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Paul Manafort's Former Son-in-Law Has Secretly Flipped to Work with Federal Investigators: Reports

May 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The plea agreement is reportedly under seal — but it might still be used to pressure Trump's former campaign chair.


Jeffrey Yohai is not particularly famous, but he may be playing a major role in the most noteworthy investigation in the country, according to multiple reports Thursday.

Yohai is the former business partner and former son-in-law of Paul Manafort — he divorced Manafort's daughter last August — and according to reports from Reuters and NBC News, he has pleaded guilty to federal investigators and has agreed to cooperate with the government on other matters. Manafort, who served is President Donald Trump's campaign manager during a crucial period ahead of the 2016 presidential election, has faced indictments on multiple charges from special counsel Robert Mueller.

It's not yet clear if Yohai is cooperating in Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign, but that would seem to be a plausible implication to draw. The plea deal remains sealed, according to Reuters.

Many observers believe that Mueller may be using charges against Manafort as leverage to obtain evidence or testimony against the president, or other top officials. However, Mueller could be interested in pressing the Manafort charges simply on their own merits.

If Yohai has become a cooperating witness in the Russia investigation, he is far from the first. George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Manafort's former business partner Rick Gates are among those who are already reported to be working with investigators.

But if you're facing pressure from a federal investigation, it's likely the last person you would want cooperating with the government is someone who was once a member of your own family.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Don Jr.’s Mysterious Phone Call After Trump Tower Meeting ‘Could Well Be Evidence of Collusion’: Ex-U.S. Attorney

May 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet

The investigation is likely to find out, if it hasn't already, who was behind a blocked call.


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Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York on Thursday said the mysterious phone call between Donald Trump Jr. and a blocked caller “could well be evidence of collusion.”

Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released transcripts of interview with Donald Trump Jr., and several other attendees at the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. According to the transcript, senators pressed Trump Jr. on the 11-minute phone call he made to a blocked number immediately after that meeting.

Trump Jr. told the senators he does not remember who he spoke with.

Speaking with CNN, Honig explained special counsel Robert Mueller is likely honing in on the recipient of Trump Jr.’s call.

“The special counsel certainly is going to be looking right at these calls to the blocked number,” Honig said. “Any time you have an important event in a criminal investigation, a meeting, a phone call … The first thing you want to know is who did the participants talk to before, during and after.”

“You get the phone records and they see the call to the blocked number and now there seems to be good evidence that was probably President Trump,” he continued. “Investigators are going to want to know what was said, what was the reason for the call. This could well be evidence of collusion.”

Honig added that if he “had to bet,” Mueller is “already working with the phone company.”

“The fact there's a blocked number is not the end of the investigation, and I assure you the Mueller team is very interested in finding out who that is,” he added.

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Watch the Racist Lawyer Who Attacked Spanish Speakers in NYC Cafe Literally Run from NBC Reporter

May 17, 2018 in Blogs

By AlterNet

This is the best video you'll see all day.


Aaron Schlossberg, the New York City attorney who has reportedly been filmed at least three times making bigoted attacks on strangers, is finally facing a bit of justice.

The lawyer is no longer welcome at his own office building, where security told the press he'd be booted from the premises if he showed his face.

Now that his identity is known, reporters understandably have some questions. Schlossberg isn't answering them.

NBC News received an unintentionally hilarious response when Schlossberg was about to face some tough questions on the street.

Spoiler alert: He bolted like a professional sprinter.

Watch the video below.

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Source: ALTERNET

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'I Just Can't Take This Anymore': Michael Cohen Is Reportedly Falling Apart Amid Russia Probe Tumult

May 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Vanity Fair reports that the president's fixer is worried about the impact the investigation will have on his family.


The pressure of living under special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation appears to be getting to President Donald Trump's lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, according to a report from Vanity Fair.

This pressure has prompted the urge to fight back, and Emily Jane Fox reported that he has told friends, “I’m not going to just roll over.” He reportedly fears that investigators will use him to get to the president.

But the report also suggests that there are times when Cohen feels defeated already. He watched news reports about the development of his case from a hotel room in Philadelphia last weekend and has told friends “I just can’t take this anymore.”

