Charlottesville Novelists Say Making Them Pay Business Taxes Is Unconstitutional
Aug01

Charlottesville Novelists Say Making Them Pay Business Taxes Is Unconstitutional

As two people who make their living writing novels, Corban Addison and John Hart don’t have to follow the traditional system for paying taxes through an employer. After receiving sizable tax bills from the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, however, the two novelists have decided to take a stand against what they deem an unconstitutional act. The state code in Virginia exempts writers for newspapers and magazines from paying business license taxes but does not extend the same exemptions to novelists. While it is not completely unheard-of for businesses to lack knowledge on their own tax information — a CNBC Small Business Survey found that in 2016 22% of small business owners didn’t know their effective tax rate — Hart and Addison weren’t aware that the state considered them businesses at all. The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is representing the two men in the lawsuits they filed against the city and county on July 24. According to attorney Renée Flaherty, the city and county are participating in unconstitutional discrimination by exempting writers who write for newspapers and magazines from the tax code and not independent authors. These writers supply the 12 books per year that the average American reads. Yet they don’t receive the same tax exemptions writers who work for media organizations do, even though there is often crossover between the two types of writing. “Instead of protecting and supporting its creative community, Charlottesville and Albemarle County have decided to treat it like an ATM,” Flaherty said. The lawsuit specifically cites the city and county’s actions as breaking the writers’ First Amendment rights, as it is a discrepancy in treatment over speech. The suit contests that the business license tax doesn’t clearly state the types of businesses that need to pay, violating their 14th Amendment rights as well. Flaherty clarified in the press conference announcing the lawsuits on July 24 that the purpose of business license taxes is to account for the cost of infrastructure that supports business operations. This covers aspects like the roads businesses are located on and the parking lots, 90% of which in the U.S. are surfaced with asphalt pavement, customers park in. Flaherty says that her clients, however, don’t use the city’s infrastructure to turn profits or serve customers as other businesses do. Hart maintains that he doesn’t use anything from the city or county for his work. He doesn’t even need parking spaces from the city, just his laptop and his imagination. If he decided to remodel his entire home to accommodate his work life, which could take up to one year to complete, he could try...

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Landmark LGBTQ+ Events You Need to Know About Following Pride Month
Jul31

Landmark LGBTQ+ Events You Need to Know About Following Pride Month

With June having been pride month, there’s been a lot of talk about history and events within the LGBTQ+ community, especially on the legal front. And while there are a lot of legal problems and cases that happen throughout the year, there are still legality issues the LGBTQ+ community is facing. But fortunately, there have been vast improvements over the past few years. So let’s take a look at a few important events that happened during pride month that impacted the LGBTQ+ community. Ecuador Legalized Same-Sex Marriage There are numerous countries around the world that have very liberal LGBTQ+ laws. The Netherlands was the first nation to decriminalize homosexuality, Canada’s Prime Minister openly supports the LGBTQ+ community, and even Malta, a prominently Catholic nation, was the first European nation to ban conversion therapy. An average of 2.4 million weddings are performed in the U.S. each year, and many of these are now same-sex marriages. But there are still many countries that have yet to legalize same-sex marriage. However, Ecuador is no longer one of them. While same-sex unions have been legal for a decade now, those with a civil partnership had fewer rights than couples married under law. The ruling was made in a landmark case after several couples and advocates filed legal claims. And while people with an attorney typically get three to four times more for a claim when they have an attorney, this lengthy legal battle ended in a 5-to-4 ruling. Wisconsin Lawmakers Celebrate Pride Month Countries, states, and cities all around the world have celebrations in honor of Pride Month. And this year, lawmakers in Wisconsin celebrated Pride Month for the first time at the State Capitol. Lawmakers expressed their pride in how far the state has come in supporting the LGBTQ+ community. State Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) said, “If you had told me then that 14 years later, I would be standing at the Wisconsin state capitol as an openly gay elected representative, speaking about June as LGBTQ Pride Month, with the governor standing next to me, I would never have believed you.” And while those in attendance felt the joy and pride within the community, both lawmakers and advocates also acknowledged there is still a long way to go regarding equality. The 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots Pride Month 2019 was especially important because June 1st was also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, or the Stonewall Uprising. This event occurred in 1969 when members of the LGBTQ+ community stood up against harassment from police. This was years after the LGBTQ+ community began uprising in the 1950s, forming groups that lobbied for equality and acceptance. Stonewall consisted of a...

