Category Archives: News

Wisconsin County Uses Armored Vehicle and 24 Officers to Collect Judgment against “Argumentative” 75-Year-Old

from News – AllGov

A sheriff in Wisconsin insists his department did the right thing by sending an armored vehicle and two dozen deputies to collect money from a senior citizen.


The action came against Roger Hoeppner, 75, who has been in a long-running legal battle with the Town of Stettin in Marathon County.


After Hoeppner refused to pay $80,000 to the city and come out of his house after 24 deputies showed up, the department sent in its military surplus vehicle, known as the MARV (Marathon County Response Vehicle).


Hoeppner agreed to come out once he saw the MARV, and later paid the money he owed.

Sheriff’s Captain Greg Bean told the Journal Sentinel that he stands by the decision to force Hoeppner to pay his fines.


Although the Hoeppner wasn’t considered dangerous, Bean said, he was “known to be argumentative,” Bruce Vielmetti reported.


“People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now,” Bean said.


Hoeppner had been fined $500 a day by the town for failing to clean up his yard.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Armored Vehicle Helps Collect Civil Judgment in Small Town (by Bruce Vielmetti, Journal Sentinel)

Wisconsin County Uses Military Vehicle To Collect Money From Unarmed Senior (by Michael Allen, Opposing Views)

Tennessee Woman Jailed for Having Overgrown Lawn (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Hong Kong Politician: Our Protestors Should Wait Like The ‘American Slaves’

via TPM News

Laura Cha’s remarks at a trade meeting in Paris were flagged by The New York Times in an article published Friday:

“American slaves were liberated in 1861, but did not get voting rights until 107 years later,” she was reported as saying by The Standard, an English-language Hong Kong newspaper. “So why can’t Hong Kong wait for a while?”

Cha, who was educated in the United States, is a “nonofficial member” of Hong Kong’s Executive Council and a board member of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).

Thousands have already signed a petition demanding that Cha apologize and HSBC condemn her remarks, according to Reuters.

“We, the Hong Kong public, will not stand these remarks likening our rights to slavery, nor will we stand the kind of voter disenfranchisement her and her associates attempt to perpetrate on the Hong Kong public,” the petition read.

The Washington R-skins Are Suing Five Native Americans

via TPM News

Lawyers for both sides were expected in federal court in Alexandria on Friday, where a judge was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the lawsuit should be thrown out.

The five won a victory earlier this year when a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office board ruled that six trademark registrations on the team’s name should be canceled because they were “disparaging to Native Americans” when registered. The board acted after the group of Native Americans petitioned it to cancel the trademark registrations.

After the board’s action, the team in August sued the five Native Americans, asking a federal court to stop the cancellation from happening.

The team, which has used R-skins as part of its name since 1933, says in court papers that the patent office board was wrong and that its trademarks are proper because the term was not offensive when the trademarks were registered. The team says canceling the trademarks, which were registered between 1967 and 1990, would violate the Constitution.

Lawyers for the five Native Americans argue that the R-skins’ lawsuit against them should be dismissed because the team’s real dispute is with the patent office.

But the R-skins argue the lawsuit is an appropriate, and even preferred, method of appealing the board’s decision. The team says the group of Native Americans is a proper target because it filed the petition that initiated the board’s action and have an interest in the outcome.

The team’s trademark protection remains in place while the issue makes its way through the courts. If the ruling ultimately stands, the team will still be able to use the name, but it would be tougher for it to go after others who use it without permission on clothing or other gear.


Spain under pressure from EU over North African enclaves

via Euronews

The European Commission is concerned over Spain’s handling of migrants illegally entering its North African enclaves.

It wants clarification from Madrid over claims of mistreatment and the immediate expulsion of a man who had just managed to get across the fence separating Morocco from the enclave of Melilla.

Immigrants from all over Africa regularly attempt to cross into Melilla and the other Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The numbers have multiplied as increased naval patrols discourage attempts to get to Europe by boat.