Trump's administration was uniquely unprepared to handle the task of the running the executive branch before he took office, as ample reporting has made clear. But it's also becoming clear that the people around him were unaware or inattentive to the significant legal risks they faced following Trump's elevation.

The people around the president inevitably face a great deal of scrutiny, no matter the administration. If investigators discover significant wrongdoing on Cohen's part, though, he'll have no one to blame but himself.

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Source: ALTERNET

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This Republican Congressman Seriously Suggested Sea Levels Are Rising Because of Falling Rocks

May 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Hunter, Daily Kos

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise [...]“


One of the worst duties of being a top-level American scientist or researcher is that you get summoned before House Republicans so they can explain why, in their minds, the entire collected research that you and tens of thousands of others have participated in is probably wrong because of Shit They Just Made Up.

It might help to imagine Woods Hole Research Center President Philip Duffy as having wandered into a local bar, and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks as a sloshed-out-of-his-mind patron regaling him with Drunk Guy ideas about the real causes of sea level rise. For example, says Brooks, maybe it's not thermodynamics or melting ice sheets causing our oceans to rise, Maybe it is the goddamn White Cliffs of Dover.

Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world's major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level rise.

“Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up,” Brooks said.

Duffy responded: “I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects.”

No, no, I am fairly certain that the world's collected best scientific minds did not think about “what if, like, a bunch of rocks are just falling in” until just now, when Alabama Republican Mo Brooks thought it up. Or ever made calculations of how much silt is deposited annually by the Mississippi. Or made a back-of-an-envelope calculation on what the total sea level rise would be if the entire region of Dover, every picturesque bit of it, slid …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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US Is Odds on to Benefit from the End of Punitive Sports Betting Rules

May 17, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The United States might be called “the land of the
free”, but when it comes to “vice” its legislators
are often distinctly illiberal.

Alcohol legislation is the best example. With a number of minor
exceptions, the legal drinking age across states is 21 years old.
Some states even control the distribution and sale of spirits
directly. Cross the border from Washington DC to Virginia, and you
can still buy beer and wine at supermarkets. But harder alcohol is
reserved exclusively for sale in liquor stores actually run by the
government.

If that’s baffling to you, then you may need to sit down. For
there was a potential major breakthrough this week facilitating
reversal of other insanely restrictive regulations.

The US Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the 1992
federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which
explicitly prohibited states from legalising sports betting (except
four of them, most notably Nevada, and horse racing).

Outlawing sports betting
restricts consumers and businesses from desired trades. Thankfully,
the odds of the proliferation of rational policy in this area have
just improved dramatically.

That’s right, most people in the US cannot right now put on an
accumulator for the weekend’s big matches. No comprehensive in-play
sports betting apps exist. No bookies at stadiums, so you can have
a cheeky flutter on the result or goal scorers at a game. No online
World Cup betting leagues to look forward to.

Given the legal dispute was about whether the federal government
had the power to compel the states to impose its will, Congress
could still decide to step in and regulate directly.

States themselves might unilaterally decide, of course, to keep
bans or impose very restrictive laws. But liberal-minded reformers
see good reason to hope a sea change is under way. Plenty of states
are standing ready to legalise sports betting to varying degrees.
Reason magazine’s Eric Boehm believes that a New Jersey horse
racing track will have a betting operation working within weeks,
with Delaware hoping to roll out sports betting at casinos by the
end of June.

Four other states have passed Bills legalising sports betting in
the past year in anticipation of this ruling. Up to 14 more plan to
do so in the near future.

Vested interests, not least casinos, individual sports leagues
and others, grapple for control of this process, some to protect
ailing businesses or to seek a cut of any rewards.

A likely patchwork of different approaches across states means
there is unlikely to be a mature, deep market as observed in
Britain any time soon.

But plenty of lawmakers are waking up to the potential economic
and social benefits of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Tipped Minimum Wage for DC Waiters Is Opposed by DC Waiters–For Good Reason

May 17, 2018 in Economics

By Ike Brannon

Ike Brannon

Paternalistic governments all too often discover that the
citizens they are saving often do not want to be saved.

