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  1. #15646

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Somebody with cartoonist abilities please draw a Statue Of Justice NOT blindfolded. Eyes wide open, behind thick glasses for its myopia.
    Starry starry night

  2. #15647

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Federal agents knocking at the door? Let's change the subject!

    Trump Moves to Deport Vietnam War Refugees
    The White House again wants to deport certain groups of protected immigrants, a reversal after backing away from the policy months ago.

    2:14 PM ET

    The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades—many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam war.

    This is the latest move in the president’s long record of prioritizing harsh immigration and asylum restrictions, and one that’s sure to raise eyebrows—the White House had hesitantly backed off the plan in August before reversing course. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese migrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.

    The new stance mirrors White House efforts to clamp down on immigration writ large, a frequent complaint of the president’s on the campaign trail, and one he links to a litany of ills in the United States.

    The administration last year began pursuing the deportation of many long-term immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries whom the administration alleges are “violent criminal aliens.” But Washington and Hanoi have a unique 2008 agreement that specifically bars the deportation of Vietnamese who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995—the date the two former foes re-established diplomatic relations following the Vietnam War.


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    The White House unilaterally reinterpreted this agreement in the spring of 2017 to exempt people convicted of crimes from its protections, allowing it to send a small number of pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants back, a policy it retreated from this past August. Last week, however, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said the American government was again reversing course.

    Washington now believes the 2008 agreement fails to protect pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants from deportation, the spokesperson, who asked not to be identified by name because of embassy procedures, told The Atlantic.

    “The United States and Vietnam signed a bilateral agreement on removals in 2008 that establishes procedures for deporting Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States after July 12, 1995, and are subject to final orders of removal,” the spokesperson said. “While the procedures associated with this specific agreement do not apply to Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, it does not explicitly preclude the removal of pre-1995 cases.”

    The about-turn came as a State Department spokesperson confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security had met with representatives of the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C., but declined to provide details of when the talks took place or what was discussed. Spokespeople for the Vietnamese Embassy and DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    But the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, said in a statement that the purpose of the meeting was to change the 2008 agreement. That deal had initially been set to last for five years, and was to be automatically extended every three years unless either party to it opted out. Under those rules, it had been set to renew automatically next month. Since 1998, final removal orders have been issued for more than 9,000 Vietnamese nationals.

    When it first decided to reinterpret the 2008 deal, the Trump administration had argued that only pre-1995 arrivals with criminal convictions were exempt from the agreement’s protection and eligible for deportation. Vietnam initially conceded and accepted some of those migrants before stiffening its resistance; about a dozen Vietnamese immigrants ended up being deported from the United States. The August decision to change course, reported to a California court in October, appeared to put such moves at least temporarily on ice, but the latest shift now leaves the fate of a larger number of Vietnamese migrants in doubt. Now, no pre-1995 arrivals are exempt from the 2008 agreement’s protection. That means all such people are subject to standard immigration law, rendering them eligible for deportation.

    Many pre-1995 arrivals, all of whom were previously protected under the 2008 agreement by both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were refugees from the Vietnam War. Some are the children of those who once allied with American and South Vietnamese forces, an attribute that renders them undesirable to the current regime in Hanoi, which imputes anti-regime beliefs on the children of those who opposed North Vietnam. This anti-Communist constituency includes minorities, such as the children of the American-allied Montagnards, who are persecuted in Vietnam for both their ethnicity and Christian religion.

    The Trump administration’s move reflects an entirely new reading of the agreement, according to Ted Osius, who served as the United States ambassador to Vietnam from December 2014 through October 2018. Mr. Osius said that while he was in office, the 2008 agreement was accepted by all involved parties as banning the deportation of all pre-1995 Vietnamese.

    “We understood that the agreement barred the deportation of pre-1995 Vietnamese. Both governments—and the Vietnamese-American community—interpreted it that way,” Mr. Osius told The Atlantic in an email. The State Department, he added, had explained this to both the White House and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

    News of the Trump administration’s renewed hardline quickly made the rounds on Vietnamese-American social media, with advocacy groups warning of potentially increased deportations.

