Trump escalates attack against asylum-seekers from Central America

Photo: Mani Albrecht/U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. President Donald Trump is intensifying his vicious crusade against asylum-seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Last weekend he declared, “Our country’s full.” He ousted Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen by tweet, reportedly because he thought Nielsen, who oversaw the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents and then lied about it to Congress, was not tough enough. Tens of thousands of people are seeking asylum in the U.S., fleeing systemic violence. The desperation and fear that drive them north derives in part from decades of U.S. policy in the region that has overthrown democratically elected governments, destabilized civil society, and trained and armed repressive militaries. The U.S. cultivated this crisis for over half a century; it won’t be fixed by a wall.

The effort to challenge Trump’s policies got a bit harder this week with the death at age 89 of Blase Bonpane, a lifelong peace activist. Based in Los Angeles, Bonpane devoted his life to social justice, and had a deep and hard-earned understanding of Central America, its people and its problems.

The CIA overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, largely to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company (now called Chiquita Brands). Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala in the 1960s, when that country waged a bloody war on its own population that lasted into the mid-1990s. Bonpane and other Catholic missionaries were in the rural areas where violence against the Indigenous population was most intense.

At the same time, Pope John XXIII had convened the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), which liberalized many centuries-old church practices, leading to the emergence of “liberation theology” in Latin America. Liberation theology applied a biblical, Christian analysis to the entrenched poverty and inequality that dominated Latin American society, and called for action to change the status quo. Bonpane embraced the challenge. He was lauded by the local population as a “guerrilla of peace.” By 1968, the government of Guatemala expelled Bonpane and other clergy from the country.

Despite Vatican II, the leadership of the Maryknoll Order was not pleased with his activism. “I was put under a gag order,” he said on one of his appearances on the Democracy Now! news hour. “I was told not to speak, not to write anything about Guatemala, and as a result of that, I went to The Washington Post and released all the information I had. That went out to some 400 newspapers, proving that the U.S. was engaged militarily in Guatemala, that it was using napalm, that the Green Berets were there, and that this was our Latin Vietnam.”

When he married another peace activist, who was a Maryknoll nun, Bonpane was promptly excommunicated from the Church. But he maintained his commitment to liberation theology. He and his wife, Theresa, founded the Office of the Americas in 1983, continuing to organize in solidarity with Central Americans and other oppressed people for decades.

Ironically, their organization is based in Santa Monica, the same liberal bastion where Stephen Miller grew up. Miller, just 33 years old, is one of Trump’s key White House advisers, and is the driving force behind Trump’s most xenophobic policies, including several attempts at a Muslim ban and migrant family separations. Miller also espouses a chillingly autocratic view of presidential power. Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on Feb. 12, 2017, Miller said, “Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

Questioning power is exactly what Blase Bonpane spent his life doing. A former Marine turned priest, Bonpane titled his autobiography Imagine No Religion, borrowing the phrase from John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” World renowned linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky said: “I am often asked by young people, deeply disturbed by the state of the world, ‘What can I do to make this sad world a better place?’ An eloquent answer now is, ‘Read Blase Bonpane’s autobiography. If you can aspire to a fraction of what he has achieved, you will look back on a life well lived.'”

As President Trump and Stephen Miller escalate their assault on migrants from Central America, threatening to continue the cruel policy of separating children from their parents, those who would honor the memory of Blase Bonpane should heed the words of early 20th-century labour organizer Joe Hill, quoted prominently on the website of the Office of the Americas: “Don’t mourn. Organize.”

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Truthdig.

Photo: Mani Albrecht/U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs/Wikimedia Commons

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April 11, 2019

@repost Divorce Assets

Via Separation Agreement


By The Wall of Law April 11, 2019 Off

Jointly Retained Evaluators Can Help Take the Sting out of Divorce

Jointly Retained Evaluators Can Help Take the Sting out of Divorce

Family Law Office

The procedure of separation or divorce is tough enough without struggling over the value of property and assets.

This is the reason why Paul Mazzeo, Vaughan family lawyer, promotes the use of joint appraisers as a good way for splitting spouses to reduce conflict.

