Tag Archives: states

A New International Advice Line Will Help American Women End Their Pregnancies

Mother Jones

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Concerned about President Trump’s promise to drastically roll back legal access to abortion, an international feminist group launched a project on Thursday that aims to help women in the US safely end their own pregnancies.

Since 2014, Women Help Women has responded to over 100,000 emails from women around the world seeking abortions in countries where the procedure is highly restricted or outright banned. Among other services, the group sometimes arranges to have the abortion-inducing drugs misoprostol and mifepristone sent internationally and then counsels the recipient on their safe usage.

“We know there are different barriers that prevent people from being able to access the abortion care that they need,” says Jessica Shaw, a professor at the University of Calgary in Canada and a Women Help Women board member. “This is already going on, and we’re stepping up in anticipation that things likely will get worse with new laws coming in over the next few years.”

Women Help Women—whose new American project is called Self-Managed Abortion, Safe and Supported (SASS)—won’t be sending misoprostol or mifepristone to women in the United States for fear, says Shaw, of litigation. Instead counselors will advise the small but significant number of women in the US who manage to obtain the drugs without the assistance of a health care provider on how to successfully administer them. For added protection, WHW counselors responding to queries from American women will be working abroad, including from Canada.

Misoprostol and mifepristone are both prescription-only in the United States and are only used early-on in pregnancy. But as state legislatures continue to make it harder to access abortions—over 300 state-level anti-abortion laws have been enacted since 2010—advocates and medical experts expect that more women will look underground for ways to self-induce. Several surveys studying the approximately 900,000 women in the US who get clinical abortions in a given year indicate that many are already using misoprostol, as well as other methods, to end their pregnancies without medical supervision. In one, 2.6 percent of patients surveyed said they’d taken drugs, herbs, or vitamins in an attempt to end their pregnancy before seeking an in-clinic abortion. In another, researchers at the University of Texas estimated that as many as 240,000 women in the state had tried to self-induce at some point in their life.

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States, more than a dozen women have faced prosecution or jail time after self-inducing an abortion, sometimes after taking misoprostol. Shaw says that most women who call WHW from know what the legal risks are where they live. “That’s how the end up on our website in the first place,” she says. “But for many people, the legal risk is far less than the risk of having a pregnancy and carrying it to term.”

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A New International Advice Line Will Help American Women End Their Pregnancies

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Mexico Finally Has Donald Trump Figured Out

Mother Jones

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Yesterday Donald Trump suggested he might pull out of NAFTA entirely, then turned on a dime and agreed to begin negotiations instead over changes to the treaty. Mexico has finally figured him out:

On Wednesday, the suggestion from the White House that Mr. Trump was finalizing an executive order to begin the process of withdrawing the United States from NAFTA revealed a different, more experienced Mexico, one that was learning to live with what it considers Mr. Trump’s bluster and stagecraft — and not inclined to publicly react too quickly.

“It seems like he’s sitting at a poker table bluffing rather than making serious decisions,” said Senator Armando Ríos Piter, a Mexican legislator. “In front of a bluffer, you always have to maintain a firm and dignified position.”

Has Trump ever threatened to pull out of a deal and then followed through? We know that he talks a lot, and he’s quick to file lawsuits. But in, say, the past 20 years or so, has he ever made a great real estate deal? Has he ever threatened to pull out of a real estate deal, and then done so when the other side refused to meet his terms? Ever?

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Mexico Finally Has Donald Trump Figured Out

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Dianne Feinstein Town Hall Shows Why She’s a Conservative by San Francisco Standards

Mother Jones

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Before they could enter the San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, the roughly 1,200 people who showed up for California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s town hall meeting yesterday morning had their bags searched and their bodies scanned for metal objects. As they filed into the thickly carpeted auditorium, attendees passed several tables covered with literature laid out by Indivisible, the liberal grassroots group that had helped organize this rare public meeting with the senator. The leaflets included a list of recommended questions for a senator who doesn’t often field questions from constituents, even here in her liberal hometown.

When the 83-year-old Democrat walked onto the stage in a jet black suit, the crowd, largely women, awarded the four-term senator a warm round of applause. But the mood quickly soured and tension between the famously moderate Feinstein and the highly charged, anti-Trump audience was a motif of the 70-minute event. A man interrupted Feinstein’s opening remarks to loudly ask his fellow audience members to “wake up,” before they shushed him and audibly told him “shut up.” Feinstein waved it off and plowed forward with a metered explanation of the need to reform Social Security and Medicare before indicating she was ready to take questions.

Questioners were selected at random by raffle. Once called, they made their way to the front of the auditorium where stood just a few yards from Feinstein. The first was a woman who was worried that “trigger happy” President Donald Trump might deploy her son to Syria, and wanted to know what Feinstein would do to ensure peace in the Middle East. “The world is not an easy place, and it is not a stable place,” Feinstein replied. She continued, somewhat confusingly, with an explanation of how North Korea presents an “existential” threat and an “acute danger” to the United States. After speaking for some time about the “ruthless” Kim Jong-un’s attempts to build a nuclear tipped missile capable of striking “anywhere in the United States,” Feinstein pivoted back to the Middle East. When she mentioned, without reservation, Trump’s recent missile attack on a Syrian air base, the crowd erupted with a cacophony of boos.