    “Forty-three years ago, a lot of the Southeast Asian communities and Vietnamese communities fled their countries and their homeland due to the war, which the U.S. was involved in, fleeing for their safety and the safety of their families,” said Kevin Lam, the organizing director of the Asian American Resource Workshop, an advocacy group. “The U.S. would do well to remember that.”
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  3. #15648

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    In Venezuela people have been speaking lately about the fact that the GOVt seems to wake up every morning just thinking: "What evil thing we can do today that will make the lives of people even more difficult? What new cruelty can we implement?".
    Guess it is not only Maduro that does that.
    Starry starry night

  4. #15649

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Apple to Add $1 Billion Texas Campus and Thousands of Jobs Across U.S.

    By Amie Tsang and Adam Satariano
    Dec. 13, 2018

    Apple said on Thursday that it would build a new $1 billion campus in Austin, Tex., where it could eventually employ 15,000 people amid a broader expansion that will create thousands of jobs in several American cities.

    The company, which currently has 90,000 workers in the United States, also plans to open 1,000-worker operations in San Diego, Seattle and Culver City, Calif., and to add hundreds of employees in offices in New York, Pittsburgh and Boulder, Colo., in the next three years.

    “Apple is proud to bring new investment, jobs and opportunity to cities across the United States and to significantly deepen our quarter-century partnership with the city and people of Austin,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in a statement.

    The move coincides with those by other technology giants to expand beyond their West Coast roots. Amazon said last month that it would divide a planned second headquarters between sites in New York and Virginia after a yearlong beauty contest, and Google is said to be considering more than doubling its 7,000-employee work force in New York.

    Apple has been criticized for years for not doing enough for the American economy because it has made most of its products in China and stashed most of its profits abroad to avoid tax payments in the United States.

    In January, after the company emerged as one of the biggest beneficiaries of changes in the tax code signed into law by President Trump, it said it would invest more than $30 billion in the United States over the next five years and create 20,000 jobs by expanding existing operations and adding a new campus.

    A provision in the code allowed for a one-time repatriation of corporate cash held abroad at a lower tax rate than what would have been paid under the previous tax plan. Apple used it to bring back $252 billion that it had stashed abroad.

    President Trump, who had chided Apple over various issues in the past, reacted to the January announcement by praising the company while crediting his own policies for getting it to make the investments.

    In September, though, Mr. Trump took aim at Apple again over jobs after the company told trade officials in a letter that the administration’s tariffs would affect a wide range of products.

    “Make your products in the United States instead of China,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Start building new plants now.”

    None of the new positions announced by Apple on Thursday appeared to involve manufacturing.

    Unlike Amazon, whose competition for a new headquarters was highly publicized, Apple has been relatively quiet about its expansion plans. The company opened its own new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., last year.

    The tech industry’s expansion beyond its West Coast base shows the companies’ increasing importance to the American economy. As Apple, Google and Amazon add jobs and new offices around the country, companies like General Motors are shrinking and cutting thousand of positions.

    The new 133-acre campus in Austin will initially employ 5,000 workers in engineering, research and development, operations, finance, sales and customer support. It will ultimately have the capacity to accommodate up to 15,000 workers. Apple said it expected that its expanded presence in Austin, where it already employs 6,000 people, would make it the area’s largest employer.

    Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas hailed Apple’s decision on Thursday as “a testament to the high-quality work force and unmatched economic environment that Texas offers.”

    Cities and states are competing to lure high-paying tech jobs that can improve their economies and generate tax revenue.

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    But tech companies, which rank among the world’s largest by market value, carry downsides like gentrification and higher living costs that can push out longtime residents. Austin, like Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, has experienced those effects in recent years as Apple and other technology companies expand.

    Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said the concentration of tech jobs in a few metropolitan areas was widening a gap between big cities and the rest of the country. He said the dynamic is contributing to the nation’s political divide.

    “The digitalization of the economy is exaggerating the urban-rural divide,” said Mr. Sundararajan, who studies the technology industry’s role in the economy. “The part of the digital revolution that I have been waiting for, that I haven’t seen kick in the United States, is the large platforms enabling opportunities for individuals who may not have high-tech skills.”

    Apple’s announcement is a sign of the company’s strength after a financially mixed year. In August, it became the first publicly traded American company worth more than $1 trillion after a series of remarkably profitable quarters. But its stock took a hit in November after the company said it would stop reporting how many iPhones, iPads and Mac computers it sold each quarter, figures central to understanding Apple’s performance.

    Fear of a slowdown in iPhone sales, which account for nearly 60 percent of Apple’s revenue, has weighed heavily on the company’s share price since then. It has been pulled down further by Mr. Trump’s suggestions last month that tariffs might be placed on Apple devices imported from China.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  5. #15650

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    The Hard Truths of Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy
    By Eduardo Porter
    Photography by Maddie McGarvey
    Graphics by Stuart A. Thompson and Jessia Ma
    Can rural America be saved?

