Just before Thanksgiving, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) issued new “emergency” regulations that overhauled the existing regulations on abortion clinics. These 21 pages of rules give DHH the authority to immediately shut down a clinic without opportunity for appeal, even for simple infractions. Clinics have stated that they would be unable to meet the burdensome and excessive requirements, and this would lead to the closure of all five clinics in Louisiana.

Oh my god, these regulations are the height of impossibility. Among other things, patients have to have certain medical information documented by the clinic a month before their procedure. This is a 30-day waiting period.

Louisiana residents, there is a hearing on Wednesday, January 29 at 9:30 am in Room 118 of the Bienville Building in Baton Rouge. PLEASE submit written comments (the link has sample letters) or get there early wearing purple to match the folks at the New Orleans Abortion Fund.

PETITION TO STOP ANTI-GAY SEGREGATION BILL

Okay so there’s a text post going around about the anti-gay segregation bill in Kansas that has over 40,000 notes already. You can read about what’s going on here. It’s very likely that it’s going to get passed, and the bill is extremely unlawful, with many loopholes to discourage any action to be taken against it.

A petition was started on whitehouse.gov today, which you can view here, to ask the government to take action against this bill. If a text post about the issue can get 40,000 notes in a day, then this petition can definitely get the 100,000 signatures by March 15th of 2014.

Everyone’s help is needed, because this is our country, and this bill doesn’t just affect the LGBT community, it affects every single American and this country in a negative way. 

In fact, the new DHH regulations could decrease patient safety, putting patients at a higher risk of complications. As pregnancy advances, procedures become more involved and more costly, said Ellie Schilling. And because Louisiana already bans abortion after 20 weeks, a patient who seeks a legal abortion at 16 weeks could be forced either to seek an illegal abortion or to forego the procedure altogether after waiting 30 days for a blood test.
— 

Louisiana is attempting to shut down all abortion clinics in the state

No doctors were consulted about the new regulations, nor were abortion providers notified about the new rules. Even general hospitals don’t have regulations like this.

Folks in Louisiana, please get to Baton Rouge for a hearing on Wednesday morning, email abortionfundnola@gmail.com with your comments, or submit your opposition (must be received by Jan. 30) to:

J. Ruth Kennedy

Bureau of Health Services Financing

PO Box 91030

Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0930

NTA Report to Congress Asks for Taxpayer Bill of Rights Legislation

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson submitted her annual report to Congress, and the focus this year is on the levels of taxpayer service.

To be specific, the NTA expresses concern that taxpayers this year are likely to receive the worst levels of taxpayer service since at least 2001 when the IRS first instituted the performance measures it has in place now.

Rather than just focus on the drop in levels of service and provide recommendations to improve the situation, the NTA did one better.

The report recommended that Congress should enact a principles-based Taxpayer Bill of Rights that includes a Right to Quality Service, and provide enough funding to make this right a reality.

The NTA has been urging the IRS to adopt a Taxpayer Bill of Rights since 2007, and the IRS finally did so last year.

With the IRS on-board, a principles-based Taxpayer Bill of Rights as part of the tax law is something that the Republican Congress can hardly refuse, considering all that’s happened in the last year.

Sneaking in a Right to Quality Service, which by definition needs adequate funding for the IRS, is a masterstroke on the part of the NTA.

Here’s the magnitude of the problem - The IRS typically receives more than 100 million telephone calls, 10 million letters, and five million visits at its walk-in sites from taxpayers each year.

The best service in recent years was provided in 2004, when the IRS answered 87 percent of calls from taxpayers seeking to speak with an assistor, and hold times averaged 2.5 minutes.

That year, the IRS prepared nearly 500,000 tax returns for taxpayers who requested help, and maintained an outreach and education program that touched an estimated 72 million taxpayers.

By contrast, IRS service expectations for FY 2015 are as follows:

- The IRS is unlikely to answer even half the telephone calls it receives, and levels of service may average as low as 43 percent;

- Those who do manage to get through are expected to wait on hold for 30 minutes on average and considerably longer at peak times;

- Tax return preparation assistance has been eliminated;

- During the filing season, the IRS will not answer any tax-law questions except “basic” ones.  After the filing season, it will not answer any tax-law questions at all.