A few minutes later, a man asked the senator if she would support a single-payer health care system. “If single payer healthcare is going to mean a complete government takeover over of the healthcare system, I am not for it,” Feinstein replied, again to boos.

After Feinstein was asked to eschew “business as usual” politics and to vocally resist Trump, the senator tried to explain her model of politics. “I would be surprised if you found too many senators, if any, that have gotten more done,” she said, visibly frustrated by the crowd’s repeated interruptions. “I don’t get there by making statements I can’t deliver. I get there through some caution, some discussion, some smart help, our lawyers—and we generally get where we need to go.”

Feinstein found some common ground with her constituents, however. In her response to a question about Trump’s laundry list of ethical conflicts, she hinted at both impending legislation and litigation targeting the president’s conflicts of interest, which elicited broad agreement from the crowd.

Monday’s town hall was the product of more than two months of work by several dozen Indivisible activists. Several Bay Area Indivisible chapters had expressed interest in holding a town hall with the senator in January. Feinstein didn’t show at a meeting at an Oakland high school in late February. The event was branded as an “Empty Chair Town Hall where attendees presented questions to caricature of the senator.

In February, Indivisible members confronted Feinstein at a tony lunch event at the Public Policy Institute of California. Feinstein politely expressed interest in attending a town hall but didn’t commit to a time. After two months of calls and meetings between Indivisible members and Feinstein staffers, two town hall events were announced—this one in San Francisco, and another on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Amelia Cass, one of the leaders of Indivisible East Bay, said the need for a town hall was born out of the senator’s notorious inaccessibility. “It’s our government, and they’ll listen to us if we speak up. There’s a quote I saw in a newspaper that said ‘It’s not that Senator Feinstein doesn’t want to have town halls, it’s that nobody’s ever asked before.’ She has many opportunities to speak her mind. But her constituents don’t have very many opportunities to speak directly to the senator.”

Many who attended the town hall said they were grateful that the senator took the time to listen to their queries. Yet many left the meeting feeling less than confident that Feinstein is really representing their interests on Capitol Hill. “What we’re saying is that we have an existential threat from our own president, not North Korea,” said Steve Rapport of Indivisible San Francisco. “We want to hear some fighting talk and feel like our representatives have our back.”

That sentiment was echoed by Linh Nguyen, an organizer with Indivisible East Bay. “If Feinstein has this coalition that she’s built over the decades that she’s served in the senate working across party lines, I want to see evidence of it,” Nguyen said. “Where is your coalition from the middle and right to push against this? If she does have this large coalition, let us use it to our advantage.”

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Dianne Feinstein Town Hall Shows Why She’s a Conservative by San Francisco Standards

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John Oliver Issues a Stark Warning to France Ahead of Presidential Election

Mother Jones

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Ahead of next week’s first round of the French presidential election, John Oliver on Sunday implored voters not to go down the road of the United States by electing head of the far-right National Front group, Marine Le Pen.

Similar to Donald Trump, Le Pen has attracted voters by touting a France-first message that promises to create jobs for the unemployed youth. But “beneath her slick presentation, Le Pen’s message is vicious,” the Last Week Tonight host explained. Like Trump, the far-right French candidate runs an extremely anti-immigration campaign, and she’s been accused of using her platform to promote racist policies against Muslims.

“One of the frustrating things about watching this unfold from America is this feels a little like deja vu,” Oliver said. “A potentially destabilizing populist campaigning on anti-immigrant rhetoric who rages against the elites, despite having a popular father and inherited wealth—even as all the experts reassure us that there is no way this could possibly happen.”

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John Oliver Issues a Stark Warning to France Ahead of Presidential Election

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This Man Can Help You Escape the IRS Forever

Mother Jones

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In January, New Zealanders were surprised to discover that Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal co-founder and Donald Trump adviser whose libertarian proclivities and social quirks were lampooned on HBO’s Silicon Valley, had quietly become one of them during a 2011 ceremony in Santa Monica, California. Thiel, who owns real estate in New Zealand, secured an exception from the country’s residency requirement by emphasizing his business and philanthropic clout, his investments in two Kiwi companies (totaling $7 million), and his donation of nearly $1 million to a local earthquake relief fund. “We do not sell our citizenship; it is earned,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed after the news broke. Subsequent reports speculated that Thiel, besides being a huge Lord of the Rings fan, viewed the country as a survivalist haven in the event of an apocalypse. “I have found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future” is all Thiel would say.

Thiel’s little secret came as no surprise to David Lesperance. The Canadian-born lawyer is among the world’s leading champions of transnational exit plans for the superwealthy. Business is booming. Lesperance says he has expatriated more than 300 ultrarich Americans to date—he calls them “golden geese”—and has set up contingency plans for countless others. Thiel is not a client, but Lesperance says several household-name techies are. Mad Max scenarios aside, their goal is tax avoidance. If that means giving up an American passport, so be it.

