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If youre intrigued by Bitcoin but daunted by how transactions work, theres an app for thatand its on Facebook.

QuickCoin lets users move the cryptocurrency around for free through the social network. Its a simple process of logging into an account, choosing a Facebook friend and sending bitcoin.

The accounts, called social wallets, display bitcoin in U.S. dollars and in bits, which are defined as 0.000001 bitcoin. That means US$5 would show up as roughly 8,548 bits instead of a fraction of one bitcoin.

One bitcoin was worth about $583 on Tuesday, according to CoinDesks Bitcoin tracking index.

The app is designed to work on any device or platform and is being positioned as a way of simplifying Bitcoin for mainstream adoption since Facebook claims 1.28 billion active monthly users.

You dont need to know how DNS works to surf the internet, so why should you have to know how Bitcoin works to use Bitcoin? QuickCoin cofounder Marshall Hayner said in an online chat.

The answer is clear: you shouldnt have to. We realized if we could make something that makes sense for everyone to use, we could reach a large audience with an amazing world-changing technology, and thats what we seek to do.

The app is using Facebooks API (application programming interface) and does not require the social media companys approval, according to Hayner. Its has been running for about a week and Facebook has not contacted the company so far.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

QuickCoin is a self-funded San Francisco-based startup thats being advised by Jackson Palmer, the creator of cryptocurrency Dogecoin.

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QuickCoin app lets users send bitcoin through Facebook

Miners of digital currencies such as bitcoin will have to pay value-added tax (VAT) in Poland if they want to sell the currencies. CoinDesk, citing a statement from the Polish tax authorities, reported that the sale of mined bitcoins is subject to a 23% VAT. The authorities' interpretation of bitcoin mining comes after a Polish bitcoin miner submitted a request for clarification regarding taxes …

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Bitcoin Miners in Poland Subject to 23% VAT While Selling

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna is set to get an estimated $116,000 worth of equipment and loan funding from NZAid for his pearl farm in Manihiki, despite an apparent conflict of interest.

The payment is part of a Grant Funding Arrangement (GFA) signed between the Cook Islands and New Zealand in 2013, which gave $1.7 million to the Cook Islands as part of the Pearl Revitalisation Project.

A requirement of the GFA was that all conflicts of interest were to be declared to the New Zealand Government. However, Mr Puna’s involvement in his pearl farm was not.

According to a document supplied by the Cook Islands’ Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) in Rarotonga, Mr Puna put in a request for a $38,000 boat, an $18,000 outboard motor and $30,000 worth of building material to upgrade his seeding house.

The document shows the equipment Mr Puna requested was worth more than twice as much as that asked for by most other pearl farmers. He also requested $18,393.75 as part of an emergency float loan.

Financial secretary of the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Richard Neve says the final list of equipment was approved by the Manihiki Pearl Farmers Association (MPFA), which 23 of 24 pearl farmers are members of including Mr Puna.

“This equipment has been put out in a series of public tenders … endorsed by MPFA, and procured by MFED.”

Mr Neve disputed that Mr Puna will be receiving over $100,000 worth of financial support, but the document provided by MMR says otherwise.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said in response to an Official Information Act request that Mr Puna was not on the list of those declared to have a conflict of interest.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says it is well known that Mr Puna’s family is involved in pearl farming.

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NZAid funds Cook Islands PM's pearl farm

Armando Ramirez (November 13, 2013)

Osceola Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez received advice this week from the First Amendment Foundation on upholding the states public records laws.

The letter from the state watchdog was written in the wake of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashtons critical review last month of Ramirezs commitment to the publics right to review and obtain government records.

These are extremely worrisome allegations, Mr. Ramirez, and it would appear the only reason criminal charges werent filed is because there wasnt sufficient evidence to move forward, wrote Barbara A. Peterson, president of the First Amendment Foundation.Like Mr. Ashton, we are very concerned with the gravity of these allegations which suggest, at the very least, a lack of education and training of your staff on the requirements of Floridas public records law, in not a disregard for the publics constitutional right of access to government records.