A lot of this is directly attributable to budget cuts. The IRS’s budget has been reduced by about 17 percent in inflation-adjusted terms just since FY 2010. This has reduced the agency’s workforce by nearly 12,000 employees, with further reductions in the pipeline during FY 2015. 

To make matters worse, the IRS has reduced the amount it spends on employee training since FY 2010 by 83 percent. A shrinking workforce of employees who are now less equipped to do their jobs is obviously going to lead to a steep drop in service levels.

The report notes that Congress passed taxpayer rights legislation in 1988, 1996, and 1998 but has not passed any significant taxpayer rights legislation in the last 16 years. 

“The National Taxpayer Advocate believes the time is right for taxpayer rights legislation,” the report says.  “The passage of time has shown where new protections are needed.  Without providing these specific taxpayer protections, the [Taxpayer Bill of Rights] becomes merely a statement of principles, without any teeth to ensure that these fundamental rights are protected on a daily basis, and that taxpayers have remedies and the IRS is held accountable for any violations of these rights.”

Read the full annual report submitted to Congress by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson.

Photo credit - taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov

It’s hard to not have your humanity recognized by your own home, by your fellow Idahoans. And really, that’s all we want. We’re asking for so little, just the acknowledgement that we are human beings and that we deserve the same basic rights as everyone else.
—  Mey, our totally badass Trans Editor, testified before the Idaho House about HB2, which would add the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the state’s Human Rights Act.

USARK - United States Association of Reptile Keepers


Read this Lacey Act article by Kassandra Royer of Royer Reptiles. You’ll learn something. Then, comment against the Constrictor Rule if you haven’t at www.usark.org/2014-blog/constrictor-rule-1/. And share!

"There is an ever-expanding piece of law called ‘the Lacey Act’ that has been around since 1900. It was created to help stop the massive slaughter of native game animals for export by commercial hunters. Today, it does a lot more than that, as government likes to keep adding to their lists of things to do.

Perhaps one of the most useless pieces of the Lacey Act is the “Injurious Wildlife List.” Injurious means “causing or likely to cause harm.” The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is responsible for enforcing this monster, defines Injurious Species as: ” Injurious wildlife are mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, mollusks and their offspring or gametes that are injurious to the interests of human beings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States. Plants and organisms other than those listed above cannot be listed as injurious wildlife.”

When a species is added to the Injurious Wildlife list, it makes it a federal crime to transport that species across state lines. You can keep them, breed them and sell them- within your own state- but you can’t take them if you need to move across the country, and you can’t sell them to someone outside your state.

Take a look at the mammals that are currently classified as “Injurious Wildlife”

Flying Fox (Fruit Bat)
Mongoose
European Rabbits 
Raccoon dog
Brushtail possum
Indian Wild Dog aka Dhole
Multimammat mouse aka Soft-furred rat

How many do you recognize? How many have you heard about on the news? Any hint that fruit bats or Indian wild dogs are invading the United States and wreaking havoc? Lots of brushtailed possums damaging agriculture? Seen a mongoose lately? Nope. The only animal you’re probably familiar with on that list is the European Rabbit. They are literally everywhere in the United States. They’re all over, fully established feral populations- but if you transport one across state lines- that would be a federal offense. Nevermind that all the domestic rabbits came from the European rabbit…

The flying fox is invasive in Australia. Brushtailed possums have colonized New Zealand, and the mongoose is invasive on several tropical islands. The Raccoon Dog is invasive in North Europe.
The Indian Wild Dog is not only NOT invasive, it’s now classified as Endangered in what is left of it’s native territory. It is classified as injurious because it kills livestock in it’s home country… A similar situation exists for the multimammate mouse- they cause damage in their native African habitats, but they have not invaded any other countries.