Lesperance says his golden-geese range in net worth from about $25 million all the way up to (he Googles it) $19 billion. He won’t discuss his clients by name, but they fall into three categories: The first includes company founders and CEOs concerned with succession planning, strategic philanthropy, and the preservation of wealth across generations. Next are people “who sing a song or act or kick or hit a ball”—including several European soccer pros—who earn very high incomes for an “unknown yet finite” period of time. And then there are the “masters of the universe”—the hedge funders, private-equity guys, and venture capitalists.

The latter are beneficiaries of the carried-interest loophole, an accounting trick that treats their compensation as capital gains, which are taxed at a far lower rate than regular income. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton repeatedly promised to close this loophole, and while the president’s Goldman Sachs-packed Cabinet suggests that carried interest isn’t going anywhere, hedgers gonna hedge. “It is really the uncertainty about the future that is driving people like Peter Thiel,” Lesperance says.

A handful of relatively stable nations court wealthy foreigners with sweet tax deals if they become citizens. Poland is a good prospect, Lesperance says. Ditto Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, and Portugal—where “they will not tax you on income and capital gains for 10 years.” Ireland has attracted seven members of the Getty clan, as well as Campbell’s soup heir Jack Dorrance III and Robert Dart, whose family empire produces McDonald’s packaging. (The United States doesn’t offer these kinds of tax breaks to would-be Americans, but its EB-5 visa program gives green cards to immigrants who make a $1 million business investment. American real estate developers—including Trump—have used EB-5 visas to capitalize their projects.)

Lesperance also points out that America is the only nation besides Eritrea that taxes people based on citizenship, not residency. This means an expat living and earning income in, say, England, is taxed on those earnings by both countries. The London-based filmmaker and Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam ditched his US citizenship years ago for precisely this reason. “I got tired of paying taxes in a country I don’t live in,” he told me. “Then I discovered that when I died, my wife would probably have to sell our house to pay for the taxes in America.”

But big names who bail on America can face blowback. In 2012, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin set off a firestorm after he relinquished his US citizenship and relocated to Singapore in advance of the social network going public. Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Bob Casey quickly introduced the Ex-Patriot Act to punish erstwhile Americans such as “Mr. Saverin” who, as Schumer put it in a speech on the Senate floor, have “chosen to disown the United States to save some money.” Had it passed, the bill would have permanently barred such former citizens from reentering the country, even as tourists, and levied a capital gains tax of 30 percent on their sales of US assets, retroactive for 10 years.

In Flight of the Golden Geese, a 2015 book Lesperance co-authored with the British economist Ian Angell, he forcefully argues that overtaxing the 1 percent is counterproductive. Sure, the ultrarich may pay lower rates than Warren Buffett’s secretary, but they still account for nearly half of federal income tax revenue. Every time Uncle Sam loses a goose, he warns, federal coffers take a disproportionate hit. Enacting new millionaires taxes, he claims, “will not generate more tax dollars, but will rather most likely have the completely opposite effect.”

Lesperance was raised in Windsor, Ontario, within spitting distance of Detroit. His father, an engineer for General Motors, built an early computer system to track car parts flowing back and forth, so “I grew up at the breakfast table with cross-border issues.” During his college years, his dad helped him land a summer gig with Canadian customs, interrogating drivers headed in from the United States. Lesperance later paid his way through law school at the University of Saskatchewan by stamping passports at the Toronto airport.

He got into the golden-goose game as a newly minted lawyer in 1990, when he was approached by a Detroit attorney who wanted to quit the United States for tax reasons. The client had already stowed part of his $15 million net worth in an “offshore bucket” and purchased citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis. Lesperance helped him relinquish his US passport and set up permanent residency in Canada. For three years, the client commuted daily from Windsor to Detroit to wrap up his business while still fulfilling Canada’s residency requirement. He then declared himself a nonresident citizen of Canada and moved to Australia, where a retiree incentive program permanently exempted his offshore trust from taxation. “I thought it was very cool and very cute,” Lesperance says.

He also thought it was a one-off. But referrals began trickling in, aided by a mid-1990s Forbes article naming two of his clients who had fled the taxman. Overall, expatriations of wealthy Americans averaged well under 1,000 a year until 2010, when the number abruptly doubled thanks to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the enactment of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which made it difficult for Americans living abroad to conceal their foreign earnings from the IRS. These golden-goose expatriations hit 5,411 last year—a record high. Now Lesperance spends most of his time arranging new citizenships. One client, he told me, has collected nine passports—for the bragging rights, mainly: “It had gone far beyond prudence.”

It was probably inevitable that the lawyer would one day act upon his own counsel. When we first spoke, in 2015, Lesperance had arranged a backup citizenship for himself, but he wouldn’t say where. That goose has now flown. You can find him in sunny Portugal.

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This Man Can Help You Escape the IRS Forever

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