The letter came less than a month after Ramirez fired staff attorney, Adam Alvarez, after Alvarez warned against breaking public records law. Ramirez, a Democrat, took office last year and has fired six top aides while two others resigned.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ramirez did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the First Amendment Foundation letter.

In it, Peterson also wrote, You should be aware that, while State Attorney Jeffery Ashton has decided existed evidence is currently insufficient to bring criminal charges against you, we will continue to monitor your office and its compliance with the public records law. “Moreover, we strongly encourage you and your staff obtain additional public record and sunshine law training to ensure compliance with our constitutional right of access and governmental oversight.

Ramirez has not responded to a public records request filed last week by the Orlando Sentinel seeking information about the public record training he, Chief Deputy Clerk Jennifer Soto, and Human Resources Director Natalie Bryan have received since taking office.

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Osceola Clerk Ramirez gets public record advice

A constitutional melee has erupted at Purdue University in Indiana, which is under fire from a donor for deleting religious language from an honorary plaque against his wishes.

Lawyers for Purdue alumnus Michael McCracken say the public university is violating his First Amendment rights by refusing his request that a reference to Gods physical laws be included on a plaque in a conference room named after his parents.

The university agreed to install the plaque located in a new research building with an inscription of his choosing after Mr. McCracken and his wife made a pledge of $12,500 to Purdues School of Mechanical Engineering, according to a letter sent by his attorneys to a university attorney last week.

Mr. McCracken, who earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, asked that the conference room be named after his parents and requested that the plaque state: To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of Gods physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. In honor of Dr. William Ed and Glenda McCracken, according to the letter, written by Robert Kelner, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP.

Purdue rejected the language, claiming that the generic and nonsectarian reference to Gods physical laws amounted to an impermissible government endorsement of religion, according to Mr. Kelner. The plaque that was installed mentioned only Mr. McCrackens parents, he said.

The Universitys current position violates the McCrackens First Amendment rights, wrote Mr. Kelner in his letter. Mr.McCracken is also represented by the Liberty Institute,a conservative legal group.

The university didnt respond to a request for comment Monday. Purdues legal counsel told the Indianapolis Star in a statement that while Purdue has a great deal of understanding and sympathy for the disappointment of the McCracken family, it doubts thatthe courts would find this private speech as the donors counsel argues.

The universitys lawyer also expressed concern that if Purdue were to grant Mr. McCrackens request, the university would face lengthy and expensive litigation that would wipe out the value of this donation many times over.

Citing a 1995 First Amendment ruling handed down by the Supreme Court, Mr. Kelner wrote in his letter: The Supreme Court has made clear that private religious speech, far from being a First Amendment orphan, is as fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression. By refusing to allow the McCrackens to refer to God on the plaque, the University has impermissibly prohibited private religious speech while at the same time permitting secular private expression in other plaques and forums.

Mr. Kelner said that in late January he suggested a different wording that would make it clearer that the university isnt endorsing the religious language on the plaque. It would read instead:

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University in First-Amendment Clash With Donor Over Reference to God on Plaque

A new bill will allow the Tax Authority to share information with tax haven countries.

A government bill has been submitted to the Knesset to amend the Income Tax Ordinance, adding a chapter on the exchange of information under international conventions. This will allow the Israel Tax Authority to share information with tax authorities of other countries, including countries with which has no tax treaty, and including tax havens.

“This bill is revolutionary, because it gives the Tax Authority very broad powers to obtain information overseas, including in tax havens. It also allows it obtain information going back ten years, including on bank accounts that have closed and companies that are no longer in business, and to share confidential information about Israelis with the tax authorities of other countries,” says Israel Bar Association Tax Committee deputy chairwoman Adv. Shosh Shaham, and a member of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters. “When wealthy Israelis and tycoons put their money in tax havens around the world, they could not have imagined that they would be exposed.”