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Dr. Martin Schwartz Releases Bioscaling Gel For At-Home Tartar Cleaning
Jul22

Dr. Martin Schwartz Releases Bioscaling Gel For At-Home Tartar Cleaning

People of all ages dread going to the dentist, but a new product from Dr. Martin Schwarz is making it possible for consumers to tackle a major oral health issue at home. Yahoo announced earlier this month that the German-based oral care brand is releasing Bioscaling, an antibacterial gel that tackles dental plaque and bad breath. Dr. Martin Schwarz sees the revolutionary formula as a way for average consumers to carry out oral hygiene sessions on their own in the comfort of their bathrooms. The typical recommendation is that patients should go to the dentist for teeth cleaning and examination every six months. These check-ups help prevent oral problems like plaque build-up. However, patients may be able to avoid the usual professional dental scaling that gets rid of plaque if they use Bioscaling to improve their overall oral hygiene. The unique antiseptic formula of Bioscaling includes the naturally occurring compound, microcrystalline sodium bicarbonate. This compound is thought to significantly decrease the number of harmful microorganisms. By mitigating the amount of these microorganisms in a patient’s mouth, it will help remove dental plaque. As dental plaque turns into tartar within the first 24 to 72 hours, users of Bioscaling may also be able to aid in preventing tartar build-up that can lead to periodontal disease. With the gel, patients can also avoid the complex in-office dental procedures that remove tartar. According to a spokesperson of Dr. Martin Schwarz, Dr. Matthias Berg, Bioscaling could help with several other oral health problems as well. When the gel removes the bacteria that form plaque, it will also be removing the same bacteria that often cause bad breath. It does this by liquidating the harmful bacteria and restoring the natural pH level of the oral cavity. The gel’s active ingredients also help remove biofilm from the teeth, which is essential in preventing tartar from forming. All of these functions in one product help to make the process of dental scaling much more accessible to those who need it. With the average American having about $38,000 in debt, not including mortgages, a trip to the dentist for a pricey procedure to remove tartar isn’t always in the financial cards. Instead, consumers can avoid high co-pays and dental bills by using Bioscaling at home. Users can apply the gel to the teeth’s surface in a few ways, including with a sonic toothbrush, a manual brush, or mouth trays. For those who are still interested in services a dentist’s office can provide, there have been recent strides in plaque-removal technology for in-office use. A team of engineers, biologists, and dentists from the University of Pennsylvania developed a...

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Coffee Crisis: Demand And Prices Go Up As Production Goes Down
Jul18

Coffee Crisis: Demand And Prices Go Up As Production Goes Down

There’s no doubt that the world is full of coffee-lovers. More coffee was harvested last year than ever before and some projections estimate that global coffee demand could double by 2050. Even nations that have traditionally been more inclined to consume tea, such as China and Japan, now also have thriving coffee cultures. Coffee is almost as old as tomatoes and chillis, which were first harvested in Latin America thousands of years ago.This caffeinated boom is partially a result of a culture that is placing more value on the artistry of baristas and the range in flavor of coffee beans. It’s also arisen from the wider variety of coffee types now available. Over 50 years ago, coffee outlets of the twentieth century began selling chilled options. Since then, coffee menus everywhere have featured an increasingly wide variety of drinks. The issue with this coffee boom is that by 2050, the same year demand is supposed to double, about half of the Earth’s land suitable for growing coffee will no longer be viable for farming it. Just as a changing climate and rapid urbanization reduced the Everglades that once covered nearly 11,000 square miles in South Florida, areas for coffee cultivation around the world are rapidly diminishing. This leaves those in the business of producing coffee with the seemingly impossible task of growing twice the coffee with half of the land. “We’re going to have less coffee, higher prices and coffee that is less differentiated in taste and lower on the quality scale. If everybody is okay with the fact that we are going to be paying $10 to $15 a cup for crappy coffee in thirty years, that’s fine,” said Dr. Tim Schilling, founder of the nonprofit organization World Coffee Research (WCR) and the newly appointed head of WCR Europe. Fortunately, the coffee producers of the world have a few plans on how to overcome this coffee crisis. One of these plans is the creation of the F1 hybrid. The WCR has identified specific strings of molecular and genetic code in certain coffee varieties that indicate crop yield, disease resistance, high cup quality, and more. All of these characteristics help the organization choose the two parents with the most biologically diverse DNA set. From this careful breeding, they’ve created the modern F1, which grows quickly, is less susceptible to disease, and bears fruit a year earlier than normal. As growing this hybrid is neither easy nor cheap, other initiatives are in the works as well. On July 10 and 11, the second World Coffee Producers Forum took place in Campinas, Brazil. The first iteration of this forum took place...