“Couples can hire a joint evaluator or appraiser at the beginning of their separation and agree to the numbers that the evaluator provides, whether the like the numbers or not,” said Mazzeo, principal of Mazzeo Law. “This can help people actually complete the separation process instead of repeatedly switching or hiring separate appraisers.”

It can be expensive to invest in appraisers, but they can avert future conflicts that can lead to litigation and unnecessary costs. It can be productive for both parties to pitch in on the costs when it comes to more complex cases.

“Dividing assets and property can be a difficult task for most people to put up with, but once they accept that it’s just part of the divorce and separation process, they can focus on doing it in the easiest way possible,” Mazzeo said.

Any figures the evaluator determines are considered important in how separating couples decide on what’s considered “equal.” Basically, evaluators determine what payment one spouse will give to the other so that both parties leave the marriage as financial equals. “Equalization” is usually decided by the evaluator reviewing each spouse’s net worth on the date of their separation. Net worth is determined when the evaluator subtracts the value of liabilities from the value of all the assets present on the separation date. For example, if one spouse has a one-million-dollar net worth, and the other has half of a million, then the first spouse will give the second a quarter million, which would make it so that both spouses leave the marriage with half a million dollars.

“The concept is simple in theory, but in practice, many things can occur that will make it complicated,” Mazzeo said.
The day the couple separated can be disputed for example, or if the marriage didn’t last very long in the first place, one spouse could argue “unequal property division,” which can be legitimate under particular legal circumstances.

Mazzeo has found that deciding the value of property and assets can be the most problematic process of divorce or separation.
“Determining someone’s net worth isn’t as easy as glancing at their bank accounts,” Mazzeo said.

In the example he gave, he stated that one spouse could claim that any business they own isn’t worth anything, while the other can say that the business is actually worth hundreds of thousands. Evaluators work to settle these kinds of disputes.

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By The Wall of Law April 11, 2019 Off

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested In London

Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested and found guilty Thursday in London on charges of breaching bail conditions in a Swedish rape case that is no longer under investigation.

He was further arrested in relation to an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States, Metropolitan Police said.

Assange pleaded not guilty to the bail charge but would not produce evidence for why he failed to surrender to custody, although his lawyer argued that he had a “reasonable excuse.” Magistrates’ Court District Judge Michael Snow nevertheless found him guilty of the bail charge, saying his behavior was that “of a narcissist.”

The 47-year-old computer programmer was arrested after his diplomatic immunity had been terminated at the embassy, where he had been holed up in residence for nearly seven years amid growing upset from Ecuadorian and British leaders. The development exposes him to extradition to the U.S.

He is expected to remain in custody until his May 2 extradition hearing.

According to newly unsealed filings from the U.S. Department of Justice, Assange was indicted in March 2018 on a federal charge of conspiracy “to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment claims he took part in a conspiracy with former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

If convicted, Assange faces up to five years in prison on the charge. 

Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange, said her client “wants to thank all of his supporters for their ongoing support.”

She added: “He said, ‘I told you so.’”

Another of his lawyers, Barry Pollack, said that ”[j]ournalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

“The factual allegations against Mr. Assange boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identify of that source,” the lawyer said. 

See the indictment (story continues below):

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno explained in a video why Ecuador decided to terminate Assange’s diplomatic asylum. “Today, I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially, the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” he said.  

Moreno traveled to London in July of last year to finalize an agreement to lift Assange’s asylum protection with the U.K. government, according to a report by the Intercept, citing a source within Ecuador’s foreign ministry.

In the past week, credible rumors began to circulate that Assange would be expelled, his asylum denied, and that he would face extradition to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military documents.

“This information came from a credible source high in the Ecuadorian Government,” Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said of his expulsion.

Last Friday, British police were seen stationed outside the embassy, though police said there had been no change in procedure. 

Assange first took refuge at the embassy in June 2012 after jumping bail while wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault and rape.

Though that criminal investigation was dropped last year, Assange, who is Australian, remained behind the embassy’s walls out of concern that he could face extradition to the U.S. for leaking classified military and diplomatic documents through Wikileaks, with the help of Manning.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April 2017 that the arrest of Assange would become a priority for the Justice Department.

In February, Assange asked a Westminster Magistrates’ Court to withdraw an outstanding warrant for his arrest stemming from the bail-skipping incident ― for which he could face a year in jail if convicted.

