themcglynn.com

13 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Are European officials in it for the money? We can expect to hear this charge repeated again and again in these days of continuing government austerity drives and pay cuts for national civil servants in the EU member states.

In fact, it’s a question that’s almost as old as the EU itself but one that was brought into sharp focus after it emerged in the beginning of this year that judges at the Court of Justice of the EU will receive a pay increase of 2.4 per cent in 2016, bringing their basic salaries to almost €256,000.

That’s more than double what for example UK Premier David Cameron is paid. With an allowance for “entertainment” and a 15 per cent residence allowance, an EU judge can earn more than €300,000 a year. Each judge is also entitled to a car and chauffeur.

EU judges may be unusually well paid but such figures fuel concern about the perks enjoyed by staff working in the EU institutions, albeit further down the pecking order, including what are seen as favourable rates of taxation.

Which taxes do they pay?

EU-employees are exempted from national income tax according to an agreement, the so-called Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, annexed to the treaties establishing the Union. It’s also well known that EU staff in Brussels and Luxembourg gets a wide range of allowances.

But it’s actually a myth to say, as some have, that EU officials do not pay any income tax at all. The truth is that they do. A special “Community income tax” is paid by EU staff – though, admittedly, it’s generally lower than national rates of income tax for civil servants.

EU officials pay a progressive income tax on their salaries and pensions of between 8 % up to 45%. In addition they also pay a special solidarity levy of 6 % or 7 %. Counting all taxes and social security contributions to pension and health insurance the marginal tax rate can, in some cases, rise to up above 50 %…………

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The life and death of Luis Góngora: the police killing nobody noticed

No one tracks police brutality against the homeless. So while some shootings make international headlines, the deaths of those living on the streets – though disproportionately high – often barely cause a ripple

by in San Francisco and Teabo

Luis Góngora and his wife Fidelia as young newlyweds.

Luis Góngora and his wife Fidelia as young newlyweds. Photograph: Ivan Gabaldon for the Guardian

The man walked down the sidewalk, the blade of a kitchen knife glinting in his hand.

He had taken a break from playing soccer with an old basketball on the tree-lined street in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Now he sat on the ground, his back against a building. Three pedestrians passed by, walking at a steady pace, apparently unperturbed.

“Get on the ground! Get on the ground!”

Two police cruisers had pulled to a stop, blocking the street.

Sergeant Nate Seger and officer Mike Mellone had stepped out of their cars, shouting as they walked toward the man.

“Get on the ground! Put that down!”

One of the officers carried a bean bag rifle. He cocked it and fired three times.

As the fourth – and final – beanbag round was dispelled, the second officer began firing with live ammunition. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Seven shots.

It was the shot to the head that killed the man. The bullet entered at the top of his skull, above his left eye, and exited at the base of his skull, behind his left ear.

The man known in the neighborhood as “the homeless guy with the soccer ball” was dead.

In San Francisco, one out of every 200 people sleeps on the streets each night.

They have lost their homes, and they have lost their names: to homeowners, to apartment dwellers, to politicians, and often to each other, they are only “the homeless”.

But the homeless man who was killed by police on the streets of San Francisco, on 7 April 2016, had a name, and he had a home.

His name was Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat, and his home was a modest, one-story house a few blocks from the central square of the tiny Mayan village of Teabo, in the Mexican province of Yucatán.

It was a house built slowly, room by room, over the course of seven years, with the remittances Luis Góngora sent home from San Francisco.

It was a home Luis Góngora never set foot in.

“He left so he could build this house,” said Fidelia del Carmen May Can, Góngora’s widow, as she sat in her sun-filled living room with pictures of her children on the walls, a San Francisco Giants cap on the shelf, and a shrine of flowers, candles, icons, and a framed photograph of her husband on a small table.

“I want people to know that we are without him. The hope of being with him no longer exists.”

The life and death of Luis Góngora occurred at the intersection of twin crises: homelessness and police killings. Amid a tech-fueled economic boom, the major cities of the US west coast have become as notable for their sprawling homeless encampments as they are for their billion-dollar companies………..

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Man at the center of the Netflix series, who was convicted of murder as a teenager, will walk free if charges are not refiled within 90 days

Brendan Dassey is escorted into court for his sentencing in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 2007.

Brendan Dassey is escorted into court for his sentencing in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in 2007. Photograph: Eric Young/AP

A judge overturned the murder conviction of Brendan Dassey, the subject of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, on Friday.

Federal magistrate William Duffin handed down the ruling in the murder of Teresa Halbach of Wisconsin. Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery were found guilty in Halbach’s 2005 death in separate trials.

