November 14, 2019

Court Of Appeals Rules Against Trump Tax Returns, He Must Submit Them to Congress

 There are more than just a couple of years of income taxes



A U.S. appeals court opened the door for Congress to gain access to eight years of President Trump's tax records, setting the stage for a likely review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to re-visit an earlier rulingby a three-judge panel that allowed Congress to subpoena the president's tax records. The House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed those records in March.
The divided three-judge panel ruled in October that the House had a legitimate legislative pursuit in seeking Trump's personal tax returns. The president's lawyers had asked that the full D.C. Circuit reconsider the case.
But Congress likely will not see those documents soon. The D.C Circuit already had said it would give the president seven days to file an appeal. Trump's outside legal counsel, Jay Sekulow, told NPR that he and his client "will be seeking review at the Supreme Court."
The president and his lawyers are also hoping to get the Supreme Court to block another, separate bid to get his tax returns. 
A grand jury in New York is seeking those documents as part of an investigation into allegations that the president paid hush money to two women through his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, prior to the 2016 election.
The D.C. Circuit voted 8-3 in favor of letting the earlier ruling stand. Seven of the eight judges were appointed by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both Democrats. The eighth was appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican.
The three dissenting judges — those who sided with the president — were all Republican appointees. Two were appointed by Trump and the third by President George H.W. Bush.

Federal Rules Against Indiscriminate Searches of Smartphones, Laptops at US Borders

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  (UPI) -- A federal judge in Boston has ruled that the indiscriminate search and seizure of smartphones and laptops of travelers at U.S. borders violates their Fourth Amendment rights.
U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper made the ruling Tuesday in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in September 2017 on behalf of 11 travelers whose electronic devices were searched by border officials at U.S. ports of entry. 
In the ruling, Casper said Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Control agents must be able to point to "specific and articulable facts for reasonable suspicion" that the devices contain contraband to perform searches.
Casper, however, ruled that searches based on reasonable suspicion could be performed without a warrant due to the governmental interests present at the border.
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ACLU cheered the ruling as a major victory for privacy rights, stating that it not only protects international travelers but also U.S. citizens.
"By putting an end to the government's ability to conduct suspicion-less fishing expeditions, the court reaffirms that the border is not a lawless place and that we don't lose our privacy rights when we travel," said Esha Bhandari, an attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
The ruling comes as the CBP has increasingly searched the electronic devices of travelers at U.S. borders. According to CBP data, 30,200 electronic devices were searched in fiscal year 2017, up from 19,051 the year prior and 8,503 in 2015. CBP Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner has argued that electronic device searches are "essential" to enforcing U.S. law at its borders.
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Among the plaintiffs who sued is Zainab Merchant, a student at Harvard University, who had her phone searched despite informing the agent that it contained private communications between herself and her lawyer. Another, Sidd Bikkannavar, an engineer at NASA, said border agents confiscated his phone and examined his emails, texts, and other private information.
All of the plaintiffs were U.S. citizens except for one who was a permanent resident.
"This is a great day for travelers who now can cross the international border without fear that the government will, in the absence of any suspicion, ransack the extraordinarily sensitive information we all carry in our electronic devices," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Sophia Cope said in a statement.

