‘Click Camp’ replaces ‘Write Rosty’ in new U.S. tax revamp push

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The political goal is the same as it was in the mid-1980s – seed grass-roots support for an overhaul of the U.S. tax code – but the approach launched Thursday relies on email, not snail mail.

The chairmen of Congress’s tax-writing committees have unveiled a Web site they hope will boost public support for overhauling the tax code in the same way that a “Write Rosty” letter-writing campaign did a quarter-century ago.

TaxReform.gov, created by Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat, and Representative Dave Camp, a Republican, asks Americans to share their stories and ideas about tax reform.

The site’s home page heading says, “Comprehensive Tax Reform: building a tax code for the 21st century.”

Not since 1985-1986 has the U.S. government revamped the tax code. The last successful effort was led by Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who then held the position that Camp holds today.

As chairman of the tax-writing House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Rostenkowski asked the public to “Write Rosty” if they backed his effort to reform the tax code along with Reagan. More than 75,000 letters to Rostenkowski poured in.

Camp has vowed to move a tax reform bill out of Ways and Means this year. Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has said he wants to spend much of the remaining time before his 2014 retirement working on tax reform.

Current polls show the public wants a simpler tax code, but major obstacles confront Baucus and Camp.

One problem is the stubborn political divide over whether tax reform should result in increased tax revenue. Another is the difficulty of eliminating scores of tax breaks prized by individuals and corporations alike.

President Barack Obama backs a tax code rewrite and he has listed detailed proposals in repeated budget plans, but he has not pursued that objective as aggressively as Reagan did.

There are other significant differences from the Reagan-Rostenkowski era and the current tax reform effort.

Clint Stretch, a former senior congressional tax staffer, said: “Reagan talked about tax reform constantly and it was well received in stump speeches.”

In 1986, the tax code was less complex and the tax loopholes being exploited were more glaring. Reform advocates also won the backing of a big share of the business community.

Today’s business community is more divided, and the code is loaded with hundreds of special exemptions, deductions and other favors to special interests. Also, the lobbying industry that protects each of these is larger and more entrenched.

“The public, just like in 1985, is naturally skeptical of tax reform,” Camp and Baucus said in a joint statement.

“The kind of engagement the ‘Write Rosty’ campaign sparked nearly 30 years ago is even easier today thanks to the Internet and social media. That’s why the chairmen are launching TaxReform.gov” and a @simplertaxes Twitter handle,” they said.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Vicki Allen)

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Uhuru Kenyatta’s crimes against humanity trial must be stopped, Kenya tells UN

It was written on behalf of Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Macharia Kamau, who
urged the Security Council to “terminate immediately” the trials,
which are due to begin in July.

Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have promised to cooperate with the proceedings,
but this will mean that both will be away from Kenya for extended periods.

“Their absence from the country may undermine the prevailing peace and
any resultant insecurity may spill over into the neighbouring countries,”
the paper continued.

Kenya called on Russia, China, India, the US and other “friendly allies”
to “use their influence” to ensure the Security Council “takes
the necessary steps” to scrap the trials.

The four named countries named are all opposed to the ICC or have failed to
ratify its founding treaty.

Kenya could instead find a “homegrown solution” to prosecute those
linked to the 2007/8 election violence, when more than 1,100 people died and
300,000 were forced to flee their homes after the vote was disputed.

The briefing raised the prospect of fresh conflict if the trials were not

“It has taken great resolve and discipline on the part of the Kenyan
people not to be provoked into turmoil and violence by these protracted and
unpopular cases,” it said.

The Security Council has no power to cancel a trial at the ICC once it has
started, despite Kenya’s entreaties for it to do so.

“This is essentially moot, it’s just political grandstanding,” said
one Western diplomat in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

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David Cameron attempts to hold Syria peace summit in London

Downing Street sources played down suggestions that Mr Cameron was acting as a
go-between for the two powers, as Margaret Thatcher did during the Cold War.

A senior Downing Street source said the timing of the Sochi and Washington
visits was “coincidental”, but “very useful”. The source
added: “We are interested in trying to put together a Syria conference
in London.”

Downing Street today repeated the view that the Syrian regime had used
chemical weapons on rebel forces, contradicting UN claims that the rebels
might have been responsible.

The Prime Minister’s Russian visit follows a meeting on Tuesday between the
Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the US secretary of state, John
Kerry, after which both spoke of their desire for a conference by the end of
the month. Syrian government officials and rebels would be given the chance
to create a caretaker government.

The move seems to have the cautious backing of the Syrian government. Mr
Cameron may also use his talks to press Mr Putin over military supplies to
the regime. The Kremlin may demand in return that the West does not arm
rebel groups.

Damascus said today that it was willing to allow UN experts in to assess
whether chemical weapons had been used anywhere in the conflict.

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Money and Britons join US quest for truth about UFOs

But while the claims are familiar – bright lights in the sky, bunkers in the
desert, and conspiracy in the White House – the project’s scale and ambition
is new. Funded with $1.1 million from a Canadian donor, the CHD hired six
former politicians to participate in the elaborately-staged hearings in
front of banks of television cameras and more than 40 witnesses.