Remember the definition which clearly stated the species had to be detriment to the United States? Only the mongoose qualifies, since they are in Hawaii…though the mongoose was listed 59 years before Hawaii became a state. Legislators heard some scary news from other countries and dropped the ban hammer, with little to no consideration of whether or not those animals actually pose a risk to the U.S.

Now- let’s take note of which mammals are missing from this list:
The wild boar is conspicuously absent. These invasive mammals cause damage to the United States agricultural sector and environment estimated at 1.5 BILLION dollars *per year*. NOT LISTED AS INJURIOUS.

The common house mouse as well as the black and brown rats are NOT native species- we brought them over from Europe! They are responsible for crop and property damage to the tune of over $19 billion dollars a year in the United States. NOT LISTED AS INJURIOUS

Nutria (a beaver sized water rat) are yet another introduced species which can now be found in 40 states. Each year- in the United States, mind you, not some distant country- they are responsible for a minimum of one million dollars worth of damage by wrecking levees, banks and roadbeds with their burrowing activities. NOT LISTED AS INJURIOUS.

You might say, “Well, the rats and nutria have been here forever!” Okay, I see where you are coming from, but remember the Fish & Wildlife Service still thinks the European Rabbit needs to be on the list, and they’ve been around “forever” as well.

Two of the first animals added to the Injurious list were the European Starling and the House Sparrow . Yep- those are also not native to North America! They have displaced native species and have been causing crop damage valued at as much as 800 million per year.- They were removed from the Injurious List in 1960 because regulators realized having them listed ***DID NOTHING*** to prevent them from spreading. You don’t say?

In the 113+ years that the Lacey Act has been around, dozens of species have been added, most of them very damaging aquatic species (fish, mollusks & crustaceans) Since those species can spread themselves without any help just by traveling through waterways, having them listed is virtually useless as well.

It wasn’t until 1990 that a reptile was added to the Injurious Species List- the Brown Tree Snake. You won’t find any in the United States, either. They became invasive in Guam, which, if we are nitpicking- is a US “territory”.

In 2012, more species were added- big, “scary” snakes- the Burmese python, yellow anaconda and two subspecies of African Rock Python. Anacondas have never colonized outside of their native south american habitat, anywhere in the whole world. There are no invasive colonies in the United States today. The same is true of the Rock Pythons.

The Burmese python- due to the destruction of import facilities by Hurricane Andrew in 1992- were able to establish a small colony in the Everglades. It has been 22 years and they have failed to expand outside of southern Florida. Cold spells in the winters of 2008 and 2010 demonstrated that the Everglades Burmese pythons cannot tolerate temperatures near freezing.

Are the Burmese invasive in the Everglades? Absolutely. What is not being said is that a full 25% of the animal life and nearly half of the plant species found in South Florida are NON NATIVE!

Now the Fish & Wildlife Service wants to add even more species to the list! They want to go ahead and throw in the other three species of anaconda- even though they are rare in captivity, and have never, ever established an invasive population- not even in the Everglades! 

They’re also after the famous boa constrictors- which are also not invasive or damaging to anyone, anywhere in the United States. As a matter of fact, there are boas that are native to northern Mexico- if the boa could expand further north, nature would have run that course all by herself! Also on the list- the Reticulated python- which has the impressive record of never having established a colony outside of it’s native range, EVER- and there are no wild colonies in the United States.

These species clearly do not fit the definition of Injurious wildlife given by USF&W- but they do represent people’s pets and a niche industry that focuses on the *captive* breeding of fantastically colored versions of these snakes that sell for thousands of dollars both domestically and overseas.

With over a century of history under it’s belt, it’s glaringly obvious that the Lacey Act is 100% ineffective at preventing the spread of invasive animals in the U.S. Moreover, the law doesn’t even attempt to curb the activity of the absolute worst of the worst injurious wildlife species- instead focusing on those animals with sensational taglines that “might” possibly be injurious. If it were not so injurious to the US Citizen, the Injurious Wildlife list would quite the joke.

Only two things will be accomplished by the addition of these species to the Lacey Act- the destruction of dreams, and the bankrupting of small businesses.

http://www.fws.gov/le/pdf/CurrentListInjuriousWildlife.pdf/" - Kassandra Royer

Thanks, Kassandra! The reptile community is stronger with people such as yourself working on our behalf.

