March 30, 2017

83% of student science finalists are children of immigrants

Forbes - A new study from the National Foundation for American Policy found a remarkable 83% (33 of 40) of the finalists of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search were the children of immigrants. The competition organized each year by the Society for Science & the Public is the leading science competition for U.S. high school students. ... Both family-based and employment-based immigrants were parents of finalists in 2016. In fact, 75% – 30 out of 40 – of the finalists had parents who worked in America on H-1B visas and later became green card holders and U.S. citizens. That compares to seven children who had both parents born in the United States.

Climate change already a major health problem

New America Media - A coalition of medical organizations representing over half of American physicians has launched a campaign to alert policymakers and the public to the dangers climate change presents to public health.

“Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,” says Dr. Mona Sarfaty in a statement.

Safarty is director of a new coalition of doctors, called the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, and a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The Consortium on Climate and Health’s new report, which is based on peer-reviewed reports, outlines the myriad ways climate is already worsening health, including causing asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The increased spread of insect-borne diseases such as the Zika virus and Lyme disease more commonly found in the tropics is another risk, the report says.

Children are among the most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change, she says, partly because their respiratory rate is faster than that of adults, making them susceptible to poor air quality. Increased risks for infectious disease and extreme weather can be even more damaging when they happen in the critical developmental years.

“The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 80 percent of the health burdens of climate change will fall on children under [age] five,” Dr. Bole says.

Asthma tops the list of climate health woes in many communities already suffering in disproportionate rates, such as in Cleveland where one in every five African American child has asthma. Many of these children are Dr. Bole’s patients, and in caring for them she says she is already observing the impacts of climate change: increased heat, a longer allergy season, and worsening air quality. High rates of poverty are an additional burden on these kids’ health, she says.

March 29, 2017

Washingon Post version of how the Russian-Trump furorwas launched

How much Congress members who sold out your Internet privacy got from the cyber industry

Seattle suing to protect sanctuary cities

Washington Times - Seattle is suing President Donald Trump over his executive order that threatens to withhold federal funds from communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally. Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday the executive order issued in January punishing “sanctuary cities” is unconstitutional.

Murray said the federal government cannot compel the city’s police department to enforce federal immigration law. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, says the executive order creates uncertainty around the city’s budget. San Francisco sued Trump over the sanctuary cities issue earlier this year, also saying his order was unconstitutional.

Three investigative reporters' take on the Russian connection

Trump screws workers again

Huffington Post -President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday repealing a regulation that had encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws. Under the Obama-era rule, companies with an egregious record of violating wage and safety laws would lose their government contracts if they didn’t come into compliance.

The idea behind the rule was to make sure unscrupulous employers didn’t receive taxpayer dollars. But Republicans in Congress thought the rule was too punitive and unfair to businesses. They used an arcane tool known as the Congressional Review Act in an effort to kill the regulation, which was called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule.

Russian connections: Kushner's interesting contact

Daily Beast - Not every bank lists a convicted spy serving 30 months in an Ohio prison as its active deputy representative in New York. But then, not every bank is headed by a former spy, much less one found to have spent time with Jared Kushner during a “roadshow” last year, when Donald Trump’s son-in-law was then just a top campaign advisor and not a likely witness about to testify before a Senate committee on Russia’s meddling in U.S. democracy.

Meanwhile. . .

Israel’s moral claim to land comes from the Bible, not Google, Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said in Washington  at an event held in support of placing West Bank settlements within final borders of the Jewish state. “Defense is important and security is important, but the most important thing is the moral claim of Israel. We are committed to go forward with living in our ancient land, land that was given us not by Google and Wikipedia, but by the Bible,” he said. 

In the debate over "paper vs. plastic" shopping bags, about three in four Americans think paper is the more environmentally friendly choice.

Manafort's curious real estate deals

NBC News - Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, made millions through his work over the years for Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs.