But on Feb. 6, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot upheld the arrest warrant, saying legal precedents “underline the importance of a defendant attending court” when on bail. 

Last year, the British government rejected a request from Ecuador to grant diplomatic status to Assange. Ecuador’s foreign minister has said Assange’s long-term stay in her country’s London embassy is “untenable.”

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” the Foreign Office said in a statement at the time.

This article has been updated with Ecuador’s statement and details on Assange’s further arrest.

Sara Boboltz, Liza Hearon and Paige Lavender contributed to this article.

@repost Divorce Settlement Agreement

Via Family Law Solicitors


By The Wall of Law April 11, 2019 Off



BRUSSELS — European Union leaders on Thursday offered Britain a delay to its EU departure date until Halloween.

Leaders of the 27 remaining EU member states met for more than six hours before agreeing to postpone Brexit until Oct. 31, two officials said. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations. European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed in a tweet that an extension had been agreed to, but he did not disclose the date.

May, who had sought a delay only until June 30, still has to agree to the offer.

EU leaders spent a long dinner meeting wrangling over whether to save Britain from a precipitous and potentially calamitous Brexit, or to give the foot-dragging departing nation a shove over the edge.

May pleaded with them at an emergency summit to delay Britain’s exit, due on Friday, until June 30 while the U.K. sorts out the mess that Brexit has become.

Some were sympathetic, but French President Emmanuel Macron struck a warning note.

“Nothing is decided,” Macron said, insisting on “clarity” from May about what Britain wants.

“What’s indispensable is that nothing should compromise the European project in the months to come,” he said.

May believes that a June 30 deadline is enough time for Britain’s Parliament to ratify a Brexit deal and pass the legislation needed for a smooth Brexit.

But British lawmakers have rejected her divorce deal three times, and attempts to forge a compromise with her political opponents have yet to bear fruit.

May spoke to the 27 EU leaders for just over an hour, before they met for dinner without her to decide Britain’s fate. In contrast to some testy recent summits, there were signs of warmth and even humour. May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were filmed laughing over a tablet bearing an image showing the two of them speaking to their respective Parliaments on Wednesday wearing similar blue jackets.

Many leaders said they were inclined to grant a Brexit delay, though Macron had reservations after hearing May speak. An official in the French president’s office said the British leader hadn’t offered “sufficient guarantees” to justify a long extension.

Macron is concerned that letting Britain stay too long would distract the EU from other issues — notably next month’s European Parliament elections.

“The no-deal situation is a real option,” said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to presidential policy. “Putting in danger the functioning of Europe is not preferable to a no-deal.”

Others suggested a longer delay would likely be needed, given the depth of Britain’s political disarray.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he hoped for “an intelligent extension.”

“If it’s a longer extension there is no lunch for free, so we need to know why,” he said.

May signalled she would accept a longer extension, as long as it contained a get-out-early cause should Britain end its Brexit impasse.

“What is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify the withdrawal agreement,” May said as she arrived in Brussels.

She added that she was hopeful it could be as soon as May 22 — a key date since that would avoid the need for Britain to participate in elections for the European Parliament.

Several months have passed since May and the EU struck a deal laying out the terms of Britain’s departure and the outline of future relations. All that was needed was ratification by the British and European Parliaments.

But U.K. lawmakers rejected it — three times. As Britain’s departure date of March 29 approached with no resolution in sight, the EU gave Britain until Friday to approve a withdrawal plan, change course and seek a further delay to Brexit, or crash out of the EU with no deal to cushion the shock.

If no extension materializes Wednesday, Britain will leave the bloc Friday with no deal, unless it cancels Brexit independently.

Economists and business leaders warn that a no-deal Brexit would lead to huge disruptions in trade and travel, with tariffs and customs checks causing gridlock at British ports and possible shortages of goods.

A disorderly Brexit would hurt EU nations, as well as Britain, and all want to avoid it.

“I don’t anticipate that the U.K. will leave this Friday,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said. “I’m very confident that there will be an extension agreed today. What’s still open is how long that extension will be and what the conditions will be.”

But the bloc’s patience is wearing thin.

Several leaders also said they would require assurances of good behaviour in return for another delay.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the EU leaders’ decision would hinge on “what her plan is now to get that withdrawal agreement through Parliament, and how we can get guarantees that in the meantime the United Kingdom will stay as a loyal partner.”