Photo: Boa constrictor longicauda © USARK - United States Association of Reptile Keepers

TEAM Act Seeks Tax Exemptions for Olympic Medalists

Congress is considering a TEAM effort to allow Olympic medal winners to keep their winnings without having to pay Uncle Sam a share of the gold, silver or bronze they bring in.

TEAM as in the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists Act (H.R. 3987), introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb 4, 2014 by Rep. Blake Farenthold from Texas.

Timed to perfection to coincide with the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the purpose of the TEAM Act is very specific – “Amends the Internal Revenue Code to exclude from gross income, for income tax purposes, the value of any medal or prize money received on account of competition in the Olympic Games.”

Unlike other tax law amendments that spill over into large reams of paper and are sure to raise objections from at least half of Washington DC, the TEAM Act is a simple half-page worth of legislation that no one really objects to, if only because no cares about it – other than the medal winners.

If passed into law, the bill becomes retroactively effective as of Dec 31, 2013, which means U.S. Olympic team members returning back from Sochi with medals may not be taxed on their winnings.

The tax they need to pay under current law includes the income tax on the value of the medal they win, plus the prize money they get from the U.S. government.

For the record, the U.S. Olympic Committee awards Olympic team members $25,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver medal and $10,000 for a bronze.

The actual medal itself is not really a factor, because it doesn’t have that much intrinsic value based on the market prize of the metal.

The Sochi gold medal contains just 6 grams of gold with a 999 hallmark, while most of the rest is. All told, the podium value of the Sochi gold medal is around $566.

The Sochi silver medal is worth only about $323. The bronze medal, made of copper, tin and zinc, is worth is $3.25.

So, basically, as far as income tax on Olympic medals is concerned, it’s a non-issue and its inclusion in the proposed bill is a complete waste.

That leaves the question of taxing the prize money. That would depend on the tax bracket into which the medal winner falls. Most first-time medal winners are young and not wealthy enough to fall under the 35 percent bracket or even the 28 percent bracket.

Let’s say a gold medal winner adds taxable income of $25,566 in the 25 percent bracket, which means $6391.50 in taxes. Even this could more than be balanced out by showing deductions for training, equipment and other expenses related to the income.

Practically speaking, this bill isn’t going to make the IRS cash counters go ka-ching, so to speak. But it’s a good motivator for athletes to try and bring home more medals.  

Photo - sochi2014.com            

Vote no on Michigan Senate Bill 0004

An open letter to Judiciary Committee Members: Sen. Rick Jones, Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, Sen. Tory Rocca, Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Sen. Steven M Bieda

Did you know that you can be fired or denied housing in 29 states just for being or being perceived as gay? Even more ludicrous is that any company can fire you if your relative is gay. In 31 states you can get fired for being transgender or transexual. There are just no legal protections. [1]

This is highlighted in Michigan by a recent article of Rolling Stone that ran on November 24th entitled, “The 5 Worst States for LGBT People”. Michigan was the fifth worst state, beating Tennessee and North Dakota out for this “honor”. The main reason (among many reasons) is that Michigan has a disproportionate hate crime rate on the LGBT community, largely targeting transgender women of color. [2] Transgender individuals are about 400 times more at risk to be assaulted, murdered or commit suicide than the rest of the population. [3]

We can improve conditions for the LGBTQ community by updating Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Act. Act 453 of 1976 guaranteed protection for religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. [4] However it appears the Michigan Congress has plans otherwise. Last month, the State House passed a dangerous bill, Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (House Bill 5958, 2014). This bill died in the Senate when the legislative session ended. Senate Bill 0004 [5] appears to start up where that bill failed.

Senate Bill 0004 would legalize discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Under this legislation, a police officer could refuse to defend a mosque or synagogue, a guidance counselor could deny help to a gay student, or a landlord could refuse to rent to a single mother based on their religious beliefs. Senate Bill 0004 falsely claims to protect religious freedoms that are already protected by the current Elliott Larsen Act.