Under current law, the Tax Authority can only share information with foreign tax authorities through conventions for the prevention of double taxation with other signatory states. Israel has 52 such agreements, all of which include clauses for the sharing of information about money and assets.

Israel has no tax treaties with many other countries, including tax havens, such as Bermuda and Barbados, which levy little or no taxes on foreign residents. The Israel Tax Authority cannot obtain information about the money and assets of Israelis in these countries, except by signing an information sharing agreement. However, the current Income Tax Ordinance mandates the Tax Authority to maintain confidentiality on taxpayers.

“The bill was drafted, because it abolishes the duty of confidentiality, allowing the signing of reciprocal agreements independent of the convention,” says Shaham. She says that under these circumstances, people who have not yet disclosed their foreign assets to the Tax Authority should do so now, before the amendment is passed and comes into effect.

“This bill is an earthquake for Israeli business and wealthy individuals. Now is the last chance to submit a request for voluntary disclosure, which grants immunity from criminal prosecution with the tax settlement, because after the Tax Authority obtains the information there will be no more criminal immunity,” says Shaham.

Shaham says that the bill’s objective is important and essential to combat black capital held by Israelis overseas, which is estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars, and to bring it into the Israeli tax net. However, she warns, “There is the issue of balance and not harming the rights of the individual. The amount of information shared between the tax authorities is very extensive under the bill. It not only allows the sharing of existing information between tax authorities, but it also allows the sharing of information that they do not possess, and there is a need for checks and tax investigations at the demand of the other country to obtain it.”

The bill includes clauses to protect Israel’s security. It bans the Tax Authority from sharing information that is liable to harm Israel’s security, public safety, and ongoing investigations, or to share information without reciprocity. Shaham warns, however, “The bill has no clauses that protect Israeli taxpayers’ privacy.”

Shaham says that the bill must include a clause requiring the Tax Authority to notify taxpayers that it intends to provide a foreign tax authority with information about them.

Excerpt from:
No hiding place for Israelis' cash

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said Liberty Media Chairman John Malones offer to buy out the remaining stake in satellite radio company Sirius XM was ludicrous and called for activist investor Carl Icahn to take notice.

Nader, a Sirius shareholder, said on Monday that Libertys $3.68-a-share bid was below the $4 where the company was trading a few weeks ago.

I am sure that I along with other shareholders in Sirius XM will be interested in a legal challenge to John Malones company for lowballing Sirius XMs shareholder value, the 79-year-old consumer crusader said in a statement. Carl Icahn take notice and interest.

It was not immediately clear how many Sirius shares Nader owns. Nor was it clear whether Icahn is a shareholder of the company.

A spokeswoman for Liberty Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Liberty Media, which already owns about half of the satellite-radio company, made an offer Friday valuing the rest at $3.68 a share, or about $10.6 billion.

The stock closed at $3.83 today in New York, more than 4 percent higher than the bid by Liberty, an investment company controlled by billionaire John Malone.

The reaction signals that Liberty may face opposition in getting investors to approve the current deal.

Greg Maffei, the companys chief executive officer, said last week that Liberty plans to tap the cash of Sirius to potentially finance other transactions, including a possible bid for Time Warner Cable.

Liberty Media is contemplating making a Time Warner Cable deal through another of its holdings, Charter Communications.

Read more:
Nader has some Sirius issues with Liberty bid

A major theme in Floyd Abramss most recent book is the challenge for defenders of the First Amendment to stay consistent even when it pains them ideologically.

The dean of the First Amendment bar revisits the same subject in an op-ed in Mondays Wall Street Journal. His concern this time is the debate over a Massachusetts law that criminalizes protests within 35 feet of abortion clinic entrances. The Supreme Court is reviewing the state statute in McCullen v. Coakley, which is set to be argued next week.

The Massachusetts law was enacted in 2007 in response to protesters blocking entrances to clinics and harassing women. Last year, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. Relying on a 2000 Supreme Court ruling in Hill v. Colorado, the appeals court held that such abortion-specific and speak-specific exclusion zones are constitutionally permissible.

