Customize settings"
- Scroll down the page to "Things others share"
- Select "Edit settings" next to "Suggest photos of me to friends" and "Disable" the feature from the dropdown menu
June 7, 2011
U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay slammed Australia following a six-day visit in May.
Pillay said there is a “racial discriminatory element” in Australia, attacking the country’s refugee policies and their treatment of Australian Aborigines.
“I come from South Africa and lived under this, and am every way attuned to seeing racial discrimination," said Pillay, who was an anti-apartheid campaigner in South Africa.
In response to the claims, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer went on the record on Canada’s Sun News TV where he argued that Pillay has a record of ignoring the world’s worst abusers.
On Tuesday UN Watch published a summary of study findings that examined Pillay’s statements from September 2008 to June 2010. According to the findings, Pillay has shown a “questionable sense of priorities” and failed to show concern for victims for some of the most oppressive nations.
Here’s an excerpt:Ms. Pillay turned a blind eye to most of the world’s worst abusers. She made no statement on the human rights situations of 146 countries. She failed to voice any concern for victims in 34 countries rated “Not Free” by Freedom House—meaning those with the worst records, and the most needy victims. She failed to criticize another 50 countries rated “partly free” and 63 countries rated “free.” Among the countries not criticized: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville), Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mauritania, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Read the full summary of the findings here.
June 3, 2011
Eman al-Obeidy, the Libyan woman who accused 15 men from Muammar Gaddafi’s military of raping and beating her in March, has been expelled from Qatar where she and her family sought refuge. Al-Obeidy, who has become a symbol of resistance, was deported by Qatari authorities to Benghazi on Thursday.Read it all here.
Al-Obeidy said officials in the Transitional National Council had pressured Qatar to deport her, according to CNN. She also said Qatari officials had beaten, handcuffed and forced her onto a Qatari military plane.
U.S.-based Libyan opposition activist Nasha Dawaji told CNN that al-Obeidy had arrived in Benghazi with signs of physical abuse.
"Al-Obeidy had a black eye, like she had been punched, Dawaji said. She also had bruises on her legs and scratches on her arms," CNN’s report said.
In a written statement, Human Rights Watch, an independent NGO, criticized Qatar’s forced return of the alleged victim. ...
Michigan pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian, dubbed Dr. Death for assisting more than 100 people to end their lives, died early Friday. Kevorkian, 83, was being treated for pneumonia and kidney problems at a hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.Read it all here.
In a 1998 60 Minutes interview, Kevorkian showed a videotape in which he administered a lethal injection to a patient who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.
“Somebody has to do something for suffering humanity,” Kevorkian said at the time. “I put myself in my patients' place. This is something I would want.”
Although he was charged with murder several times, Kevorkian was not convicted until 1999 over the death of a 52-year-old ALS sufferer to whom Kevorkian administered a lethal injection. Kevorkian served 8 years of a 10 to 20 year sentence.
Following his release from prison, Kevorkian swore not to participate in any more physician-assisted suicides. In recent years he spoke out in favor of changing state laws to allow patients' "right to die."
The debate over physician-assisted suicide remains a controversial subject. ...
June 1, 2011
Today is the 70th anniversary of the Farhud, a "violent dispossession" or pogrom against Iraq's Jews which took place on June 1, 1941.Read it all here.
Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and one of the initial members of the Muslim Brotherhood, became a Nazi agent after meeting Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, in 1937. With Nazi funds al-Husseini organized the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, which led to the British stopping Jewish immigration to modern day Israel. This facilitated the "Final Solution" by closing off the avenue of refuge. In 1941, the mufti orchestrated a short-lived, Nazi-backed generals' coup in Iraq. The coup was followed by the Farhud, a pogrom against Baghdad's Jews.
The Mufti obtained Hitler's assurance in November 1941 that after dealing with the Jews of Europe, Hitler would treat the Jews of the Middle East similarly.
In a two-day period Arab mobs went on a rampage in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. 150 Jews were killed and more than 2,000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted; and hundreds of Jewish-owned shops were robbed and destroyed.
My paternal grandfather with his sons in the late 1950s.
My older family members recall witnessing how Iraqi soldiers pulled small children away from their parents and ripped the arms off young girls to steal their bracelets; pregnant women were raped and their stomachs cut open. My grandfather hid his baby brother underneath his t-shirt when the violence began and ran home. My great-grandfather saved his entire family during the riots that broke out in Baghdad by claiming to be a Muslim when Iraqi troops came into their home with the intent of looting, raping, and killing.
Eventually, when being a Jew was practically criminalized, my father's family escaped to Israel with only the clothes on their backs—their belongings were confiscated—leaving behind everything that they knew....