Why Reforming The UN Security Council Is Imperative – OpEd

The UN Security Council neither represents the power realities of the contemporary era nor does it factor the security considerations of developing countries into its structure. While Europe is overrepresented by the presence of Britain, France and Russia …

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U.S. Supreme Court Reconsiders Online Sales Tax Rule

The U.S. Supreme Court is reconsidering a longstanding decision preventing states from requiring out-of-state businesses to collect and remit sales taxes on purchases made by residents of their states.

Oral arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. began on April 17.

In the 1992 case Quill v. North Dakota, the Court established the “nexus” standard for business taxation, declaring a business need not remit sales taxes unless it maintains a physical location, or nexus, in the taxing jurisdiction. Consumers are supposed to pay the tax directly to governments, but compliance is rare.

Lawyers representing 41 states, including South Dakota, are asking the court to overturn the Quill decision.

Matter of Jurisdiction

Tim Huelskamp, president and CEO of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says state governments lack the constitutional authority to tax people outside their borders.

“The United States is essentially 50 free markets,” Huelskamp said. “The Quill decision made it clear that, [for example] New York has no authority to tax folks in Kansas if the business doesn’t have a presence there, which matches all kinds of constitutional standards. We’re going to let the state of California reach into every state in the Union? It’s certainly scary to proponents of limited government.”

More Taxes, More Problems

Andrew Moylan, president of the National Taxpayers Union, says reversing the Quill decision would hit small business owners with more taxes and complex paperwork.

“Large retailers already have to collect tax in every state because they have storefronts, warehouses, or employees in states across the country,” Moylan said. “The people who would be negatively impacted by this are those small- and medium-sized businesses, and particularly people who utilize so-called marketplaces—think of websites like eBay or Etsy or even Amazon Marketplace.”

Huelskamp says states should reduce spending and enforce existing laws instead of trying to tax outsiders.

“I think we have a spending problem in most of these states, not a revenue problem,” Huelskamp said. “There are a number of other options. Eighty percent of this revenue is already collectible under current law.”

Interstate Commerce Slowdown

Moylan says undoing Quill would cause many business owners to stop selling to out-of-state consumers.

“They’d see huge compliance costs and major complexity to the point where they would most likely just not sell across state lines,” Moylan said. “If businesses find it too complicated to engage in interstate commerce, they will simply stop.”

Editor’s Note: This article was published in cooperation with The Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News.

PHOTO: The Supreme Court Building of the United States from the dome of the capitol building. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Farragutful. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Memorial Day: “The widow and the orphan”

As another Memorial Day dawns, I’m reminded that around this time last year Ed Morrissey asked the question, Have we forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day? I was doing some reading on the subject over the weekend and found that worries over a failure to properly honor this occasion don’t just stretch back for my entire life. The battle to keep to the intent of Memorial Day is essentially as old as the holiday itself.

Last year, Time Magazine put together a great historical piece on just that subject. The complaints about the fading purpose of the holiday actually began less than a score of years after the close of the Civil War. This was observed early on when the editors of the New York Tribune wrote in 1878, “It would be idle to deny that as individual sorrow for the fallen fades away the day gradually loses its best significance. The holiday aspect remains; how much longer the political character of the observance will linger we dare not guess.”

I suppose that their worries were, at least in some ways, valid. But the complete loss of the Memorial Day message never took place, proven by the fact that we’re still arguing over it 140 years later. Many people still do their best and we delight in telling the stories of folks who hew to the real meaning of the holiday, such as “The Good Cemeterian.” But the fact remains – as observed annually by so many others – that Memorial Day has largely become the opposite anchor to Labor Day. One marks the unofficial beginning of summer, the other the end of it.

This evolution of the holiday should probably give us pause if we’re out there having a barbeque today and partying down without any thought for the two categories of people who it was all supposed to be for. There are the Honored Dead, who fill places like Arlington, and then there are those who are left behind. Keep in mind that Memorial Day – or Decoration Day as it was long also called – was originally put in place as a permanent reminder of the more than 600,000 lives lost in the Civil War, later expanding to cover all the wars that followed.

Those who actually participated in the Civil War understood it best. Shortly after the holiday was made official, Union General John A. Logan wrote, “Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”

The phrase widow and orphan is the key takeaway here. This ties in with some of the observations Ed Morrissey made last year. Following World War 2, most of the country was either directly affected by the losses we sustained in the war or knew someone who was. But the shifting nature of our military leaves us today with only a tiny fraction of families who are connected by blood and tears to those who fight and, to this day, still sometimes die. Memorial Day, as General Logan said, is in place to not only remember the Honored Dead but to comfort those they left behind.