Mr. Abrams thinks the First Circuit as well as the American Civil Liberties Union have it wrong. The case, he writes, is simply one of many cases in which the First Amendment should be read to protect speech with which we happen to disagree.

He notes that the ACLU of Massachusetts opposed the law in 2007, with the group stating at the time that [i]f the message is unwelcome, as it often will be outside abortion clinics, the constitutionally appropriate response in a public forum is for the listener to walk away. The national ACLU also defended the rights of protesters in Hill v. Colorado.

Mr. Abrams writes:

But now that McCullen has reached the Supreme Court, both ACLU groups have switched sides. Their position, their brief states, has evolved over time and the Massachusetts law is, after all, constitutional on its face. Of course, the First Amendment has not changed in the 14 years between the filing of the ACLU briefs in Hill and McCullen; the ACLU has.

The old ACLU got it right. Looking back on Hill v. Colorado, Harvard Prof. Laurence Tribe observed that the case was slam-dunk simple and the decision slam-dunk wrong. It is time for the Supreme Court to right that wrong.

A spokesman for the ACLU didnt immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Is Mass. Law Banning Abortion-Clinic Speech Legal? Floyd Abrams Thinks Not

TOKYO: A Chinese man who tried to fly a hot-air balloon hundreds of kilometres to islands disputed between Beijing and Tokyo was rescued by Japans coastguard after ditching in the sea, an official said yesterday.

The 35-year-old took off from Chinas Fujian province on Wednesday morning in an attempt to land on one of the Tokyo-controlled islands, the Japan Coast Guard official said.

It was an ambitious goal hot-air balloons travel largely at the mercy of the wind, and the islands are tiny specks in the East China Sea 359 kilometres away from the take-off point.

They are hotly disputed between Beijing, which regards them as its territory and calls them Diaoyu, and Tokyo, which calls them Senkaku. Tensions have at times reached feverish heights.

In the event the pilot sent a request for help several hours into his flight and ditched in the sea, with a Japanese rescue helicopter picking him up 22 kilometres south of his goal, the official said.

The man, who was unhurt, was handed over to a Chinese patrol ship outside Japanese territorial waters, he added.

Photos distributed by the Japan Coast Guard showed a striped, multicoloured balloon drifting half-deflated in the steely blue waters.

Reports identified the man as Xu Shuaijun, a balloonist who in 2012 became the first man to pilot a hot-air balloon over northeast Chinas Bohai Bay.

On his verified account on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, Xu posted a short message declaring that he had been returned safely to the city of Fuqing in Fujian province.

I have returned safely, Xu wrote. Thanks everyone for your concern.

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Japan rescues balloonist trying to reach islands

AFP Japan rescues Chinese balloonist trying to reach islands

Tokyo (AFP) – A Chinese man who tried to fly a hot-air balloon hundreds of kilometres to islands disputed between Beijing and Tokyo was rescued by Japan’s coastguard after ditching in the sea, an official said Thursday.

The 35-year-old took off from China’s Fujian province on Wednesday morning in an attempt to land on one of the Tokyo-controlled islands, the Japan Coast Guard official said.

It was an ambitious goal — hot-air balloons travel largely at the mercy of the wind, and the islands are tiny specks in the East China Sea 359 kilometres (223 miles) away from the take-off point.

They are hotly disputed between Beijing, which regards them as its territory and calls them Diaoyu, and Tokyo, which calls them Senkaku. Tensions have at times reached feverish heights.

In the event the pilot sent a request for help several hours into his flight and ditched in the sea, with a Japanese rescue helicopter picking him up 22 kilometres south of his goal, the official said.

The man, who was unhurt, was handed over to a Chinese patrol ship outside Japanese territorial waters, he added.

Photos distributed by the Japan Coast Guard showed a striped, multicoloured balloon drifting half-deflated in the steely blue waters.