Burkina Faso military dissolves parliament

via Euronews

Burkina Faso’s military has dissolved the country’s parliament and announced a transitional government, however it remains unclear who is in charge.

The decision follows violent protests against President Blaise Compaore, which resulted in the burning of the parliament and ransacking of the state television offices.

Speaking alongside the head of the Armed Forces this military spokesman said “the National Assembly has been dissolved, the government has been dissolved and a transitional body will be put in place in consultation with all parties. A return to the constitutional order is expected in no more than 12 months.”

The military announced that elections are set to take place within a year and an overnight curfew would be enforced.

The demonstrations started over plans to vote on Thursday on a government motion to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore- who has ruled since a coup in 1987 – to stand for re-election. His whereabouts remain unknown.

At least nineteen people are reported to have been killed and scores more injured in the protests.

Earlier, the US and France, both allies of Burkina Faso in their fight against al Qaeda-linked groups in West Africa, called for an end to the violence.

Meanwhile, Regional West African bloc ECOWAS said that it would not accept any party seizing power through non-constitutional means, suggesting diplomatic pressure to leave President Compoare in place.

UN condemns Israeli settlement expansion

via Al Jazeera

A UN official has warned that Israel’s plans for further settlements in East Jerusalem could ignite more violence and threaten the viability of the future Palestinian state.

UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman called on Israel on Wednesday “to rescind” its plan to build 1,000 new homes, which he said was in violation of the international law, and contrary to the two-state solution.

Feltman called on Israel to “abide by its commitment to the international law”, while calling on Palestinian protesters to stop incitement of violence.

He urged both sides to commit to “meaningful negotiations”.

He was speaking at a UN Security Council emergency session convened at the request of council member Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians.

Tensions have soared between Arabs and Jews over Israel’s plans to build about 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinians demand for their future state.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said that it was advancing plans to build about 600 additional houses in Ramat Shlomo and 400 in Har Homa districts of East Jerusalem.

Israel has said all of Jerusalem will forever be its capital, citing historical, religious and security reasons.

But the international community, including the US, does not recognise Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector of the contested city.

‘Exacerbating conflict’

On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority representative to the UN,  Riyad Mansour, told the Security Council meeting that Israel’s “illegal” actions on settlement plans “are exacerbating the conflict and obstructing a peaceful solution”.

“Israel, the occupying power, must be demanded to cease immediately and completely its illegal settlement activities throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” he said.

In response, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor denied that Israel is an occupier, adding that Jerusalem will “forever” belong to Israel while denying the existence of Jewish settlers.

He also said that Israel is doing everything possible to minimise tensions, and blamed Palestinians for provoking the Israeli police.

The UN meeting came as tension between the US and Israel escalated, after an unnamed official of US President Barack Obama’s administration called Netanyahu a “chickenshit“, attacking him over Israeli policy on settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Iranian opposition group releases transcript of hanged woman’s final message

via Euronews

The last message Iranian woman Reyhanah Jabbari recorded for her family just minutes before she was hanged in Tehran has been released by an unknown source. The source of the recording remains unknown. The entire transcript written by Jabbari has been published.

The 26-year-old, convicted of murdering an older man, went to the gallows at dawn on Saturday in Tehran’s Evin prison after failing to secure a reprieve from the victim’s family.

Jabbari was sentenced to death for killing the man in 2007. She accused him of trying to rape her as a teenager.

The conviction sparked international condemnation and there were demands for the Iranian government to get Jabbari’s sentence commuted.

The hanging comes at an inopportune time for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has been attempting a rapprochement with the West after decades of hostilities rooted in Tehran’s nuclear programme and human rights record.

“Dear Sholeh, today I learned that it is now my turn to face Qisas (the Iranian regime’s law of retribution). I am hurt as to why you did not let me know yourself that I have reached the last page in the book of my life. Don’t you think that I should know? You know how ashamed I am that you are sad. Why did you not take the chance for me to kiss your hand and dad’s?