    There are 60 million people, almost one in five Americans, living on farms, in hamlets and in small towns across the landscape. For the last quarter century the story of these places has been one of relentless economic decline.

    This is, of course, not news to the people who live in rural and small-town America, who have been fighting for years to reverse this decline. But now, the nation’s political class is finally noticing. The election of Donald Trump, powered in no small degree by rural voters, has brought the troubles of small-town America to national attention, with an urgent question: What can be done to revive it?

    Rural America is getting old. The median age is 43, seven years older than city dwellers. Its productivity, defined as output per worker, is lower than urban America’s. Its families have lower incomes. And its share of the population is shrinking: the United States has grown by 75 million people since 1990, but this has mostly occurred in cities and suburbs. Rural areas have lost some 3 million people. Since the 1990s, problems such as crime and opioid abuse, once associated with urban areas, are increasingly rural phenomena.

    Rural communities once captured a greater share of the nation’s prosperity. Jobs and wages in small town America played catch-up with big cities until the mid 1980s. During the economic recovery of 1992 to 1996, 135,000 new businesses were started in small counties, a third of the nation’s total. Employment in small counties shot up by 2.5 million, or 16 percent, twice the pace experienced in counties with million-plus populations.

    These days, economic growth bypasses rural economies. In the first four years of the recovery after the 2008 recession, counties with fewer than 100,000 people lost 17,500 businesses, according to the Economic Innovation Group. By contrast, counties with more than 1 million residents added, altogether, 99,000 firms. By 2017, the largest metropolitan areas had almost 10 percent more jobs than they did at the start of the financial crisis. Rural areas still had fewer.

    The Economic Innovation Group measures “distress” as a combination of data ranging from joblessness and poverty to abandoned homes and educational attainment. Since the 1990s, there has been an “intensifying ruralization of distress,” said John Lettieri, the group’s president.


    In Comanche County, a land of cattle, farming, oil and gas on the plains of southwestern Kansas, 1,790 people live in a sparsely settled area of nearly 800 square miles. In Perry County — home to some 26,500 people in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky — so far no other industry has replaced once-mighty coal. Essex County in New York’s Adirondacks is three-quarters rural, by the census definition. So is Calaveras County in California.


    factory jobs can no longer keep small-town America afloat. Even after a robust eight-year growth spell, there are fewer than 13 million workers in manufacturing across the entire economy. Robots and workers in China put together most of the manufactured goods that Americans buy, and the high-tech industries powering the economy today don’t have much need for the cheap labor that rural communities contributed to America’s industrial past. They mostly need highly educated workers. They find those most easily in big cities, not in small towns.

    Consider Lake County, in Tennessee. Some 7,500 people live there, about 500 fewer than in 2000. Lake County is betting on a new industrial park on Cates Landing on the Mississippi River. But it will be tough to reverse years of declining employment. Between 2013 and 2017, the county averaged fewer than 250 manufacturing jobs, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. That’s half as many as it had in 2000.


    In a report published in November, Mark Muro, William Galston and Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution laid out a portfolio of ideas to rescue the substantial swath of the country that they identify as “left behind.” They identify critical shortages bedeviling declining communities: workers with digital skills, broadband connections, capital. And they have plans to address them: I.T. training and education initiatives, regulatory changes to boost lending to small businesses, incentives to invest in broadband.

    Wisely, they suggest that any federal government effort must choose its targets carefully. Better to focus on middle-sized places that are near big tech hubs and have some critical infrastructure, rather than scatter assistance all over the landscape.

    Sound as these ideas may be, however, even the authors concede that they may not be up to the task. “I don’t know if these ideas are going to work,” Mr. Galston acknowledged when I pressed him on the issue. “But it is worth making the effort.”

    This is the inescapable reality of agglomeration, one of the most powerful forces shaping the American economy over the last three decades. Innovative companies choose to locate where other successful, innovative companies are. That’s where they can find lots of highly skilled workers. The more densely packed these pools of talent are, the more workers can learn from each other and the more productive they become. This dynamic feeds on itself, drawing more high-tech firms and highly skilled workers to where they already are.

    “We have a spatial reorganization of the economy,” said Mr. Muro. “We have an archipelago of superstars in an ocean of low-productivity sectors.”