It is my belief that ALL humans should have the basic human rights afforded by the constitution. LGBT people live in every part of the world and are hard working members of society. By expanding the Elliott Larsen Act, it will give LGBT people a sense of dignity and allow them to better contribute to our economy.

Sincerely, 
David Ano
27600 Marquette St
Garden City, MI 48135
734-338-6790

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/30/fired-for-being-gay_n_6076492.html

[2] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-5-worst-states-for-lgbt-people-20141124#ixzz3KlfHpBD1 

[3] http://www.transviolencetracker.org

[4] https://www.michigan.gov/documents/act_453_elliott_larsen_8772_7.pdf

[5] http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(2duqlrvaud52yqmzkapqtx55))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=2015-SB-0004

Contact Your Michigan Senator at
http://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html

Contact Your Michigan House Representative at
http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/

What’s on the 2014 Tax Law Agenda

The year gone by was unusually productive in terms of changes in tax law. The 800-pound gorilla was obviously the set of tax provisions that came into effect under the Affordable Care Act. But Congress managed to upstage the ACA by doing nothing and letting 55 tax provisions expire on Dec 31.

The question now is - What’s going to happen in 2014? The Godzilla and King Kong of this year’s tax law agenda in front of Congress are tax reform and the Marketplace Fairness Act.  

Tax Reform – Tax reform has been in the works for years without being taken seriously by Congress or by the taxpayers.

All the drama over fiscal cliffs, shutdowns and sequestration in 2013 forced people to sit up and take notice of tax reform as a possible permanent solution to the mess.

However, Senator Max Baucus, the main point man who was handling tax reform, is being packed off to China as the next Ambassador, which is not good news for people hoping to see a tax reform bill being voted on this year.

Marketplace Fairness Act – With Godzilla dead, the focus will shift to the Internet sales tax to be implemented on online sales under the framework provided by the Marketplace Fairness Act.

This is virtually a done deal, since Congress is behind the curve on this one. Online retailers such as Amazon have already worked out separate deals with individual states. Many of the deals Amazon has agreed to actually came into effect on Jan 1, 2014.

Implementation of the Marketplace Fairness Act therefore merely makes the process more orderly for both businesses and the states.

International Tax Avoidance – One of the watershed moments of 2013 was Switzerland agreeing to allow their banks to cooperate with U.S. tax authorities as required under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

It effectively knocks down the wall of secrecy behind which untold billions are tucked away by U.S. citizens in offshore accounts all over the world.

The next stage takes it further with a proposed network of bilateral agreements between nations to share tax data and unearth complicated tax avoidance schemes by corporate taxpayers.

This is a complex issue agreed upon by world leaders at the G-20 Summit. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake and the plan required to be implemented by 2015, Congress is likely to take it up in 2014, even if only to decide what happens with the money.    

Tax Extensions – Unless tax reform takes care of everything in a single bill, many of the 55 tax provisions that were allowed to expire on Dec 31 will soon be revived through amendments attached to one of the other big bills.

The only question is about when this will happen. It’s an election year, so nothing much is going to happen in the last quarter.

The extensions have to be done now in January while the lapsed provisions are still newsworthy. If not, other items will take center-stage and the extensions will be pushed back again and again to near the end of the third quarter, at which point it gets a lot more difficult to get anything passed.

Photo credit – senate.gov

I felt this list was incredibly important to see, so instead of linking the page I decided to link it then copy-through the list of cases..
It’s interesting to me that the majority of these rape accusations result from women being dishonest with their loved ones (cheating, or lying to their family members) and allowing it to escalate. 
And then there’re just the vindictive girls who seem to have no discernible motive.
—————————————————————————————————
●Devin LaSalle, a father of three who coached his sons’ sports team, had a consensual affair with Tracy Roberson. One night, Ms. Roberson’s husband interrupted them during a tryst, and Ms. Roberson lied to her husband that Mr. LaSalle was raping her. The husband shot Mr. LaSalle dead. Ms. Roberson, not her husband, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison. Her attorney fumed: “The wrong person went to prison.” See here andhere.