The City Council of my adopted hometown, Washington DC,
witnessed this phenomenon recently when a planned ballot initiative
that would end the lower, $5 tipped minimum wage for restaurant
workers was met with fierce objections from a large group of
waiters and food service staff whom the change would supposedly
protect.

Their objections were easy to understand: Most waiters make the
lion’s share of their income from tips, and good waiters in
expensive restaurants can pull down an income that’s sufficient to
support a family. The fact that a sizable portion of tips at most
places invariably go untaxed helps them stretch their incomes even
further.

The best thing we can do
to help workers in Washington DC and anywhere in the country is to
make it easy for companies to hire—and
fire—workers.

Going from the status quo to a guaranteed $15 or $20 an
hour—100% of which would be taxed—would likely entail
restaurants imposing a service charge on a check that most diners
would understand to be a replacement for a tip, and a world without
tips would assuredly result in a pay cut for most waiters. Even
waiters currently making less than $15 an hour would object if they
aspire to remain in the profession and move up to a higher-priced
locale someday, and those who are waiting tables before moving on
to another career probably do not need that much occupational
protection anyway.

The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip recently noted that
financial regulation seems to be counter-cyclical: we loosen it
when things are going well and then tighten it after a disaster, a
pattern that makes little sense.

In a similar vein the DC government has found a new enthusiasm
to protect the ostensibly exploited workers just as the
unemployment rate has begun to approach historic lows and the
ability of workers to move around and find higher-paid jobs has
never been stronger.

The best thing we can do to help workers in Washington DC and
anywhere in the country is to make it easy for companies to
hire—and fire—workers. The more the government
interferes in the basic contract, the costlier it is for a firm to
hire, and the less of it they do

This is especially true for workers with little education or
experience: the last thing we want to do is pull up the ladder of
success before they can get a foot on the first rung.

Fortunately, DC’s City Council appears to understand that this
change would not help workers, and all but …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Remarkable Fall in China’s Suicide Rate

May 17, 2018 in Economics

By Chelsea Follett

Chelsea Follett

In recent decades, China’s suicide rate has declined more
rapidly than any other country’s. It has fallen from among the
world’s highest rates in the 1990s, to among the lowest – below the
US and only slightly higher than the UK.

Rural women are responsible for the lion’s share of the decline.
Unlike in most countries, Chinese women have a higher suicide rate
than Chinese men do and in rural areas women may be two to five
times more likely to kill themselves than in cities.

What changed? In short, globalisation and labour market
opportunities. The Economistpublished a graph showing how
the dramatic decline in suicide coincided with more Chinese leaving
rural areas to seek urban employment. They used data from Tsinghua
University. I have updated the graph with more recent data below.

As more Chinese have left farms in the countryside to work in
factory cities, the suicide rate has plummeted. This may be
shocking to many people in rich countries. That is because many
people who enjoy post-industrial prosperity worry about
“sweatshop” conditions and exploitation in factories.
They may also have an idealised opinion of rural peasant life,
while a dark view of factory life popularised by Karl Marx is still
surprisingly popular.

Marx thought that factory work was worse than farming because
workers would be alienated from the product of their labour and
exploited. Philosophy professor Nancy Holmstrom of Rutgers
University shares his outlook. “The lives of subsistence
peasants may be limited, but materially adequate and stable,”
she claims. She believes that factory work has made workers worse
off.

The fact that rural Chinese commit suicide at higher rates than
urban Chinese would suggest otherwise. So would the fact of
China’s dramatic decline in suicide as more and more rural
Chinese choose to work in cities.

Today, urban life affords
factory workers – but particularly women – the promise of
opportunity, economic mobility and freedom.

In reality, factory work is typically an improvement compared to
poverty in the countryside. Factory conditions can be harsh and no
one is claiming they should not improve. But far worse
back-breaking labour and grinding poverty often define rural
existence. The option of migrating to a city to take up factory
work can be a lifeline to those contemplating suicide. Leaving
behind rural farms for urban factory work typically translates into
higher wages and a better standard of living.

It also can mean freedom from the more restrictive social norms
of the countryside — particularly for women. Women “are
more likely to value migration for its life-changing
possibilities” than men, since gender roles are less limiting
in cities than in …read more

Source: OP-EDS