    In hindsight, no amount of tax incentives would have convinced Amazon to expand in a medium-sized city such as Columbus, Ohio, rather than Northern Virginia and Queens,which sit in some of the largest pools of talent in the country. If even medium-sized cities find it difficult to compete, what are the odds that, say, a small town like Amory, Miss., where 14 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree and a quarter of its 2,500 workers work in small-scale manufacturing, have a chance to attract well-paid tech jobs?

    Consider a recent Brookings Institution study by Benjamin Austin, Edward Glaeser and Lawrence Summers. They focus on the alarming rate of joblessness in what they call the Eastern Heartland, the region roughly between the Mississippi River and the states on the Atlantic coast, where rural communities are doing particularly poorly.

    After examining a range of potential policy interventions, they conclude that a targeted employment subsidy, such as the earned-income tax credit, is probably the most powerful tool available to revive employment. But they, too, are not sure it will work. “Our call for a wage subsidy is us saying, ‘We can’t figure this out, and we hope the private sector will,’ ” Mr. Glaeser told me.

    There are, to be sure, some rural communities with productivity as high as some big cities. But they rely on heavily mechanized and automated industries that support few jobs: oil extraction or large-scale agriculture, in which tractors talk to satellites and no drivers are involved. The livestock business on the vast pastures of Sioux County, Neb., for example, supports an economy worth $306,000 per worker, according to data from Mr. Muro and Jacob Whiton of Brookings. But only 1,200 people live there.

    In the Southeast Fairbanks area of Alaska, it is all about oil and gas. Output per worker is $203,000. But its population doesn’t quite reach 7,000.

    Excluding these places, the United States is still left with 50 to 55 million people living in rural communities that no longer have much to offer them economically.

    What if nothing really works? Is there really no option but to do nothing and, as some have suggested, return depopulated parts of rural America to the bison?

    Instead of so-called place-based policies to revitalize small towns, why not help their residents take advantage of opportunities where the opportunities are? Geographic mobility hit a historical low in 2017, when only 11 percent of Americans picked up shop and moved — half the rate of 1951. One of the key reasons is that housing in the prosperous cities that offer the most opportunities has become too expensive.

    The most helpful policy for people in small towns could be to relax zoning rules in dense cities like New York and San Francisco, so that more affordable housing could be built to receive newcomers from rural Wisconsin or Kentucky, and they wouldn’t need the income of an investment banker or a computer scientist to afford to live there.

    Policymakers might not want to push too hard against agglomeration. It adds to American prosperity. As Enrico Moretti of the University of California, Berkeley, points out, a successful strategy to draw innovative firms away from mega-clusters to small-town America would reduce overall innovation. “If you put a tech company in a place like rural Indiana, it will be vastly less productive than if you put it in a tech cluster,” Mr. Moretti said. “The effect is quite large.”

    Still, there are compelling reasons to try to help rural economies rebound. Even if moving people might prove more efficient on paper than restoring places, many people — especially older people and the family members who care for them — may choose to remain in rural areas. What’s more, the costs of rural poverty are looming over American society. Think of the opioid addiction taking over rural America, of the spike in crime, of the wasted human resources in places where only a third of adults hold a job.

    And if today’s polarized politics are noxious, what might they look like in a country perpetually divided between diverse, prosperous liberal cities and a largely white rural America in decline? As Mr. Galston warned: “Think through the political consequences of saying to a substantial portion of Americans, which is even more substantial in political terms, ‘We think you’re toast.’ ”

    The distress of 50 million Americans should concern everyone. Powerful economic forces are arrayed against rural America and, so far, efforts to turn it around have failed. Not every small town can be a tech hub, nor should it be. But that can’t be the only answer.

    Lots of charts and graphs at the link along with beautiful photography
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  6. #15651

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    The population shift away from rural areas toward urban is obvious in basically every single state. I'll use Dry's state of Pennsylvania as a great example. I just looked at some charts about population change in PA. The state as a whole is only very slightly growing in population (42nd fastest growth rate of the 50 states). But almost all of the increase is in the southeastern counties, with a bit in the county that has State College (where Penn State is) and the county that has Pittsburgh. With no exceptions, all the other counties are losing population, and some, especially along the northern border, but also across the middle, are losing at a fairly substantial rate. The county where Dry lives is at the far-western extreme of what one could consider "Southeast", and it has barely gained population. But that is almost certainly because the county extends to include Chambersburg, which has a college and medical center, and is on an interstate. The area where Dry lives has almost certainly been following the rural population decline.