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Beauty Brand Adopts Innovative Return Model To Reduce Waste
Jul02

Beauty Brand Adopts Innovative Return Model To Reduce Waste

The modern delivery system allows consumers to order goods and return them with a convenience unheard of in eras past. While this process makes goods much more accessible to people around the country, or even the world, it also creates a major problem in regards to sustainability. Estimates put the number of retail returns that end up in landfills at about 5 billion pounds. Much of this waste comes from companies that cannot reuse returned products, such as those in the beauty industry. While 82% of women feel that wearing makeup causes them to feel more self-confident, not every product works for every person. With computer screens often distorting the true color of a foundation or lipstick, many buyers of beauty products find themselves with goods that they love less in person. Companies are then left with returned products that may have just been used once, but no longer meet the standards of hygiene for resale. One beauty brand is ready to flip the script on the industry’s waste problem. 100% Pure already prides itself on being a clean beauty brand, but now it can add a more sustainable return model to its resume of innovative operations. The beauty company is partnering with San Francisco-based Returnly to implement a seemingly simple alternative to the traditional return process. When customers wish to return a product, 100% Pure will offer them the option to keep it for free and to receive store credit for a different product instead. When you think about it, it’s like a work of art (40% of which is American in most major collections). According to Eduardo Vilar, the CEO of Returnly, these exchanges are named Green Returns™ and allow companies that value sustainability to put both their customers and the planet at the forefront of their practices. The company is able to make this process a possibility for companies by using underwriting that leverages proprietary behavioral shopper data and the business rules of the brand. This combination allows Returnly to make real-time policy decisions to ensure the most convenient experience for the customer while minimizing the company’s environmental impact and improving its operational efficiency. Vilar admits that Green Returns won’t work for every industry, especially ones that sell high-value items. But much like fixing a leaky faucet to save over 1,661 gallons of water every year, putting a stopper in the return waste of certain industries is essential in reducing excess resources. If hygiene-conscious industries such as beauty lingerie make an effort to lower their inevitable waste, there will be that much less in our landfills. This return model can also be effective for brands to...

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New Legislation Could Put Texas Pipeline Protesters Behind Bars For 10 Years
May23

New Legislation Could Put Texas Pipeline Protesters Behind Bars For 10 Years

Every year, more than 4 billion metric tons of oil is produced globally, and gas and oil together power 60% of U.S. energy consumption. Much of that oil and gas is extracted in Texas, which is typically friendly to oil and gas industries, a major economic driver in the Lone Star state. To protect those interests, state lawmakers recently passed legislation to protect oil pipelines in Texas. Texas lawmakers in both chambers of the state legislature just approved legislation that criminalizes certain actions of oil pipeline protesters. Under the new legislation, any protester who interrupts operations or damages equipment could potentially face up to 10 years in prison. According to the legislation, protesters who are found guilty of delaying the construction of an oil pipeline or halting its service could be charged with a third-degree felony. A felony could also be charged to anyone found guilty of these actions against pipelines for natural gas, a resource that powers up to 66.7 million homes in the United States. Under federal law a third-degree felony is punishable by serving anywhere between two to 10 years in prison. For reference, this is the same sentence that drive-by shooters who miss their targets face when found guilty. The measure is meant to protect the pipeline companies that build the 72,000 miles of crude oil lines in the United States. According to the proposed legislation, pipelines would be classified as “critical infrastructure,” which is the same category that covers power plants and water treatment facilities. The Texas Oil and Gas Association is in support of the bill’s passage because of this protection. The biggest opponents to the legislation are environmental groups. They view the bill as an attack on the protesters’ right to freedom of speech. “The bill was never about safety and security. It was about silencing protesters trying to protect their water and land,” Cyrus Reed, interim director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, said in an email to Bloomberg. Texas isn’t alone in putting this bill through its legislative bodies. As of early 2018, there were 58 anti-protest bills moving through the legislatures of 31 states. Similar legislation has already passed in Iowa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Louisiana. All of these bills come in the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that took place during the summer of 2016 and the decade-long battle over the Keystone XL pipeline. Considering dangerous materials like asbestos (of which 804,000 tons were abated in 1973) and lead have historically led to harm in the areas in which they’re used. Protesting other harmful materials, or a pipeline, is a behavior protected by...

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