Most Americans can, if so inclined, go out to a cemetery today and stand in awe, seeing the flags marking the “passionless mounds” which cover the fallen. The reverence most feel is of an abstract nature, speaking to a general sense of gratitude and patriotism. But the spouses and children of the Honored Dead experience the day in a far more raw and wrenching fashion. There’s nothing theoretical about their pain and sense of loss. Yet when they see the rest of the nation joining them in placing flowers and flags, observing a moment of silence, we can at least hope that they take some comfort in the communal sense of mourning, assured yet again that their very real and rending sacrifice when they forever gave up their husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, was not in vain.

The list of those who join the ranks of the Honored Dead in America has, thankfully, grown shorter year by year. But still, it grows. New names are added and every one of them leaves their own “soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan” behind. If you need a reason to keep hold of the original meaning of Memorial Day today, that should be more than enough.

The post Memorial Day: “The widow and the orphan” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Although This Song Is 50 Years Old, We Still Listen To Daily. Do You Remember It (video)

For those who grew up in the 1960s, you already know about the world-class music. Even young people today listen to the “classic” music of that decade. Why? Because it was superior. Music today just doesn’t match the creativity, care in composition and quality as it did back then. Musicians actually recorded their songs in one take! Nowadays, it is all stop-and-go, cut-and-paste inside the studio.

Plus, producers use all sorts of gadgets and effects to improve sound quality. Compared to the music from the 1960s, that’s cheating!

Music has a way about it for piercing through space and time and bringing us back to a memory. In that way, it can serve almost like a time travel device. Want to transport back to the good old days of your life? Put on the songs of your youth, close your eyes and wait for the memories to come flooding back. Similarly, scents have the power to call forth memories from our subconscious.

When you press play and watch this nostalgic performance below, you’ll have memories flooding back to you as fast as lightning. Unless you weren’t growing up in the 1960s, then this trio’s performance will spark something for you.

The performance happened on the Big TNT show back in 1963. Life was so different back then. Parents didn’t overprotect their children. People danced to the music. And girls and boys went on dates to the movies and to get ice cream.

Shortly after this performance, the group decided to split and go their separate ways. And as soon as you start listening to this clip, you’ll recognize the song and group. It is a highly recognizable song that I’m sure will bring something back for you.

For those of you who were born after the 1960s, I bet you’ll even know this song. While you might not have grown up on this music, it is so good you probably listen to it on a regular basis. And it is still a song included on many playlists for people all over the world.

This group was a hit among fans of pop and rhythm & blues music. Can you guess who it is? It’s The Ronettes. This American girl group from New York had nine songs on the Billboard charts and had five Top 40 hits.

They worked with producer Phil Spector and became his most successful act. The trio of singers is related. Two are sisters, and the other is a cousin.

The group was as fun to listen to as they were to watch on stage. Their presence was electric, and their look was eye-catching. They made famous the black beehive hairdos and dark eye makeup. They had a sultry attitude but blended a sexy and sweet persona throughout their act and their songs. And this made them a hit through the years.

In 1965, the group won a Grammy award for their hit “Walking in the Rain.” And in 1999 they were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for their hit song “Be My Baby.” And as you can tell from the performance on the music show, they had a significant influence on music. They were later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 following a falling out with Phil Spector.

Watch the video below. Does their performance bring back memories?

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Leaked Documents Show Facebook’s Post-Charlottesville Reckoning with American Nazis

“James Fields did nothing wrong,” the post on Facebook read, referring to the man who drove a car through a crowd protesting against white supremacy in Charlottesville in August 2017, killing one. The post accompanied an article from Squawker.org, a conservative website. In training materials given to its army of moderators, Facebook says the post is an example of content “praising hate crime,” and it and others like it should be removed.

But after Charlottesville Facebook {snip} pushed to re-educate its moderators about American white supremacists in particular, according to a cache of Facebook documents obtained by Motherboard.

The documents provide more specific insights into how Facebook views and classifies white supremacy and neo-Nazis, and how those views have evolved {snip}.

“Recent incidents in the United States (i.e. Charlottesville) have shown that there is potentially confusion about our hate org policies and the specific hate orgs in specific markets,” a training document for moderators created shortly after the protest, and obtained by Motherboard, reads.

One of the training documents includes a log of when Facebook has modified the material, including adding new examples of hate speech as the network identifies them. {snip}

In January, 5 months after Charlottesville, Facebook added slides discussing the company’s position on white nationalism, supremacy, and separatism. While it says Facebook does not allow praise, support, or representation of white supremacy, it does allow the same sort of positions for white nationalism and separatism, according to one of the slides obtained by Motherboard.

Explaining its motivation, another section of the document reads that nationalism is an “extreme right movement and ideology, but it doesn’t seem to be always associated with racism (at least not explicitly).” Facebook then acknowledges that “In fact, some white nationalists carefully avoid the term supremacy because it has negative connotations.”

{snip}

Another slide asks “Can you say you’re a racist on Facebook?”.

“No,” is the response. “By definition, as a racist, you hate on at least one of our characteristics that are protected.”