    One could look at almost any state and come up with a similar story.


  7. #15652

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    I just read some news regarding Teas oil and gas workers. Their New Year's present will be layoffs. They are not needed anymore.
    Which is another reason for Rural Vs City growth. Rural jobs are disappearing so people move to the cities so there are fewer people in the rural areas so there are less jobs so there are more movements.
    It is a vicious circle of terrible nature. We see it here in Colombia too. With the added disaster that the people that come from the rural areas come to the cities to beg, because there are few jobs here.
    I really, really would welcome Judgement Day right now. Let's end this charade.
    (Sorry, that Texas news affects me directly, in a really bad way).
    Starry starry night

  8. #15653

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    It's not just a US phenomena either, happens in most (all?) rich and medium income countries in Europe too. One sees it relatively little in Switzerland (mostly in the mountains) because the overall population growth is so strong and the country so small in area that commuting to one of the four metropolitan areas (Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern) is feasible from 60-70% of the territory. Tourism helps to keep the population in parts of the mountains.
    Roger forever

  9. #15654

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    While the shift to urban is common, there are relatively few states that are losing population total. The only 3 that lost population between 2010 and 2017 are Illinois, Vermont, and West Virginia. Percentage-wise, West Virginia was easily in the lead for loss at 2.0%. I think we all know a lot of reasons why WV is winning that race.

    West Virginia's population was at its max to this point in 1950, when it was 2,006,000 (rounding all numbers to nearest 1000). There has been a mostly gradual decline since then, such that the estimate for population in 2020 is 1,778,000. There has been much written in West Virginia's press about the aging population, the fact that young people are leaving in droves, and the fact that very few people return to WV once they have moved away.

    Even the cities in WV (which are certainly keeping the population better than the rural, mountain counties) are not keeping pace with cities in other states.


  10. #15655

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    These very rural areas will continue to lose out because they don't have the infrastructure to support tech. When the large telecoms were debating this years ago it was determined that it was too expensive to lay underground secure high speed cables linked to the central offices in the cities even using remote nodes for tramsmission. Also the integrity of the signal degrades over long distances. If they refused to do that in New York state, a blue state, what happened in states where those in government were screaming about lower taxes, Kansas for example?

    As long as people hand over absentee or mail in ballots to local scammers (see North Carolina) because it's difficult to get to a polling place for whatever reason things won't get better in these areas. The only reason things are quiet may have to do with the flood of opiates into these areas.

    ETA: When then candidate Obama talked about these communities holding on to their "guns and religion" the right wingers had a melt down that has prevented any meaningful discussion from occuring ever since.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  11. #15656
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    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Quote Originally Posted by GlennHarman View Post
    The county where Dry lives is at the far-western extreme of what one could consider "Southeast", and it has barely gained population. But that is almost certainly because the county extends to include Chambersburg, which has a college and medical center, and is on an interstate. The area where Dry lives has almost certainly been following the rural population decline.

    What has happened here in recent years is... bizarre. Of course, Census data do not include the Amish population, which is actually experiencing population growth at nearly 4%.

    Old people are dying left and right. But there are still plenty of old people left. By and large, their children got out long ago.

    Over the past 10 years, many families have moved here of their own will. The local school district, widely regarded as quite good, attracts many parents who have jobs in Chambersburg (a 30-minute commute) or Harrisburg (a 70-minute commute) but want to get away from city/suburb life. I can think of about 20 who built homes here in the past 10 years or so (not a housing boon, but it's a lot for us). Which has also been enough time for me to observe how, once the children graduate and go off to college or finish college, the kids don't come back, the parents move away, and the house sits vacant for a fairly long time, until a new family moves here for the schools... And the cycle repeats. Except that, now, new families are not moving here at the same pace they did 10 years ago. That pace has slowed a good bit. There are "For Sale" signs everywhere.
    Rest in peace, Lizbeth Rivera (1988-2018).