The British government insists it won’t be obstructive, since it wants to keep close ties to the bloc. But pro-Brexit British politicians have said Britain should be disruptive. Conservative lawmaker Mark Francois said that if the U.K. remained in the bloc, “then in return we will become a Trojan Horse within the EU.”

May’s future is uncertain, whatever the EU decides.

She has previously said that “as prime minister” she could not agree to let Britain stay in the EU beyond June 30, and she has also promised to step down once Brexit is delivered. Many Conservative Party lawmakers would like her to quit now and let a new leader take charge of the next stage of Brexit. But they can’t force her out until the end of the year, after she survived a no-confidence vote in December.

Every British initiative to get a deal has floundered so far. Several days of talks between May’s Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party aimed at finding a compromise have failed to produce a breakthrough. Labour favours a softer Brexit than the government has proposed, and wants to retain a close economic relationship with the bloc. The two sides said they would resume their discussions Thursday.

Ireland’s Varadkar, whose country shares a border with the U.K. and would be among the hardest hit by a no-deal Brexit, said Britain was in “a difficult position.”

“It doesn’t want to leave without a deal; at the moment it doesn’t want to vote for the deal. And of course a lot of people, maybe even half the population, don’t want to leave at all,” he said.

@repost Physical Custody

Via Property Settlement after Divorce


By The Wall of Law April 11, 2019 Off



FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Survivors and family members of the slain victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, sued the school board, sheriff’s office and others for negligence Wednesday, saying the agencies initially had promised a financial settlement but secretly worked behind the scenes to prevent a deal.

More than two dozen family members and survivors filed 22 lawsuits in state court in South Florida against the School Board of Broward County; the Broward Sheriff’s Office; former deputy Scott Peterson, who was a school resource officer; Andrew Medina, who was a school security monitor; and Henderson Behavioral Health Clinic, a mental health facility where suspect Nikolas Cruz was treated.

Cruz is accused of fatally shooting 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

“It’s a daily struggle. They are not the people they were before February 14,” Lisa Olson, whose son, William, was shot in each arm, said at a news conference. “My son didn’t go to school today. He couldn’t and we have many days like that now.”

Cathleen Brennan, a school district spokeswoman, said the district doesn’t comment on pending or ongoing litigation. The sheriff’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cruz, 20, a former student at the school, remains jailed, charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder. He has offered to plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors have refused.

Immediately after the shooting, the families of the victims were approached by the sheriff’s office and school board representatives “who said all the right things. They wanted to be a part of the solution…They wanted to help bring justice. We took them at their word,” said Todd Michaels, attorney for the family of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed.

Instead, the agencies hired a law firm to lobby the Florida Legislature behind the scenes to stop the resolution, Michaels said.

Mitch Dworet, who lost one son in the shooting and another son was injured, said he wants someone to be held accountable.

“There were failures. I want to be in court,” Dworet said. “If you have children you can’t imagine the life that I lead now.”

About 20 miles (32 kilometres) away, a state commission investigating the shooting heard from four victims’ family members who said they were notified their loved ones had been killed in ways that were often confusing and lacking in sympathy or empathy.

The families said they waited hours before being told about the death of their spouse or child and that no one appeared to be in charge of family notifications.

Debbie Hixon said she first learned of her husband’s death from text messages offering condolences.

“I threw my phone across the room,” said Hixon, whose husband, Chris, was the school’s athletic director. “It is not how I should have found out.”

Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg learned of the shooting when their son called to say he couldn’t find his 14-year-old sister, Jaime.

Fred Guttenberg sent Jaime’s friends to hotel near the school where students’ family members were gathering while he checked hospitals. About three hours after the shooting, he contacted a police officer and friend who told him Jaime was dead. The Guttenbergs eventually went to the hotel to receive official notification 10 hours after the shooting. They were told the news in a crowd of people and were shown little empathy, they said.

“Somehow or another in this process the families became last on this list of what needed to be dealt with,” Fred Guttenberg said. “Whatever gets decided needs to start with families first.”

@repost File for Child Support

Via Family Legal Advice


By The Wall of Law April 10, 2019 Off