Facebook classifies hate groups, individuals, and high profile figures based on “strong, medium, and weak signals,” according to one of the documents focused on hate speech in America. A strong signal would be if the individual is a founder or prominent member of a hate organization (or, “h8 org”, in Facebook parlance); medium would include the name or symbol of a banned hate group, or using dehumanizing language against certain groups of people. Partnership or some form of alliance with a banned hate organization—including participating in rallies together, of particular relevance to events like Charlottesville—Facebook sees as a weak signal, as well as an individual receiving a guilty verdict for distributing forbidden propaganda material.

{snip}

In its policy clarification document around hate groups in America, Facebook specifically points to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), United Klans of America, Aryan Nations, and several other groups that are either based in or are popular in the US. Another document, dated April of this year, includes many other white supremacist organizations from around the world, including Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group linked to several murders in the US. Another document explicitly says that Facebook does not consider every organization the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) flags a hate group as such. (In its statement Facebook said “Online extremism can only be tackled with strong partnerships which is why we continue to work closely with academics and organisations, including the Anti-Defamation League, to further develop and refine this process.”)

{snip}

In April, Facebook released a selection of rules for when it takes down content, including hate speech. {snip}

“Our policies against organised hate groups and individuals are longstanding and explicit—we don’t allow these groups to maintain a presence on Facebook because we don’t want to be a platform for hate. Using a combination of technology and people we work aggressively to root out extremist content and hate organisations from our platform,” Facebook added in its statement.

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Spike in Baton Rouge Killings Renews Concern About Outpacing 2017’s Historic Homicide Rate

After three separate killings in about seven hours during a bloody Sunday in Baton Rouge, residents and law enforcement leaders are hoping to reverse the current trend and avoid another year like 2017 — when East Baton Rouge Parish saw a historic spike in homicides at a rate outpacing Chicago’s.

“I’m surprised and disappointed at this year’s numbers so far,” said Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul. “{snip} We need help from the community to stop this culture of violence in Baton Rouge.”

The parish has seen 35 intentional and unjustified killings since the start of 2018, according to records maintained by The Advocate. That number is nine more than at this time last year when the total stood at 26.

{snip}

The three fatal shootings this weekend brought this month’s homicide tally to 10 — the highest number in one month since December. The Advocate tracks unjustified and intentional killings across East Baton Rouge Parish, but the current numbers could change in the future since some cases are still under investigation and could later be ruled justified or unintentional.

{snip}

“One of the things that stands out to me is that the community is sick and tired of these murders, and because of that they’re providing information to law enforcement,” [Paul] said. “There’s still some fear, but people are cooperating with law enforcement and we’re thankful for that.”

Chief Murphy Paul

{snip}

Paul also said he plans to reallocate department resources, adding homicide detectives and sending patrols into neighborhoods that see the most violent crime. He asked for public input on where and when that presence is most needed.

{snip}

The first killing occurred around 3 p.m. when Arvion Finley, 20, was fatally shot on Gus Young Avenue  — not far from an elementary school and across the street from a community center where dozens of people had gathered to celebrate a child’s birthday. He was pronounced dead on the scene, his body lying near the parking lot of a car wash as detectives canvassed the area and neighbors looked on.

Police arrested Robert Harrell, 40, in Finley’s death. He was booked Sunday night into Parish Prison on counts of second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and illegal use of weapons.

Harrell had texted Finley earlier Sunday and asked him to come by the shop to get some money, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Baton Rouge police. And Finley wasn’t the only one: Harrell also texted other shop employees to meet him at the location with “hammers,” which police believe to be slang for a firearm.

Harrell, of 1554 North 47th St., later told police that Finley had been threatening him and showed up at the shop with a gun, according to the affidavit. The man said he was wrestling the gun away from Finley when the weapon went off. That report is “inconsistent” with recordings of the shooting as well as several suspected gunshot wounds in Finley’s back, police wrote.

A witness who called 911 told police he was with Finley all day and did not see him with a firearm.

Robert Harrell

Just hours after Finley’s death, Baton Rouge police again responded to another fatal shooting, this time at the intersection of Main Street and North 17th Street.

Kelvin Howard, 41, was pronounced dead on the scene and another man was taken to the hospital with injuries. Both were shot outside an old bank building in a section of Mid City caught halfway between blight and redevelopment.

Police arrested Deandre Hollins on Monday after he turned himself in. Hollins was booked on counts of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, illegal use of a weapon and aggravated assault.

According to Hollins’ arrest report, he was laughing and joking with the two victims but then became angry. He went to a van, armed himself with a gun and began shooting, police said in an affidavit for arrest warrant. Hollins then fled the scene in the van.

{snip}

DeAndre Hollins

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Gallup: Non-denominational Protestants on the rise

NASHVILLE (BP) — Data pointing to a dwindling percentage of Americas who identify with a specific Protestant denomination has spurred calls for churches marked by God’s “presence and power” and for reemphasis of biblical doctrine. Southern Baptist …

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