Reports identified the man as Xu Shuaijun, a balloonist who in 2012 became the first man to pilot a hot-air balloon over northeast China’s Bohai Bay.

On his verified account on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, Xu posted a short message declaring that he had been returned safely to the city of Fuqing in Fujian province.

Link:
Japan rescues Chinese balloonist trying to reach disputed islands

Russellville’s Freedom House is undergoing a change in leadership after the termination of its director, Gary Rhodes.

After he was initially placed on administrative leave without pay, Rhodes’ employment was terminated pending the outcome of an investigation. Request for details regarding Rhodes’ termination were referred to an attorney, who did not return a request for comment made Thursday.

Arkansas River Valley Area Council (ARVAC) Executive Director Stephanie Ellis said a decision has not been made to hire a replacement for Rhodes at this time. She said she has a commitment to move forward while restructuring the operations of the agency and its programs to better serve the community and people.

ARVAC is a parent company to Freedom House, which itself has helped more than 14,000 clients over 39 years. ARVAC’s Freedom House is a 501(c)3, nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment center funded through state and federal grants, subcontracts through other agencies and generous donations.

A statement issued by ARVAC indicated while there was a threat of losing Freedom House funding, Ellis was able to secure partnerships to ensure that ARVAC’s Freedom House will continue to provide services for those in need in the community.

“I believe in ARVAC and am led by our Mission; I view my employees and the clients we serve as family, so failure is not an option,” Ellis said.

Freedom House offers programs and services with a holistic approach to heal mind, body and spirit. These services include observational detoxification, residential and outpatient treatment and a transitional living program. With a staff of regional alcohol and drug detoxification specialists, and bilingual counselors, as well as community outreach personnel, Ellis said, our number one priority in community action is to ensure that the needs of the community are met. When you keep the person served as the priority, everything falls into place.”

For more information, please call Freedom House at 968-7086 or the ARVAC headquarters at (479) 229-4861 or visit www.arvacinc.org.

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Freedom House remains open after termination of director

Sep 072013

PALM BEACH COUNTY – So many Palm Beach County beaches are critically eroded and in need of re-nourishment the county is asking the state to pitch in to pick up the costs of some of the work ahead.

Palm Beach County commissioners will meet next week to put together a request for funding from the state.

It’s the first of many steps to complete the project.

Beaches that are up for re-nourishment span from Jupiter and Tequesta, down to Boca Raton.

Work will begin in a few months to restore the beaches. The county will spend millions of dollars to bring in sand and fix up the shoreline.

This is a large undertaking that is only done every seven to ten years on this scale.

After the re-nourishment is complete, the county will have to pay for annual upkeep.

That’s why it’s asking for the state to chip in as much as $2.8 million.

“Most of our beaches are as eroded as they can possibly be right now. That is all going to change come January, February. All of our beaches are going to be built out to the maximum template, which is what we want to see. If a storm like Sandy hits, we will deal with it.” said Leanne Welch, with Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.

It will be some time before the county knows just how much of the $2.8 million is coming to Palm Beach County.

Read more:
PBC to renourish miles of beaches

By Dow Jones Business News, June 14, 2013, 10:55:00 AM EDT

ZURICH–U.S. authorities are pressing ahead with efforts to pry information out of Liechtenstein that could come back to haunt Americans hiding money in tax havens.

The Justice Department sought help in April from the Principality of Liechtenstein Tax Authority in gathering a trove of information from firms there that advise clients, according to a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

A person familiar with the matter said U.S. officials have sent additional letters to Liechtenstein.

U.S. officials indicated that they want information about Americans who might have dodged taxes by using Liechtenstein foundations to hold offshore accounts. “U.S. prosecutors have a strong suspicion that a great many U.S. taxpayers who used Liechtenstein structures, or are associated with Liechtenstein structures as beneficiaries, have not been compliant with U.S. law,” the Justice Department said.