And its end goal? “I would like to see the President of the United States
come out one day and say my fellow Americans we are not alone in the
universe and we have visitors now,” says Stephen Bassett, an organiser
who has spent a decade mulling the idea.

At the heart of this earnest American exercise in representative democracy are
a handful of British stars.

Speaking in a broad Lincolnshire accent, former British Transport Police
detective Gary Heseltine makes a passionate call for the disclosure of
government files, at one point being rebuked by a ex-congresswoman for

“I believe that that time is now to lift the veil of secrecy that has
shrouded the subject for more than 60 years,” he tells the panel.

Former detective Gary Heseltine addresses the hearing (Pic: Reuben

Mr Heseltine’s own fascination with UFOs began on a balmy summer night in
Scunthorpe in 1975. The then-15-year-old was walking under the stars with
his girlfriend when a bright light swooped overhead, seemingly knocking out
the power in parts of the village of Ashby below.

Leaping onto his bicycle, he rode furiously and reached his parents’ house on
Baysdale Road moments before the light crossed above it. “No sooner had
it flown over then out went the lights.”

Mr Heseltine has no exact date for his close encounter, making it impossible
to confirm his account of the power outages, but whatever he saw affected
him enough that four decades later he is in Washington offering his
testimony to the panel.

“We’re sensible people, we’re not looney tunes,” he says. “All
we ask is don’t treat us like fools. Listen to the evidence and make your
own minds up.”

Mr Heseltine’s full-throated performance wows many in the American audience
and a crowd of admirers cluster around him afterward, including one woman
who urgently describes photographs of alien bodies that a friend sent to

On the other side of the UFO community’s broad church is Nick Pope, a
bookish-looking former civil servant who spent three years studying
sightings for the Ministry of Defence.

Unlike Mr Heseltine and many of his fellow Ufologists, Mr Pope believes the
world’s governments are probably “as mystified as everyone else”
and doubts that there’s “a spaceship in a hangar somewhere.”

Nick Pope is more sceptical than many other Ufologists (Pic: Reuben

But he’s impressed with the professionalism of the hearings and the brisk
stewardship of the often-sceptical former members of Congress. “If the
UFO community wants to be taken seriously – and they do – this is a very
good start point,” he says.

The Holy Grail of UFO sightings used to be Roswell, the 1947 crash in the New
Mexico desert of an object which the government described as a surveillance
balloon but believers are convinced is a flying saucer.

But as decades passed and Roswell witnesses died, interest has shifted to less
exotic locale: Suffolk. It was there in December 1980 that US Air Force
personnel based at RAF Woodbridge claimed to have seen a triangular metal
object and later recorded unusually high levels of radiation.

“Roswell is almost passing into legend, Rendlesham Forest is now the most
potent sighting available to us,” said Mr Pope.

Mike Gravel, a Left-wing former Alaska senator who ran against Barack Obama
and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, is among those convinced
by what he’s heard.

“I’ve seen enough evidence that there’s no question that there’s an
unidentified phenomenon taking place,” he says, calling for a
international conference on the matter hosted by the UN.

And is there a danger that taking a $20,000 fee to participate in a panel on
UFOs might hurt his credibility? The 82-year-old grins broadly. “At my
age I could care less.”

The hearings sometimes go through periods of unsettling normality, as minutes
are taken, oaths are taken and witnesses scolded for going over their time

And then, just in case there’s a danger of things becoming too mundane, an
exasperated attendee in gold trousers and a cowboy hat walks out of the
conference room complaining into her mobile phone.

“I don’t know why they can’t just hurry and come down and beam me up,”
she says.

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Ohio kidnappings: Michelle Knight forced to deliver Amanda Berry’s baby on Christmas Day

Ariel Castro in court on Thusday (Reuters)

Miss Knight disclosed that Castro got her pregnant five times. Each time he “starved
her for at least two weeks, then repeatedly punched her in the stomach until
she miscarried”.

Georgina DeJesus, now 23, is said to have told police that she did not believe
she ever became pregnant during her nine years in captivity.

The women are believed to have said that at first they were bound with chains
and ropes in Castro’s basement. Later they were allowed into an upstairs

Two of them have told police they briefly left the house twice during their
captivity. Castro moved them to his garage in disguises such as hats,
glasses and wigs.

He allegedly marked the anniversaries of each kidnapping by serving dinner and
a cake. “He would celebrate their abduction day as their new birthday,”
a relation told The New
York Times

New details emerged today of the escape on Monday after Castro forgot to lock
the “big inside door” when he went to a McDonald’s restaurant.

Miss Berry was said to have told police that she first shouted for help from
neighbours rather than try to break open the house’s front storm door
because “she thought Ariel was testing her”.

Armed police, responding to her emergency call, walked upstairs, where they
saw a pair of eyes through the crack of a door. It was Michelle Knight.

Shouting “you saved me”, she threw herself at a police officer, the
report said. She was followed by Miss DeJesus, who “jumped into my arms”,
an officer wrote.