LGBTQ Community in South Korea Fights For Marriage Equality

SEOUL, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- South Korean lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on Wednesday calling for greater same-sex rights.
A network of organizations called Gagoonet, or the Korean Network for Partnership and Marriage Rights of LGBT, submitted the mass complaint, which cites violations of numerous economic and social rights in Korea due to the lack of legal same-sex partnerships. 
The petition carried the signatures of over 1,000 LGBT individuals, same-sex couples and family members.
At a small rally outside the commission's headquarters on Wednesday morning before submitting the petition, activists held up signs reading "Happiness" and "Caring" and chanted slogans such as "Not legalizing same-sex marriage is LGBT discrimination." 
Yi Ho-rim, an organizer with Gagoonet, said the group is pushing for the Human Rights Commission, a national advocacy institution, to make a recommendation to the government to introduce legislation for same-sex marriage and partnership rights.
"What we are asking for is the protection of rights for the LGBT community," Yi said.
She added that the LGBT community is looking to raise its profile in a country that remains deeply conservative on a number of social issues. 
"In South Korea, there's still not an active conversation on same-sex marriage or LGBT policies and laws," Yi said. "One purpose of this mass petition is to facilitate a public conversation about same-sex marriage."
Same-sex marriage and other forms of legal partnership are not available in South Korea, and in the military, consensual sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison, a policy that Amnesty International condemned earlier this year.
In June, Gagoonet conducted a survey of 380 people living with same-sex partners in Korea and found that they faced a host of difficulties, such as exclusion from low-cost housing loans targeting newlyweds and legal rights when a spouse or partner is sick or dies. 
But while legal recognition remains limited, public attitudes have been evolving over the past few years, Yi said.
"Things are changing rapidly because the LGBT community is becoming more visible and many people are coming out to their families, in public, and at the workplace," she said.
At a meeting with religious leaders last month, President Moon Jae-in spoke out against LGBT discrimination in his most pointed remarks on the subject since taking office in 2017.
"A national consensus should be the priority for same-sex marriage," Moon told Christian and Buddhist, leaders. "However, regarding the human rights of sexual minorities, they should not be socially persecuted or discriminated against."
While campaigning for president, Moon drew criticism from rights groups by saying he opposed homosexuality during a televised debate.
At the rally on Wednesday, activists shared stories from their own lives as they called for the Human Rights Commission to formally recommend marriage equality.
Kim Yong-min described his husband's care for him during a long illness.
"My husband has been by my side for a long time as a treasured person who cares for me when I am sick," Kim said. "If this kind of relationship is not a family, what kind of relationship is it?"
Kang Sun-hwa said she was "shocked and saddened" when her son, now 24, came out as gay three years ago.
"I thought my son would get old without anyone to be with him and would be lonely," she said.
She quickly grew to accept her son's sexual orientation but felt she needed to do more to help secure his future.
"I decided not just to stop at the emotional acceptance stage," said Kang, who joined the organization PFLAG Korea, which stands for Parents and Friends of LGBTQ People. "I needed to work for my son to get the rights he deserves. I realized that we need political action to protect same-sex couples."
Same-sex marriage is now allowed in 30 countries and territories around the world.
South Korean activists have looked to progress being made in Asian countries such as Japan, where more than two dozen municipalities have recognized same-sex partnerships, and particularly Taiwan, which legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling in May.
So Sung-uk, a 28-year-old NGO worker who joined the rally on Wednesday, said that coming out in South Korea is still difficult for many, but he found inspiration in scenes from Taiwan.
"When I saw the first married couples in Taiwan crying tears of happiness, I was moved," he said. "I desperately want that here."

Evangelist Crist Will Be Held Accountable Like Any Other Man Accused of Sexual Misconduct

For a while, the career of the Evangelical comedian John Crist looked as though it had been blessed by God. His Netflix special, I Ain’t Praying for That, was set to premiere on Thanksgiving Day, and he had a book deal with WaterBrook & Multnomah, a major Christian publisher. But in private, Crist was not as holy as he seemed in public. Last Wednesday, Charisma News reported that Crist had tried to pressure several women into having sex with him. Though the conservative website describes Crist’s alleged actions as abusive but not criminal, that characterization does not seem to be entirely accurate. One woman says Crist repeatedly grabbed and kissed her against her will, twice forcing her to push him off — which would qualify as assault.
Crist does not currently face any legal action, but his Netflix special is no more. His upcoming tour is off too, and WaterBrook has canceled his book. In a statement to Charisma, Crist offered a partial apology for his actions. “My behavior has been destructive and sinful. I’ve sinned against God, against women, and the people who I love the most,” he said, adding that he plans to seek treatment for his “sexual sin and addiction struggles.” (He also denied that he was “guilty of everything I’ve been accused of.”) This may be enough to satisfy Crist’s fans, who are legion. He has over 526,000 followers on YouTube, and one of his most famous videos, “Christian Mingle Inspector,” notched over 2.8 million views. (An explanation for the blessedly ignorant: Christian Mingle is a Christians-only dating website.)
There was a lot riding on Crist. Until this week, he was on the verge of making a leap accomplished by few other Christian artists: achieving mainstream appeal. This occurs infrequently, when MTV airs a Christian band’s music video or when Netflix hands a (self-proclaimed) born-again virgin a comedy special. The jump brings the performer fame and riches; it also represents an opportunity to spread the Gospel through entertainment.
The expectations around Crist were high and may have drowned out women who have been warning others of his behavior for years. After Charisma’s story broke, several women tweeted that Crist had been enabled by a culture determined to ignore them:

Crist’s next steps are crucial not only for his career but for the subculture that made him a star. Evangelicals will have to decide whether his behavior is sexual sin — a loose term often applied to homosexuality and to consensual premarital sex — or whether they believe the women who have characterized it as sexual abuse. If it’s the former, which Crist clearly would prefer, then his path to redemption is easier. He would simply have to say in public that he is penitent and God has changed his heart. But if he’s a predator, the Evangelical community will have to grapple with the same question that has plagued many in the secular world for years: What do we do with a powerful entertainer who uses his position to hunt the vulnerable?
In theory, there’s an obvious remedy. If Crist’s comedic career were to end, he’d lose his primary method for sourcing victims. But if the Evangelical world broadly accepts that Crist’s misdeeds are sins, not assaults, they’ll implicate his victims, too: Crist shouldn’t have tried to kiss a woman against her will — but how was he to know it wasn’t her will? Maybe she led him on; she did choose to be alone with him. The belief that a woman can be a “stumbling block,” a seductive obstacle in a man’s path to sexual purity, isn’t unique to Evangelicals, but it is common, as any youth-group veteran can attest. (Charisma itself has published screeds on the topic.)
Evangelicals didn’t invent the practice of blaming women for their own abuse. Enlightened liberals do the same thing when the predator in question is an entertainer or politician they like. But Evangelical Christians make particular claims about their proximity to God and their relationship to truth, which makes their inadequate responses to sexual abuse all the more shocking. A woman who comes forward about her abuse at the hands of a powerful Evangelical man submits herself to unreasonable scrutiny; the depth of her piety is subject to church-wide debate. And the Crist case is only one of three major sexual-misconduct scandals to roil Evangelical circles over the past several weeks: The other two concern clergy members who remain in the pulpit despite credible accusations of sexual abuse.
In late October, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that megachurch pastor Andy Savage was starting a new congregation. Savage had resigned from his previous congregation after a woman claimed he had sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager and he was a youth pastor. The woman, Jules Woodson, reported the assault to Savage’s senior pastors at the time, but they didn’t take her case to the police and Savage remained in the pulpit for years. Though she has asked the Southern Baptist church that ordained Savage to revoke his credentials and oust him from the pulpit for good, it’s likely that he’ll return soon. And in Kentucky, another large Southern Baptist church named Wes Feltner as its top candidate to become senior pastor, even though two women had told the hiring committee that he’d groomed them for sexual relationships while they were teenagers and he was their youth pastor. In a recent sermon, the head of the hiring committee appeared to call the women “adversaries” bent on the destruction of Feltner and the church. That’s a title the Bible affixes to Satan himself.
Maybe the Crist case will be different. Because Charisma is a conservative outlet, it’s not easy for Christians to dismiss it as fake news. But change is unlikely unless Evangelicals change the way they respond to reports of wolves in their midst. Evangelical men didn’t listen to Woodson or to Feltner’s victims. Rumors about Crist have circulated for years, but nobody investigated them until now. Women won’t be safe until they’re taken seriously — by their peers and by their churches, too.

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Court Of Appeals Rules Against Trump Tax Returns, He Must Submit Them to Congress

 There are more than just a couple of years of income taxes   ( A U.S. appeals court opened the door fo...