  12. #15657

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Quote Originally Posted by Ti-Amie View Post
    These very rural areas will continue to lose out because they don't have the infrastructure to support tech.
    The tech will never be a savior in rural areas, in US or anywhere else. There is no reason I can think off why even a midsize software company would want to locate themselves in a seriously rural area. Fortunately the entire economy is not based on just that.
    Roger forever

  13. #15658

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Quote Originally Posted by suliso View Post
    The tech will never be a savior in rural areas, in US or anywhere else. There is no reason I can think off why even a midsize software company would want to locate themselves in a seriously rural area. Fortunately the entire economy is not based on just that.
    Tech may not be a savior for those areas but as Dry pointed out there are medium sized cities that could served as a hub for people to commute to. The horse is long gone though.

    Meanwhile the Grifters continue to con their base:

    Citizens for Ethics
    ‏Verified account

    BREAKING: An Associated Press investigation finds President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in law stand to benefit from a program they pushed that offers massive tax breaks to developers who invest in downtrodden American areas.
    Correction: Kushners-Opportunity Zones story
    December 12, 2018

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In a story Dec. 11 about an Opportunity Zone tax break promoted by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, The Associated Press erroneously reported that the couple jointly own a stake in the real estate investment firm Cadre that is launching a series of Opportunity Zone funds. That stake is in Jared Kushner’s name. It clarifies that Kushner’s stake of between $25 million and $50 million is in a holding company with an ownership stake in Cadre.

    A corrected version of the story is below:

    AP: Ivanka, Kushner could profit from tax break they pushed

    An Associated Press investigation finds President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in law could benefit from a tax program they pushed


    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — At an Oval Office gathering earlier this year, President Donald Trump began touting his administration’s new real estate investment program, which offers massive tax breaks to developers who invest in downtrodden American communities. He then turned to one of the plan’s strongest supporters.

    “Ivanka, would you like to say something?” Trump asked his daughter. “You’ve been pushing this very hard.”

    The Opportunity Zone program promoted by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner — both senior White House advisers — could also benefit them financially, an Associated Press investigation found.

    Government watchdogs say the case underscores the ethical minefield they created two years ago when they became two of the closest advisers to the president without divesting from their extensive real estate investments.

    Kushner holds a big stake in a real estate investment firm, Cadre, that recently announced it is launching a series of Opportunity Zone funds that seek to build major projects under the program from Miami to Los Angeles. Separately, the couple has interests in at least 13 properties held by Kushner’s family firm that could qualify for the tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York and Maryland — all of which, a study found, were already coming back.

    Six of the Kushner Cos. buildings are in New York City’s Brooklyn Heights area, with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline, where a five-bedroom apartment recently listed for $8 million. Two more are in the beach town of Long Branch, New Jersey, where some oceanfront condos within steps of a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant and a Lululemon yoga shop list for as much as $2.7 million.

    There’s no evidence the couple had a hand in selecting any of the nation’s 8,700 Opportunity Zones, and the company has not indicated it plans to seek tax breaks under the new program. But the Kushners could profit even if they don’t do anything — by potentially benefiting from a recent surge in Opportunity Zone property values amid a gold rush of interest from developers and investors.

    Ivanka Trump’s advocacy for the Opportunity Zone program “creates a direct conflict of interest with her spouse’s investment in Cadre,” said Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Jared Kushner’s interests are Ivanka Trump’s interests and vice versa.”

    The couple’s financial disclosures show their jointly held financial empire is worth between $200 million and $800 million, with much of it in real estate, including Kushner’s stake of between $25 million and $50 million in a holding company with an ownership stake in Cadre. Kushner previously had Cadre-related management positions, but he terminated those roles when he joined the Trump administration, holding onto his passive stake.

    The disclosures require recusal from dealing with policy matters that touch on real estate and “would have a direct and predictable effect on Cadre.” Ivanka Trump also has interests in Trump Organization properties which are not located inside Opportunity Zones.

    “Ms. Trump has divested assets, set up trusts, removed herself from businesses and decisions about her investments,” Abbe Lowell, ethics counsel for the couple, said in a statement. “In addition, she adheres to the ethics advice she has received from counsel about what issues she can work on and those to which she is recused.”

    The Kushner Cos. did not respond to requests for comment.

    President Trump was scheduled to attend an Opportunity Zone event in Washington on Wednesday that would depict the program as a boon to distressed communities. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told the AP that individual state governors of both parties nominate communities for Opportunity Zone designation “based on what underserved areas would benefit most. ... The White House has nothing to do with those decisions.”

    The Investing in Opportunity Act, which became law last December as part of the Republican-sponsored tax overhaul, never gained traction when it was first proposed during the Obama administration, but it quickly found favor in a White House headed and dominated by real estate developers and investors.