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Aerial video: Destruction left by cargo ship crash in Genoa

Footage filmed by an Italian
police helicopter shows the collapsed remains of the 50 foot high control
tower at Genoa Port. A runaway cargo ship, the Jolly Nero, collided with the
tower on Tuesday night, killing six people.

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Man’s body found west of Melbourne

A 35-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested following the discovery of a man’s body at a residential address west of Melbourne.

Emergency services were called to a property in Felicity Drive at Tarneit, just before 11pm (AEST) on Thursday, police said.

A man believed to be in his 30s was found dead in the residence, according to a police statement.

Homicide Squad detectives have been notified and a 35-year-old man has been arrested and is assisting police with their enquires.

The investigation is ongoing.

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Six prominent world renowned figures and institutes boycott Israel

Alice Walker refused for her critically acclaimed novel A number of well-known and renowned figures and institutes have announced their boycott of Israeli president Shimon Peres’s conference scheduled to be held in Jerusalem next month. This boycott is an expression of their condemnation of Israel’s occupation and violations against the Palestinian people. This has upset Israel, especially since the figures and institutes boycotting the conference are highly regarded and influential worldwide.

After famous physicist Stephen Hawking announced his boycott of the Israeli conference sponsored by Shimon Peres, Israeli media outlets highlighted this issue (the boycott) on Thursday and pointed out its effects and magnitude. Moreover, the media noted that over the past few years, a number of highly regarded figures and institutes, both academic and commercial, have joined campaigns boycotting Israel as an expression of their rejection of the occupation and policies exercised by Israel against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

“Haaretz” newspaper revealed the names of the 6 most prominent figures and institutes that have expressed their rejection of the Israeli occupation and policies against Palestinians either by refusing to visit the country and boycotting the conference or by refusing commercial, academic or cultural cooperation with the occupying state of Israel. The list of well-known figures and institutes boycotting Israel and its conference next week mentioned by the newspaper include the following:

  • MUJI Japanese network for manufacturing and marketing (wholesale trade), which is a network that manufactures and markets over 7000 products including stationary, food, and cars. In 2010, MUJI refused to open a branch in Israel (despite Israeli insistence) in response to Japanese parties supporting and advocating the cause of the Palestinian people.
  • British rock star and musician, Elvis Costello, who cancelled two concerts in Israel in 2010 due to the humiliation Israel exercises against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. At the time, he commented on the cancellation of his concerts by saying “I cannot make an appearance in a place where they humiliate Palestinians in the name of Israeli national security.”
  • In 2010, the British director and producer of television and cinematic films, Mike Leigh, who after directing Harry Potter is now considered one of the top 3 directors in the world, refused to visit Israel due to its violations against the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
  • The University of Johannesburg in South Africa, announced its severance of academic ties with Ben-Gurion University in 2011 due to the university’s relations with the Israeli occupation army. Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu, commented on the University’s decision to boycott Ben- Gurion University saying, “Such relations cannot continue as Israeli universities are an essential part of the Israeli regime and chose to be so.” He stressed his continued support for the international campaign to boycott Israel, withdraw investments from it and impose sanctions on it.
  • In 2012, the international American writer, poet, author and social activist, Alice Walker, refused for one of her most critically acclaimed novels, “The Color Purple”, which was awarded both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, to be translated into Hebrew. Moreover, in 2009, she participated in a solidarity visit to the Gaza Strip with 60 women from an anti-war group in response to the Israeli war on Gaza.
  • This year, world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking announced his boycott of a 3 day Conference being held in Jerusalem under the patronage of the Israeli President Shimon Peres. He also called for an academic boycott of Israel due to its aggressive actions against the Palestinians and its continued occupation of Palestinian territories.


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Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry: "Israel is reviewing a law allowing the division of prayer times between Muslims and Jews in Al-Aqsa Mosque"

The Director-general of the Israeli “Religious Affairs Ministry” announced during a session in the Knesset that the ministry is seeking to review a law that will allow Jews to perform religious rituals in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He explained that a parliamentary committee was charged with examining the matter in closer detail.

The Israeli “Religious Affairs Ministry” considered these official measures necessary to enable religious Jews to freely perform their rituals, and that prohibiting them from doing so is considered a violation of “the freedom of worship”. Moreover, the ministry is seeking to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews.

Moshe Feiglin, an MP from the radical right-wing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, expressed his surprise that the mosque hadn’t been divided by saying, “How can we accept the fact that Jews don’t have the right to pray at the place which is most sacred to them?”

Moreover, committee chairwoman Miri Regev said, “Prohibiting Jews from praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the “Temple Mount” is unacceptable discrimination and an attack on the right to freedom of worship.”

A Hebrew radio station broadcast a discussion held on Wednesday concerning the law and its aims of allowing an increased number of Jewish settlers to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque at a time when Palestinian and international parties concerned with Jerusalem affairs have warned against the division of the Mosque, both in terms of time and structure, as is the case in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.


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