Manafort also bought New York City real estate, some of it in what appeared to be all-cash deals. And in a series of complex transactions involving various companies, Manafort took out more than $13 million in loans on several of those properties — including $6.5 million borrowed this year from a bank run by an economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

Now, with Manafort figuring in an FBI investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, his dealings in New York City are coming under renewed scrutiny. They fit a pattern that experts say raises questions about how Manafort was moving money.

"The first thing is, where did the person get the money to pay cash for multi-million-dollar properties?" said Ross Delston, a Washington, D.C.-based independent attorney and anti-money laundering expert. Delston said he was speaking in general, not about Manafort in particular.

In a statement to NBC News, Manafort said he was "sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists," but the mortgages were ordinary business transactions and using LLCs to buy real estate is "common practice in New York City and elsewhere."

Manafort said his transactions were "executed in a transparent fashion and my identity was disclosed — in fact my name is right there on the documents in one of today's news reports."

"The more convoluted the transaction, the more remote from a reasonable business purpose, the more suspicious they are," said Stefan Cassella, former deputy chief of the Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.

UK files for divorce from EU

Portland Press Herald - The United Kingdom filed for divorce from the European Union on Wednesday, overturning four decades of integration with its neighbors, demolishing the notion that EU expansion is inevitable and shaking the foundations of a bloc that is facing challenges to its identity and its place in the world.

Congress gives go ahead to end your computer privacy

Trump regime kills sexual orientation as a Census question

Washington Times - The Trump administration canceled plans to probe Americans for their sexual orientation in the 2020 Census, nixing efforts by congressional Democrats who’d wanted a better picture of the country’s increasingly complex family and sexual dynamics.

Gay-rights advocates had been pressing for the questions, saying it was time the country got an official count.

They appeared to have won a victory Tuesday morning, when the Census Bureau released its list of proposed subjects for 2020, and said “sexual orientation and gender identity” were new additions. But hours later the Census released an updated list striking the sexual orientation proposal.

Russian connections: The angle the media shies away from

Coming across this story that appeared in the Progressive Review in 2009, was a reminder that when people start talking about money laundering, they are also not unlikely to be talking about drugs as well. As we read about the Russian connections to our politics, bear this in mind. 

Sam Smith, 2009 -Based on media coverage at least, name the largest industry in America that never contributes to political campaigns, never tries to influence politicians, never is involved in political corruption and has no lobbyists in Washington? In other words, name the cleanest business in America - that is, if you believe the media

The answer: the illegal drug trade.

For example, the Review has been among the lonely voices raising the possibility that drug and mob money may have played a much larger role in the current fiscal crash than has been noted.

It is clear the media doesn't want to touch this matter. But they've had a setback with the testimony of financial investigator and Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos. Talking Points Memo notes: "Markopolos elaborated while being questioned by lawmakers, alleging Madoff 'had a lot of dirty money' from the Russian mafia and Latin American drug cartels."

In the end, Markopolos realized he had done the mobs a favor. Here's part of a Q&A with Rep. Gary Ackerman:

ACKERMAN: I'm talking about, when you talk about the Russian mob and organized crime, these are people who invested through European investors or European feeder funds?

MARKOPOLOS: Correct. And I didn't fear of them, and I didn't think they were going to come after me, I want to make this perfectly clear to all those Russian mobsters and Latin American drug cartels out there. . .

ACKERMAN: You're talking directly to them.

MARKOPOLOS: I was acting on your behalf trying to stop him from zeroing out your accounts. I'm the good guy here. Just like to make that clear.
And the Independent in Britain reports that "Amid persistent rumors that Russian mob money found its way into the Madoff Ponzi scheme, a panic button has been installed in the [Madoff] apartment, along with 24-hour surveillance, as much to protect him as to check he is not planning to flee. He wears a bullet-proof vest for trips to court."

It seems obvious that the parallel rise of the illegal drug trade and the use of hedge funds and other devices to hide the origin and movement of money deserves, at the very least, deep looking into. There seems a reasonable possibility that our current crisis was driven in some part by a need to launder large sums belonging to criminal groups.