Duffin called the conduct of Dassey’s attorney “indefensible” in his ruling. He faulted Len Kachinsky, the public defender who initially represented Dassey, for spending more time talking to the press about the high-profile case than actually communicating with his client. In his first three weeks as Dassey’s attorney, Kachinsky spent 10 hours speaking to reporters and one hour with Dassey, according to Duffin.

Kachinsky was the subject of an outpouring of criticism after the series was released and viewers questioned his conduct. Kachinsky, who was removed from Dassey’s case and later decertified from the public defender’s office, reported having received hate mail from Dassey’s supporters after the documentary aired.

Duffin also cited the actions of investigators who elicited an “involuntary” confession from the then 16-year-old. Investigators who interviewed Dassey during his confession told the teenager that they already “knew everything that happened” and that they would “stand behind you no matter what you did”.

“These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments,” Duffin wrote in his 91-page ruling………….

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You may have seen this week that the Department of Justice unveiled details of a national system that will require police to report officer-involved deaths for the first time.

It’s a significant step forward for transparency in the criminal justice system, and this vital form of record keeping is something Guardian US has been calling for since launching The Counted in June 2015, our project to document and expose all police killings across America.

Our database, which has influenced the government’s new program, aimed to construct the most thorough public accounting for the use of deadly force by the police in the United States.

We realized there was no reliable data to test claims of racial bias or brutality within police forces around America, and, as such, no true picture of the scope and scale of the issues at the center of an intense national debate.

The Counted records not just police shootings but other fatalities, including deaths in custody like Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and the fatal chokehold such as that used on Eric Garner in New York City in 2014.

This undertaking – and the sheer enormity of the task – was something that no government agency has done, despite the disturbing number of fatal encounters with police, and the protest movement that has followed black teenager Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

Our team of reporters has worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to bring together this data and verify it – and, in doing so, to tell the stories of the people who have been killed.

It has required hours and hours of reporting time, countless freedom of information requests, many miles of travel across the United States to uncover stories firsthand, and rigorous analysis.

The Counted records not just police shootings but other fatalities, including deaths in custody like Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and the fatal chokehold such as that used on Eric Garner in New York City in 2014.

This undertaking – and the sheer enormity of the task – was something that no government agency has done, despite the disturbing number of fatal encounters with police, and the protest movement that has followed black teenager Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

Our team of reporters has worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to bring together this data and verify it – and, in doing so, to tell the stories of the people who have been killed.

It has required hours and hours of reporting time, countless freedom of information requests, many miles of travel across the United States to uncover stories firsthand, and rigorous analysis……….

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counted

US politics

Election 2016

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Republicans If Trump loses, will the GOP sink with him?

The lies Trump told this week From Obama and Isis to support for vets

Opinion

With an opponent like Trump, the Democratic nominee had an opportunity to lay out a bold, liberal vision for the country. She chose to be moderate instead

clinton

‘Clinton’s words are liberal. Her silence is conservative.’ Photograph: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Despite the laundry list of proposals in her big economic speech Thursday, it is what Hillary Clinton did not say that is most interesting.

She received applause for unleashing the green jobs economy, immigration reform, expanding social security, paid family leave and affordable childcare. This is all great stuff, the result of years of progressive organizing. But what struck me most was what was left on the cutting room floor.

Clinton promised to oppose the job-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership before and after the election. But she studiously avoided opposing a vote in the December “lame-duck” session, as advocates have encouraged.

She promised to liberate students from debt, offering refinancing as a solution. That is a start. But we also need widespread loan forgiveness, to unshackle a generation that cannot compete without a debt-inducing degree and jumpstart the economy for all of us.

Her call for massive infrastructure investment was marred by the inclusion of an infrastructure bank. Similar proposals in the past have funded such a bank by letting corporations dodge taxes on money they have parked offshore – can she guarantee that won’t happen this time?

Clinton rightly decried Wall Street’s obsession with short-term profits and its war on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But she once again failed to endorse the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, which would reduce financial crashes and end bank gambling with taxpayer money. She said nothing about the revolving door between private industry and government that leaves watchdogs working for the corporations they are suppose to regulate.

She knocked tax-dodging hedge funds. But since these vultures create little of value and profit by leaching money out of productive businesses, why not close the loophole that allowed them to flourish in the first place?

Clinton wants the worst of the 1% to pay their fair share in taxes. But there was not one word about antitrust, even though too-big-to-fail banks and too-big-to-curtail corporations allow elites to hoard wealth.

The dizzying array of tax credits? All good causes, but direct investment might be more effective – and monthly cash grants, along the lines of a universal basic income, more noticeable and popular than benefits disguised in yearly taxes.

Some might say that the specter of a President Trump makes this no moment politically risky proposals. But at best, Trump is imploding. At worst, he is outflanking Clinton on trade. Is this not the time to go bold to reach disaffected voters, and set a new flank that renders these proposals the moderate fallback?

If not now, when?………

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