    A significant moment came when the law’s key GOP sponsor, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, met President Trump after the violence-plagued white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017.

    Trump promised Scott his support for Opportunity Zones as a way to show his administration’s outreach to minority communities. But Scott had already found a supporter weeks earlier in Trump’s daughter, in conversations that grew out of previous meetings about passing a child care tax credit.

    Political sponsors and lobbyists told the AP that Ivanka Trump played an important role in promoting the legislation, while Kushner was also quietly supportive behind the scenes.

    “Ivanka was on board with it,” said Sean Smith, Scott’s communications director. After their first conversation, Smith said Scott and Ivanka Trump talked by phone and in person nearly a dozen times. He added that Scott also spoke to Kushner about the program, but noted, “It was much more Ivanka than Jared.”

    A team from Economic Innovation Group, or EIG, a Washington think tank that pioneered the Opportunity Zones concept, met with top Kushner aides Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell two weeks before the tax reform bill was passed.

    Funded by Napster founder and early Facebook investor Sean Parker, EIG spent more than $1.4 million on lobbying over the past two years, both before and after the Investing in Opportunity Act passed. The group met with White House officials every quarter since the start of the Trump administration, and also met with frequently with officials from Treasury and other White House agencies, records show.

    “Creating the incentive to bring capital into communities that are currently being overlooked is just a tremendous opportunity,” Ivanka Trump said as her father and a crowd of supporters nodded during the White House session February 14.

    Last month, at a dinner in Washington put on by the conservative Kemp Foundation, Scott singled out Ivanka Trump as his point person on the initiative. “When we were looking for help to get the tax bill across the finish line,” he said, “I kept looking to the same person for help in the White House.”

    There is no indication the couple directly intervened in the shaping of the Opportunity Zone program specifically to advance their financial interests. And public officials say there is no evidence that any actions were taken to influence the selection of Opportunity Zone boundaries.

    But backers of the program acknowledge that Ivanka Trump’s out-front role drummed up interest from public officials and financial stakeholders.

    Along with the Kushner-tied Cadre Opportunity Zone funds, more than 50 real estate and private equity interests have made plans in recent weeks to create investment funds under the program, including several with ties to the couple and the Trump administration.

    Last month, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci launched an opportunity zone fund tied to his Skybridge Capital investment firm, aiming to build projects worth more than $3 billion. Opportunity Zone funds have also been set up recently by New York-based Normandy Real Estate Partners and Heritage Equity Partners, two firms that have worked with Kushner Cos. on real estate ventures.

    They are flocking to what financial analysts say are some of the most generous tax benefits they have ever seen. Investors who plow capital gains from previous investments into Opportunity Zone projects can defer taxes on those gains up to 2026. If they decide not to cash out their investment for seven years, they get to exclude up to 15 percent of those gains from taxes. And they can permanently avoid paying taxes on any new gains from investment in the zones if they hold onto the investment for a decade. With capital gains taxes as high as 23.8 percent, the savings can easily add up.

    Government officials have estimated the program would cost $1.5 billion in lost tax revenue over 10 years, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has estimated the zones would attract up to $100 billion in renewal efforts.

    While the Opportunity Zone program mostly targets census tracts of high poverty and unemployment, it also allows “contiguous” tracts that might not be low-income, but are close enough to deprived communities to be eligible.

    Critics say that could allow developers to cash in by targeting zones already teeming with investment and gentrified neighborhoods. Amazon’s recent decision to locate a new headquarters in the bustling New York City neighborhood of Long Island City, for example, drew rebukes following reports it was in an Opportunity Zone.

    A study by the Urban Institute in Washington found that nearly a third of the more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones nationwide — and all 13 of the ones containing Kushner properties — were showing signs of heavy investment and gentrification, based on such factors as rent increases and the percentage of college-educated residents.

    The most immediate advantage could come from the investment in Cadre. CEO Ryan Williams announced late last month that Cadre was starting up an Opportunity Zone fund that would aim to build major development projects in designated areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami.

    The company said the program “fits with Cadre’s commitment to identifying opportunities in less-advantaged areas that are primed for growth.”
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  14. #15659

    Re: National, Regional and Local News

    Robert Reich
    ‏Verified account

    The problem facing American workers isn’t that other nations are taking our jobs or wages. It’s that American workers have been getting a shrinking portion of America’s share of a growing pie. A steadily larger portion has been going to executives, Wall St. traders, & investors.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

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