Liechtenstein has relayed the request to various financial firms in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The names of the firms, known as fiduciaries, couldn’t be determined. Katja Gey, the director of Liechtenstein’sOffice for International Financial Affairs, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The move marks an expansion of the ongoing global tax-evasion crackdown. In addition to the U.S. government’s prod of Liechtenstein, neighboring Switzerland is weighing an agreement with the U.S. that could erode the Swiss nation’s legendary bank secrecy.

The Swiss Parliament is considering a proposal for many of the country’s roughly 300 banks to start handing over data about past dealings with American clients to the Justice Department. Some lawmakers and advocacy groups have criticized the measure as a heavy-handed infringement of Switzerland’s sovereignty.

In the letter to Liechtenstein, the Justice Department said documents it is seeking could establish the amount of funds kept by Americans in undeclared accounts in countries such as Switzerland but managed by foundations in Liechtenstein.

Read more:
U.S. Pressing Liechtenstein on Tax Havens

Road repairs, upcoming projects, the Second Amendment and more are slated for discussion at Tuesday’s regular Town Council meeting.

The council will take time to consider passing a resolution “Affirming the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” an item suggested by members of the Paradise Tea Party. The resolution would have the councilmen reaffirm their oaths of office and promise to oppose “any provision infringing upon the Second Amendment or any other constitutional rights granted the citizens of our nation.” It would also have the council recommend that state and national leaders refocus their efforts in gun control to issues of mental health.

Grant money will play into a large number of budgeted items for council approval Tuesday: town staff prepared a finalized disbursement of $22,495 from Community Development Block Grant; the Paradise Police Department issued a request for refurbishing two police cruisers for $51,687 of COPS grant money; and a proposed bid from town staff for a $20,083 contract for quality assurance services in the Pearson Road/Recreation Drive Signalization Project.

Town Council will also evaluate multiple items concerning roads in Paradise, such as a proposal to use Prop. 1B road funds to do “microsurface” repairs to portions of Skyway, and Pearson and Clark roads.

There will also be discussion of whether the council will automatically re-appoint Planning Commissioner Jody Jones at the June 11 meeting or open her position

The Town Council meeting begins at 6 p.m., Tuesday, at Town Hall, 5555 Skyway. The agenda packet can be found at Town Hall or online at www.townofparadise.com.

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Town to hear Second Amendment resolution

The British overseas territory, which wants to shed its reputation for clandestine financial activity, is introducing sweeping reforms that will make public the names of thousands of previously hidden companies and their directors.

In proposals sent to Cayman-based hedge fund businesses and seen by the Financial Times, the islands’ powerful monetary authority, CIMA, has outlined plans to create a public database of funds domiciled on the island for the first time. The database will also list funds’ directors, pending an ongoing consultation process due to close in mid-March.

CIMA, which did not respond to a request for comment, also plans to require directors to undergo a vetting process to ensure they are qualified to act as fiduciaries for investors.

“In the 24 months subsequent to the onset of the financial crisis, the BVI Financial Services Commission, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Jersey Financial Services Commission, the Bahamas Financial Services Board and the Isle of Man Supervision Commission all updated their corporate governance codes, laws and/or regulations,” CIMA said in one document.

(Read More: Hedge Fund ‘Sharks Going After’ Paulson: Pro)

The move comes amid a barrage of international criticism for the diminutive tax haven’s minimal disclosure requirements and tough corporate privacy laws in recent years. The Caymans have borne the brunt of attacks on offshore centers from angry US and EU politicians as they struggled to keep pace with fast-moving new global regulations. They even featured in rancorous debates over the tax affairs of US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

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Cayman Islands to Make Public Thousands of Names

Published: Jan. 16, 2013 at 4:05 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) — The conservative activist group Freedom Watch is suing to block the sweeping firearms restrictions recommended by the White House gun violence task force.

Freedom Watch, based in Washington, argues the task force held illegal meetings with lobbyists and gave inadequate public notice, the Washington newspaper The Hill reported Wednesday.

“President [Barack] Obama and Vice President [Joe] Biden have thumbed their nose at the law and instead have been holding closed-door meetings with special interest lobbyists on both sides of the issue,” said Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman in a written statement.