The world allowed me to live for 19 years. That ominous night I should have been killed. My body would have been dumped in some corner of the city, and after a few days, the police would have taken you to the coroner’s office to identify my body and there you would also learn that I had been raped as well. The murderer would have never been found since we don’t have their wealth and their power. Then you would have continued your life suffering and ashamed, and a few years later you would have died of this suffering and that would have been that.

However, with that cursed blow the story changed. My body was not thrown aside, but rather into the grave of Evin Prison and its solitary wards, and now the grave-like prison of Shahr-e Ray. But give in to the fate and don’t complain. You know better that death is not the end of life.

You taught me that one comes to this world to gain an experience and to learn a lesson and with each birth a responsibility is put on one’s shoulder. I learned that sometimes one has to fight. I remember when you told me a story from Nietzsche, the philosopher, about when he protested to a carriage man who was flogging his horse, but the flogger hit the lash on his head and face…(not audible) and he taught us that for creating a value one should persevere even if one dies.

You taught us that as we go to school one should be a lady when faced with quarrels and complaints. Do you remember how much you emphasised the way we behave? Your experience was incorrect. When this incident happened, my teachings did not help me. Being calm in court made me look like a cold-blooded murderer and a ruthless criminal. I shed no tears. I did not beg. I did not cry my eyes out since I trusted the law.
But I was charged with being indifferent in face of a crime. You see, I didn’t even kill mosquitoes and I threw cockroaches away by taking them by their antennae. Now I have become a premeditated murderer. My treatment of the animals was interpreted as being inclined to be a boy and the judge didn’t even trouble himself to look at the fact that, at the time of the incident, I had long and polished nails.

How optimistic was he who expected justice from the judges! He never questioned the fact that my hands are not coarse like those of a sportswoman, especially a boxer. And this country that you planted its love in me never wanted me and no one supported me when, under the blows of the interrogator, I was crying out and I was hearing the most vulgar terms. When I shed the last sign of beauty from myself by shaving my hair I was rewarded: 11 days in solitary.

Dear Sholeh, don’t cry for what you are hearing. On the first day in the police office when an old unmarried agent hurt me for my nails I understood that beauty is not looked for in this era. The beauty of looks, beauty of thoughts and wishes, a beautiful handwriting, beauty of the eyes and vision, and even beauty of a nice voice.

My dear mother, my ideology has changed and you are not responsible for it. My words are unending and I gave it all to someone so that when I am executed without your presence and knowledge, it would be given to you. I left you much handwritten material as my heritage.

However, before my death I want something from you that you have to provide for me – with all your might and in any way that you can. In fact, this is the only thing I want from this world, this country and you. I know you need time for this. Therefore, I am telling you part of my will sooner. Please don’t cry and listen. I want you to go to the court and tell them my request. I cannot write such a letter from inside prison for it would not be approved by the head of the prison; so once again you have to suffer because of me. It is the only thing that, even if you beg for it, I would not become upset although I have told you many times not to beg to save me from being executed.

My kind mother, dear Sholeh, the one more dear to me than my life, I don’t want to rot under the soil. I don’t want my eye or my young heart to turn into dust. Beg so that it is arranged that as soon as I am hanged my heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift. I don’t want the recipient to know my name. Buy me a bouquet, or even pray for me. I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that I don’t want to have a grave for you to come and mourn there and suffer. I don’t want you to wear black clothing for me. Do your best to forget my difficult days. Give me to the wind to take away.

The world did not love us. It did not want my fate. And now I am giving in to it and embracing death. Because in the court of God I will charge the inspectors, I will charge inspector Shamlou, I will charge the judge, and the judges of the country’s Supreme Court that beat me when I was awake and who did not refrain from harassing me. In the court of the creator I will charge Dr. Farvandi, I will charge Qassem Shabani and all those who, out of ignorance or with their lies, wronged me and trampled on my rights and didn’t pay heed to the fact that sometimes what appears as reality is different from it.

Dear soft-hearted Sholeh, in the other world, it is you and me who are the accusers and others who are the accused. Let’s see what God wants. I wanted to embrace you until I die. I love you.