Why is the media so reluctant to consider this? Partly because it sounds too movie-like. But, as we have recently learned, Bernie Madoffs actually exist outside of Hollywood.

Part is because the media traditionally takes its cue on covering crime from law enforcement, which may itself - as with other government bodies - be involved, incompetent or indifferent.

Finally we have the little noted problem that in a hyper-corporatized media, a good scoop can ruin a career as fast as it can make one if the wrong people in power are angered by it.

I have been alternately frustrated and fascinated by the money laundering story and the refusal of major media for the most part to even mention it. To the media, the drug trade is largely the result of minorities and undisciplined young white dudes. It makes the story so much easier.

 Then I discussed the role of drugs and money laudering in Arkansas
as the Clintons were rising in power:

As one examined the [Arkansas drug]  story, it was clear even back then that there were major ties to other major scandals such as BCCI and the savings & loan crisis, forerunners of current mass fiscal manipulation gone awry. The state of Arkansas was laundering money in Grand Cayman, which had a population of 18,000, 570 commercial banks, one bank regulator and a bank secrecy law. Foreign investors helped to set up a bank in a small town near the major drug center at Mena. One secretary told told an IRS investigator that she was ordered to obtain numerous cashier's checks, each in an amount just under $10,000, at various banks in Mena and surrounding communities, to avoid filing the federal currency transaction reports required for all bank transactions that exceed that limit. Bank tellers testified before a federal grand jury that in November 1982, a Mena airport employee carried a suitcase containing more than $70,000 into a bank. "The bank officer went down the teller lines handing out the stacks of $1,000 bills and got the cashier's checks."

et, with a few exceptions like Roger Morris, Sally Denton and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, reporters haven't wanted to touch it and have spent their efforts instead creating a benign Clinton myth. Clinton was - like a typical prohibition era politician - a beneficiary and peripherally complicit at the very least through studied indifference, but in a sense he was really just part of the background. He was a window into the real story: how a huge part of the American economy - created by the crudely misnamed War on Drugs - operated in just one state.

If the media had honestly followed the money back then, if they had asked obvious questions about the war on drugs, if they hadn't fallen for the politicians' lines on BCCI and the S&L scandal, if they had wondered why so much money was moving around without any visibility or regulation, we might have approached the end of 2008 in better shape. 

So as you read stories about Russian and American money laundering, bear in mind that the money doesn't just appear; it has to come from someplace. And in recent decades, the grossly under-reported major drug trade has been a primary source.

For a change of pace, some old fashion corruption

NBC - A former New York City prosecutor accused of forging judges' signatures to wiretap a colleague and a detective for personal reasons has been hit with federal charges.

Tara Lenich, 41, was indicted in federal court , four months after she was arrested and fired by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, where she was a deputy bureau chief.

Authorities say that after Lenich forged the orders, she misappropriated equipment to eavesdrop on her targets' cellphones and also created bogus search warrants to obtain their text messages.

The scheme came to light when it was noticed that the wiretap orders were renewed again and again. A law-enforcement source said Lenich's motive was jealousy; she had a romantic interest in the detective and viewed a female prosecutor as a rival.

"Unfortunately, sometimes those close to the law stray far from the truth," FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said. "As demonstrated today, however, everyone is expected to play by the rules; for this we'll make no exceptions."

Daily Beast - A court-appointed investigator has found that the United States Attorney’s Office for Kansas is in possession of hundreds of phone and video recordings of communications between attorneys and their clients, inmates at a privately run prison facility in Leavenworth.

At least 700 attorneys are believed to have been recorded without their knowledge, the investigator’s report submitted to a federal court said. Last week Special Master David Cohen asked to expand his probe to determine whether prosecutors regularly listened to and compiled attorney-client conversations. Already, 227 phone call recordings and at least 30 videos of attorney-client meetings have been discovered in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City.