The group filed a federal lawsuit in Florida, seeking to shut down the task force and block its proposals from implementation, the newspaper said.

The group maintains the task force violated the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act requiring presidential task forces to meet in public and publish notice of meetings in the Federal Register 15 days ahead of time.

The White House did not respond to a request for its reaction to the suit, The Hill said.

Obama outlined a package of gun-control legislation he wants Congress to pass and executive actions he intends to take in an attempt to ratchet down gun violence in the United States.

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Freedom Watch sues over gun commendations

Now pending on Texas Attorney General Greg Abbotts desk is a request for an opinion on whether senior status federal judges can perform weddings in our state.

Its an interesting question, I guess, especially if youre among senior status federal judges who hear cases in lieu of retiring. But even more interesting is the unintended linkage the request provides to important questions about high school cheerleaders and God.

The opinion request is from Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness on behalf of U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield of Beaumont, a senior status jurist periodically asked to marry folks. And what happy couple wouldnt want to be married by a judge named Heartfield? (I do note, however, that there is a magistrate in that district named John D. Love.)

Heartfield is our link to God and cheerleading and Abbotts recent entry into a courthouse kerfuffle about the combination of those two powerful forces.

A few years back, Heartfield ruled against a Silsbee High School cheerleader forced from the squad for refusing to cheer for a basketball player who had assaulted her. The cheerleaders family sued the school district. Heartfield, in a decision upheld on appeal, tossed out the suit and ordered the family to pay the district $45,000.

His ruling was based on several points, including a conclusion that a cheerleader forfeits individual free speech rights while cheering. In this case, Heartfield said, the cheerleader had no right not to chant her assailants name as required for the squad when he attempted a free throw.

In September 2010, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, writing, In her capacity as cheerleader, (she) served as a mouthpiece through which (the school district) could disseminate speech namely, support for its athletic teams. Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, (the district) had no duty to promote (the cheerleaders) message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit.

Im focused on the ruling that a cheering cheerleader is a mouthpiece for the school, as opposed to an individual student freely espousing personal views. Go team go is a legitimate public school sentiment, one in which a cheering cheerleader might or might not personally concur. Go God go is something else, something a public school should not promote through its mouthpieces.

So lets pivot to Abbotts involvement in a current cheerleading brouhaha (and would we be Texas if we didnt have a current cheerleading brouhaha?).

Abbott has sided with Kountze High School cheerleaders who put biblical references on their signs at football games. (Example: I can do all things through Christ which strengthens.) The practice brought protests from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a school decision to ban the biblical references, a decision later reversed in court in a battle sure to continue.

Original post:
Herman: Cheering for God and the First Amendment

Posted on: 7:32 am, September 14, 2012, by Meredith Forrest Kulwicki, updated on: 08:20am, September 14, 2012

A federal court will hear arguments regarding a case addressing free speech on public sidewalks on Friday.

The ACLU of Utah is challenging Brigham Citys free speech ordinance on behalf of the Main Street Church of Brigham City.

The Main Street Church of Brigham City intended to distribute flyers on the sidewalk near Brigham Citys LDS temple during its open house. They say when they obtained a permit under the citys free speech zone ordinance on Aug. 20, they found out they could not be on the sidewalk areas where most people walk to and from the temple.

On Thursday, Brigham City agreed to not enforce its Free Speech Zone Ordinance, however, the agreement did not suspend the lawsuit filed against the city, according to a press release from the ACLU.

The statement said: Main Street Church and the ACLU of Utah have not conceded that any past enforcement of the ordinance was constitutional. They also continue to contend that the ordinance is unconstitutional on its face and that it should be completely struck down by the court.

Brigham City had previously released the following statement:

The City`s free speech zone ordinance was developed by city officials and city attorneys based on Utah laws and other municipalities` ordinances throughout Utah. To Brigham City`s knowledge, this ordinance has been upheld as constitutional by the courts.