●Cory Headen, 19, was beaten to death with a baseball bat while he slept by another 19-year-old who wrongly believed a girl’s rape lie. See here.

●A 15-year-old girl told her father and a 20-year-old man that another 20-year-old man had raped her twice in November 2012. The girl sent a text message to the accused, inviting him to a park. At the park, the girl and a friend met the accused man, summoned him to the restroom area, and asked him to wait as they used the restroom. At the prompting of the girl, the other 20-year-old man, who had been hiding nearby, began assaulting the victim with a wooden baseball bat. The girls had brought the bat to the park. See here.

●Sumbo Owoiya was just 18 years old when he gunned down while looking through the peep hole of his front door. The killer was exacting vengeance because a 15-year-old girl lied that Sumbo had raped her. See here.

●Cody Wightman, 25, incurred the wrath of Felisha Hardison, 25, when Hardison along with her mother, picked up a group of young men, ages 19-22, and drove them to Mr. Wightman’s home. Hardison and her mother then sat in their minivan while the young men proceeded to kick in Mr. Wightman’s front door, then punch and kick him, and finally, beat him with a claw hammer. You see, Hardison had told the young men that Mr. Wightman had raped her. Police say the rape claim was false. It turns out that several weeks before the attack on Mr. Wightman, Hardison had falsely accused another man of raping her. See here.

●Johran McCormick, 17, was shot to death after his 16-year-old girlfriend sneaked him into her bedroom. When the girl’s father caught the boy in the room, the daughter claimed she didn’t know him. The father then called 911, but an argument ensued and the father shot the teenage boy to death. See here.

●A Quiznos worker was gunned down because a 23-year-old woman lied to her boyfriend that he had raped her — the lie was told in an attempt to cover up the fact that the woman was two-timing her boyfriend. See here.

●Gypsies were displaced from their homes when their camp was burned down outside of Turin — the fire was started to avenge a supposed rape after a 16-year-old girl falsely claimed she had been raped by two men. She lied to conceal the fact that she had lost her virginity to her Italian boyfriend. See here.

●On a steamy day in June of 2009, an innocent man named Michael Zenquis was beaten by an angry mob after he was wrongly accused of raping an 11-year-old girl. In light of this despicable atrocity to an innocent man, what did the mayor and the police commissioner do? Nothing. Worse, the next day, a different mob caught up with the actual rapist and gave him a brutal beating that lasted several minutes until the police got there. The police gave two of the men who helped “apprehend” the rapist $5,750 each. See here and here.

●After a rape case was thrown out because, the judge said, the accuser’s evidence was “deeply flawed,” the accused 19-year-old was beaten, given two black eyes, shouted at, spat at, called “scum,” told to “dig his own grave,” and was forced into hiding. He could not get a job because of the allegation. See here.

●The girlfriend of Regan Scott Derrick, 27,  returned home after a Saturday night out with some of her friends. She was vomiting and crying, and she lied to Mr. Derrick that she had been date raped and robbed by some men. Mr. Derrick assembled a posse of friends to dish out some vigilante justice and to repossess the stolen items. They barged into the house where the supposed offenders were, and a violent altercation ensued. No one was killed, but Mr. Derrick was convicted of injuring with intent. Mr. Derrick said he was “shocked and horrified” when he learned his girlfriend had lied. See here.

●A 17-year-old boy was stabbed three times — in the chest, abdomen, and hand — outside the high school he attended by the father of a female classmate after the girl falsely accused him of being a witness to her alleged rape. The girl later admitted she lied about being raped to avoid getting in trouble for going to a party. The boy recovered; the father was sentenced to six years imprisonment. The news articles named the boy but not his false accuser. See here,here  and here.

●A rampaging mob of armed youths wearing masks attacked homes and cars during rioting sparked by a false rumor that a young girl had been raped by two East European men in a shop. The tale eventually morphed into a monstrous lie that a girl had been held hostage for three days and gang-raped by 25 Asian men. The violence ended only when one gang member accidentally shot and killed another gang member. See here.
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