April 1, 2014”

Egypt to clear residents from Gaza border

via Al Jazeera

Egyptian authorities have ordered residents living along the country’s eastern border with the Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes prior to their demolishing because the army plans to set up a buffer zone.

The measure comes four days after armed men attacked an army post, killing at least 31 soldiers in the restive area in the northeastern corner of the Sinai Peninsula.

After the attack, Egypt declared a state of emergency and a dawn-to-dusk curfew there. Authorities also indefinitely closed the Gaza crossing, the only non-Israeli passage for the crowded strip.

The buffer zone, which will include water-filled trenches to thwart tunnel diggers, will be 500m wide and extended along the 13km border, officials told the AP news agency. It aims to stop weapons and trafficking between Egypt and the Palestinian territory.

Army officers spoke to the affected residents in person and initially gave them a 48-hour ultimatum to leave, but put that on hold after they protested, officials said. Residents groups are now negotiating with local officials to see if they can extend the deadline.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to journalists.

Violence escalating

The Egyptian army has waged a broad offensive in northern Sinai against armed groups who have emboldened their presence in several areas in the neglected eastern region over the past three years, destroying much of the web-like network of smuggling tunnels that connected the area with Gaza.

Egyptian media has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of meddling in Egypt’s affairs, with some suggesting the group is supporting fighters inside Egypt since the military overthrew former president Mohamed Morsi last year.

Hamas officials denied any interference and criticised Egypt for imposing stricter border crossing rules.

Since Morsi’s toppling, attacks against security forces in northern Sinai have escalated, something Egyptian authorities blame on Morsi and his allies.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group, which has been branded a terrorist organisation, denied links to violence.

Another al-Qaeda-inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks. No one claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on the army post.

Protests held in Hungary against Internet tax

via Al Jazeera

Tens of thousands of protesters have marched in Budapest against a plan by the Hungarian government to tax internet use from 2015.

Tuesday’s rally, the second in three days, also showed growing discontent among mostly younger citizens against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies centralising power and increasing the role of the state to the detriment of private enterprise.

Besides Budapest, rallies were also held in several other Hungarian cities [Reuters]

The government has said that it is just trying to reduce the country’s debt, but many Hungarians see it as an attempt to restrict their freedom.

Protest speakers outside the Ministry of Economy called on Orban to withdraw the plan to force internet service providers to pay 700 forints ($2.89) per individual subscriber and 5,000 forints ($20.65) per business subscriber every month.

Initially, the tax was set to be 150 forints ($0.62) per gigabyte of internet traffic, but Orban’s ruling party, Fidesz, said it would set a cap on the levy.

The government, which announced the proposal last week before any consultations with industry groups or even Fidesz lawmakers, gave several explanations for the measure – it was meant to complement a tax on telephone calls, as people were increasingly using the internet to make calls; it would take a bite out of the telecommunications companies’ allegedly large profits; and the new revenues would help improve internet access in rural areas.

Protesters vowed to continue the rallies, which were also held in several other Hungarian cities and at some Hungarian embassies in EU countries, until the government withdraws the tax plan.

Secret Donors Behind Some Super PACs Funneling Millions into Midterms

from ProPublica: Articles and Investigations

by Theodoric Meyer

In the final weeks before this year’s elections, a super PAC called Key Questions, Key Answers started buying TV ads across Pennsylvania attacking Tom Wolf, the Democratic candidate for governor.

"Don’t vote for a wolf in sheep’s clothing," the narrator says in one of the ads as a sheep with Wolf’s face bleats the word "taxes."

Like all super PACs — outside groups allowed to take unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions — Key Questions must disclose its donors.

But last week, Key Questions told the Federal Election Commission it had just one, a social welfare nonprofit called Let Freedom Ring. Since social welfare nonprofits — sometimes called dark money groups — aren’t required to identify their donors, it’s impossible to say who’s really behind Key Questions’ last-minute ad blitz.