A spokesman for the LDS Church declined a request for comment.

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City’s free speech ordinance challenged in federal court

GALVESTON – The Texas Supreme Court’s decision weakening the state Open Beaches Act has become a key issue in the race for one of the two contested Supreme Court seats in the Nov. 6 election.

San Antonio attorney Michele Petty stood in front of a battered beach home in Surfside last weekend to criticize her opponent, Justice Nathan Hecht, for siding with the majority in Severance v. Patterson, the case that led to the controversial decision.

“Texans have shown their love for their beach and they want access to the beach, and the Texas Supreme Court has ignored that,” said Petty, who would be the only Democrat on the court if she defeated Hecht. Hecht did not respond to a request for comment.

The Open Beaches Act historically has been interpreted to allow the public beach to move landward with erosion, a concept known as a “rolling easement.” The court said the rolling easement does not apply if the erosion is sudden, as in the case of a storm. Although the decision applied only to West Galveston Island, it potentially could affect other areas of the coast.

“We now have private beaches in Texas where the public can be excluded,” Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said after court issued its 5-3 decision in April. The ninth justice, Chief Judge Wallace Jefferson, did not participate.

Patterson, a Republican, would not go as far as supporting Petty, but said, “It’s an issue and the voters need to be aware of it.”

Unpopular decision

The decision was widely opposed by state officials, including state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said it was based on “nothing.”

Petty is hoping to tap in to popular support for the Open Beaches Act. An overwhelming majority voted to make the act part of the Texas Constitution in 2010.

Hecht and Judge Don Willett are the only two judges up for re-election who sided with the majority in the Severance case. Willett is unopposed. Incumbent Judge David Medina, who dissented, is in a Republican primary runoff election July 31 with John Devine, a former district judge from Harris County.

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Open beaches an issue in Texas Supreme Court race

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the ratings on the following Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) bonds and removed the bonds from Rating Watch Negative:

–$156.47 million senior lien bonds at ‘BB’; –$109.34 million subordinate lien bonds at ‘BB-’.

The resolution of the Rating Watch primarily reflects the authority’s improved near-term liquidity, following the sale of $69.14 million electric system bonds in April, with a portion of the proceeds used to repay working capital lines of credit and reduce the amount of an outstanding term loan. Fitch previously assigned the authority’s $17.39 million electric system revenue refunding bonds series 2012A (tax-exempt) a rating of ‘BB’ and the $51.75 million electric system subordinated revenue bonds series 2012B (federally taxable) and 2012C (federally taxable) a rating of ‘BB-’.

The Rating Outlook on the outstanding bonds is Negative, which takes into account Fitch’s continuing concerns about the authority’s longer-term ability to address its high operating costs, increased leverage and more limited financial flexibility.

SECURITY

The senior bonds are secured by net electric revenues and certain other funds while the subordinated bonds are secured by net electric revenues on a subordinate lien basis. Lines of credit are junior to the payment of all obligations under the senior and subordinated resolutions. Debt service reserve funds are available for both series of bonds. The senior and subordinated bonds are not subject to cross-default provisions.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF RISK FACTORS: WAPA’s financial ratios have declined significantly in recent years, due to higher oil costs, a softer economy, an increased dependence on short-term debt and growing sums due from the Water System. The 2012 bond financing and moderation of fuel prices lessens near-term financial liquidity concerns, but the ability of WAPA to consistently meet its financial obligations and stabilize its fiscal position remains uncertain.

EXPOSURE TO OIL: The authority’s generating plants are oil-fired, limiting the system’s operating and financial flexibility. HOVENSA’s decision to close its St. Croix oil refinery and end oil deliveries to the authority by year end 2012 will necessitate a change in oil suppliers; this is currently being addressed by senior management through a request for qualifications process to secure fuel supply by Jan. 1, 2013.

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Fitch Affirms Virgin Islands WAPA Sr Lien Bonds at 'BB' & Sub Lien Bonds at 'BB-'; Outlook Negative



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