Outside groups, including super PACs and nonprofits, have spent more than $539 million on politics in this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that monitors money in politics. That’s almost twice as much as such groups spent during the 2010 midterm elections.

Super PACs alone have shelled out about $332 million so far in this cycle, mostly from donors who are disclosed.

But Key Questions is one of a handful of super PACs, liberal and conservative, funded entirely or almost entirely by dark money groups, FEC records show, obscuring the origin of the money they are putting into 2014 races.

A super PAC called the Government Integrity Fund Action Network, which has spent more than $1 million on ads supporting Tom Cotton, the Republican Senate candidate in Arkansas, is entirely funded by the Government Integrity Fund, a dark money group.

And Alaska SalmonPAC, a super PAC that’s spent more than $1.4 million to support Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and oppose his opponent, has received almost all of its funding from the League of Conservation Voters, which doesn’t disclose its donors.

 It’s not illegal for super PACs to be funded entirely by dark money unless a nonprofit is effectively acting as a straw donor, helping the real source of a contribution avoid disclosure, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Otherwise, such donations are kosher at the federal level, he said, even if "voters are getting no useful information about where the money’s coming from."

Nonetheless, Ann Ravel, an FEC commissioner and the former chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said she saw such maneuvers as troubling end runs around disclosure requirements for super PACs. "It creates a difficulty in determining whether there’s corruption in the political system," she said.

Key Questions and Let Freedom Ring are closely connected.

Let Freedom Ring’s president, Colin Hanna, is also the chairman of Key Questions. JC Callahan, another Let Freedom Ring staffer, is Key Questions’ treasurer. Both groups are run out of the same office in Hanna’s home in West Chester, Pa.

The ads funded by Let Freedom Ring’s $200,000 donation started airing earlier this month in the Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.

Hanna said he came up with the commercials to help counter the millions that Wolf has poured into his own campaign against Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Wolf has been leading Corbett in the polls. "I felt the prevailing wisdom that Tom Wolf had the race sewed up was suspect," Hanna said.

Let Freedom Ring was one of the earliest dark money groups to spend heavily on political ads.

Hanna started the group back in 2004 with the help of a $1 million donation from John M. Templeton Jr., a surgeon whose father was a wealthy philanthropist and investor. Let Freedom Ring spent millions on ads attacking Barack Obama in 2008, two years before the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision helped spur a massive rise in political spending by social welfare nonprofits.

Hanna decided to create Key Questions this year in addition to the dark money group on the advice of his lawyer, he said. "I think the difference between the two may have more utility in the future than at present," Hanna said. He declined to elaborate.

Social welfare nonprofits like Let Freedom Ring are required to devote the majority of their efforts to "the promotion of social welfare," not politics, and to report how much they spend to influence elections to the Internal Revenue Service.

But Let Freedom Ring’s annual filings to the IRS seem to conflict with its reports to election regulators. In 2008, 2010 and 2012, Let Freedom Ring reported spending money on politics to the FEC. But on tax forms for each of those years, signed under penalty of perjury, the group told the IRS it had spent no money on politics.

This appears to violate the tax code, said Brian Galle, an associate professor at Boston College Law School who specializes in nonprofits and political activity. "It’s very hard to argue that you didn’t know you were engaging in political activity when you’re telling another government regulator that you’re engaging in political activity," he said.

Hanna referred questions about the tax forms to the group’s lawyer, Cleta Mitchell.

Mitchell declined to comment on Thursday, saying she did not have time so near the election.

Let Freedom Ring may not be Key Questions’ sole donor for much longer.

Hanna said the super PAC had received contributions from another contributor since filing its most recent FEC report, but declined to identify the source.

Pennsylvania voters won’t find out who it is before they head to the polls. The super PAC’s next FEC report isn’t due until more than a month after Election Day.

Robert Maguire, a Center for Responsive Politics researcher who has investigated super PACs funded by dark money groups, said the practice runs counter to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion that voters would be able to "whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests," thanks to disclosure requirements.

"This effectively nullifies that," Maguire said.